"If human beings didn't have a strong preference for creation, nothing would get built, ever."
- Larry Niven
Although I am a newcomer to the political scene, I always thought, or believed, or hoped, that the best campaigns were based on what the candidate in question would build in office, what he or she would create once the opportunity was available. It seems now that this is yet another wound that will kill my naivete. Yesterday fellow candidate Rocco Rossi, one of the handful of candidates whom the media seems to think has a relatively easy shot at taking the Mayor's sash in October, did just that during a speech to the Empire Club - at last providing prospective voters with more information than "he used to work for the Liberal Party."
It's a mixed bag. Some of what he's espousing, like the potential outsourcing of city services, are such lightning-rod issues that candidates won't be able to stay away from them - the 2009 garbage strike remains heavy in Torontonians' memories, and I for one would rather not have to see Christie Pits or Gzowski Park turned into an impromptu dump site yet again. What really rises my hackles, though, is that Rossi wants to slam on the brakes for transit and cycling.
On Wednesday I wrote about my misgivings with Transit City being planned in such a way that the Sheppard East LRT began being built first, and my worries that some change in the political winds might well leave it the only component of Transit City to be built. Rossi's apparent interest in putting Transit City, less Sheppard East, on hold "until it is clear the capital and operating funds are there" - a quote from the Star's article, I'm not sure to which degree it parallels what Rossi actually said - is one of the better ways I can think of to greatly increase the chances of leaving the Sheppard East LRT orphaned. It may be easier to destroy than create, but it's even easier to do nothing than destroy. Toronto has been planning a better, transit-oriented future for years now - but no one in power ever had the will to do it. Had 1985's Network 2011 plan come to pass, Toronto would not have to make do with a subway system the Sydney Morning Herald once described as "skeletal."
Say what you will about Transit City, but at least it is progress. At least it is an effort to increase the functionality and usefulness of transit in Toronto by expanding its footprint. It's not necessarily the highest priority - I, personally, would much rather see at least an eastern arm of the Downtown Relief Line built before, or in concert with, most of the Transit City lines, but unfortunately I don't have a time machine with which I can jaunt back to 2005 and reorient the city's priorities. Transit City is, for better or worse, an established issue, and building it is preferable to doing nothing at all. For Rossi to advocate putting it on hold shows, to me, no ambition and no interest in improving the city for the future - rather, it seems to me an attempt to hold on to the past.
I don't own a car. The Toronto Transit Commission is how I get around if it's not by my own two legs. I really have to wonder how much Rossi has used the system recently, if he thinks expanding and improving it is not a necessity.