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Politics is the art of the possible


BY SHELLEY CARROLL

Otto von Bismarck, the storied first chancellor of Germany, famously said: “Politics is the art of the possible.” He’s famous for many things but especially this timeless phrase. Bismarck was a fan of Realpolitik, a political philosophy that promotes pragmatism ⁠— realism ⁠— over ideological goals. The philosophy asserts we have to compromise to get what we want ⁠— and refusing to do so could mean getting nothing at all.

A compromise The art of the possible is what our Mayor, City Manager and TTC CEO had to pull off in order to reach a deal with the provincial government last year regarding our transit plan and existing transit assets. The City had plans for new lines that the province could easily override. Moreover, the province talked about taking ownership of the whole transit system to guarantee their own plan. So, our three principals had to negotiate a compromise. We now have a signed and sealed deal that ensures three out of the four new projects the province wants to start match Toronto's own priorities. Those projects are the Downtown Relief Line (now expanded and named the Ontario Line), the Scarborough Subway and the Eglinton West LRT. The fourth project is the Line 1 Yonge Subway Extension, which the province is leading. Having set these priorities, the City will also maintain ownership of the TTC.

During Budget season, Councillors also have to practice the art of the possible. We all have constituencies with unique needs and wishes. We have to take those wish lists and find ways to get what we want while balancing the budget. Priorities we share in common, such as transit and housing affordability, need urgent attention but where the dollars are applied is another discussion of compromise. A debate Mayor Tory’s new phased-in City Building Fund (CBF) increase will spur the biggest debate on compromise we've had yet. While the City’s whole Budget is moving through its consultation process this week, the TTC Board will debate Monday morning on how to apply the $4.5 billion in new transit funding generated from the City Building Levy. The issue is we all want to apply that money in different ways: downtown residents want more streetcars, the suburbs need more buses and everyone who uses Line 2 wants every penny to go to repairs and trains on that troubled line.

When the CBF was announced, I moved a motion to ensure the TTC’s own staff and Commissioners get the opportunity to recommend how and where to spend the transit funds. TTC CEO Rick Leary has now filed a report which recommends spreading the dollars across track, tunnel and signalling overhauls (primarily on Line 2) plus updating the fleet across all vehicle types by purchasing a third of what we know need for the next 15 years. An agreement This week especially, no one can argue Line 2 is in trouble. A lion’s share of the CBF dollars will go to work on that line. Additionally, in order to enhance service across the city we need more streetcars, trains, buses and Wheel-Trans vans. Our vehicle needs are so large we require funding from other governments to meet them. This will come as no surprise to the federal and provincial governments — they receive regular updates on the state of the fleet in the nation’s largest transit system.

Mr. Leary has crafted a report that demonstrates the art of the possible. If the TTC Commissioners and City Council agree we need to spread this money across the system — from track and tunnel work to rolling stock in all types — then we can get to work now. We can also call upon the other orders of government, with one voice, to help us grow these orders to meet your needs. If they do so, the TTC will keep you moving, get you to work on time and generate thousands of jobs in the process.

 

A new chapter for DVN Connects Last Thursday, Shelley and our team held the last official DVN Connects roundtable meeting. Over four meetings in the past year, community members from all corners of Don Valley North gathered to discuss the future of transit in our ward, especially along the congested Sheppard Avenue East corridor. The group kicked things off by deciding on a shared vision and a set of evaluating principles to determine which types of transit infrastructure best serve our residents. Our DVN ward team also organized a series of local pop-ups and events to collect feedback from the wider community. We were thrown a curveball when, last fall, the provincial government announced their intention to extend the Sheppard subway line east of Don Mills — but not until the four new transit lines Shelley mentioned above are complete. This means work on Sheppard would not begin until at least 2041. The DVN Connects group understood that transit riders can't afford to wait until 2041. So, they got to work and proposed ideas for an interim, “before-the-subway” plan. These ideas will be part of a motion Shelley will present to the TTC Board in February. Although the official roundtable meetings are over, members of DVN Connects will continue to organize their own community meetings and reach out to neighbours and friends. Shelley and our team will continue to support them by bringing the group’s recommendations to the TTC Board and other City divisions. Read more about DVN Connects on our website here. If you have any questions about the process please feel free to send me a message at ryan.lo@toronto.ca. Sincerely, Ryan Lo, Planning and Policy Advisor

 

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This week I appeared on the season premiere of TVO's Political Blind Date to discuss City Finances with Budget Chief Gary Crawford. If you didn't catch it on TV, it's up on YouTube now. Click here to watch!

 


 


 


 


 


 

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