By ETC staff
When Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne decided to reign over municipal politics last week, there was an acrid stench of desperation.
Wynne was in hot water again after she flip-flopped with her abrupt cancellation of Toronto Mayor John Tory’s Gardiner and DVP road tolls, much to the dismay of Tory and many of Toronto’s city councillors. Tory even went as far as saying that he felt “treated like a little boy going up to Queen’s Park in short pants.”
Over the last year, Wynne has embroiled herself in a seemingly constant political nightmare with battles against the teacher’s unions, and—most importantly—presiding over the skyrocketing prices of electricity. It has become the core issue leading to Wynne’s ghastly approval ratings of 13 per-cent, according to a recent Forum Research Poll. And she knows it.
With the 2018 election looming heavy over her head, Wynne cannot afford to raise the costs of living any higher than she already has, thus the scuttling of the road tolls. But Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown and NDP leader Andrea Horwath smell blood — and lots of it.
In fact, according to the same Forum Research poll, in an election now “the PCs would take a supermajority, or 70 seats, while the NDP would take 26 seats. The Liberals would take just 11,”
The timing of the cancellation could not be more perfect. Just when it seemed that Torontonians and Ontarians alike were being suffocated by rising hydro costs, Kathleen Wynne swooped in to save the day ensuring no extra tolls. However, the reality is much different. Wynne’s desperation in this moment clouded her judgement at a time when she could not afford it.
According to Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, cited in a recent article in the Toronto Star, “Tolls, of course, are a really good fit with our larger public policy objectives. Currently, for example, you pay every time you get on the TTC, but you don’t pay every time you get on the road. And yet we want more people using the TTC and less people getting in their cars…(Wynne’s move) makes the province’s own policy statement seem like gobbledygook.”
Wynne’s replacement for the tolls include a small increase in gas taxes, where the money would be earmarked for transit spending in Ontario municipalities. But in trying to reduce the burden of taxpayers she undercut Toronto, Ontario’s largest voter population. The city’s manager, Peter Wallace, said road tolls “provide stable, significant revenue sources to invest in transit and transportation polices and, importantly, to shift the burden from property tax and transit riders towards user fees for roads.
“This incremental investment is welcome, but is not a direct substitute for toll-based or other direct city revenues.”
Moreover, as recently as December of last year, Wynne had fully supported Tory’s plan for road tolls. But after confrontations with fellow Liberal MPPs, Wynne made a U-turn. She justified herself last week at a press conference, saying, “Any leader who doesn’t listen to those voices, doesn’t listen to the team … isn’t actually leading. A leader who doesn’t do that is actually dictating and, so, that’s not the kind of leader that I am.”
The aroma of panic is unbearable.