Tag Archives: politics

Toronto loses when Wynne, Tory play politics with road tolls

Facing a growing transit deficit and a dearth of funding in Ontario’s biggest city, Toronto’s city council and the Ontario provincial government combined to deliver a solution that should satisfy nobody. Toronto mayor John Tory, who spoke out against road tolls in his days as an aspiring public servant, saw tolling two stretches of highway under city management as a way to raise some desperately needed transit funds, but Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne stepped in to override Toronto and instead offer another morsel of annual funding from the gas tax to all municipalities in the province.

It’s the kind of back-and-forth undercutting Ontario citizens have come to expect from our various levels of government. Toronto is billions behind in infrastructure improvements alone, thanks in no small part to a mayor who spent plenty of time bragging about saving billions without considering the consequences of his cutbacks, and a council that is gutless when it comes to implementing more-practical but less-popular revenue tools like taxes. The province is arguably worse off, saddled with a Liberal government that is still in power due to the incompetence of its opposition despite handling the energy file so poorly that provincial hydro bills are indistinguishable from mob-level extortion.

I don’t think Tory ever really wanted road tolls, just like I don’t believe Wynne’s concern about the finances of Ontario families. Tory’s boardroom background helped him see tolls as a way to leverage the province into giving Toronto more money, because the Liberal government is too afraid of losing votes in the Toronto suburbs next year. Sure enough, Liberal MPPs in ridings surrounding Toronto made the most noise about the potential tolls, forcing Wynne to pull the plug and spin it as a cost-of-living issue. If Wynne truly cared about that, reining in hydro bills (and giving back some of that $37 billion in overcharges) would go a lot further than quashing a small fee people would only have to pay on the Gardiner or the DVP. While many commuters use those roads on a daily basis, everyone uses electricity, and the personal financial benefits would be much more universal.

This isn’t to say that tolls and other user fees are the right way for Toronto to overcome its many financial shortfalls. Toronto is an obscenely wealthy city, in that it is home to the headquarters of many obscenely wealthy Canadian businesses and contains some of the country’s most luxurious neighbourhoods, from Forest Hill and Rosedale to the Bridle Path. Rather than tapping into that wealth, usage fees like road tolls will disproportionately affect people who live in less-affluent neighbourhoods further from downtown. And tolls don’t do much to incentivise alternative forms of transit, especially in corners of the suburbs where non-car transportation isn’t an option.

If Tory’s original toll plan seemed like a half-baked way to stir up some headlines and force the province to act, that’s because it was. If the response from Wynne’s Liberals comes off as a naked and impractical vote grab, that’s because it is. Other mayors in the province are laughing because of the extra money they will receive as a result of Tory and Wynne’s political maneuvering. Tory will likely cruise to reelection on the strength of his pragmatism being mistaken for genius following the disastrous Ford years, while Wynne and the Liberals have successfully dodged an electoral bullet the Conservatives would have probably misfired anyway in 2018.

And the only people who end up losing in all this are the citizens of Toronto. As usual.

The U.S. Presidential Campaign Needs More Candidate/Rapper Pairings Like Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike

My Canadian heritage has never prevented me from appreciating the spectacle of an American presidential campaign. Big money, bigger rhetoric, and very little concern for reality ensures a fresh sideshow south of the border every four years and I’m not one to turn down free entertainment.

Like any big American production, presidential campaigns can’t resist using celebrity cameos to generate interest among a wider audience. Think about it: nobody remembers anything about the 2012 Republican National Convention aside from that bit where Clint Eastwood mistook a chair for the president. 2016 is no different, with Bernie Sanders gaining the vocal support of Killer Mike – best known as one half of hip hop wrecking crew Run The Jewels.

Killer Mike is no stranger to political statements…

…but his involvement in Sanders’ campaign goes beyond any lyrical namedrop. Killer Mike has a six-part interview with Sanders on his YouTube channel and he spoke on the senator’s behalf after a Democratic party debate, marking the only time in history the spin room has ever been enjoyable.

If Sanders gains enough support to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, it could (and should) send other candidates rushing to find their own hip hop sidekicks. I have no clue who each candidate would select, but I have a few ideas (Kendrick Lamar is disqualified because he is too tight with Obama to rep for anyone else):

Hillary Clinton / Nicki Minaj

Minaj and Clinton are two women trying to carve out a place at the top of their male-dominated fields (rapping and being president, respectively). That might be all they have in common, and Minaj isn’t quite on Team Clinton yet, but that’s nothing a little face-time and an undisclosed campaign consultant fee couldn’t fix. Forget Clinton and Sanders, the people want to see a debate (read: rap battle) between Minaj and Killer Mike.

Martin O’Malley / Meek Mill

Mill would be the perfect face for whining about how O’Malley isn’t getting enough attention. Maybe he could respond with a dis track on a mixtape released months too late to have any impact. Maybe both of these guys should stop picking fights outside their weight classes if they want to stop being pummeled. Just a thought.

Donald Trump / Watch The Throne

Watch The Throne is the ultimate luxury-rap album, and Trump could decorate his most ostentatious mansion with Kanye’s tweets about Persian rugs and Jay Z’s lyrics about art auctions. On this front, Watch The Throne seems like the ideal pairing for Trump and his epic comb-over. You’ll need to ignore all the divisive, xenophobic garbage Trump spews every time he opens his mouth, so just try to stay focused on the money.

Also, Trump’s brand of combination spray tan and hair dye comes pretty close to matching this album art:

Ted Cruz / Drake

The Canadian connection! Cruz will tap into Drake’s appeal in the American heartland and Drake will do the Hotline Bling dance at the 2016 RNC.


How could anyone say no to this?

Marco Rubio / Macklemore

I’m not sure why, but Rubio strikes me as the kind of candidate who would rap about mopeds if given the chance.

Ben Carson / Wu-Tang Clan

According to Carson, he was one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan. He also beat the Russians into space and punched Godzilla back into the Pacific with his bare hands. Wu-Tang!