Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Rush-hour TTC Jams

For almost the entire time I've lived in Toronto, I've had the benefit of being able to walk to work. I've used the TTC a lot, but apparently not much during rush hour. In the past month, however, I've had do go downtown for 9am on several occasions and find the conditions to be awful.

By the time the train arrives at my Danforth-line home station it is frequently already crammed beyond comfort. It's not just standing-room only. It's more like contortionists only. Then, when you make the change at Yonge -- after slowing making your way upstairs -- you face the same situation on the southbound trains.

Obviously many people know this already, as these trains are collectively filled by tens of thousands of daily commuters. So, this post isn't news to them.

I simply want to make the point that this overloading is one of the biggest factors preventing new riders from joining the system. It also places a limit on the economic development downtown. Transit strategies that keep adding new capacity in the outer areas therefore add to this problem at the same time that they are limited by the bottleneck. Meanwhile, the TTC and our governments don't seem to think this is a priority problem.

My favourite solution, a downtown relief subway line from Pape to Dundas West via Union Station, is not likely affordable anytime soon. (Although, I would argue that it seems a better investment for the city than the York University extension.)

There are other, smaller things that can help. Among these I'd include better and better-integrated GO Train service for the outer 416, alternative routes like the proposed Don Mills Bus Rapid Transit, and generally better-planned and less stingy surface routes like the Queen Streetcar. For more informed discussion of these and related issues I refer you to Steve Munro's blog.

In the meantime, daily commuters have my sympathies.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dion on Mansbridge

I just finished watching Stephane Dion being interviewed on The National (or whatever Peter Mansbridge's show is called these days). I thought he did a very good job.

Just a few comments...

In the opening part about the environment, Stephane Dion sounds greener than any major politician I have seen in Canada or the United States at any level of government. It was inspiring and almost shocking to see. He talked about implementing Kyoto and fought back against those who say his government acheived nothing on climate change. But I find his message on sustainable development to be more notable. He's not backing down from calling it the issue of the century.

On some issues I do feel that Dion has been a bit hyperbolic in his criticism of Stephen Harper. While there have been failings, and while Dion needs to show that he can produce notably better results, it doesn't help his credibility to imply that on every issue Stephen Harper is an outrage. On Afghanistan, for example, I don't know that what Harper has done is dramatically different from what the Liberals would do. While it may be accurate to group Harper with the "neoconservatives", does it really apply in this case?

I liked how Dion handled the dual citizenship issue in his discussion with Mansbridge. First, he explained that it is merely something with emotional value due to his relationship with his mother. But, he also said that if it becomes a barrier for Canadians he will drop it. While he stressed again his total loyalty to Canada and pointed out past examples such as John Turner's dual Canadian - UK citizenship, he was also sensitive to the fact this may be important to Canadians.

Income Trusts was another of those areas where I feel he ought to leave well enough alone. Yes, there are people who are complaining. Yes, Harper was hypocritical on this issue. But does the current state of affairs need the further interventions Dion was implying? Goodale, McCallum and Brison have made suggestions to Dion, but what problem really exists to be fixed? (I guess that isn't totally a rhetorical question as I haven't followed every aspect of this particular issue.)

Anyway, that was the show and I'm glad I caught it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Harper Re-opening SSM Debate

Stephen Harper is fulfilling his promise to his party's social-conservative base by having a vote to reopen the question of same-sex marriage. Given the current make-up of parliament, it seems very likely that he will lose.

This should already be a dead issue, and one would hope that it would be finally and completely dead after this next vote. Apparently that may not be the case. As described in today's Globe and Mail editorial:

As well, sources in the Harper government have said there is "protection of marriage" legislation waiting in the wings, to be introduced if this week's motion fails. It would give civil marriage officials the right to refuse to perform gay marriages on religious grounds. In other words, assuming it could survive a Charter challenge and was not outside federal jurisdiction, it would legalize discrimination and champion the shirking of a public duty by public officials. Mr. Harper would neither confirm nor deny the existence of this draft legislation. That's a bad sign.

In any case, someone should ask Harper whether the Conservatives will reopen this issue yet again if they win a majority. When will the issue be considered settled?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dion Should Drop France

Yesterday, Ezra Levant raised the issue of Stephane Dion's dual Canadian and French citizenships. The story got a bit bigger today when Dion was asked about it and he told us everyone should know he's 100% loyal to Canada. (Sorry, no links; I'm posting from my Blackberry. Check Bourque.)

I feel like there's a lot of potential for this story to get bigger because it's the kind of thing that just looks wrong and is hard to defend. It's hard to defend because dual citizenship doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

If Dion is 100% loyal to Canada then it's safe to say he's not a very good citizen of France. He's reassuring us that in the unlikely event of a Canada-France conflict in his life or career he'll put us first. So, then, what is the meaning of being a French citizen? He's not loyal to the country and just carries an extra passport.

Ezra's comments about France's policies are drivel, but he makes a fair point when he asks how Canadians would react if, say, Stephen Harper had a dual Canadian and American citizenships. We wouldn't like it all.

Anyway, the trump-card reason for Dion to drop his French citizenship right away is that this is an issue that can take off and seriously undermine his electoral chances. If his first loyalty is always to Canadians then I say he ought to drop his second passport before it blocks his ability to get elected and help make Canada a better place.

UPDATE: I should make clear that Dion doesn't actually have a French passport and never has owned one. In any case I meant that line figuratively.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dion in Quebec

I'm not arrogant enough to claim that I understand Quebecers better than the likes of Chantal Hebert, however I think she... and most other media commentators... are going to be proven wrong on the subject of Stephane Dion.

It's one thing for columnists to critique a minister's positions on issues and find that the public is against him. It's an entirely different thing for the public to find him leading the national party and to see and hear what he has to say without filters.

I believe he will do well, and soon.

UPDATE: I wrote the above without actually reading Chantal Hebert's column today. Now that I have, I am simply amazed. She suggests that the Liberals will be much weaker in Quebec than they were during the last election. I'm willing to bet that she's quite wrong.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Liberals Have Made A Good Choice

First of all, congratulations to all the Dion supporters out there, especially the bloggers. It must feel great right now.

I was busy this weekend with life, but caught most of the key moments on the TV or radio. It made me wish I was there, or had at least been blogging this race all along.

Well, I'm very happy with the choice of Stephane Dion. I was interested in him as a potential leader since the day after Paul Martin lost. But there are many bloggers who can say the same.

He wasn't the only candidate I liked. Despite all the jokes about the big names that didn't run -- remember Manley, McKenna, Rock, etc.? -- I think the Liberals had a good group, and I would have been happy with many of them.

If any Liberals are still concerned about their choice, I really feel that some of their strategic concerns are mislaid. Stephane Dion will do well in Quebec and he is ready to give Stephen Harper a very strong fight in 2007. (Despite all the talk of "electability", I really think either Rae or Dion would have been a stronger electoral fighter than Ignatieff.)