The TTC -- the public mass transit system in Toronto -- is in what is universally acknowledged to be need of tremendous expansion, greater funding and a new vision that fits the size of the metropolis the city has become.
Over 2.5 million riders use the system daily, the politicians are regularly asking riders -- including many of city's working people and people living in poverty -- to pay more to use the TTC, and it has fallen far behind the city's requirements.
One would think that in a rational city run by rational people who actually cared about the basic needs of their constituents transit, which effects more people on daily basis than almost anything else and that is critical to the social and environmental health of the city, would likely be the highest of priorities in spending by City Hall.
Or perhaps housing, in this one of the most expensive cities to find a home of any kind in as a renter or buyer anywhere in North America.
Or social services, given that it turns out the province has failed spectacularly to do its part.
You would be wrong.
What the City of Toronto has chosen to particularly emphasize, budget after budget, year after year, is increasing police spending.
Matt Elliot said of this in Metro:
The numbers are absurd.Over a billion dollars -- a billion dollars -- is going to spent in Toronto on the police. Around 90% of it allegedly for "labour costs".
According to City of Toronto figures, the average Toronto household paid $658.57 towards the police this year. That’s the highest single line item on the property tax bill by a country mile.
It’s 64 per cent more than the amount going to the TTC. It’s six times more than the amount going to employment and social services.
This is grotesque. In the neo-liberal city that is Toronto, where people have to pay more and more in user fees for services like children's programs (which could be made 100% free for a tiny fraction of the police budget), where the average transit user was made to pay more in increases annually in the 2015 austerity-lite budget supported nearly unanimously by Toronto's political class, including all of its so-called "progressives", than were home owners made to pay in property tax increases and where we are spoon fed bullshit by right wing drips claiming "spending is out of control", the police have bullied their way to the front of the line with the absolute least rationale for this squandering of public funds and with the gutless acquiescence of City Council.
Not simply gutless but shameful.
Our billion dollar police force is beset by violent incident after violent incident. Just in the last few days we have headlines like "Toronto man sues police for $5M after violent arrest caught on camera" and "Toronto man’s death after arrival of Taser-wielding police now being investigated". Never mind cases like the horrific shooting of Sammy Yatim.
Yet if the public suggests that these silver spoon civil servants should be held to account or subject to review by the very public that pays their salary or that endows them with the power they have, it is always dismissed or undermined. The police expect to be given ever higher budgets with no oversight as to conduct or meaningful public control over policing.
So we see police chiefs in Ontario actually try to ignore or overrule policies enacted by police boards appointed by democratically elected governments. We see mass intimidation actions against specific Toronto communities like TAVIS. These are actions generally associated with dictatorships and police states.
While commentators like Elliot and others have noted just how ludicrously fiscally irresponsible this is, they have not gone far enough.
Like the military industrial complex in the United States the police in Toronto serve as a way to divert hundreds of millions more dollars than are necessary to a massively over-bloated, incompetently managed militarist organization that has politicians mortified of challenging its narratives.
It is an organization whose actions are meant to perpetuate its own immunity from the very civilian "governance" it has intimidated for decades into acquiescing to its demands.
The problem is not that the spending on police is out-of-control, it is that this is a symptom of the fact that the police themselves are out-of-control.
There is no meaningful control over this billion dollar military machine. There is zero accountability for years of the racist harassment that was and is "carding". There is almost no accountability for violence by individual officers or officer criminality. The G-20 police riot that saw mass illegal imprisonments, civil rights violations and police assaults against innocent civilians resulted in almost no attempts to hold those responsible to account.
The police can act as they want, do as they want and demand ever greater payment for this as they have always gotten what they want.
This has to stop and be reversed.
Otherwise the councillors and Mayor had best admit that, when it comes to the police, they have no meaningful power or control and are simply pandering to a colossus that terrifies them and that will be granted every new rapacious demand while the rest of Toronto is forced under the austerity knife.