Toronto mayoral candidate Rossi – playing from the conservative playbook? Globe and Mail photo
Rocco Rossi, one of the candidates running for mayor of Toronto, has unveiled some of his election platform. And in doing so, he has carved out niche on the right, leaving Smitherman to straddle the centre.
Rossi may be the cherubic, smiling counterpoint to Smitherman's furrow-browed bully, but make no mistake, Rossi has put his thumb on Torontonians' basest fears and has decided to play on them.
In yesterday's speech to the Empire Club in front of an audience, according to the Toronto Star, bulked up with enthusiastic supporters, Rossi sermonized from the Fraser Institute/Canadian Federation of Independent Business Handbook for How to Incite Fear and Win Public Office.
First, Rossi resurrected that old time right-winger favourite: sell public assets. That's right, take something built using public dollars, Toronto Hydro, and auction it off to the highest bidder. Toronto gets a one-time boost of a few bucks and the private sector buyer gets a cash machine.
Second, Rossi perpetuates the myth that the private sector can do a better job managing and delivering public services. Let me restate my comments on this issue from one of my posts from this past summer:
"…private collection did not work well in the former municipality of East York and that in Etobicoke, where garbage is privately collected, it is neither cheaper nor more expensive. In fact, it seems that private collectors in Etobicoke earn less than their public counterparts, have fewer benefits, work longer hours and have unpaid sick days.
How is this better for our communities?
Local governments are best positioned to deliver local services because they are the closest government to citizens. Further, in order to engage their democratic purpose, local government must be responsible for the provision of myriad direct services. To hand over those direct public services to the private sector should be perceived as an abrogation of democratic principles.
Further, a public good must benefit the public, not just taxpayers and particularly not those who can afford a service. Think of a public service as essential as water where privatization can lead to increased prices and decreased access.
The public good recognizes interdependence in the reliance on and distribution of resources where a benefit for one is a benefit for all, that citizens cannot be excluded from sharing resources and that a benefit for one doesn’t come at the expense for others (Hood, 1986).
Let’s stop those who represent the wealthy and well-off from fragmenting our communities. They don’t care about you and they don’t care whether you have access to a particular service. There is absolutely nothing altruistic about wanting to privatize public services. By manipulating your fears and by failing to provide sound evidence, the CFIB et al’s push for privatization rewards their friends and puts our public services at risk.
If you want to buy into the nonsense that public services should be privatized, ask yourself why. And then determine if once those services are privatized whether they are cost-effective, better and serve everybody (and I mean absolutely everybody) equally and fairly
Of course, it's easier to ignore studies and reports and other cities' experiences.
Rossi also issues an unwarranted attack on unions without providing evidence whether unionized workers are more or less productive than private sector workers. And let's not get into the pay issue. The CFIB's report on wage scales between the private and public sectors is risible in its methodology; a report that would receive a failing grade if it were submitted in a first year stats course.
Wanting to leave no public service stone unturned, Rossi thinks the TTC board should be replaced with a private sector body. And he wants to put the much anticipated Transit City project on hold, a statement that indicates he doesn’t understand where transit funding comes from or the jobs it provides.
Finally, Rossi riffed on the manufactured "war on the car". However, wanting safe and secure bike lanes and being vocal about those demands does not a war make. He thinks bike lanes should be on quiet streets rather than arterial roads. Why not both? Why not encourage people to get out of their cars and walk and take transit and bike?
Rossi may capture the suburban vote, those voters who venture downtown only to work in their glass towers and then hurry home; those voters who think public transit is quaint or that when a politician kills a cyclist, it was probably the cyclist's fault.
All of Rossi's promises involve handing more to the private sector while taking away from the public sector. Using our money to take private risks. Who benefits from Rossi's schemes? Who are his supporters?
Rossi is a man of the past. Not one of his campaign promises uttered at the Empire Club speech builds a Toronto for the future. Not one promise is visionary or indicates a passion not only for the city but for all of its citizens.
- Post by Eric