RadioTMI - March 25, 2014

What I mean by the title “Mississauga is full of barf” isn’t that there’s vomit all over the place. That only happens during the dozen or so festivals that go on in Port Credit and other areas where insufficiently policed public revelry often results in drunkardness and street fights.

What I mean by the title “Mississauga is full of barf” is somewhat allegorical in that the City of Mississauga, the third largest city in Ontario, the sixth largest in Canada, a city more important to the Canadian economy than better known Quebec City, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Moncton, Halifax, Regina, Saskatoon, St John’s, St John, Fredericton and other better known places, you know, like Niagara Falls and Hamilton “City of Waterfalls”.

What I mean by the title “Mississauga is full of barf” is this. Despite decades of rampant development, despite running a city without deficit or debt, despite a mayor who has been in charge nearly as long as the city has existed, any suggestion of planning is a myth. Mississauga is laid out like chunks of carrot, peas, cubes of chicken, beef and corn barfed up on a rectangular blanket.

This is why they’re just beginning to think about rapid transit. For more than three decades the only way to get around has been a slow moving network of buses. In another ten or twelve years citizens of Mississauga will be able to get around on a smaller network of slightly faster moving buses and supe’d up streetcars.

But Mississauga’s Mayor, Hazel McCallion will be long gone by then. Why? Because the only reason Mississauga hasn’t had financial debt has been because they’ve been mortgaging their children’s future on open land development. Now that the very last of available land has been partitioned off the flow into the city’s finances is starting to trickle. And worst of all, because the city and it’s iconically cheap mayor have been sourcing each public work to the lowest bidder, who has had to bid sub-par constructions in order to get the projects and stay in business, public works that weren’t designed to last more than a few decades, the city is about to find their infrastructure crumbling at a rate that will literally resemble a house of cards.

By not running again, Hazel McCallion figures she’ll escape being the one holding the bag when it all collapses, but while you can run, her legacy can’t hide the reality some future candidate will place rightly on her shoulders. She consistently short changed the city, abrogating vision and planning for reacting to proposals and accommodation.

So instead of a vibrant, fluid city centre with high rises and public spaces that had a subway system built into them while the foundations were being poured, paid for essentially by the developer, Mississauga has a slow moving stretch of gridlock that rivals downtown Manhattan, only without anywhere near the density or Central Park. Just as the ‘on-the-cheap’ LRT plan for the city will carve two lanes of traffic from the busiest route in town, without providing an alternative, for the 8 years it takes to lay down the lane gobbling transit system, which will only appear to be running faster than the surrounding traffic because six lanes of traffic are wheezing and undulating down Hurontario with only four lanes of capacity.

Unless Mississauga invests heavily and radically in one-way through fares, and long stretches of timed lights, the vomit that is life here will only get chunkier, and ultimately if the future proves anything the only people who will remain in the gridlock are those either too stupid or poor to leave.

The worst part is that it was totally avoidable, if only the city had been investing in its future, with a vision, a long term plan, instead of following the lead of its addled mayor. Reacting to problems only after someone else proposes a solution, and then only provided it’s cheap and short-term. It’s a haphazard process that’s really ugly, you know, like barf.