Image credit Lloyd Alter
When Rob Ford was running for Mayor of Toronto, he complained about the "gravy train" of waste, and promised that he would balance the budget without any service cutbacks. Now he is Mayor, and the first report is in from KPMG, and we see that there is no gravy train of waste, and about the only place to save money is to strip out just about every green and environmental program that the city ever had. Recommendations include:
"Reducing the scale" of cycling infrastructure: The report suggests that "Bicycle Plan and Program are more extensive than warranted by bicycle volumes." This is of course a chicken and egg situation; bike activist Dave Meslin points out via twitter:
Cutting funding for bike lanes because there isn't enough demand is like cutting literacy funding because not enough people are reading. Bike lanes are not built to satisfy demand. They're meant to serve as an incentive to encourage more cycling by increasing safety.
OK, we knew the new regime was anti bike lanes. But we didn't know that they were anti-everything green. The other recommendations are astonishing.
Reducing Toronto's existing waste-diversion target. Toronto has a extensive and progressive green bin and recycling program and aimed to keep 70% of trash out of the landfill. But it is more expensive than dumping, and Toronto bought a big dump last year to end our embarrassing shipping of garbage to Michigan. So why bother?
Reduce Snow Removal on Residential Streets it's not like they get around to doing it that quickly anyways, they even write in the report that "snow removal standards are described higher than required, but the department indicates snow removal is actually only carried out as streets become impassable" so why not just drop the pretence and cut the budget even farther? Oh, and they are going to cut back on street sweeping too.
Eliminating the fluoridation of Toronto's water supply. Seriously. Torontoist writes:
This, despite the fact that the report found that "Toronto's cost of water treatment is relatively low" (though the cost of delivering the water, due to water main breaks, is quite high). The report notes that this decision, if taken, might lead to "impacts on dental health."
Eliminating the "Toxic Taxi" service. For people who don't drive, the City picks up toxic waste to keep it out of the regular waste stream. So they will pick up paint, chemicals, batteries and other stuff from people who cannot get to a dropoff point. They call it an unnecessary "higher standard" and would rather the stuff just go to the dump.
All of these cuts are necessary to replace the funds lost from cancelling one of the other green measures of the last government, the hated $60 vehicle tax on car licences. It is, as Hamutal at Torontoist notes, a "manufactured crisis"- a choice between taxes or services. But in a lot of ways it is also a battle between city and suburb; the wide arterials and suburban streets are easy to plough. Fluoridation primarily benefits the poor who don't get proper dental care. Green bins are for greenies. Suburbanites have cars and don't need toxic taxis.
More on Toronto
The War on The Bike and the Bus In Toronto: Activists Regroup, Respond
Anti-Bike, Anti-Transit, Anti-Green Rob Ford Elected Mayor Of Toronto
Follow me on Twitter! @lloydalter