Toronto hates business & isn’t going to take it any more.

Toronto Council debates Island Airport expansion Apr. 1, 2014 © 2014
Toronto Council debates Island Airport expansion Apr. 1, 2014 © 2014

In yet another embarrassing display of incompetent governance,
First, City Councillors spent an entire day debating a staff report that would allow the city to continue investigating a proposed expansion to the city’s extremely popular and successful city centre island airport.  Despite what was eventually a unanimous vote to proceed, local politicians still felt the need to spend over eight hours huffing and puffing and blowing their common sense out the window in a vain effort to look good to constituents and special interest groups on both sides of the issue.  In the end, everyone in the chamber agreed to decide nothing.  Just as they were asked to do at the beginning.

What City Council did, was empower city staff to continue discussions with the federal government, the Toronto Port Authority, the government owned independent agency that owns the airport (and the the marine port,) and the airlines operating from it.  There are a number of questions that remain to be answered and staff will spend the next year answering them.

What Council did accomplish, however, was to turn off business owners and investors who may have been interested in setting up shop in Toronto and creating jobs here.  Council’s overt anti-business rhetoric is painful to watch.  Without a strong (and effective) pro-business mayor in office, City Council has reverted to its left-leaning anti-capitalist bias.  The New Democratic Party caucus is the only coherent alliance on Council and its voice is the one that consistently comes through the loudest.

Today, Council proved that its anti-business stance on the airport issue wasn’t a one-off.  It added to the anti-business din by taking a simple proposition to ease restrictions on Toronto’s street food vendors, and rendering it untenable.  Cities around the world have a vibrant street-food culture that residents of Toronto envy.  There is widespread public support for loosening the rules on food trucks so that more may operate.  In fact, there was almost universal public support on Council.  Still, City Council defaulted to its anti-business posture and spent two days debating the issue before finally adopting a mess of red tape that is a clear signal to street food entrepreneurs that Toronto is not yet interested in welcoming them.

Attitude matters in business.  One can point to the current mayor and rightly say that he and his administration is a mess. But, his election and the first two years of his administration signalled to the world that Toronto was open to business and welcomed new investment.  Things were beginning to change after seven years of Mayor David Miller’s anti-business drought.  Council’s reversion to form is bad news for Toronto.

The October 2014 election can’t come soon enough for Toronto’s economic future.  The scary part is, the leading candidate  to replace pro-business (but now absolutely ineffective) Mayor Rob Ford is the NDP’s Olivia Chow, a died-in-the-wool, anti-business socialist.  Another anti-business mayor would seal Toronto’s fate for the next 10 years and drive businesses and investors away from our city.