Rob Ford: person of interest, or dumb question?

Hardly anyone with internet or newspaper can be unaware of Toronto, Canada’s mayor and his latest antics and faux pas.

This is not new. Here you will find a Maclean’s magazine summary of some of those missteps. It is worth noting that Rob had a problem as early as during the mayoral election campaign.

A somewhat different chronology, with considerable overlap, can be found here.

Recently, it seems that the crisis has been escalating exponentially. I’d like to remind everyone of some history. You can check my version of facts here, in Wikipedia.

Rob Ford promised us subways with tax decreases. Jump to ‘Transit Policy’ in the Wikipedia article to see that, money was coming from private and other magical sources; subways were the only way to go, et cetera. The result: we’ll have tax increases to pay for a subway to Scarborough. This subway is too expensive and less valuable than the planned LRT (more stops, denser neighbourhoods, less cost – and more than enough capacity).

Rob Ford, with brother Doug, used a radio talk show to push their views onto unsuspecting listeners. In the Wikipedia article you will find this: ” In June 2013, it was revealed that Dave Price, Ford’s director of operations and logistics, had frequently called the radio program without revealing his connection to the mayor or his brother. The Fords also gave no indication that they recognized the man who was calling in. In the calls, Price praised the mayor for such things as mentoring young people.”

I wish someone out there could find me a video clip. Not of the mayor as of late, but of the mayor in City Hall early in his reign. I recall one of his buddies giving a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ for every City Council vote, and the Fords and I think Smitherman gleefully getting their way on everything.

It was in this atmosphere that Rob Ford declared, ‘the war on the car is over.’

This was an unpopular decision on Council. Here are some quotes from The Star: “So seven years of planning, engineering, etc., goes out the window. We have spent $140 million — the province has — so this is not about fiscal responsibility, this is about fiscal irresponsibility,” said a furious Joe Mihevc, vice-chair of the outgoing TTC board.

and this:

Everybody loves subways. But we can’t afford them, said Patrice Dutil, associate professor in Ryerson University’s Department of Politics and Public Administration.He referred to Ford’s subway plan as back-of-the-envelope calculations.

and this:

Ford was noncommittal about who would be responsible for the $130 million already spent on Transit City as well as the huge penalties likely to be charged if more than $1.3 billion worth of signed contracts are cancelled.

OK, you’re probably thinking, so what? What’s my point here?

Here is my point. There were many early indications of a man on a power trip with less than ideal planning and understanding of cities, transit, and in some cases, ethics. (Having insiders call one’s radio show, for example. Driving while reading, for example.) Now we find that, as council took back some of its power from our Mayor, the latter may have taken refuge in mind-altering substances. I expect the stress of impending failure; the impossibility of funding his all-subway dream without taxes, parking, or road fees; the growing revolt in council; the pressure from an annoyed, vexatious press checking into what he did to a reporter checking behind his back yard – I suspect that the stress was too much for this man.

So, who is at fault? Council for giving him such free rein at the outset? Council who now, suddenly, think they can reign Rob Ford in? Rob Ford for thinking his push-my-agenda tactic, so successful as a Mister-Fixit councillor, would work as city mayor?

Or is it the fault of the citizens who voted? Go back to the Wikipedia article, where you will find this: “The voter turnout was around 52% of registered voters, the highest in Toronto’s post-amalgamation history. Ford’s 11% margin of victory was the largest for any incoming mayor in post-amalgamation history.”

Is it our own fault? That’s the dumb question revolving around this person of interest.

Stephen Harper, and Canadian Science: why we are famous

Canada is now famous. There is an article quoted in Nature concerning a survey of Canadian scientists.

Ninety percent feel that they cannot speak freely to the media about their work. Thirty-seven percent had been blocked from answering media requests in the last five years. You can find this in here.

(Although I have access to Nature, I can not find the article there – their search engine is incompetent. Sorry. The survey included over 4,000 scientists in 40 government agencies. From the above hotlink you can see the graph but not the text that confirms this paragraph. Sorry.)

Canada is now famous. There is another article in Nature about Diane Orihel, who risked her academic career to stave off the government’s shut down of the unique Experimental Lakes Area. You can find this, in Nature, here.

Canada is now famous. Our government, under Stephen Harper, with the ‘co-operation’ of Jim Flaherty (must one be a yes-man to keep a ministry?) has put through, as a budget bill, some seventy changes to environmental law. One pointer to this can be found here.

Canadian science, and especially Canadian environmental science, are under attack. The person of interest here is Stephen Harper.