Does 7,850 trump 1,600,000?
Does 7,850 trump 1,600,000 milllion? For those of you who analyze numbers for a living, consider this:
Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan received 7,850 votes in the 2006 Toronto municipal election. A handsome number, indeed, and it won him a seat at City Council despite the fact that there are probably 100,000 people in Ward 20 and he got less than 8% of them to get out and cast a vote in his favour. That’s democracy, and it certainly isn’t Mr. Vaughan’s fault that voter turnout was just 15% in his constituency.
Majority of the minority is how it works in many electoral forums, including most Canadian elections. It certainly is legal, just as it would be if only 3 people voted in the 2006 Ward 20 election and Councillor Vaughan received two of the three votes. Again, the election would’ve been legal under our system. But would it deliver what one might call “a mandate” to drive a certain agenda?
What’s interesting about that 7,850 figure is that it represents fewer than three days worth of airline passenger traffic at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (2.86 days in fact). And yet it keeps Councillor Vaughan in office for four years at a salary of $99k per annum, plus another $250k for staff and office expenses. And a pension and severance when his time in office comes to an end, as these things invariably do.
Since Porter Airlines stared flying from the BBTCA, they’ve carried more than 1.6 million passengers. For 2010, the TPA expects well north of 1 million passengers through the airport, based upon the run rate of 80,000/month experienced last Fall. And that was before Porter added additional Bombardier Q400 aircraft, made right here in Toronto by 3,500 members of the Canadian Auto Workers union, allowing Porter to add routes to fancy places like Sudbury.
So as to not give Councillor Vaughan a platform to tell more fibs, I agreed to join him on the CFRB1010 John Moore show Tuesday morning at 820am. I thought we were to have 5 – 6 minutes to talk about the pros and cons of the concept of building a P3 pedestrian tunnel to the BBTCA (which would ultimately be paid for by airline passengers). Instead, CFRB set it up like a boxing match, with 30 second windows, and a bell that rang when the time was up; this didn’t come up in the briefing, strangely. 😉
By the time I realized we had been set up as a match, it was too late. On the air live. Fortunately, they only had time for 3 minutes on air, so I didn’t have to waste any more than 180 seconds of my life dealing with Councillor Vaughan’s thin gruel.
Listening to him stammer on (you can follow here), it was hard to know if our esteemed elected representative actually believed what he was saying (I doubt it), or was just reaching into today’s grab bag of glib fibs to leave RB listeners with the impression that he was busy doing his elected duty as he railed against the TPA’s proposed private-public partnership pedestrian tunnel concept.
In 2009, he opposed the tunnel concept on the basis that it was a gift for rich Torontonians and Porter’s shareholders (wrong). And that any Federal Stimulus funding could be better spent elsewhere (a view he has the right to hold). On August 24, 2009, he was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying:
“It’s a bunch of money to help one particular airline, not the airline industry. It’s a bunch of money to move a few very privileged people, not taxpayers,”
Now, if you are one of the 1.6 million people who have flown Porter over the past three years, it may come as a surprise to you to find out that you aren’t a “taxpayer” in Councillor Vaughan’s books. What we had there was nothing more than an attempt to stir people up, perhaps, but it certainly failed the “truth test”.
But then things got worse for Councillor Vaughan, when the Globe noticed the class warfare at work.
When he was challenged on this point by Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee, he ultimately denied having made the statement to the Star, claiming that he didn’t care if people chose to use Porter or not. He wrote a long August 27th letter to constituents with the following new position: “My quarrel is not with the choices people make to get to Ottawa.”
Doesn’t quite jibe with the position he took in the Star just three days earlier.
So, you’ll understand, I was prepared to hear a few fibs in the course of the radio show. ANd he didn’t let me down. Here were some of the choice lines that Councillor Vaughan doled out on CFRB:
“The private sector won’t touch it.”
An odd thing to say for a man who has never worked a hard day in his life in the private sector. Infrastructure pros advise that between 10 and 24 different private sectors players have the capacity to take on a P3 tunnel project.
“The TPA’s internal engineering and construction cost estimates are double the $45 million estimate they’re using.”
This might be called wishful thinking, but it certainly is the furthest thing from the truth. Why launch a construction project with a cost estimate that will fail the first external test by a potential private sector partner? You’d be dead in the water, and look like a dunce to boot. Councillor Vaughan has a hand-picked City fo Toronto Board of Directors representative on the TPA Board, who I’m sure would resign in the blink of an eye if Councillor Vaughan’s claim about cost coverups was true.
Our City deserves better.
I admire people like Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman, who are prepared to leave other lives and knowingly get into the foxhole with this kind of truth-defying, bush league municipal political advocacy. And then there’s the rest of Toronto’s taxpayers, who pay their taxes and fees and licences in an effort to do their part. They deserve better.
Toronto’s coming out of a bad recession. The thousand of jobs created and preserved over the past 18 months by businesses like Porter have helped make it better than it could have been. Our elected representatives need to focus on moving us forward, building our frail economy, and not trying to grab headlines with pockerful stories.
Toronto has moved on from the 2003 municipal election; at least most of Toronto has. As Mr. Smitherman put it the other day, “put me down as someone who isn’t going to get involved in things that aren’t my responsibility.” In a world of constrained time and finite energy, that is a wise place to work from.
But every three days, one had to wonder. Does 7,850 trump 1,600,000?
(disclosure – this blog, as always, reflects a personal opinion and in no way represents the views of the TPA, its Board/Staff or the federal government)
Mr. McQueen,I think you should give up public service. You whine about it more than any other Tory appointee I have ever seen. Why are you a board member of the feckless TPA if all you do is defend your actions and complain about the public in this blog?! It is very unbecoming.
And fib… who uses that word?
Thanks for stopping by. By mentioning the word “Tory”, I am guessing that isn’t the party you voted for in the last election. Let me hazard another guess: you aren’t a fan of the BBTCA or Porter. You should come clean if I’m right.
There wasn’t a scintilla of a whine in that post; at least not that I intended. And there was no defence proferred. There’s nothing to defend. I was merely apprising those who care about such things about the fibs that Councillor Vaughan has been telling of late in relation to the P3 tunnel idea.
Like the time last year that he wrote to a constituent that he would have loved for the City Island Ferry Sam McBride to be free for passengers (versus the $6.50 fare charged by the municipality), but since the TPA charged the City for using the harbour that wasn’t possible. Now, the City hadn’t paid harbour user fees for the entire decade as I recall, and the charge that was being accrued (but not paid) was just $0.50 of the $6.50. In December, as a result of the Macro Settlement, that figure became about 6 cents per ride. And yet Vaughan is telling voters it was $6.50. Maybe “fib” isn’t strong enough, but I find it suitable in the circumstances.
Please don’t think I want any of you to feel the slightest bit sorry for me. These are thankless tasks; particularly the ones that involve neither compensation or adulation — a mold that clearly fits here. You have, however, the benefit of learning, from time to time, about the nonsense that comes with it.
When you look at your numbers it explains why the TPA keeps running into financial problems. There are not 100,000 people living in the ward. The number is closer to 65,000, although that number is contested by the city because of the flawed census results. The federal government contracted out the counting to a private firm, and apartments, condo, sand low income communities were woefully under counted. The city is in court challenging the results because federal funding is often allocated from the data. The correct number the city believes may be closer to 75,000. It is hard to estimate a correct total because many of these residents are children and immigrants and these numbers fluctuate. Neither of these groups are eligible to vote. No credible group has ever put forward a count that supports your claim.
The voters list in the 2006 election had approximately 31,000 eligible electors. You are right about my vote count. You fail to mention that Helen Kennedy, the second place candidate, was as staunch an opponent of the TPA as I was. The third place candidate was Desmond Cole. He too was opposed to the TPA and plans for airport expansion and even the fourth place candidate, Chris Oulette did not support TPA plans. In fact even Doug Lowrie the lone member of the Conservative Party who ran had a platform that objected to expansion of the airport. If I recall correctly the last place canddate called for a bridge and jets. He only got a few dozen votes and skipped most of the all candidate meetings. As for the two major mayoralty candidates David Miller and Jane Pitfield much the same story, both voted to cancel the bridge and supported the conditions outlined in the tripartite agreement which limit operations and expansion of the airport.
The Ward has spoken… and your numbers don’t add up. The one thing I do agree with you on is that you should be more careful when speaking in public.
ps. I managed a successful small business in the ward for close to three years, left to start my own business and ran it for three years. Left those private sector businesses to enter the field of journalism where I ran a community radio station for 3 years and then for the next two decades worked at the CBC and Citytv. While the CBC was a government job, before entering politics I worked at Citytv for considerably more than I am being paid now as a city councillor. All told I have worked in the private sector for well over 7300 days… not the single day that you estimate.
Again, Incorrect numbers, false assumptions and badly flawed conclusions free of any factual understanding of reality.
Thanks for stopping by.
I think that you’re missing the entire point. I guessed at the 100k ward resident figure. I’m happy to go with your 75,000 number; it doesn’t change the essense of the argument. Whether you got 1 in 12 voters to the booth or 1 in 10 doesn’t change the fact that 1.6 million airline passengers (mostly taxpaying Torontonians, despite your protestation otherwise to the Toronto Star) swamps 7,850 votes.
7,850 votes gets you a seat on Council, this is but true and appreciated. But does it give you the moral highground? That’s a question to ponder. Perhaps elected office is the platform – the sole platform – that you respect. And that the rest of us in the City, many of whom volunteer at hospitals, arts groups or charities (or all three), don’t have the same right to have a vision for our City since we didn’t run for full-time elected office.
Over the last few years, while you were voting in support of paying your friend Adrian Heaps’ pre-Council $65,000 legal bill, against the advice of your own City Staff, I was happy to part of several groups helping to raise millions of dollars for local not-for-profits.
Does that make me “unaccountable” as you claim? It’s the volunteers who, in large part, make this City what it is.
On the TPA “financial difficulties” point, there you go again with the fibs. The Toronto Port Authority has just finished two consecutive profitable years (see financials at http://www.torontoport.ca). You’ve been a steward of some $800 million of losses at the City during the same time period. If I want to learn how to spend more than I have in revenue, I’ll be sure to call. 😉
I’m aware that you’ve served as a bartender and manager at a restaurant, and that you were a freelance journo for a period of time. These are worthy pursuits and very much private sector related; I myself waited on tables during University and was a Stringer from 1980 – 86 for UPI, CP, etc.
Up to a point in our lives, we were having similar life experiences it would appear.
Speaking for myself, I didn’t find those jobs to be sufficient training to be feel that I might act as an expert in the world finance or infrastructure investing. Close to 20 years on Bay Street has helped prepare me to consider these topics. But, even then, I turn to outside professional advisors when it comes to public-private partnership investing strategies, just as the TPA has done.
The most compelling part of your post is what you don’t deny telling any of the fibs I’ve highlighted. It’s ironic that you lecture others about factual precision and truth, and yet are indifferent when it comes to yourself.
The City needs builders, and that’s supposed to be your role. You put up your hand, so you can’t shirk it now. In the meantime, while we wait for you to fulfill your responsibility, there are thousands of people like me out there trying to do their part for our fellow citizens.
Sir, I was following along with everything you said and it seemed reasonable. You absolutely lost me at the point you professed admiration for Rossi and, worst of all, Smitherman. I can’t take you seriously at this point. Especially when you follow with “get into the foxhole with this kind of truth-defying, bush league municipal political advocacy”.
Seriously? Smitherman was at the helm of one of the most expensive fiascoes in our Provincial government’s history and continues to deny any responsibility. The man talks out of both sides of his mouth and you admire him? For what, he certainly can’t be held up as being any more honest than Vaughan. That Smitherman quote was the best for laughs too. More like put him down as someone who won’t get involved in things (FULL STOP) From his words we can put together that he wasn’t involved in anything going down in eHealth or anywhere else in the health portfolio he “ran”.
Frankly, all the councillors seem to be without business sense, common sense or guts. Do the taxpayers deserve better? Not when only 15% come out to vote in a ward. Then they deserve whatever falls off the campaign wagon.