Friday, 2 April 2010

Provincial Lament

Ah, spring. A sense of renewed optimism with the warmer weather and the longer, lighter days that are buoying everyone's psyches up from the depths of the long cold, dark winter. Tax refunds, March Breaks, graduations just around the corner, and easter eggs. Hard not to feel warm and fuzzy and optimistic, what with the "recovery", "growth" and "plans to returned to balanced books" outlined in provincial and federal government budgets, to top it all off. Don't you start with your doom and gloom buzzkill again, you're probably shouting to me through your computer screen.

I won't. I too have been enjoying lifted spirits and brighter outlooks with advent of this season. My band played a good show, and my dismal finances from trying to write have turned around after some weeks back working for the man (I hope I'm still keeping my eye on the ball). I'm looking for a baseball team, as well as some organic matter to mix with my dirt and grow a better garden this year. Need some manure or something. And a good place to start might be behind Queen's Park, where our provincial government has hidden some huge piles of smelly bullshit (fat cats on their payroll and broken promise on new transit for T.O.) in their latest budget. Rather than an opinionated lambast of them here in my echo chanber, I've decided to write a respectful letter worthy of those who have the democracy's confidence to govern. Here it is. I will send it.

To: The Premier of Ontario
The Honourable Dalton McGuinty

cc: The Honourable Minister of Transport
Kathleen Wynne

The Honourable Minister of Training (my local MPP)
John Milloy

The Honourable Finance Minister
Dwight Duncan

Dear Honourable Ministers,

I was extremely disappointed to see that you delayed even further plans to build new subway lines in Toronto in your last budget. I believe this was motivated by embarassment of the enormous deficit and the press' continual complaints about it and what it means for Ontario's changing role from the economic engine of Canada to a province plagued by structural economic problems. As such, this move appeared to me to be entirely politically motivated and ill-advised.

I grew up in Scarborough-North York and I have thousands of hours of TTC riding experience. I can tell you from observation that the system has worked for getting around the city but it barely does anymore. The city's population has tripled in my lifetime and there has been little to no new transit or infrastructure created. You are now asking the metropolis and economic engine of the province to spend an even longer period of undetermined length taking a toy subway from 1970 that breaks down often and barely goes anywhere. Sure, we can sit on new buses with expanded service (yes, thank you for the new buses), but how much of a consolation is that on our extremely congested roads?

I don't know how ministers get around our city but I can tell you it has become a nightmare. The highways are choking, the main roads are write-offs, and the transit is totally insufficient. And I know that you do, of course, intend to continue accepting 50,000 new immigrants a year for Toronto despite declining to make this critical investment. Even though Torontonians are already one of the highest per-capita vehicle owning major city populations of Earth. Even though the average commute in Toronto is 80 minutes now, higher than both notoriously gridlocked New York and L.A.

I've never heard a government speak so much about "innovation" "competitiveness" "investing in our future and in tomorrow's green economy" and "moving forward." You know the expression money talks and another bad word walks? I often deplore the lack of vision on our federal government's part, whose governance seems to be based solely on strategy and endless pandering to special interests, and yet here you are on the verge of wasting two majorities without building any new vital infrastructure (even though this is the first government I've ever heard of with an "infrastructure minister"). All to save a lousy 4 billion bucks which you will certainly lose in productivity, health care, and a whole bunch of other indicators by continuing to ignore this critical issue for the city and the province.

We already had a tunnel on Eglinton dug. The previous government filled it up. That cost a lot of money. Now, 13 years later, we finally have a plan to build, and you've just cut the funding. All the buzzwords I've mentioned in the previous paragraph don't mean a heck of a lot, if I may speak freely, when something as basic as transit in the 4th biggest city in North America is this much of a joke.

And I know that you are busy people, so I will keep it to one issue, but you are paying an awful lot of people (almost 65,000) enormous salaries (like, a million dollars to run an art gallery or a university), so frankly your argument about fiscal challenges that you've floated out to the press to justify this sounds to me like a bunch of bunk.

I thank the low-level unpaid intern reading this for listening to my candid and unsollicited views.
Respectfully Yours,
Christopher Lackey
Life-long (so far) Ontario resident

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