The second major reason why I was happy with McGuinty's victory (this was the first) has fallen by the wayside. Yesterday, the McGuinty government announced that, due to the $5.6 Billion deficit and the unexpected $1 Billion loss in Ontario Power Corporation, the province might not be turning over 2 cents of the gas tax to Ontario transit companies in 2004.
In better news, Ontario's LCBO outlets have made a profit of over a billion dollars. Shrewd management here, because when the situation is as bad as this, why not drink?
So, I'm disappointed. The Toronto Transit Commission in particular was looking forward to the $180 million that the transfer would realize. Without this money, fares will have to increase in order to cover the massive capital costs the system needs to spend in order to keep everything running properly, and to cover its large operating shortfall.
But what can you do? I am impressed with the way David Miller has been running the city. Can you imagine what the reaction would have been to this bad news if Mel Lastman had still been mayor? Probably an apoplectic fit that would make the newsreels that evening. Certainly another ballistic reaction that would have soured relations between City Hall and Queen's Park the way things were soured when the Harris Administration was in the house.
Instead, we got that reaction from the plain-speaking Howard Moscoe, while David Miller took a more conciliatory approach and spoke of lower fare hikes, and giving the McGuinty Administration time to sort through its fiscal mess and come up with cash somewhere else. All told, Miller has, so far, given the city the best leadership it's had since amalgamation. And, to be honest, McGuinty is doing the best job he can as well.
Although I am disappointed with this turnaround by the McGuinty government (and it's not really a turnaround but an unfortunate delay), my anger is not aimed at them. Instead, it remains firmly focused on the former Conservative government, which has shown itself to be deceitful and incompetent. It lied about the state of Ontario's finances throughout the election campaign. It claimed to have a balanced budget, despite the fact that even they admitted that it could only be achieved through $2 Billion of asset sales. Now comes word that Ontario Power Corporation's $1 Billion loss may have been the result of OPC intentionally selling its power below cost to mitigate the on-paper fiscal damage the Conservative-imposed power rate cap was doing to our treasury. What sort of government sweeps such a fiscal mess under the rug in so cavalier a manner? Not a responsible one, that's for sure. Not a McGuinty Administration, and certainly not a Miller council.
Eves and his backers have shown that their reputation for fiscal responsibility is a lie. Their tax cuts and massive privatization created a provincial government that is worse off now than it was in 1995. Miller, McGuinty, Torontonians and all Ontarians are going to have to pay for their mismanagement and neglect for years to come. If there were any justice in the world, it would be a decade or more before Ontarians were willing to trust the Tories with the keys to the government again.
Disappointment and anger are all well and good, but they don't get the job done. Somebody has to pay to keep the TTC running and running well over the next year. The McGuinty Liberals aren't interested in raising gas taxes instead of transferring them, and Miller's council is leary of raising property taxes in order to cover the shortfall. Notice, incidentally, that the idea of tolling the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway is not on the table, yet.
Although TTC riders have been expected to sneeze the shortfall from their noses time and time again, it will probably be politically easier to raise fares than to raise taxes this year. It's not my favoured solution but it's a solution nonetheless. $2.50 is not an unreasonable amount to pay to take the subway from Kipling to the downtown. However, it would be nice if the TTC could set up some kind of smart-card system to establish a fare-by-distance scheme. Trips over shorter distances, like within downtown Toronto, should cost closer to a loonie.
Maybe when the fiscal situation improves and McGuinty finally transfers the gas tax, they could consider such a program.
The Return of Ed Broadbent
Ed Broadbent, arguably the NDP's most successful leader, is seriously contemplating a return to politics. The party, already a bit abuzz with its new and energetic leader, Jack Layton, is salivating at the prospect.
Why is Ed Broadbent thinking about this and why is it a good idea? I think Matthew's assessment in Living in a Society is dead accurate: with the departures of Joe Clark and Jean Chretien, there is a huge vacancy in the position of elder statesman at the federal level. Broadbent would be the best person I can think of to fill that position.
Although it may be unrealistic, I am still hopeful that the next election will see the Martin landslide facing an NDP official opposition. Jack Layton will be hard pressed to beat Dennis Mills for his Broadview-Greenwood seat, but Broadbent has the stature and the ability to take Ottawa Centre. There's room for the NDP to grow in Ontario -- even if they only take 6 seats out of 107, that's substantially more than what they now have. Martin's Liberals will be governing as though they are Tories come 2004 (not that this is a bad thing), and we'll need an NDP voice in order to keep the country moving along the center.
Introducing the Digiverse
He's an aspiring writer and a Canadian and he has an interesting new blog. He's posted about fan fiction and about politics. His name is Haasim Mahanaim and I appear to have developed a twin. Whatever the case, his blog is worthy of your attention, and I hope you will pay it a visit.
Climate change is a serious problem, but because its progress is so slow, according to human frames of reference, it sometimes escapes our notice. The danger is, climate change could hit a tipping point, where certain environmental switches get flipped to make climate change proceed faster and in unexpected ways.
Worst case scenario? It could turn off the Gulf Stream.