Do the Conservatives really hate cities?

by Yule Heibel on November 4, 2007

Another Toronto Star article on Toronto specifically, but Canadian cities generally, written by Royson James: Conservatives have written Toronto off Annotated

James’s article relates to one from the previous day by Jim Coyle, If Tories not for cities now, when? (also Toronto Sun), which I blogged about here.

Echoing Coyle’s theme (and also Christopher Hume’s articles, which I’ve blogged about here), James ends his article as follows:

Harper and the Conservatives have written off Toronto. They’ll curry favour with Quebec, solidify the base in the west, and to hell with the city slickers and their immigrant-loving, poor-coddling, bleeding-heart liberals and environmentalists and social activists.

It’s bad enough that a national party would so alienate the country’s largest city, its calling-card urban region, and the source of so much of its budget surplus. It should be cause for alarm in every urban region where Toronto-type problems are surfacing.

That may be our saving grace in the end. For as much as Harper doesn’t care about the city of his birth, he can’t ignore voters in all urban regions. The vast majority of Canadians live in urban regions. Sooner or later, he will have to acknowledge the cries of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which says the infrastructure deficit (gaps in funding for bridges, roads, sewers, water systems, transit, housing etc.) is approaching $100 billion across the country.

Toronto Mayor David Miller has led the call for one cent of the federal GST to be given to cities. For that campaign to work, other cities may have to step up.

The key sentence, from my perspective all the way in Victoria, BC, is the last one, exhorting other Canadian cities to step up. That takes leadership, and it means that our municipal leaders have to identify what needs funding — and prioritize that list. Perhaps that’s “tricky” for politicians who feel that each item on such a list will have its constituency, which municipal politicians will alienate if they prioritize some other item.

But that’s the point about leadership: you take the heat. You make the choices, you explain why, and you give it your best shot. If you fail or if they (voters) hate you enough, you’ll get voted out next time around. But at least you’ll have done your bit to introduce accountability into the democratic process. As it stands, everyone talks and talks and wrings hands, but the status quo continues to rule.

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