The politician as huckster.

It is hard to estimate the times a politician has said to me: “What do you think of this great idea? In most cases—if part of the campaign team—I will listen to the idea and then say: “That’s nice, now go to that wall, hit your head against it ten times and hope you have forgotten the idea.” It is cruel but, in most cases, necessary.

Luckily party candidates federally and provincially are expected to toe the party line and most understand they are not allowed to throw in their own ideas helter-skelter. Most of the ideas come from municipal candidates. And sometimes I have actually encouraged their use.

But there are strict conditions. The idea has to be simple and easy to communicate, of value to everybody and of long term value to the community and, if not free, at least inexpensive.

A good example of this is a mayoralty candidate here in Barrie who came up with an idea for a year-round farmers’ market. It is a simple idea, easily understood, proposed for an excellent location, could be self-funding and, besides, the present farmers’ market is desperate for a larger and more accessible home.

I liked that idea and actually did some of the publicity work behind it. My only regret is that the same smart guy is running for re-election again, eight years later, and we still are still stuck with the same over-crowded farmer’s market at city hall.

I could make the same remarks about the SmartTrack plan espoused by Mayor Tory in Toronto. Here he is running for re-election four years later and still talking about how great SmartTrack could be.

The difference between Tory’s SmartTrack proposal and challenger Keesmaat’s transit plan is that, typical of most professional planner’s suggestions, Jennifer Keesmaat’s plan requires an advanced degree in transit services to even comprehend. The only hope for it is that a voter might see a transit stop close to their home.

The SmartTrack idea appealed to me from day one because it reminds me of why the ‘El System’ in Chicago helped build that great city. Chicago used the already existing train lines into the city to build a workable mass transit system. That is what SmartTrack does. It can save billions in routing costs.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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