09 June 2009

BAH to Baird

A friend of mine once noted, "you're never a complete failure, you can always serve as a bad example" (He wasn't referring specifically to me - he was speaking in general). Which brings us to John Baird, the federal Minister of Transport who yesterday told Toronto to fuck off in an "unguarded moment" at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention. The Star reports that Baird chided Toronto for not properly completing its application for federal stimulus funding. It seems that Toronto's request for funding the production of the Bombardier LRT cars that would be used to enable the proposed Eglinton line, part of the Transit City plan, doesn't qualify, because one-third of the money wouldn't be spent to create new jobs in the next two-years.

Not surprisingly, this is a clear demonstration of the BAH-ness of the federal government, and why an understanding of Effective Theory is so important. Effective Theory essentially focuses on the intended effects - both direct and indirect - of a decision or action on the constituencies affected by that decision or action. It's the "measure of goodness," if you will, of an organization's Tactility Statement.

The objective of the federal stimulus funding is to distribute money to municipalities to pay for infrastructure projects, and for the Harper government to take credit for that money. Among the intended effects (in addition to garnering favour with the electorate) is to put people to work throughout the country. While it may be true that Toronto's application may not technically achieve the objective - I don't see Toronto digging up Eglinton Avenue within the next couple of years - it does achieve the intended effect. And, it achieves the intended effect wonderfully well, creating ripple jobs throughout the province.

Providing the money overcomes a serious hurdle in giving the overall go-ahead to the Eglinton line. It can immediately put people to work in high-paying manufacturing jobs in Thunder Bay, which will provide tremendous economic spin-off in that community and the surrounding communities (more jobs!) It will enable some of the preliminary and preparatory work to be done in Toronto (jobs, jobs, jobs), and set the stage for the massive construction project (long-term jobs, and more spin-off jobs), not to mention accomplishing the long-term goal of significantly improving public transit.

As regular readers know, I'm not a great fan of Toronto City Council and some of Mayor Miller's recent decisions. However, I'm with him on this one. In this case, Miller does understand the intended effects of stimulus projects, and realizes the importance of collaborating with other cities (like Thunder Bay) to achieve long-term benefit for all citizens. Rather than cursing Toronto, John Baird should take a lesson in collaboration.

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