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Sarah Thomson

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Speech to Budget Committee – Dec. 2, 2013

Good afternoon – I am Sarah Thomson chair of the Toronto Transit Alliance. Thank you committee members for giving me the opportunity to speak before you today.

With the approaching 2014 election we at the Transit Alliance hope that each and every councilor in this room remembers the importance of standing up for what is right, and putting the needs of the city first.

Everyone in this room knows the importance of dedicated transit funding but how many people here are willing to stand up for even one funding tool recommended to council by us at the Toronto Transit Alliance, by  The Board of Trade, Civic Action, Metrolinx, and even your own advisors here at the city?

All have recommended funding tools and today we are here to encourage you to move forward on at least one of them. We have to build a city for our children, a city that doesn’t allow gridlock to limit our economic potential, our youth, our future.

But lets talk about the facts

–       the fact that it is very hard to get elected on the idea of increasing taxes no matter how important the initiative is

–        the fact that there are politicians who pretend that Toronto can have a top of the line subway system and voters won’t have to pay a dime.

It is hard to compete against these charlatans who spew these lies… but not impossible.

Transit is a key issue in the coming election. With between 6 to 12 Billion dollars of lost productivity each year (BOT and CD Howe estimates) Toronto doesn’t have time to wait for other levels of government to bail us out. We have to move and we have to move quickly.

The Scarborough Subway will cost tax-payers. That is a fact, a hard truth — not political spin.

But another fact being ignored currently is that without dedicated transit funding in place the bill for transit expansion will continue to fall to Toronto tax-payers.

We at the Toronto Transit Alliance believe this MUST  change, we need a model where ALL can contribute to funding the transit system Toronto needs and the first step should be to implement tolls for non-residents on the Gardiner Expressway, and Don Valley Parkway.

Many here might not be aware of the fact that Toronto owns both highways and the Toronto Act allows our city the opportunity to move forward on this.

If we toll non-residents, councilors who have proven unwilling to risk their positions, will not have to worry about losing votes.

We at the Toronto Transit Alliance are hoping to find leadership from someone on council, leadership to steer this idea forward, leadership to create the dedicated transit funding Toronto needs to expand our subway and transit system.

Will one of you step forward to lead?

Or does Toronto need someone from outside city council, someone like John Tory or myself, to step in next year and push the transit funding issue forward?

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak before you today.

 

Mayor Miller saved more $ than Rob Ford

Since the crack scandal around Rob Ford came to light journalists across Toronto have started to investigate Mr. Ford’s claim of $1Billion in savings to the tax payers, and have found that there too Mr. Ford has lied, twisting the facts in an attempt to gain voters. Perhaps the most shady of Mr. Ford’s claims is that charging user fees on pools and recreation centres are somehow “savings” to the tax payer when they are in fact simply a shift from one way of paying for the service to another.

In an attempt to point out the fraudulent math, Councillor Shelley Carroll has used Mr. Ford’s same calculations on Mayor Millers record demonstrating the Mayor Miller saved far more than Mr. Ford.

Mayor Miller

– $426 million Mayor Miller got the Province to upload social services

– $492 in waste managment (came out of the budget and made it a user fee)

– $30 million other user fees

– $92 Million in efficiency management

– $174.1 garbage liability sick leave savings

– $31 million in saved payroll costs

– $443.7 million cost reductions caused by efficiencies

Total: $1.688 Billion in “savings”

 

Rob Ford

$173 million on Licence Registration fee

$ 400 million cost reduction through efficiency

Total: $573 Million in “savings”

The tragic comedy of Rob Ford

There was a point during a mayoral debate in the 2010 election when all the candidates were asked to talk about what we enjoyed most in our lives. Rob Ford spoke about how he loved performing in his school play. I remembered this when I watched him last week strut around council chambers trying to intimidate residents, taking their pictures as they sat watching him.  His confession about his love for performing has helped me understand why he hasn’t taken a leave of absence and why he continues to press on  – why he continues to perform for an audience who is laughing at him, and not with him.

Act 1    “The Restoration of the Crack-smoking Mayor”

I have no doubt that the lies Rob Ford told over the election campaign, and into his first year of office, have worked to undermine his self-confidence. He promised voters that he would lower their taxes, get rid of the land transfer tax, and cut the fat at city hall, but the truth is that these were promises he could never keep.  Mr. Fords only business experience was doing the books at his fathers label company, and if we are truly going to find  efficiencies at city hall it will take someone who can truly unite the effort and steer each and every department through a line by line analysis. This is a huge undertaking and Mr. Ford has proved unable to keep his own small executive team together let alone build the consensus required to accomplish the restructuring needed at city hall.

When Mr. Ford could have reached out and united council around restructuring city hall, he shrank into himself, shirking his responsibilities and telling lies to cover up his inability to build consensus. By the end of 2011 he had turned to alcohol and drugs, they took the edge off, and allowed him to live with the lies he told every day. The problem was that the more he drank the worse things seemed to get and the more lies he had to tell. The more lies he told the more his confidence shrunk away from him and his addiction increased.

Add to this the pressure of knowing that the city operating budget was growing under his watch with the fact that there was no way to get rid of the land transfer tax and his supporters might look at the bottom line and realize that the $1-2Billion he and brother Doug Ford were claiming to have saved was a complete lie. No matter how much he tried his budget chief  had explained that there was no extra money to pay for the scarborough subway and a 2.5% tax increase was the best he could hope for.  A huge tax increase would risk losing voters and make him look like a liar in the coming election.

Act 2: Establishing Rob Ford as both a victim and hero 

The best solution for Mr. Ford given the position he was in last week was to have city council take away his powers in a public spectacle. The more voters aware of this the easier it will be to claim he had nothing to do with the tax increases. He will blame council, play the victim and call for voters to restore him to power so that he, and he alone, can protect them from tax increases. So not only must Mr. Ford play the victim but also has to come across as a hero fighting for the tax payer – and brother Doug could benefit from a little of that as well.

They will push out their message of “fighting the establishment” – they’ll yell and storm about council chambers as much as they can. They will play the underdog fighting for their supporters. The bigger the public display the easier it will be to distance themselves from the tax increases required to pay for Mr. Ford’s subway policy.

There is a risk that the rest of Toronto will realize that Mr. Ford has placed the cost of the Scarborough subway onto property tax payers but he’ll hope they don’t notice.

And all the while Rob Ford’s self-confidence continues to erode with the lies that he continues to tell. The more his confidence diminishes the more likely he is to turn to crack or alcohol. Mr. Ford has very little left but the empty bravado of a man clinging to a belief that he is great, but knowing inside that he isn’t. It is sad, but it is also the consequence that comes from lying.

The last act for Rob Ford is still up in the air. He will continue to try to get headlines, he will continue his performance as long as there is somebody pushing him on. Will this performance end in a tragedy? If the Ford family continues to enable him, if they continue to force him onto the political stage… the future doesn’t look very good for Rob.

 

Follow Sarah Thomson on Twitter @ThomsonTO.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Rob Ford’s staff played a role

From not reporting Rob Ford’s drunk driving to denying his behaviour, the unredacted police report released Thursday reveals how the staff surrounding Mr. Ford enabled him, at the cost and risk to all those who crossed his path.

I know I’m not the only one in Toronto who sifted through the police report last Thursday night wondering if my name would be implicated. I am sure the staff who were interviewed by police wish this sordid business would all blow over, but should his former staff get off with little repercussion for their involvement in what has turned out to be the worst case of enabling that has rocked Toronto in decades?

I found my name, albeit misspelled, on page 72 of the police report. The lines (below) referred to the incident at the CJPAC event where Mr. Ford’s behaviour was both aggressive and lascivious. But what infuriates me most in reading this was to learn that his Chief of Staff, Mark Towhey, misled the press about Mr. Ford’s true condition at the event. He told press that there was nothing wrong with the Mayor, that he was sober. But in the police report (excerpt below) Towhey admits that he was concerned about Mr. Ford’s condition (aggressive and slurring words) and asked him not to attend the event.
____________
Canadian Jewish Public Affairs Committee (CJPAC) Event and Sarah THOMPSON (sic) Allegations
ii) The incident at CJPAC with Sarah THOMPSON involved the allegation that The Mayor groped her and was on drugs that night. TOWHEY and PROVOST were both there that night with the Mayor.
jj) The Mayor arrived with Sandro as the driver.
kk) Sandro is not on the staff of the Mayor. TOWHEY was concerned that night when he spoke with the Mayor on the phone prior to his arrival. He again sounded a little “hyperactive and slurring his words”. Again, TOWHEY asked him not to come.
ll) The Mayor attended the event and ended up behaving himself. There were 3 staff members around him at all times. TOWHEY believes that the Sarah THOMPSON allegations are false.
mm) The Mayor arrived to the CJPAC intoxicated by something. TOWHEY never saw him drink while he was there; in fact TOWHEY has never seen the Mayor drink alcohol at all, ever.
TOWHEY’s beliefs in relation to Mayor FORD’s alcohol use
nn) TOWHEY has maybe attended 25 to 30 events with the Mayor. He has never seen him consume alcohol at any of these events. TOWHEY had suspicions that it was maybe mixed in his drinks but cannot be sure.
oo) He believes that the Mayor is an alcoholic. Staff members routinely buy alcohol for the Mayor because they do not want him doing it himself. As soon as the Mayor walks into a liquor store it is on Twitter.
pp) TOWHEY was advised every time a staff member left the office to go and buy the Mayor alcohol. It was TOWHEY’s belief that the Mayor consumed alcohol while at City Hall.
qq) The Mayor would normally sound the worst late at night. This would be when he would sound the most incoherent. This could sometimes be attributed to him not getting any sleep, which would happen often as well.
rr) FICKEL had told TOWHEY that one time the Mayor had stopped and consumed a “mickey” of vodka while driving. After hearing this TOWHEY implemented a new rule that if staff was driving with the Mayor then they would have to drive. The Mayor was never to drive any of the staff around.

_________________

The report goes on at length about other issues involving drugs, prostitutes and inappropriate behaviour with a female staff member, but what stood out time and again was the level of support  his staff gave time and again to enable Mr. Ford to keep up the charade. They all knew about Mr. Ford’s drinking, they had heard rumours of drugs and yet they all stood together as a wall limiting Toronto from learning the truth about our Mayor. They knew that if the truth got out they could lose their positions, but they were also given a clear message when chief of staff, Mark Towhey refused to address the fact that the Mayor of Toronto had broken the law. If Towhey had done the right thing and reported the incident to police, other staff might have come forward. Why didn’t Towhey report the incident to the police? Was he afraid they might follow the Mayor and catch him driving drunk? Was it self-interest, blind loyalty or heart-felt sympathy that drove Towhey to place Mr. Ford above the law?

The events of the past 2 years at city hall demonstrate the extent to which the staff working under Mr. Ford enabled him. It isn’t surprising. Greed has a way of making people rationalize things and they all wanted to keep their jobs. But what disgusts me most is the lack of respect they had for their positions. Never did Towhey, nor any of the other staff, think about their role as government employees who actively covered up the lies and actions of a Mayor driven by addiction. By going along with his charade they corrupted both the office of Mayor and the trust we as citizens place in it.

I will remember you

Remembrance Day is the time to remember those who fought for our freedom. My father was a Second World War veteran. He served in the air force in Gander, Newfoundland until the back of his skull was smashed against the roof of his plane during an accident on a surveillance flight in 1943. He spent months in a coma and was discharged with a metal plate in his head. He could never fly again.

I asked him why he had volunteered. His answer was that Hitler represented a threat against humanity and civility and everyone faced a choice — to look the other way or to fight. And, like most young people of his time, he believed that his choice mattered more than his life. He believed that he could make a difference and that belief is what won the war.

On Remembrance Day, I try to think of the men and women who gave up their way of life, who put their dreams and hopes on hold and who died in the fight for freedom. I try to put myself in their shoes, to imagine them with human strengths and frailties.

Imagine an 18-year-old boy signing up for a war he knew nothing about, doing so out of a sense of duty and honour. Think of him the week before he left home, noticing the leaves changing colour from the cold nights of fall, or watching the wind whip across the lake, blowing the waves into whitecaps as a storm approaches.

The day his ship sails, does he stride up the gangplank with any regrets? His sister and mother wave to him from the shore, hope and fear fill their eyes. Nobody said what they were all thinking — “Will this be the last time our eyes meet?” He wouldn’t know what the next day had in store for him, let alone the coming months. His hope is his only comfort as he watches his country slip away in the distance.

Or picture a man who was too young for the First World War and older than most of the men headed into the second. He leaves the embrace of his wife and children as he boards a train heading to the coast, where he’ll meet a ship that will take him to Europe. He’s finished basic training and is on his way to the front. His chances for survival are slim but so too are his options. He goes because he couldn’t hold his head high as he watched the younger men leave for the war. He wasn’t at ease in his home thinking of what they had to endure.

The newspapers fill him with rage. He loves his life and is afraid, but he now gets a sense of strength each time he puts on his uniform. He looks down at his children waving to him from the platform of the railway station and he smiles. He wants them to remember him with a smile. His eyes meet his wife’s. They are filled with tears because she knows why he smiles.

Or think of the woman whose brothers and husband have left for a war she is barely a part of. She works in a factory making munitions while her son is in school. She wants to do more. She is alone in a world with very few men. She notices the emptiness in her world but tries to keep busy with her job and her son. She works as hard as she can and wonders if the bullets she makes will keep her husband safe. She believes that they will stop the Nazis from gaining ground, and this keeps her going. She cries every night once her son is in bed. She tries not to despise the men who have stayed behind.

She waits, writing to her husband every night. His letters come sporadically. They stop and she knows something is wrong. She gets a letter from him that was lost in the mail; it is months old, but she reads it over and over again every night.

One day, a black car with two uniformed men stops in front of the house. The tears start flowing before she has opened the door. She will go on, her life forever changed. She learns to cope with the loneliness, and her husband fills her dreams. She sleeps in his shirts until they fall apart. The war ends, her son grows up and with each passing year he becomes more like his father. When he boards the train to go off to college their eyes meet; he has his father’s eyes and she is overwhelmed with the memory of the last time she saw her husband. She will cry again that night.

And remember the man trapped in a prison camp, separated from his family in the middle of the night by authorities who don’t recognise his humanity. He remembers gunshots and screams but does not know if his wife and children are alive or dead. He works every day moving piles of sand from one side of the camp to the other. The camp is full of men, women, and children. But his world is little more than hunger and emptiness. The sun on his face has no warmth. The guards treat them like animals but he knows they must do this in order to separate themselves from their captives and live with their atrocities. He tries not to think of his life as it was, but it haunts him. He dreams of his past and is afraid to lose hope because without it he will lose his sanity. At night he works with others to dig a tunnel beneath the fence. They are caught and he takes responsibility for it. He stands in front of a firing squad on a sunny day and for a brief moment he can feel the warmth of the sun on his face.

With these thoughts I remember those that gave their lives to the war — men and women who lived and died with honour

Madame Ford blinded by empty ambition

Rob Ford’s mother came out yesterday on CP24 to deny. Deny her son is an addict, deny he has any bigger problem than a weight issue. She is the mother of enabling. She seems to believe the left wing politicians are behind a conspiracy to get her son out of city hall and while this may be partially true, she refuses to see that there is a bigger issue at stake — her son’s life.

She seems a woman blinded by primal desire to win at all costs, blinded to the signs that all point to addiction.

Her world is one that puts political life above everything else, so much so that I wonder if there is resentment or bitterness that their suburban wealth, and propulsion to the forefront of civic life didn’t earn them a position within the establishment? Is she a Ford wanting to be a Lexus? Does she think she has a second chance through her son – no matter what the cost on him?

She seems to be putting her son’s role as mayor before her son as a human being. While many have wondered why a rich kid from the suburbs would want to escape into a crack-induced haze, Rob Ford may be surrounded by a family who see politics as a life long endeavor, a family focused completely on how others see them. It’s no wonder he seeks to escape – how empty is a world where status is the highest endeavour?

The Ford Sunday radio show is one of their strategic achievements. I can picture mother Ford listening by the radio hanging on to their every word.  The sons list their achievements, sliding over the true work others did –  like Councillor Ana Bailao who single-handedly refinanced TCHC loans –  claiming the achievement as their own. They often list their charitable contributions, clawing for a position within an establishment that finds them vulgar and lacking.

None of the Ford’s seem to realize how empty the desire to be accepted is  — except perhaps Rob Ford.  And that’s the rub. While people have always pegged Rob as the dumber younger brother, he may actually be the smartest in his family. A man who might have become an artist, an actor, a thinker  — surrounded by a family whose biggest desire is to be accepted by the “Joneses.” A family so skewed by the need for political success they have lost touch with the human desire to grow and learn. Imagine being a child growing up in a family like this.

While many will think I hate Rob – I don’t. He has a heart and when straight he’s actually a nice guy. Problem is he’s acting a role that his mother wants him to play and it’s killing him. This past week people have said that I must feel vindicated, but that is an empty feeling given the critical level of the situation. I feel more a sadness. Sad for Rob, sad that his family is so politically motivated they have chosen to ignore his cry for help. Rob is a victim of circumstance caught in the small world of low level political opportunity. If I was caught in a family like that I wonder if I too would try to escape it through drugs and alcohol? He once told me that he loved the theatre and during high school he had been in a play that was one of his best memories – that is the first and only time I saw the real Rob Ford and unfortunately I think that man is now lost to a world of alcohol and drugs. The spirit inside him is trapped with nowhere to go but down.

The future for Rob Ford doesn’t look promising. The more his family prop him up the farther he has to fall. He has a choice only he can make. Does he break away from a family who want him to be someone he isn’t, who demand he forever focus on politics, and instead discover a vast world where he can learn and grow? Or does he drug himself daily to get through the emptiness of a life that is completely focused on small time local politics? Could Rob Ford be a big frog trapped and forced to swim in a small scummy pond? 

The arrogance of Rob Ford

I’ve rebelled against Mr. Ford since the 2010 election campaign. The campaign for mayor lasted nearly 10 months for me. I was one of the top 5 candidates, and in the top 3 at one point in the race. The days were long, usually starting at 7am and running until midnight. From events, to rallies, debates and social functions the top 5 candidates saw one another almost every day and often more than once in a day.

Over time a sense of respect develops amongst the candidates. Respect for each other, for the strengths you see in another, for the way most of them answered questions honestly.

Unfortunately that respect never developed between Rob Ford and myself. He would never look me in the eye and his handshake was limp, often soggy. I couldn’t believe the way he twisted the truth during the campaign. Suggesting he could pay for subways with government efficiencies (ignoring the huge debt we must pay down). Or suggesting he would get rid of the land transfer tax, and lower taxes. He made more fake promises than I could count, and the public seemed to lap it up.

It takes ignorance and a lack of self-respect to peddle such absolute bullshit, and Mr. Ford possesses both. But it takes true arrogance to continue to peddle the bullshit for 3 years following the campaign without delivering on your promises. And it is this arrogance that lost my respect for him from those early days of the 2010 campaign.

I am not sure if he thinks people are stupid enough to believe that he saved Toronto $1Billion; or if he simply knows that repetition builds belief and facts take longer to come out? But there are still people in Toronto who believe that Rob Ford has not raised taxes (they have increased by 4.5% since 2010). There are people who aren’t aware that the city operating budget has also grown by $200million since 2010 and who don’t question where the Billion in savings has gone. People still believe that Mr. Ford will get rid of the land transfer tax, despite the fact that he has raised their taxes by 4.5% over the past 2 years.
And the biggest lie – that he will build subways with funds created through efficiencies, when he has admitted that he didn’t find enough to pay for subways and will have to increase property taxes to pay for the Scarborough subway line next year.

Mr. Ford hasn’t just lied about his private life he has lied about what he has accomplished, he has taken credit for the work of former Councillor Doug Holiday (union agreements), Councillor Ana Baeleo (Refinancing of TCHC loans) and others. He has stretched the truth to such a degree that I don’t think he himself knows what it is anymore.

It takes true arrogance, a sense of entitlement, and a lack of self-respect to lie to the public to the degree that Rob Ford has, but the scheme has taken it’s toll on him. How much more bullshit can one man spin out before they themselves disappear in the charade?

Cracking the Hard Truths for Toronto

Cracking Hard Truths for Toronto

Hard Truth # 1 Rob Ford has admitted he has smoked crack

Hard Truth # 2 Rob Ford has not saved Toronto 1 Billion dollars

Hard Truth # 3 Rob Ford has increased property taxes by 4.5% (2012 = 2.5% + 2013 = 2%)

Hard Truth # 4 Rob Ford has increased the city operating budget by $200 million since 2010.

Hard Truth # 5 Rob Ford considers drug addicts and gang members his friends

Hard Truth # 6. Rob Ford lied about finding enough savings at city hall to fund subways

Hard Truth #7 All levels of government are in debt and we must implement a transit toll or tax if we want to expand our subway/transit system.

It is time for Rob Ford to step down

“I am Disappointed.” This statement that Chief Bill Blair made earlier today sums up what many in Toronto are thinking today.

There will be those, myself included, thinking – finally. Finally the truth is coming out. Finally people are realizing that Rob Ford has lied and brought disgrace to the position of Mayor, and the city of Toronto. Many of his supporters are now faced with having to admit they were fooled, that Rob Ford pull the wool over their eyes. And there will be those who refuse to believe it and resort to “conspiracy theory” excuses. But the facts are coming out, the truth eventually does and it is time that Rob Ford admit he has addiction issues.

I am feeling vindicated but saddened – I remember the man I ran for Mayor against in 2010. A man determined to bring change to the city. I watched as that man slowly deteriorated under the pressure – his actions demonstrating a man facing addiction issues and an inability to deal in the truth. My sympathy go out to his family and children.

From denying incidents like being drunk at a hockey game, groping, and the crack video, Rob Ford has made a habit of lying and denying. This puts a toll on anyone’s self-confidence and escalates the need to escape that drugs offer an addict. The best thing that Rob Ford can do is to take some time and get help with his addiction issues. It is never an easy decision but I encourage him to do it for his family and children.

It is time for Rob Ford to step down from the Mayor’s chair, he has disgraced the city, and set a terrible role model for our children.