My Plan

No BS

It is important to remember, when you read any candidate’s plan, that a mayor does not have the financial or political power of a Prime Minister, Federal Minister, a Premier or a Member of Parliament. A mayoral candidate cannot go around promising to unilaterally make huge changes to infrastructure or social programs, because the power just isn’t there. A mayor has very few sources of revenue (that should change, of course). Also, a mayor has one vote out of 44 in City Council. 

Don’t let the other candidates fool you. They tend to promise things they cannot possibly deliver. That’s wrong!

If you want to see what a mayor actually does, here is a good article from the Toronto Star, and here is the job description direct from City Hall.

So what should you look for in a Mayor?

Poletical with captionNot empty promises concerning subways, stadiums, expressways, or jets at the airport. Not mythical savings. Not mythical promises about how things will be paid for, that you just know in your gut aren’t accurate and won’t come true.  Which means we do nothing. As we’ve done since the 70’s. And more than anything, not deception and lies.

You need a straight-talking honest negotiator with no hidden agenda. Someone with the character and strategic capacity to work with people in the public and private sector, as well as build consensus and streamline processes at City Hall, to help build a powerful, well organized and socially balanced city. You need someone who has a plan with real, achievable processes that can lead to solutions. A strong leader, with strong powers of influence, who carries a clear mandate to make hard choices and tell the truth, no matter what.  That is the only way for us to get moving.

My overall plan is to employ these characteristics and skills as mayor of Toronto.

Here are my top priorities. They are numbered for quick reference when answering questions.

1. Ensuring we can fund future growth by:

a.    Using the City of Toronto Act to implement responsible new tax generating powers including hotel taxes, congestion charges, and more than anything, road tolls for DVP/Gardiner

b.    Asking the people who can most afford it to support our city by raising the land transfer tax on homes assessed by MPAC at over $1.1M. At the same time I will keep property taxes low for those in the lowest bracket of home ownership and for those whose homes have not been transferred in the last twenty years, to ensure seniors, pensioners and first-time buyers are not threatened or priced out of an already very difficult market.

c.     Raising property taxes in a fair and measured way to fund the expansion of the transit system. And yes, truth time again, in a “more than inflation way.”  Our city and transit system is worth investing in, and the return on our investment, for each of us, will be worth it.

d.    Exploring the possibility of a 0.5% to 1% increase in HST, dedicated solely to making transit work in Toronto. Not borrowing, not complicated debt structuring.

2. Improving transportation in Toronto by:

a.    Using the increased revenue described above to create a dedicated transportation infrastructure fund to build the subway, new LRT lines and innovative bus solutions.

b.    Cancelling the Scarborough subway and instead reinstating the Master Agreement for the Scarborough LRT, which will provide greater access while costing the city nothing. It is already signed, and the environmental assessment has been completed. Career politicians promise dates, I promise accountable action to get it done as quickly and responsibly as possible. We will work with Metrolinx to keep this project alive and on track. When the citizens of Scarborough understand all of the facts on this issue, and once they see that more suitable and affordable alternatives exist in the form of the LRT, the boondoggle that is the current Scarborough subway plan will be apparent.

c.     Tolling the Gardiner Expressway and DVP to pay for and address on-going maintenance, road congestion and traffic infrastructure improvements throughout the city.

d.    Moving forward with plans for the Toronto Relief Line (TRL). Toronto needs a TRL, but we must pay for it like grownups. I have the plan to pay for the city’s share through taxes. Our collective choice to finally get things done.

e.  Reinstating the Vehicle Registration Fee to provide a much needed revenue source to increase accessibility for all Torontonians, particularly those using Wheel-Trans and the TTC. For more details, read the press release here.

3. Creating a safe city at an affordable price by:

a.    Reviewing the police and fire services budgets to ensure that wage increases and budgets are fair and reasonable when compared with wages in the private sector.

b.    Immediately making police lapel cameras mandatory, protecting both citizens and police officers.

c.    Ensuring that all public sector wages and salaries are reflective of the private sector and realities in our city, yet doing everything possible to ensure that our city and workers are not “Walmartized”.

4. Improving In-Town Traffic and Commuting by:

a.    Deprioritizing the car. I know the immediate kneejerk reaction of a driver (and I’m both a driver and TTC user) is that such a lack of balancing car/transit will make driving even more hopeless in the city.  Yet every bit of evidence suggests that when we deprioritize the car, and choose to prioritize transit/biking/walking, it actually makes driving easier and faster for those who still choose to drive.  Shocking, I know.

b.    Teaming up with high-tech firms to integrate smart-city technology that organizes and improves the way cars, buses and trucks flow through the city, including, but not limited to, traffic light synchronization (which is currently already in a pilot project). We can learn from cities around the world, such as Seoul, Barcelona and Amsterdam, which have successfully integrated new approaches to lane assignments, express bus rights-of-way, parking space identification and city/transit wide free wifi.

c.     Getting our car-share, bike share, bike lanes and e-bike programs back on track and operating in full. This includes:

  • Implementing the Minimum Grid, and making it the launch point for a new chapter in Toronto’s urban transit culture.
  • Ensuring that all cycling routes are physically separated from roads, ideally by raised curbs or fixed bollards.
  • Ensuring that all cycling routes are painted a different colour from the road, to maximize awareness for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.
  • Creating priority routes that allow faster access to city locations than cars could provide.
  • Converting the parking lanes on one side of major cross-town routes such as Bloor, Dundas and College to safe, separated bike lanes.
  • Increasing zero-tolerance enforcement against bike lane violators – those who park across bike lanes, including delivery trucks.
  • Making safe intersection technology and safe visibility technology a priority.
  • Increasing the number of bike lock stands across the city.
  • Launching an information blitz aimed at shop owners and others who are resistant to losing parking spaces, about the buying power of cyclists.
  • Encouraging Toronto to match the achievements of other bike-friendly cities across the world.
  • Working with CycleToronto and other organizations to make city cycling a year-round option, including the coldest winter months.
  • Strongly encourage businesses to make cycling an easier option for employees – this includes safe bike storage, on-site shower/clean-up facilities and locker-rooms for business clothes.

I would start by creating a dedicated lane on Yonge Street, and another on Bloor. Detailed traffic patterns support this, and Yonge Street. should be a bike/pedestrian mall focused street. Also other streets such as Richmond or Adelaide, Harbord or Hoskin. There are also a great many success stories from Montreal to Europe to draw from. I’d work closely with Cycle Toronto to make this happen as they are the experts. Not me.

d.    Coordinating and improving the way in which delivery, courier, shredder and mail trucks service buildings. This is a major source of blockage to cars, buses, bikes and streetcars, AND emergency vehicles.

e.    Working with traffic management and emergency services to develop faster and better management of road construction projects and accident scenes through advance notice of exits and alternate routes so that we can actually harness technology in a way that makes your life easier, today. Now.

f.     Working with the TTC and other regional transit organizations to further improve and assign bus transit/express routes and bus priority lanes to attract new riders, making sure flybys are built wherever possible.

g.    Implementing time-based TTC transfers city-wide.

h.    Seeking and advocating for a higher per-ride subsidy for the TTC from $0.78 to a figure closer to what Montreal receives ($1.16) or what Vancouver receives ($1.62) per rider respectively. Although I wholeheartedly believe that Toronto should pay its fair share (as described above), we also pay a disproportionate amount of tax to the Federal and Provincial governments. This would be one way in which we could benefit from our own money.

i.      Revitalizing the pedestrian charter that has largely been ignored. There is great economic merit in closing off parts of Yonge Street, Yorkville, and/or Bloor street and/or John Street to vehicular traffic, in order to create cultural, pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly corridors. Every city in Europe has a pedestrian street – they are beautiful and thriving. Toronto needs at least one.

5. Improving housing on a large scale. Please see my detailed position paper on housing here.

6. Reinvesting our Torontonian’s own money into Toronto in a mature and responsible fashion by:

a.    Assigning all monies beyond our current levels of taxation to a dedicated transit fund. People will see exactly where their money is going. What a refreshing thought to not always think politicians are wasting your money.

b.    Applying tolls to the Gardiner Expressway and the DVP to pay for and address ongoing maintenance, road congestion and traffic infrastructure improvements. This is particularly important when over 75% of cars using these highways belong to people who do not live in Toronto, and who do not pay property tax in Toronto. It is worth noting that many people driving these roads are able to pay $15-$25 per day to park downtown. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask drivers or home owners who can afford it for the equivalent of one or two tanks of gas per year to unlock Toronto’s transportation potential. I know it’s not popular to say out loud, but it’s true.

c.     Constantly demonstrating publicly and openly that the money from tolls is genuinely going to the roads. The money will not disappear or be reallocated elsewhere. Period. (See also 5 a., above)

d.    Ensuring that public sector wages & benefits and plans are not out of line with what the average private sector worker makes, while still maintaining and respecting the value of unions and their place and importance in our society and our economy.

e.    Planning and budgeting for seasonal realities such as snowstorms, ice storms and floods. These realities need to be budgeted for directly, but also indirectly, such as the tree-pruning budget which was cut back under Rob Ford and which consequently led to greater damage to our tree canopy during the 2013 ice storm. Which is well, well worth our full reinvestment in.

7. Rejecting jets at Billy Bishop Airport and reinvigorating the Waterfront by:

a.    Voting against jets. Period. The waterfront belongs to all Torontonians. The noise and pollution generated by jets is counterproductive to a vibrant living city.

b.    Building open public spaces at the waterfront for all to enjoy. There is already a seat for the mayor at Waterfront Toronto. Our current mayor, Mr. Ford, has never attended. I will take that seat and work with Waterfront Toronto. This is an important position, given its relationship to the LRT, the Gardiner issue and the development of the Portlands. A mayor has a responsibility to be part of this.

c.    Not allowing condo/high end development at Ontario Place.  Ontario Place is a place for families and for people to relax. A foreign concept, but the noisy, bustling, stressful city needs places for people to go, affordably, and simply relax and enjoy their city and its public space.

8. Reinvigorating Toronto’s commitment to progress by:

a.    Freeing ourselves from the certain people’s obstructionist attitude by investing reasonable amounts of public money on the types of projects that help a city grow. Lies and hopes do not build solutions. Investments do.  We are a city worth investing in, and all of us – every citizen – will see positive return on this investment, if we decide to work together and commit to change now. Celebrity politicians try to buy votes by promising to not raise taxes, while knowing, deep down, that once elected they will have to do just that. Aren’t we worth a little more respect than that? We are moving too far as a society to a culture of “no,” and of expecting a hand-out from government. The conversation has been moved to a place where doing nothing becomes acceptable. We must remember our responsibilities to our city and to making it better, in the same way that we have responsibilities to our families, children, friends and co-workers.

b.    Freeing ourselves from certain people’s selfish attitudes regarding cars, privilege and cronyism towards friends, associates and partners-in-crime. Rob Ford cut the fees for driving a car by about $50M per year. But he then raised fees for parents using park facilities, and for citizens riding subways amongst other things, by about $65M per year. When he cancelled Transit City it cost city residents $65 million – a sum he never seems to mention. This is not how I would operate.

c.     Reintroducing honest math into mayoral bookkeeping. For example, city spending has gone up about $200M per year under Mr. Ford, and he has increased the taxes and fees Torontonians pay by about $200M per year as well. This too, seems to go unmentioned.

d.    Having the guts to confront the good, the bad and the ugly no matter the political blowback. I will not govern by polls or focus groups. I will govern on behalf of the people, while in constant contact with them (including via listening to their councillors, who have their ears closest to the ground in their respective Wards) and while constantly guarding against waste. While Mr. Ford gave lip service to the concept of “waste,” he proved over and over again he was not up to the job. I am both capable and unafraid. I will take it on and do it right.

e.    Working with global high-tech companies as well as local businesses and our universities and colleges to help further Toronto’s position as a technology hub; to provide incentives and support for 21st century gains, now. Incentivizing our tremendous pool of workers/students to create solutions to Toronto’s problems today.

f.     Improving the 311 service and adding staff to it. This is how City Hall helps citizens in the first instance.

g.    Reintroducing a culture of excellence for Toronto. In large part due to the Ford brothers, I feel this city has lost sight of the idea that excellence is a good thing. The “I’m not perfect” excuse is a poor replacement for “I can do better.” We need to re-infuse aspiration – a desire for excellence that will make our citizens proud, and which will attract tourists, businesses, sports teams and more, to be part of our city. While the sky certainly is not falling, given the resilience and brilliance of our city and its people, I don’t just want Toronto to be a city in North America. I want it to be an intriguing, respected, and attractive jewel on the world map – year round.

9. Improving cooperation, governance and accountability at City Hall by:

a.    Showing up for work on time, every day, as every elected public servant should.

b.    Informing the media and the public as to my agenda and travel schedules.

c.     Attending every budget meeting as of day 1, from start to end. Not parachuting in at the end for a sound bite.

d.    Rebuilding Toronto’s image as a great place to do business. I will help make the city as attractive and business-friendly as possible, while leaving the entrepreneurs to do what they do best: create jobs and pay back their fair share to the city and its people.

e.    Surrounding myself with smart people – analysts and experts on finance, transport and urban issues: I will use outside advisors who are not comfortably tied to civic contracts but instead work to provide their expertise in a transparent and ethical manner. The current mayor has made it his business to personally oversee pet issues, without transparency or expertise, and without any results that can be independently verified. That is not acceptable when public money is at stake.

f.     Working to build consensus and teamwork on council. City Hall was built to house civilized, intelligent debate and to deliver proactive policy for the city’s residents, businesses and visitors. It is not a place for brawling, dancing, grandstanding and childish negativism. Especially when people disagree. Because disagreement can be harnessed for good.

g.    Encouraging vigorous debate in City Hall, to ensure councillors and their constituents always have a voice. I don’t like being surrounded by sycophants.

h.    Encouraging full online voting in Toronto for the next election in 2018, to foster an increase in democracy by making it more accessible and relevant to all voters, to eliminate apathy and to encourage all Torontonians of all ages and abilities to have some skin in the game.

10. Improving the way police and the public coexist in Toronto by:

a.    Making police lapel cameras mandatory: a $500-1200 per officer cost that will result in tens of millions of dollars in long-term savings, a massive reduction in complaints against the police, and a massive reduction in the use of force against the residents of Toronto. It will save hours, weeks and months of investigative time that can now be put to much better use, while rebuilding and enhancing trust between officers and the community.

b.    Auditing the police budget and re-directing excess to other Toronto core services. 90% of the police budget goes to salaries and benefits. The salary of a first class constable will rise to just over $90K this year. The police received a pay hike of more than 11% over four years, far above Toronto’s city-wide average. Our police officers work hard and put themselves in danger every day. An audit and revision of the police budget will free up funds to help them do their job better, protecting officers and civilians, and ensuring that those who break the law are caught, tried and punished.

c.     Establishing a panel to identify better police practices across the spectrum, learning from the old and moving to the new. Particularly when it comes to use of force, de-escalation, and Mental Health issues. And then actually enforcing these changes. Which is simply not done now. The overwhelming principle is that yes, the Police are to serve and protect us. For years now, a huge segment of Toronto feel, with justification, that it is us vs. them.

11. Acknowledging the LGBTQ Pride Community year-round, by:

a.    Enthusiastically recognizing and celebrating the LGBTQ population of Toronto and its contribution to Toronto culturally, financially and artistically.

b.    Attending Pride events, and promoting Toronto internationally as Pride-friendly city.

c.     Ensuring that the challenges faced by members of the LGBTQ community are fully addressed, particularly with youth in crisis.

12. Improving accessibility for the alternately-abled by:

a.    Ensuring that Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America, embraces and recognizes all citizens, including those with disabilities, alternate abilities, and those who have been marginalized, allowing everyone to live and work in dignity. No more commissions, inquiries, waiting for the province/feds, etc. If I can get into a grocery store or restaurant because I’m able bodied, the fact that my friend in a wheelchair can’t, is unacceptable. If the starting standards we use are anything less than perfection, then we are just hypocrites. Period, full stop.

b.    Setting up a City Hall employment centre and job fairs for the blind, deaf and physically challenged. These citizens are constantly underemployed/unemployed compared to the able-bodied population. This is wrong, and City Hall can help. This is where government can do good. While I cannot address every issue, and won’t make pie in the sky promises, this is where I would start.

c.     Ensuring that the long term health, housing and support needs of Toronto’s aging population are kept front and centre.

13. Focusing on key employment issues by:

a.    Working to promote Toronto as a world centre for high-tech, manufacturing and service industries. Toronto has so much to offer. Jobs cannot be created by politicians; but politicians can help foster the circumstances that make industry and investment appealing to Canadian and international business.

b.    Negotiating more purposefully with unions to recognize the realities of life in 2014 and beyond, while recognizing the value and purpose of unions in protecting workers from danger and exploitation.

c.     Paying particular attention to youth unemployment, by focusing on youth jobs and training programs in line with the needs of the 21st century, particularly given our base of amazing colleges and universities within the city. And listening to the experts in the area who have devoted their lives to this issue.

d.  Seeking to enforce a living wage to replace minimum wage. (See my blog here).

14. Re-establishing and enforcing Term Limits by:

a.    Dispensing with the idea of being an elected politician as a career without end. We need to dispense with the idea of “incumbent advantages.” The current “big four” candidates have earned higher status because they are already long in the tooth in politics. Longevity in politics it not always a good thing; it generates complacency and a sense of entitlement, towards power and towards access to public money. Politicians should continually earn their right to serve; not just during elections but every day. New blood should be ushered in regularly, so that new ideas replace stale City Hall comfort. The current incumbent advantage serves only as a deterrent to fresh thinking and process improvement.

15. Focusing on Improving our Childcare system. See my press release here.

16. Supporting Arts and Culture by:

a.    Strengthening and investing in culture to continue to improve quality of life, attract businesses, investment and tourists. This isn’t just an election issue, this is a civic issue that lasts all year, not just election season.

b.  Reinvigorating the Toronto library system. Libraries form a centrepiece of communities – in addition to books and media resources, they are a place for meetings, education and discovery. I intend to work with the Toronto Public Library system to ensure that funds and logistics are available to ensure that no sector of the city is lacking a library. This includes ensuring that the physical libraries remain (or are restored to) a state of good repair, with full accessibility.

17. Recognizing the rights and priorities of citizens who rent their homes by:

a.    Ensuring that the 43% of Toronto’s residents who are tenants are not forgotten. In Mayor Ford’s constant description of Torontonians as “taxpayers,” it is important to recognize that a significant number actually pay rent instead of property tax. These citizens should be treated with equal respect and be given equal attention. Ours is a diverse, hard-working city, but often “renters” are ignored or seen as secondary, even though they earn money and pay their bills, just like “homeowners.”

18. Soliciting regular feedback and honouring a commitment to truth and openness by:

a.    Establishing regular feedback channels for all Torontonians, through new and traditional media. For example, contrary to what Rob Ford thinks, a mayor does not have the right to declare himself “the greatest mayor this city has ever seen.” Only the public can do that.

b.    Answering all questions, concerns or complaints, I will answer. An elected public official does not have the right to brush past reporters and deflect or ignore questions. I don’t run from tough questions. People have seen that in me since day 1. I answer. I don’t dither. The media represents and informs the public – people who are busy tending to their jobs, lives, families. I promise no evasion, no deflection, no lies.

c.     Always speaking the truth, pretty or not. It is crucial to face issues that aren’t talked about or aren’t popular. It is essential that we invite bright and reasoned minds to join the conversation. When we encounter a realistic plan that can help us to achieve our goals, I will not shy away from doing it just because a poll says it may hurt me politically.  Or if it’s somebody else’s idea. Heaven forbid I actually think somebody else or another politician has a good idea. I will support it rather than resorting to automatic and outright politically motivated rejection. You can already see evidence of this in the statements I am making right here on this page. I will do what’s right for Toronto, no matter what.

19. Rethinking Toronto’s connection to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) by:

a.    Searching for a better way. Toronto cannot expect solid or meaningful city planning when all a developer has to do is run to the OMB and get the rules changed.

20. Recognizing the rights and safety of our pets and pets-to-be by:

a.    Increasing awareness and support for Toronto’s animal shelters, including once a month adoption events at city hall.

21. Enhancing Toronto’s Public Space/Green Space by:

a.    Building at least one new transformative green space per term through community collaboration and consultation. Exciting additional information on this topic will be revealed very soon.

22. Paying attention to the needs of our sewer system by:

a.    Dealing with Toronto’s sewer infrastructure issues now when it’s cheaper. The longer we wait, the more expensive, time consuming and inconvenient it will be.

23. Keeping a close and very transparent watch over city spending by:

a.    Demanding real oversight and accountability of our money, not just tedious and too-often repeated catchphrases. Torontonians have to be able to trust their elected officials with their money. Career politicians simply don’t have an incentive to be cautious – they are paid no matter what. And our current mayor claims to be fiscally responsible but never seems able to prove it. He prefers to dodge the issue repeatedly. I don’t dodge. If something isn’t working, or I have done something wrong, I will stand up and address it.

24. Paying attention to the design of the city by:

a.    Making sure developers consider the entire city when proposing a new project. Our city has lost sight of the notion of design and architectural elegance. Some property developers have rushed in to build glass towers with little attention paid to neighbourhood-wide design standards, including visual beauty and form, but also taking into consideration light, shadow and wind effects on neighbouring homes and businesses. Architecture in Toronto should not just be about height – it’s about design. A building should not just be in the city, it should also be of the city. And there are great developers/architects/engineers in the city that believe exactly that. I will encourage that.

b.    Reviving the Official Plan for building in the core, a plan that calls for mainstreeting, i.e., building up density along transit corridors.

c.     Modernizing the policies of infrastructure. Everyone knows that the city is horribly slow and usually overspent on construction. Projects such as the St. Clair West streetcar right of way, the Union Station renovation, Queen’s Quay and the docklands need to be thoroughly vetted for economic and practical feasibility. Although renovation and building are necessary investments in our future, and even though many of these projects precede and outlive any one mayoral term, I will do what I can to establish a better mind-set towards project management and spending. Every person involved in a construction project, including the engineering companies and political officials must protect every dollar spent. I would stop the current low ball tender process, and impose huge penalties for construction lateness. I would build a great team to advise me.  The process would be made predictable and economically effective.

d.    Telling the truth. A city can’t be properly designed without the truth always being told about it. Warts and all, beauty and all. To me, one of the most important challenges of a Mayor is dealing with the things that aren’t working, and not running from them. Not hiding. Leadership isn’t about declaring I love puppies and chocolate ice cream. It’s about confronting the challenges we face head on, without pie in the sky promises, and, more than anything, setting a vision that maintains and fights for the idea that we are a city worth investing in, and that our collective investment in it will pay off tremendously in the near and long term future.

 = = = = = =

So there you have it…

My plan. If you have questions, or if there are topics missing that you would like me to address, email me at ari@ariformayor.com, or use the contact form here.

If you would like to meet me in person to chat, keep checking my home page or Twitter, where I will announce my upcoming events and activities.

Thank you.

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