The Projecting Finger

Unwilling to merely be wrong about civic issues in Saskatoon, Gerry “The Finger” Klein fails to find the pulse of the city of Calgary as well.

His latest column is a terrific exercise in the art of projecting one’s own biases:

Our western neighbour held its municipal elections Monday while councillors in Saskatoon debated how to get more cabs on the streets, whether it was possible to extricate the city from the taxi industry or whether we wouldn’t be better served with a taxi commission or outside body.

It is a dance I have witnessed regularly since the 1980s, when I first started to cover council. The issue seemed fresh and alive then, but no longer so.

Because when you think of the terms “fresh” and “alive,” your mind goes immediately toward municipal policy discussions.

Many people — including me — have advocated for city hall to free the taxi industry from its control by allowing market forces to dictate how many cars are allowed on the streets and restricting council’s control to monitoring safe cars, trained drivers and compliance with standard rules. However, civic officials who have followed this for as long as I have insist that the free market strategy hasn’t worked anywhere it’s been tried. Too often it leaves drivers and passengers exposed to criminal activity or inadequate service.

And as one wise official reminded me this week, taxis actually form an integral part of Saskatoon’s public transportation system. It can’t be allowed to fail, yet there is a string of unhappy players any time councillors get involved.

It is the lobbying from those players that kicks off the seemingly inescapable and awkward dance, which typically makes for a long night at council. I even recall a meeting where a representative of a taxi company started to snore loudly when the debate went past midnight, making it difficult for me to hear what was being said.

Those damned, dull Saskatonians clinging to their outdated taxi regulations. I’m bored! Why don’t we have elections when I’m bored?!

While Saskatoon again was undergoing the ritual on Monday night, Alberta’s two largest cities were overturning the latest political theory about the conservative nature of suburbia. Calgary handily sent Naheed Nenshi back to the mayor’s office in spite of a well funded campaign to oppose his urban agenda. He first caught the country’s attention when he came from behind to claim the highest office in a city well known for its conservative traditions.

Indeed. Naheed Nenshi has the distinction of being only the eighth liberal/progressive mayor ever elected in Calgary. A remarkable achievement, really, especially when you consider his opposition in the race:

Despite this imposing ensemble, Nenshi received about 74% of the overall vote, no thanks to a “well-funded campaign” by his opponents, who likely didn’t even spend one-tenth of what was spent by the Nenshi campaign.

While his agenda clearly upset some Calgary developers who were encouraged to contribute $100,000 each to help ward candidates who could slow its implementation, there was little surprise that Calgary’s hyper-popular mayor was returned to office – especially after his tireless effort to deal with the unprecedented flooding that befell Alberta’s largest city this spring.

Yes. The nefarious efforts by those nasty developers, of whom the Nenshi campaign said were acting “illegally,” only knocked off two of Nenshi’s five main supporters on city council — John Mar and Gael MacLeod — and nearly a third, the erstwhile Druh Farrell.

On the other hand, of the 14 ward candidates supposedly supported by this sinister cabal (as seen in this joint Global TV-Nenshi expose), only eight were able to win their seats on council.

Wait a second. I guess this means that Nenshi’s efforts to raise taxes and levies on suburban developers will be thwarted by council.

Some revolution.

Oh, and The Finger might as well know, that boring, old notion of taxi regulation? Nenshi’s dancing the taxi commission dance too.

Facts can be a bitch when you’re projecting.

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