Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Tale of Two Columnists

There are two columns worth reading in the Toronto Star today.  Royson James, who I don't always agree with, in part because he constantly plays devil's advocate, has a really nice piece on the issue of the Scarborough subway.  I can't help but wonder if the decision today by Toronto City Council to discuss transit taxes was fuelled in part by James' cogent analysis of the rank hypocrisy that surrounds the debate over whether or not Scarborough should get a subway extension or an LRT.

Although I live in downtown Toronto, and I guess I'm supposed to be at war with people in Scarborough and Etobicoke, my deeply held socialist beliefs force me to believe that if we taxed the hell out of everyone, we could have subways running down every major street in the entire city, whether we needed them or not.  That even includes people who live in Scarborough or Etobicoke or all those something-York areas north of Bloor and West or East of the downtown core are called..

Seriously though, James makes a good point about the actual politics going on, and how the absence of a Scarborough subway isn't necessarily just because we downtowners don't think they deserve one, but that their own representatives on Council are part of the problem.


Which brings me to the other column, by Martin Regg Cohn, which concerns the recent Ontario provincial budget.  Unlike James column, Cohn tells us all about the various statistics that show us we're in a slump, and accuses the current Finance minister, Charles Sousa, of ignoring the plight of the Ontario economy. 

The problem with this piece is that Cohn himself admits, at the very end, that there's very little Ontario can do to actually change its position in a national economy run by a federal government more concerned about extracting the remains of long-dead dinosaurs in Alberta than pretty much anything else. 

Instead, he trots out the usual centrist Canadian columnists' bromide about the Ontario government needing to instill "an entrepreneurial spirit in Ontario’s commercial classes" in order to "kick-start" Ontario's economy.  Maybe people aren't feeling so entrepreneurial because that magical market put Ontario into this predicament in the first place.  Does anyone remember the economic meltdown of 2008?  Rescuing the auto industry and such? No?

Perhaps Cohn was trying to be balanced after writing a number of pieces that were more supportive of the Liberals?  And his editor told him he needed some balance?  Maybe I'm just tired of hearing how Ontario's economic problems boil down to some regulatory fiddling and letting "the market" step in and magically figure everything out, and how pointless his column seems, except to allow the trolls who populate the Star website to talk about how if only government got out of the way (because it's always somehow in the way, I guess, building roads, cleaning water and taking away our garbage). 

That's not actually how markets work, ever, and generally, it's when we let the markets do their thing that all hell breaks loose.


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