A fair share of the fare?
“How would you address the current fiscal situation the City of Toronto?” UTSU asked provincial candidates in a debate last Wednesday, stressing their interest in how well candidates would fund transit and other city services heavily used by students.Property taxes make up most of the city’s revenue. Last year, 32 per cent of that revenue went to provinciallymandated programs downloaded on the city by the province in the 1990s. Mayor David Miller argued that the remaining 68 per cent was not enough to pay for municipal services like the TTC.After city council voted not to consider new taxes until after the provincial election, the TTC announced a metropass fare hike. With that election here, all four party platforms have plans to upload costs back to the provincial government, and candidates tripped over one another to promise to foot the largest share of the city’s bill.Liberal candidate Kate Holloway has pointed to the City of Toronto Act her party passed, giving the city more taxing powers. She also claimed that the McGuinty government invested five times more funding in Toronto than the previous Conservative administration.But Rosario Marchese was unimpressed by the Liberals’ promises: “What they have begun to upload […] are the cheapest of the things that the city is carrying.”Marchese noted the costs of public housing and other programs the province has not uploaded, promising an NDP government would pay 20 per cent of TTC operating costs, and would upload the costs of provincial programs to the extent of $220 million. —JC
Live from the Munk Centre: MMP showdown
“Get to the question!” shouted 79- year-old Alan Heisey as a fellow audience member rambled on at TV Ontario’s Steve Paikin.Last Thursday at the Munk Centre, a panel discussion on Paikin’s The Agenda debated whether Ontario should switch to a Mixed Member Proportional electoral system, a method of voting meant to balance regional concerns with the popular vote.The NDP and Green Party have come out strongly in favour of a shift to MMP, while Progressive Conservative leader John Tory is opposed. Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty has remained neutral, though individual Liberal candidates have taken their own stances.The panel was made up of Rick Anderson, chair of Vote for MMP; former Ontario cabinet minister Marilyn Churley (a proponent of MMP); former deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps (opposed to MMP); former MPP David Fleet (director of No MMP) and Professor Dennis Pilon, a University of Victoria expert on electoral systems.“I wasn’t at all satisfied with the debate,” Heisey later griped. “The pro side kept interrupting–I don’t think that was at all fair.”The majority of the audience— most of them poli sci students— were in the “pro” camp, as Paikin found when he called for a show of hands.Paikin said he’s received many questions about the MMP system, and hopes the broadcast provided a useful service.“Frankly, there hasn’t been much attempt to spread information about what (the referendum) is all about,” Paikin told The Varsity. “And I understand the Premier wants to be neutral–that’s his prerogative– but when the leaders don’t debate something it makes getting the word out very difficult.”First-year life sciences student Larissa Satta said the debate was helpful, but added, “Anyone tuning in to TVO is likely already well-informed.”“It concerns me that the majority of people I talk to do not fully know what this issue is all about. I fear they will be going to the polls and casting a vote for something they don’t fully understand, which certainly defeats the purpose of a referendum,” said Progressive Conservative candidate Tyler Currie. —BT
Bidding on minimum wage
Last Tuesday, just shy of 200 people gathered at Innis College for an allparty debate on poverty and health. The debate was organized by the Income Security Advocacy Centre, Health Providers Against Poverty and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.In her introductory remarks, debate moderator Carol Goar of the Toronto Star said she was disappointed in the candidates’ lack of attention to poverty, particularly during the televised leaders’ debate. Goar note statistics claiming that one in seven people in Ontario are living in poverty, 232,000 of them with disabilities and 345,000 children under the age of 18.The debate stalled when Elizabeth Rowley, leader of the Communist party of Ontario, demanded equal floor time equal with the Liberal, New Democratic, Progressive Conservative and Green parties.Goar put the issue to a show of hands by the audience, and Rowley was voted off the stage.“We consider the organizers our friends,” the disgruntled Rowley told The Varsity. “We don’t expect to be excluded by our friends.”Later, the two-hour debate turned its focus to minimum wage. Sheila White, the NDP candidate in Scarborough-Rouge River, reiterated her party’s support for a $10 minimum wage.Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, stood by the Liberal pledge to raise the wage from $8 to $10.25 by 2010, with a 75-cent hike next March.Rowley, from the audience, shouted the Communist pledge to raise the wage to $15, something Dr. Sanjeev Goel, deputy leader of the Green Party of Ontario running for Brampton West, said would be ideal. The Greens, however, can only promise to raise it to $10 by June. —BT