Outcome Management

In opposing Shift, the business community has come together impressively. But will the passion persist? 

HOW MANY TIMES have you wondered, ‘What was city council thinking when they made that decision?’

By the very nature of our political system, boondoggles are inevitable—there are just too many players with too little experience and/or common sense. Most times, the boondoggle sneaks up on you because politicians and the bureaucracy can be very adept at covering their tracks and slipping things by the public. At other times, however, you can see it coming miles away. And you wonder why they can’t.

London’s city council recently embraced the Shift transit proposal that could spend as much as the city’s entire annual near-billion-dollar budget to marginally improve public transit for the less than 10 per cent of Londoners who ride the bus regularly. It includes at least $100 million to build a kilometre-long tunnel through one of the most historic and congested areas of the city—in order to reduce transit time on Richmond from Central to Oxford by 90 seconds and the average LTC trip by four minutes. Let that sink in and think about it for a moment. One billion dollars. On what planet, in what galaxy, does that make sense?

It does only if you believe we must get people out of their cars and onto public transit at whatever cost, whether they like it or not, and personal choice be damned. Some councillors have admitted as much in public and this idea has become a litmus test for the new urban left, those who seek to manipulate municipal government to enforce their preferred social and socialist policies. London has a number on the current council, people of limited or non-existent business, fiscal and administrative experience but strong social policy views. They may be well-meaning and hard-working, but those are far from the only attributes needed by people entrusted with the responsibility of administering a billion-dollar municipal corporation.

As misguidedly expensive as the current transit proposals may be, this is the issue about which London’s business community really should be most concerned.

I believe that before the next election there will be revelations of repeated council bungling on financial matters, costing London taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary expenditures in addition to whatever is decided about so-called rapid transit. And much of it will properly be laid at the feet of inexperienced or inept councillors who did not know how to properly apply critical thinking to staff proposals.

This will be the greatest challenge our city faces as we move towards the next decade, and unless the electorate becomes more discriminating about who is elected to run our billion-dollar corporation, we will surely be graced with more fiscal folly. We cannot expect to have an efficient, forward-looking city if the people we elect to run it cannot grasp what it takes to realize such an outcome.

The next election is a year and a half away. The business community has come together quite impressively to oppose the current transit proposals. Whatever happens with them, we need to maintain a similar level of concern and passion and mount a pre-election campaign to identify and support candidates who have the right combination of experience, intelligence and business acumen to successfully steer our corporation in the right direction.

After decades of talk, it is time for a pro-common-sense slate of candidates to be brought together, supported by those Londoners who want a city that functions effectively in the real world, and not some social engineering experiment. No dogma, no political cant, no exaggerated promises; just pragmatic, real-world thinking that focuses on getting the most bang for the taxpayers’ buck every time, all the time. Now that would be a shift worth supporting.   Jim Chapman