Doug Holyday and the role of council

So the big story is Doug Holyday’s belief that downtown is no place to raise children. Others have already shredded his nonsense, none more succinctly than when Josh Matlow voiced the exasperation on everyone’s minds: “Are you serious?” Surely this is how Buzz Aldrin feels when asked about moon landing hoax theories; when confronted with such ludicrous statements, how can you begin to formulate a reasonable response? Why even try?

But I think the media is missing the real story expressed in Holyday’s statements. Quoth the Star:

Holyday responded: “Well, I certainly think it’s really not the ideal place that people might want to raise their families. But on the other hand, if they do, I’m willing to leave the choice up to them, councillor. I’m not going to dictate to a developer that they must provide 10 per cent of their units in the three-bedroom form when there may or may not be a market for it.” [Emphasis mine.]

The important part isn’t the first or second sentence, it’s the third. Doug Holyday, city councillor, deputy mayor, and former mayor of Etobicoke, doesn’t think it’s his (and by extension, city council’s) role to tell developers what they can or can’t build. So I’d ask him, if developers know what’s best for the city and you’re not willing to “dictate” anything to them, why do you stand for election and why should we elect you when your place on council could just as easily be taken by an ink pad and rubber stamp?

You see councillor, city council’s entire raison d’etre is to dictate things to people and organizations that don’t necessarily want to do those things. If everyone was completely willing and able to do everything required to make Toronto a great city, we wouldn’t need taxes, by-laws, and regulations, would we? But in the real world, any reasonable person would have to admit that there is necessarily a big difference between a developer’s bottom line and the public interest. That’s why we have things like building codes and zoning regulations. If you don’t force developers to build three-bedroom units, how exactly do you expect people to choose whether to live in them? If they don’t exist, there’s no choice to be made.

Besides, you’re not forcing anyone to build anything. Last I checked, each developer chooses whether, where, and what to build; we simply set the rules that they must follow in order to do so. And if you don’t think that’s your job, then what exactly is your job?