In Ford’s Ontario, it’s time for Ottawa to grow the f up

Okay, I just tweeted this. It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since Ford was elected, last month:

The story here is that with the cancellation of the cap and trade program (which is a very bad decisions for very straightforward reasons), there will be a ton of promised funding that is being cancelled, too. Much of this is for bike projects (also to fix up our schools and get rid of asbestos, if you care about that sort of thing).

The city, proud of its bike projects and “Gold Medal” cycling status, never likes to do things on its own. Take the Fifth-Clegg Bridge (the problematically-named “Flora Footbridge”…we’ll get into that another time); city pols will trumpet it as a success, cut ribbons and take lots of pictures, but they weren’t actually willing to build it. Not until the province and the feds provided a ton of cash did this project finally get going.

So it’s still going ahead, as is the replacement of the Harmer Bridge, but projects on Wellington and Albert and Slater and elsewhere are now in jeopardy. The big mean province is cutting funding, so these projects will be delayed…if they’re ever actually done.

The city will, no doubt, lament the province’s decisions which are resulting in delayed/cancelled projects. But don’t believe them. It’s really nice to be able to blame someone else for not doing your job for you, but it’s still bullshit.

Ottawa is a wealthy city. We have a pretty massive budget (even as we’ve been starving many programs and services). We have a significant transportation budget, and proper bicycling infrastructure makes up a small percentage of it.

If the city wanted to–and if we were willing to–we could fund these projects. We find money for road projects (see: hospital link, Brian Coburn extension, Strandherd widening, etc.). We could find money to build bike lanes on Albert Street. More and more, cities are finding quick and cost-efficient ways to build safe, protected cycling networks, you just need to want to.

Urban planner Brent Toderian likes to say that to understand a city’s priorities, don’t look to its vision document, look at its budget (or something like that). The city insufficiently budgets for bike infrastructure (hell, they insufficiently budget for almost everything, but especially bike infrastructure), because this council and this mayor don’t really care that much about it (see: Holland Avenue).

When Ford was elected, we knew cuts were coming. Putting aside all the municipal culture war bullshit the Fords participated in in Toronto, he wants to cut taxes, cut spending and also do a whole bunch of expensive shit. He has no plan in the election, and all his promises were supremely expensive and budget obliterating.

“We” elected him, anyway.

So news that the province won’t be funding bike infrastructure (thanks for attaching strings to all the funding promises, Liberals!) isn’t a surprise. The province won’t, in general, be funding much of anything that we want.

So, it’s time for Ottawa to grow the fuck up.

As a city, we need to take responsibility for our affairs. We need stand on our own feet and fund our own projects. That doesn’t mean we can’t seek grants and support from other levels of government, but that we can’t trust that such support will always be there.

And this needs to be an issue in the election. We need council members who will act as adults, will be honest about our budget and finances, and will be dedicated to properly fund the city we want and deserve.

Or we could keep going down the same path, ignoring important needs and living in city that won’t reach its potential.

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