Rob Ford Etobicoke North

How Rob Ford failed Etobicoke North (his own riding)

The mayor of Toronto has often expressed that he has been given a mandate by voters to build subways. You only require a critical examination, though, of his ten year history of supporting (or not supporting) transit initiatives in his former riding of Ward 2 (Etobicoke North) and by default Wards 1 & 3 (due to its geographical importance to the citizens of Ward 2 to have two different potential LRT options to access easily) to properly understand just what mandate and authority the mayor has when it comes to speaking to matters involving transit in the city of Toronto.

Ward 2 has been under the control of the Fords for twelve years. A statistical examination of Ward 2 data will tell you two things - this is an area of a lower household income in comparison to the rest of the city of Toronto, and this is also a riding that relies upon the car a lot more than the rest of the city (so for a lot of working-class families, the dollar is being stretched significantly without viable transit options provided).

If you examine a map of Toronto, residents of Ward 1 & 2 have to travel an average of 15-20 kilometres via surface bus routes to find their way to a connecting subway line (Be it a Wilson, Kipling, or Finch Station) If you live in Ward 1 or 2, it's going to take you a long while to get anywhere by transit (which may be one of the reasons why individuals rely upon the car so much more). That, and the absolutely atrocious service in this area necessitate alternate forms of transportation beyond a very slow and congested bus.

You need only ride either the 96 Wilson or 36 Finch West buses to understand the challenges riders in this area face. At any peak time of service during the day, it can sometimes take up to 50-60 minutes (on average) for the rider to find their way to Wilson or Finch Station (These results are the average amount over a ten day period at various peak intervals where I have taken the bus myself) These are facts you do not get from a mayor riding the bus once during an off-peak time as a publicity stunt barking 'subways!'

This is the daily challenge riders in his previous ward face on a day to day basis - a challenge which has not been addressed in a clear, concise manner by the Mayor or his councillor brother, but was addressed by the original Transit City plan. These are the constituents upon whose backs he's stepped upon to become mayor, and not once have these specific concerns been addressed, since he took his oath of leadership to lead this city.

One need only look at the cancellation of Transit city (specifically with regard to the Finch and Eglinton LRT) to understand where the priorities of the Mayor lie when it comes to serving those who elected him to office for ten years (and subsequently were responsible for his increased profile to be able to run for Mayor). Here, for the first time, options of LRT were presented that would have alleviated a majority of the concerns of ridership in this area.

A realist would understand that in the present financial climate, there is no money that would suddenly produce subways extending along Finch or Eglinton in our lifetime, so this was the first viable, affordable option to be presented to people who elected him to serve their interests. This was a way to help the working-class taxpayers of his riding save money, get to work or school in a far more timely fashion, and bring our part of the city closer to the core.

Having been a resident of Ward 2 for a majority of my 38 years, this was the first time I could recall positive dialogue and support to connect this chronically neglected area to the rest of this city. You need only drive through Etobicoke North to understand that there is plenty of space and opportunity for LRT that would not negatively impact upon users of automobiles. Further, if we use the argument by the mayor that a Sheppard subway line would attract business and eventually pay for itself, the same logic could be applied to above-ground LRT benefiting an area that has not seen any significant development in decades (What was the last initiative or major project you remember being built in Etobicoke North?)

Filling in a pothole or barking continuously about private garbage collection doesn't mean you've properly looked after the people who are responsible for your higher profile that allowed you to run for Mayor in the first place.

The Mayor had the opportunity to truly serve his former constituents when he took his oath, and he failed. In all his talk about 'subways!' neither he nor his brother have mentioned what they will do in matters of transit, for the riding that has brought them to power, in the immediate future. You can't simply say one word, have no tangible plan or basis of funds to serve this fantasy, and expect our continual support.

No matter how hypnotized constituents of this riding are by his 'common man,' approach, and no matter how much the Fords believe they have absolute support in this riding, they do not live here. I do. I have neighbours, and we talk, and their tone and dialogue is beginning to shift towards questioning what exactly is happening in their riding.

We are long term residents of this area, and we see the neglect and lack of investment in the people of this Ward, and eventually even the most hypnotized of individuals begin to question just what kind of mandate anyone has to represent them when they've been crushed under the wheel when it comes to issues like transit, on a continual basis.

Coaching football at Don Bosco or handing out business cards doesn't make you relevant
in this area. Dismissing tangible, viable plans that help your citizens, is not being a leader, and certainly not the reason why you were elected by anyone in the first place.

The simple fact is, if you have an individual who votes against the transit initiatives to serve his constituents directly, and who fights against transit expansion that would serve his former Ward, how qualified is he truly to speak to any kind of issue when it comes to transit? Where is the authority that he possesses?

The Fords need to be very careful. If there were ever a critical examination of their records beyond this issue of transit in this area, you would arguably find a parallel neglect and lack of understanding and support for those who helped assist in his attaining power.

Unfortunately, people tend to ignore Etobicoke North. Clearly, when I hear the mayor speak now about fighting funding for LRTs and having no new transit options rather than going with the legal authority of council, I clearly can see that the Mayor, and his brother, are quite intent upon ignoring Etobicoke North as well.

This post has been contributed by Rahim Ladha who is a long-time resident of Ward 2. Photo by Oliver Plante in the blogTO Flickr pool

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