Sunday, September 21, 2008

Harper Rejects Financial Aid for Cities

Remember the above headline? It was also posted under the phrase: "Harper to Cities: 'Drop Dead'". Although Harper may never have used the more colourful phrasing, the point is clear. Billions of tax dollars leave our major cities. Think about the millions of people in Toronto alone, and the tax dollars they generate. Then think about our transit system (the most poorly funded in North America), our crumbling roads and bridges, and reports you hear - that the work done on repairs is only aimed at maintaining them, not replacing aging infrastructure. And we don't have the money to deal with this, a problem that will eventually affect every one if us.

A year ago, a major bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. Remember that? City officials in Toronto were quick to reassure us that our bridges and roads were safe. Why did they need to reassure us? Because we are well aware that our infrastructure is not in good shape. And now, after the listeriosis crisis, I wonder about the state of our regulatory and inspection systems, which Harper is working to dismantle and de-regulate, so that big business can earn its capitalist dollars without the burdensome task of maintaining proper health and safety standards.

Harper has made it clear that he doesn't care. He doesn't care about cities - where the majority of Canadians live. He hates Toronto. And the tax money which he refuses to give up to fix and improve our cities is going to the military - $22 billion to Afghanistan, for no other reason than to make George Bush happy.

If Harper had good business sense, he would invest in our cities. Instead, we are losing ground globally in the tourism business (Toronto's main industry), and that affects service industries, puts more of a strain on social services (or puts more people on the street, which is worse for tourism), decreases consumer confidence and spending, which affects other industries, and leads us into a downward spiral. You'd think politicians who put big business on top of their priorities would understand all this. And this is who the right-wingers want to elect? Go figure.

Interestingly, when I did a Google search to review the "Drop Dead" article, the page that came up had Harper's photo at the top, under a banner ad screaming, "They've Gotta Go!" The ad was for Toyota and refers to clearance of end-of-year models, but it's one of those happy, ironic coincidences that make me smile. Yes, Harper and his Regressive Conservatives have got to go. Now.

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