Of Doug Ford, dreams and the fu­ture

What will the Con­ser­va­tives do for Toronto if elected?

North Toronto Post - - News -

You can imag­ine Doug Ford in his bed, drift­ing off to sleep, dream­ing “When I am premier of On­tario.…”

De­ter­min­ing what that dream may be in­volves a con­sid­er­able amount of guess­work given that he has scrapped the in­tended Con­ser­va­tive plat­form for the elec­tion, and now, some five weeks be­fore elec­tion day, has yet to re­lease a new plat­form.

But there are hints about what’s in the dream, and Doug Ford does have his own defin­ing po­lit­i­cal his­tory, as does the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party of On­tario. This is all fod­der for rea­son­able guesses about what he might do.

Ford has been clear about the need to cut gov­ern­ment spend­ing. Many oth­ers may dis­agree, but he thinks there are some bil­lions to be gained by ef­fi­cien­cies.

The cross­over be­tween pro­gram cuts and ef­fi­ciency sav­ings is never clear, and one can as­sume that cuts will be made to so­cial pro­grams, as Con­ser­va­tives have done in the past. For ex­am­ple, those re­ceiv­ing wel­fare/On­tario Works pay­ments would see re­duc­tions in their pay­ments; pro­grams to help re­ha­bil­i­tate those con­victed of crimes would be cut; and there would be a re­duc­tion in ed­u­ca­tion and health pro­grams.

The en­tire push of the cur­rent lead­er­ship to re­duce in­equal­ity in On­tario may be ended.

He has also said he would re­in­sti­tute TAVIS, the Toronto Anti-Vi­o­lence In­ter­ven­tion Strat­egy. TAVIS was funded by the prov­ince and saw Toronto po­lice of­fi­cers swarm through poorer neigh­bour­hoods, stop­ping lots of peo­ple and de­mand­ing in­for­ma­tion. TAVIS was re­spon­si­ble for some of the worst racial dis­crim­i­na­tion by Toronto po­lice and was a sub­stan­tial fac­tor in the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment en­act­ing a reg­u­la­tion to re­strain card­ing. To bring it back would be a step in the wrong di­rec­tion.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has an­nounced a na­tional hous­ing strat­egy to build af­ford­able hous­ing over the next decade, and it re­quires pro­vin­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion and fund­ing.

Toronto is des­per­ately short of af­ford­able hous­ing, with a wait­ing list near 100,000 house­holds, and city coun­cil needs a push to get pro­grams work­ing lo­cally.

It is not clear that Ford will con­tinue the ini­tia­tives un­der­taken by the cur­rent pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. Toronto may not get the needed af­ford­able hous­ing.

Nor is he likely to con­tinue the cur­rent gov­ern­ment’s pro­posal to pro­vide f ree child care for chil­dren two and a half years and older. Given that Toronto is the child poverty cap­i­tal of Canada, with al­most one in four chil­dren in our city living in poverty, this free child care pro­gram is a real break­through.

The pro­gram isn’t cheap, and if Ford car­ries through on cut­ting ex­pen­di­tures, this op­por­tu­nity will be over.

Will Doug Ford be will­ing to re­con­sider property tax pol­icy? The cur­rent gov­ern­ment agreed to al­low city coun­cil to lower property taxes for cul­tural hubs such as 401 Richmond St. W., and coun­cil has shown an in­ter­est in fur­ther re­forms to pro­tect re­tail strips with smaller mer­chants.

Imag­i­na­tive ap­proaches are needed to re­form the property tax sys­tem, which seems to harm the very en­ter­prises we wish to en­cour­age, and it’s not clear Ford shares that imag­i­na­tion.

Doug Ford does like sub­ways but not street­cars.

Will he be will­ing to put big bucks into a down­town re­lief line, which is the key sub­way pri­or­ity for Toronto? Could he find the money for that?

Much of Doug Ford’s dream for Toronto will de­pend on how many Con­ser­va­tive mem­bers are elected in this city — and in other cities, too.

The Con­ser­va­tives have a base gen­er­ally out­side of cities, which means they are not par­tic­u­larly ur­ban-friendly. That could change if strong Con­ser­va­tives are elected in cities.

In these last five weeks we’ll see what shakes out. Doug Ford might find him­self in bed dream­ing, “If only I had be­come premier of On­tario in­stead of.…” Post City Mag­a­zines’ colum­nist John Sewell is a for­mer mayor of Toronto and the au­thor of a num­ber of ur­ban planning books, in­clud­ing The Shape of the Sub­urbs.

On­tario PC leader Doug Ford is on the cam­paign trail but has yet to re­lease a plat­form

JOHN SEWELL

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