Saturday, December 10, 2005

No Peace, Disorder, Too Much Government

If you want to understand Jack Layton's mentality, the same mentality that could prop up an admittedly corrupt government for a few billion dollars and then could bring it down when more money was on the way without asking, read today's National Post column by Lawrence Solomon about the petty despotism of Toronto city council, where Jack Layton spent 20 years honing his political skills:

The local despots -- in Toronto they're called councillors -- do more than curry favour through their power: As the advisory panel points out, they act to blindly stop development, discourage business, and otherwise harm the city through arbitrary actions that cater to special interests and political allies.

At root, the panel describes a dysfunctional system in which councillors wield minor powers that yield much harm to maximize their political influence. Any Torontonian needing to deal with city hall is liable to be ensnared.

Take the case of my friend and neighbour, recently afflicted by an illness, who requires a handicapped street-parking spot. There is no question about his entitlement to this spot -- his difficulty walking any great distance is evident and his doctor has filled out the requisite government forms -- yet this is not enough. Under Toronto's system of governance, the decision to allow him a parking spot in front of his home in a residential district rests on a vote of the entire Toronto City Council. There is only one reason that councillors have not abandoned this and other powers that should properly be left to a non-partisan clerk in an administrative department: Councillors want leverage over their constituents, to reward friends and political allies who have performed a service for them and to exact gratitude when they have performed some service for others.

It's little wonder that city politics in Toronto has become dominated by New Democrats and Liberals. If you believe in overarching government control, as do the New Democrats, city council gives you the power to carry out your schemes almost unopposed. If you believe in creating a constituency dependent on your largesse, as do the Liberals, city council offers the power to reward allies and harass enemies at every turn, from business licences to social service programs.

Understand the Toronto mentality at the civic level and you'll see how it wells up to the federal level. Belief in limited and responsible government is not merely heresy in Toronto; it is also a practical impossibility. The Conservatives cannot win in Toronto, not because of hostility from immigrants and visible minorities or towards cultural conservatism, but because its view of government's relationship to the people is too revolutionary for Torontonians to consider.

1 comment:

TheTorontoTory said...

It's a hard life being a Tory in Toronto but somebody's got to do it!