Don’t Compare the Liberals’ $1.1 Billion Gas Plant Scandal to Rob Ford’s Scarborough Subway

The Toronto Star is still very upset that Mayor Ford has not taken its sage advice and resigned as Toronto’s Mayor.

For several months, the Star has been reporting on: Ford being caught in a video allegedly smoking crack cocaine, Ford’s public drunkenness, his profanity, his filmed meetings with his driver, police surveillance of Ford and a whole host of other improper conduct.

The Star‘s Editorial Board has called for Ford’s resignation, multiple times.

But to no avail.

Ford has not resigned and quit.

In fact, he has vowed to stand and fight.

Recent polls indicated that Ford Nation is standing tall with Ford.

In fact, I believe that Ford’s support is actually increasing in response to the constant full on media feeding frenzy led by the Star.

Recent polls also indicate, that notwithstanding the public beating that Ford has been taking in the domestic and international press, his support at 34 per cent for re-election is just 3 points below Olivia Chow, Ford’s putative competitor in the next mayoral election.

Incredibly, not only is Mayor Ford going to ride out his term as Mayor, but he has a very good chance of being re-elected in 2014.

Ford and his staunch supporters are also fighting back publicly, online and in social media, by pointing out that Ford’s conduct pales in comparison to the Ontario Liberals’ gas plant scandal in blowing $1.1. billion of taxpayer money in order to secure four provincial Liberal seats in the last provincial election.

You can almost see the heads of the editors and reporters, exploding, in frustration, at the Star‘s head office.

Accordingly, the Toronto Star has launched a counter-attack to Ford’s counter-attack.

In Friday’s editorial the Star claimed that by Ford standing up for the rights of the Scarborough residents to have a subway extension from Kennedy Road subway stop to the Scarborough Town Centre, “Ford is guilty of the same wasteful offence” as the Liberals’ blowing $1.1 billion on the gas plant scandals.

I kid you not. These are the Star‘s exact words. Read them and weep for the Stareditorial board losing all reason and objectivity. And for publicly shredding its journalistic integrity and reputation.

I believe that the Star has not merely wounded itself. With this way over the top anti-Ford editorial, the Star has publicly disemboweled itself, journalistically speaking.

“Ford is quick to attack McGuinty for the gas plant scandal. Fair enough. We too have criticized the former premier, in this space, for that fiasco. But Ford is guilty of the same wasteful offence.”

The Star further argues:

“He (Ford) flushed away $100 million of taxpayers’ money to please Scarborough residents expecting delivery on a reckless “subways, subways, subways” promise. That’s $100 million in sunk costs gone to buy — nothing.

I will try to address some of the Star‘s arguments and conclusions.

Firstly, it is without dispute that the Liberals wasted $1.1 billion dollars in a selfish attempt to secure 4 seats.

The Star accused Ford of the same offence, though clearly the Liberals blew $1.1 billion to Ford’s alleged $100 million. In what universe is this the same offence? Monetarily speaking, clearly it is not.

Secondly, in fact Ford did not blow $100 million. He also did not flush away $100 million to please or pander to (as the Star alleges) Scarborough residents expecting delivery on a reckless subways promise.

For years as a councillor Ford was a genuine supporter of subways over streetcars or light rapid transit (LRT).

For years, Scarborough residents have been pleading for a subway in their area, because they were sick and tired of taking substandard transit, ie buses and an old rapid transit system. They were sick and tired of seeing their hard-earned tax dollars going to pay for the subway transit needs of their more affluent neighbors to the south in Old Toronto. Old Toronto residents enjoyed the Bloor, Yonge and University subways.

Mayor Ford, unlike just about every other municipal, provincial or federal politician listened to Scarberians and then fought tenaciously for them like a stubborn, pugnacious bull-headed pit bull for subways against all the so-called urban transit experts. And against many of his fellow councilors.

When Ford ran for mayor in 2010, his mantra was “subways, subways, subway.” A simple but very effective political message and political promise. A transit solution in which he deeply and sincerely believed. And was in response to his voters’ wishes.

“Subways, subways, subways,” is not a reckless promise as inaccurately portrayed by the Star. Even Marcus Gee of the Globe, no fan of Ford, concedes that this subway extension is needed and justified.

McGuinty sincerely believed in cancelling the gas plants. But he feared losing seats in Mississauga and Oakville. So he abandoned his principles for votes. That is pandering.

What Ford did in supporting subways is not pandering. That is true democracy, a concept obviously lost on the Toronto Star, which appears to prefer rule by the privileged unelected few. And policymaking by non-partisan so-called experts, aka Metrolinx, who are clearly insensitive to the actual people for which they are working.

To both the Star and Metrolinx, politics, that is, listening to and being responsive to the actual transit wishes of Scarborough residents, seems to be a dirty word.

Metrolinx reminds me of those brilliant non partisan urban experts, who conceived of the ill-fated Spadina Expressway, which was to build a major expressway through the communities of Cedarvale, Forest Hill and the Annex, contrary to the wishes of the residents affected.

As to the Star‘s claim that Ford blew $100 million of sunk costs, my money is on theOntario government once again unnecessarily paying out claims and costs, instead of challenging these contracts and costs in court, as was the case in the Mississauga andOakville gas plants.

Ironically, the more the Star goes after Ford, the more its reputation for fairness and objectivity is undermined.

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