Given Toronto Mayor David Miller’s initiative to shut down the gun ranges on city property while I was away, one would have expected that I would have excoriated Miller as soon as I came back. But I didn’t.
The reason I didn’t is that I don’t want to just rant and nor do I want to say what is simply obvious. Of course, I am against his proposal on a whole series of levels: it is an attack on the shooting sports, which I support; it does nothing to stop gun violence – criminals don’t patronize gun ranges, or likely even know of their existence; it prevents law-abiding citizens from learning the art of self-defence; etc. To me, and likely, the people who patronize this blog, this is all obvious true, so I didn’t want to write a post simply to reiterate these points.
Then I realized a good slant. The ineffectuality of Miller’s approach is a symptom of a much larger aspect of him. Miller is a liberal golden boy. He is lionized by the fashionable left because he espouses all the right ideas and says all the right things. Unfortunately, results and execution don’t matter a whit to these people, with the result that the liberal golden boy’s typical career starts out with big fanfare but ends in pedestrian failure.
Another liberal golden boy, who Miller has more than a passing resemblance to, is former Attorney General Alan Rock. He also started his career with much promise but ended ignominiously in a series of fiascos. The problem with liberal golden boys is not that they are stupid – they are usually quite bright, it is that they are entirely lacking in common sense. Enamoured by their own sophistication, they have no idea that the simple solution is usually the best. ‘After all I am not a cowboy’, they will sneer. They are sophisticated.
Take Allan Rock’s bid to ban guns. A simple and straightforward solution would be to ban them outright, offering a buy-back scheme and an amnesty to turn them in. Simple and effective. But because he didn’t have the guts (and likely also the political support) to do that, he instead created a Rube Goldberg-like gun registry that plodded along to seemingly no purpose consuming ever increasing amounts of taxpayers money. (As a Canadian gun owner, thank God Rock was a golden boy!) An even better example is the tainted blood scandal. All he had to do was to prosecute a bunch of Red Cross executives for criminal negligence and call it a day. But no, that is too simple and direct for the sophisticates like Rock. Instead, he created a whole new government agency, Canadian Blood Services, while almost forgetting to prosecute the people who were actually responsible for the tainted blood in the first place.
Stephane Dion would be another example, except that he is not charismatic or popular. His hopelessly complicated carbon tax scheme certainly fits the pattern.
I strongly suspect Obama is one too. He is certainly lionized by all the right people. But his resume is so thin, it remains to be seen how administratively incompetent he really is.
But back to Miller. Look at some of the fiascos he created before the gun range closures. He has taken a simple issue, garbage collection, and turned it into an expensive mess. The Adam’s Mine site, which he opposed, would have cost the city $35 million and had the capacity to receive Toronto’s garbage for the next 100 years. Problem solved. Instead, he bought a $220 million site on an Indian reserve. He also greatly increased to cost and complexity of Toronto’s existing recycing program with very little actual effect in reduced garbage output. Why locate a landfill site on an Indian reserve? Answer: because there is no environmental assessment there. And for good measure, he also greatly increased garbage collection costs by taking over garbage collection from those parts of the city that had private garbage collection, adding to the folly even more by paying a penalty to break existing contracts. In other words, he paid a premium in order to do the same thing more expensively!
Another example: public transit. Here he has pursued a fruitless but expensive campaign of building streetcar right-of-ways in places like Spadina Ave. and St. Clair West that have cost a fortune, but have dome little to actually increase transit efficiency while upsetting local residents. However, when it comes to building new subway stops, whoah there!, lets not get carried away and do something crazy. Its just like a liberal golden boy to focus on the least effective means of public transit that exists – the streetcar – and fund it at the expense of the most effective means of public transit – the subway. With all the money he spent on neighbourhood-destroying streetcar right-of-ways, we probably could have had another subway stop in the city.
Until recently his fiscal policy was to hound and pester the province and the federal government to pony up even more money. After exhausting the patience of even the provincial Liberals (and spending a fortune on the fruitless 1 cent GST campaign), it has finally started dawning on him that he has to carry his own water. The result has been a constellation of user fees, taxes and reduced services whose chief characteristics have been their complexity and the way they target the middle class.
But such is the usual trajectory of the liberal golden boy. Lofty ideals and a world of promises end up in tatters when reality finally catches up to him.
Hopefully, in Toronto’s next municipal election 3 years from now, this boy wonder will be consigned to the ash heap of hsitory.