Reflections on the federal election: Next time, let’s choose something other than the blue and red team

On October 21,  Canada and Downsview voted for a new Federal Government. After a very messy election, the result was a Liberal Minority government and the Conservatives as the official opposition, with the NDP and Bloc Québécois  holding the balance of power.

Every time there is an election in Canada, Ontario voters seem to be given two picks. With one exception 30 years ago, since Confederation in 1867 voters have only made one of two choices at the ballot box in Ontario: red or blue. We vote Liberal when we cannot stomach the cuts that the blue team is promising to carry out. We vote Conservative when we cannot stomach the corruption and waste of the red team. In this riding we lean red federally for decades. 

Here is a list of what bouncing between the blue team and the red team have gotten us: 

  • Housing that is unaffordable in the GTA because the government stopped building cooperative housing and affordable rentals in the 1990s. 
  • Nearly 30 years of unfulfilled promises for a Universal Childcare Strategy.
  • Rising medication costs, because pharmacare is not a priority for the two main parties. 
  • The most expensive phone bills in North America, and bad internet coverage.
  • The most expensive monthly metropass in North America, and bad bus service. 

These issues affect all of us day in and day out. Whether we are stuck in traffic because public transit is not an efficient way to get around, or we are jammed in a hospital where there are not enough nurses to treat us when we need help the most. Many people have to choose between buying their prescriptions and paying their rent on time, even if they work more than 40 hours per week.

These are all things that governments in other places have tackled and worked on. Collectively, people in Ontario seemed to feel that we avoided the cutting of programs from another Conservative government. But same as the blue team – the priority of the red team on the first day after the election were tax cuts for the rich and to build a pipeline for Alberta. 

There is very little difference between the priorities of the blue and the red teams. This is why when we vote for the same people, we get the same results.

All of Toronto’s representation is from the red team. It is as if we threw a red carpet over all of the GTA to cover up all that is wrong from the last decision we took in Ontario – hoping it would make up for it.

The good news is that minority governments tend not to last the full term, so there might be an opportunity to demand more and to demand differently sooner rather than later. The same old decision to go back and forth between red and blue is not moving us forward as a society.

Our buses are overcrowded and bus tickets are expensive

Waiting for the 36 Finch bus can make one ponder the meaning of life. It is never quick or an efficient use of time. Bus service is so unreliable, that if car insurance premiums were not so expensive in our area, most people would choose to drive instead of taking public transit. 

The majority of bus routes in Downsview are unreliable and overcrowded during the morning and afternoon rush. This reality leads to more cars on the road and more congestion. In case you have not heard about this update in local news, Toronto has the longest commute of any City in North America. [1]  

If taking public transit was more affordable, that would at least make the experience of longer than normal wait times more reasonable. However, Toronto is also known for having one of the most expensive bus fares in North America. An individual bus ticket in Toronto is one of the top five most expensive fares in general and our monthly transit pass is the most expensive option in the continent. [2]

Even though more commuters are added to our roads each year, it is not surprising that the growth of TTC riders has slowed down recently. Commuters will always choose another option if it’s offered to them for a fair price. People downtown, for example, have taken to cycling in very large numbers. A bicycle is the fastest mode of transportation for short trips in the city’s core. That being said, up here in Downsview cycling is not a realistic way to get to school or work year-round if you have far to go.

The way to get more cars off the road is not complicated, even if a series of successive governments have made it seem so. Building more reliable transit networks and making it affordable has worked everywhere an appropriate investment has been made.

That being said, here in Ontario successive Conservative and Liberal governments have reduced their share of transit funding, downloading the cost to rate payers and municipalities. Toronto gets the smallest share of higher level government funding out of every major city in Canada. That is the real reason why we take so long to build any new transit lines, nobody is paying for them. 

It took over 20 years to build the York University subway extension. By the time it’s finished, it will take a similar amount of time to build the Finch LRT. The improvements are coming too slowly and without the adequate funding required to make them work properly. 

Municipalities do not pay the bill for public transit expansion on their own. In other cities, higher levels of government step in to pay for the big projects and subsidize the trips for commuters. That type of investment makes transit more accessible, creating an incentive for people to leave their cars at home. The less cars we have on the road, the better. Helping people get to work more efficiently improves their quality of life because they can reallocate those wait times towards other priorities, like spending time with family.

Accessible and affordable public transportation options eases gridlock and boosts the local economy. In Toronto, we have not had a higher level of government involvement for decades, and you can see the lack of investment every time you are out there waiting for the bus. 



Pensions in Canada are leaving seniors in poverty

In July most seniors on Candian Pension Plan (CPP) saw an increase of only $12 to $16 a month – not enough

It is hard for many of us to imagine that Finch Avenue was once a dirt road, lined with countless apple orchards. Back then, the City of Toronto was much smaller. The area was known for its farmland and cottage country bungalows. Those who remember those days would have been contributing to their Canadian Pension Plan for decades before retiring.

Many of our neighbours have lived in the Downsview area for over 40 years, making them the original homeowners. While they are retired now, they continue to be active leaders on their own streets and at local community centres.

The CPP was created in the 1960’s as a response to people living longer and the rising level of poverty conditions for seniors at that time. The Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement were added to ensure a base level of income for all seniors. The system was designed to protect people from destitution in their old age and to give them both dignity in life and dignity in their hard-earned retirement. 

Today, our system is not keeping up with the realities of modern life. Most young people are aware of the difficulties of buying a home in the current real estate market. What many people do not realize yet, however, is the difficulty that many seniors are facing as rents rise. To illustrate the problem, a person living off of CPP and OAS could very well make $20,000 a year. A one-bedroom apartment in our neighbourhood now costs around $1500 per month, or $18,000 per year. Many who rely on their pensions live on the knife’s edge of poverty. 

Pensions go up on July 1 of every year, but most seniors only saw a monthly increase of $12-$16 per month. With real estate prices sky-rocketing and rents following suit, many seniors can barely afford their homes anymore in addition to keeping up with other living expenses. The problem is likely to get worse, as we are the only major country without a plan to deal with the realities of an aging population. 

The beauty of Canada has been its caring disposition, tolerance and acceptance. This is what makes our country one of the best places to live, and has created some of the highest standards of living in the world. That being said, the current government has done little to change make life affordable for seniors and they have no plans of making any significant changes. Seniors have it too hard and we are not doing enough to help them.