Tory’s failed leadership

Just look at John Tory’s record on issues and you can see what a failed political leader he has become. Mayors are expected to provide leadership, and great mayors rise to the occasion to provide inspired leadership on contentious, difficult issues. Tory fails on all accounts.

John Tory likes to show he uses the subway system.

In the 2014 election candidate John Tory presented himself as a successful but cautious businessman, a good administrator, and a savvy politician. He said he would control taxes, always a big issue with property owners, and get Toronto moving on transit.

His most dramatic promise during the campaign was to create what he called “Smart Track,” a 22 stop transit service primarily on GO railway tracks with a minimal cost. To sweeten his appeal to the vote rich residents of Scarborough, he added that he would build a three stop subway line from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre. This was enough to deliver him a victory at the polls.

That election was over two years ago now, long enough to make a judgement on his leadership. Yes, the chaotic days of the Ford era, thankfully, are at an end. Tory has been able to get the support of the suburban councillors and that has allowed him to dominate council, but looking at his record on issues illustrates that his leadership is in shambles.

Smart Track has gone from a 22 station transit plan to an addition of six new stations. Recently a Metrolinx study concluded that all but one of the new stations may discourage ridership. (Globe and Mail, March 17, 2017) It is now obvious the plan was designed on the back of an envelope in the midst of an election campaign. No transit experts were consulted before it was rolled out to the public.

It was an election gimmick, No more. An experienced politician like Tory would have known that it is very dangerous to make promises on technically complicated, expensive projects like transit without careful study, but he did it anyway to win votes. He promised an unworkable transit plan and he must take responsibility for its failure.

The Scarbough subway has now been revealed as an even greater failure. The difference is that it can be stopped before it becomes yet another failed project, but don’t count on it. The mayor has put his reputation on the line with this project and Toronto residents will have to pay for it, and live with it, just so John Tory can claim a victory.

After detailed studies, the subway line now has been reduced from three stops to one stop. The cost has ballooned to $3.35 billion. Ridership projections have been reduced to 7,400 per hour, well below the 15,000 riders per hour experts say is needed to make a subway successful. The city will have to pay for all of this except $1.48 billion promised by the Ontario government.

This one stop subway replaces a seven stop LRT line originally promised by David Miller’s Transit City plan. It would have gone from Kennedy Station to the Scarborough Town Centre and terminated at the Centennial Campus on Sheppard. Another LRT line would have gone from Kennedy, along Eglinton and Kingston Road to Morningside. It would have had 18 stations.

All of this could have been built for less than the one stop subway and would have provided good transit for many more riders. But no. To save John Tory’s reputation the people of Scarborough will get a one stop subway and all the people of Toronto will pay for it. This is not leadership; it’s a disaster.

Add the Scarborough subway and Smart Track to other important failures since Tory has been mayor.

  • The proposal to take down a small part of the Gardiner Expressway to open more land for development on the Waterfront, was rejected for a more costly hybrid solution that would reward some developers.
  • Tory’s idea of improving traffic was to take parked cars off major streets at rush hour. There has been no effort to reduce speeds, calm traffic, or discourage vehicles in the downtown. The number of pedestrian fatalities have increased.
  • Tory has shown no leadership on cycling. Toronto is far behind other major North American cities. It is not expensive to modify city streets and make them safe for cycling, but this issue is ignored in Toronto.
  • The proposal to transform Yonge Street is little more than a promise to widen sidewalks. Other cities are creating pedestrian malls, but not Toronto.
  • There is a crisis in hostels for both men and women in the city and nothing is done.
  • Tory’s efforts to keep taxes at the rate of inflation has led to a cut of services. That particularly harms those with low incomes.

We don’t have a new urban agenda in the City of Toronto. We are locked in the old agenda of the post war era of cars and suburbs. The once proud reputation of Toronto as a progressive city has been lost because political leaders, like John Tory, lack the imagination to think of anything other than their own personal reputations.