Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Municipal, political, irrational

The former American house speaker, "Tip" O'Neill, famously remarked that "all politics is local". Mr. O'Neill understood that in politics, the services provided at the local level, not the grand sweeps of political rhetoric, make or break political ideas and political careers. Someone should explain this to the National Post's Terrence Corcoran. Mr. Corcoran wrote in praise of Rocco Rossi for what he calls "solid non-leftist ideas", which apparently include:
undoing the city's bizarre 5¢ plastic bag tax, limiting bike lanes to roads that are non-arterial, and privatizing Toronto Hydro.
Notice how Mr. Corcoran glossed over any question of the wisdom or workability of Mr. Rossi's ideas with the neologism "non-leftist". When the public makes their final evaluation of a policy, and rewards or rejects the policy makers, the division between left and right counts for far less than the division between wise and foolish.

But Mr. Corcoran's description of the policy of "limiting" bicycle lanes makes even less sense than this suggests. To make the superficial point, limiting bicycle lanes in the sense Mr. Rossi proposes really means not having bicycle lanes, because literally all of the through roads in the city core have a designation of "arterial". Aside from the logical problems with Mr. Rossi's statements on cycling, it does not do to pretend they have any meaningful connection with the right, or even with that more nebulous entity, the "non-left". No conservative principle I know of speaks against provision for bicycles, and cycling policies, along with many other matters of urban policy, must stand or fall on their own merits.

No comments: