It has taken a Ford to call for the “end” of the ActiveTO program that frees up some Toronto roadways for runners and cyclists, but snarls traffic elsewhere.
It was like late mayor Rob Ford dropped in from heaven to drop a bomb on the woke Toronto political scene. Or to inject some long overdue, much-needed common sense into the debate.
However, this was not the late controversial mayor making waves. Or Ontario Premier Doug Ford, either. It was their nephew who now represents Rob and Doug’s Etobicoke North ward at city council.
“Yes, he is smiling today for sure,” Councillor Michael Ford said of his Uncle Rob, who died of cancer in 2016. “Uncle Rob wouldn’t be happy with me every day, but I know he would be on this one.”
That may not be true of the current mayor who is a driving force behind the concept of getting people out their cars and out on the streets on bikes, blades, or running shoes.
“Something has to give,” explained Ford. “Closing down the streets every weekend is having an enormous effect on the rest of the city.
“As we are opening up our city and bringing people into the downtown core, we have sporting events happening, I think we have to have a second look at this, and I would say bring it to an end.”
With the Blue Jays back in town, the TFC playing at BMO Field, and people out and about again, ActiveTO definitely has had an impact on traffic.
Congestion is increasing, including on the Gardiner Expressway, which normally leans on the Lake Shore Blvd. off-ramp to thin out the gridlock. But ActiveTO required the closure of that ramp on the weekend, resulting in jammed traffic.
It was especially frustrating when one saw only a trickle of cyclists and other people using the stretch of the Lake Shore closed off for ActiveTO.
“I am saying let’s end it now,” insisted Ford. “It had merit during the pandemic when so much was closed, but now things are opening again, and we have to be able to get people around.”
But Mayor John Tory said whatever happens with ActiveTO, it won’t be done on a whim.
“We will carefully review all of this after the season is over, so we can decide on how best to carry this forward,” Tory told the Toronto Sun. “I think that’s the right way to make the decision, and the numbers will be there for all to see.”
Councillor Joe Cressy tweeted an “alternate take,” saying, “ActiveTO — make it permanent and expand it. The pandemic has exposed the importance of accessible public space. Our task is not simply to beat this pandemic, it’s to build a new and better city afterwards.”
However this shakes out, the positive here is the debate about this issue thanks to Ford breaking ranks and speaking out. It’s been a long time since Tory has been so openly challenged by a member of council and every democracy needs a respectful but constructively critical opposition.
The ghost of Rob Ford was back in Toronto politics once again — albeit through his nephew, and for just one day.