Yesterday’s headlines in Toronto newspapers were about how Rob Ford and City Council repealed the $60 vehicle registration tax. The Toronto Sun went as far as painting a beard on a picture of Ford, calling him Santa, and referring to the tax repeal as a christmas gift to Toronto. Another advance against the war on the car. Toronto’s progressive councillors, according to the reports, voted with Ford and apologized for implementing the tax in the first place. At the end of the reports, there was a statement about how Ford promised he would make up the $64 million shortfall in revenue without “major” cuts.
The things populist politicians promise – balanced budgets, reduced taxes, and jobs – are all in conflict with each other. A $64 million annual shortfall is enough to fund 1000 very good jobs. How much work gets done by 1000 full-time workers? How much does their spending affect the economy of the city? Ford has ensured either increased deficits (which means no balancing of the budget) or loss of services. By separating the tax cut from the service cuts or deferring them to the future, Ford has ensured that when the time comes to pay for these cuts, the people paying will have forgotten that it was “Santa” who forced the sacrifices on them. The Grinch is invisible behind the painted Santa beard.
Society pays for everything, one way or another. If it’s not taxes now, it’s unemployment now and broken infrastructure later. If Ford and the Toronto Sun can convince us that there’s a magical way to get something for nothing, they will end up helping us wreck the place we live in. In Toronto as in Canada, we are watching tomorrow’s problems being created, and the rest of the world could be forgiven for thinking that we are applauding.