What do you call an elected official who says one thing and then does another?
That’s the question to ask this morning after a bid to retain the bike lanes on Jarvis Street failed at Toronto City Council, following a 19-24 vote. The outcome was surprising, both because it seemed to come after some bad strategy from left-leaning councillors—I’m not sure what they were hoping would happen, but it didn’t work—and because the difference-makers on the vote turned out to be a handful of councillors who had previously expressed their support for keeping the lanes on Jarvis.
Whether you want to call it hypocrisy or, charitably, a sudden change in perspective, Councillors Josh Colle, Ana Bailão and Michelle Berardinetti voted against the spirit of statements they’ve made privately and publicly to the citizens of Toronto.
Colle, the councillor for Ward 15 in Eglinton-Lawrence, sent emails to at least two constituents in the summer of 2011 indicating that he would vote against spending money to remove bike lanes on Jarvis. “The City of Toronto currently faces a projected deficit of over $700 million dollars and will have many tough decisions to make in the coming year,” he wrote. “In light of this, I do not believe it would be an appropriate use of limited City resources to eliminate bike lanes on Jarvis Street.”
Colle has now voted to remove the bike lanes twice.
Berardinetti, who campaigned on an anti-bike lane platform in her Scarborough ward, seemed to have a change of heart regarding cycling earlier this year. In a Twitter exchange with Councillor John Parker and local activist Dave Meslin in March, Berardinetti told Meslin that she was in favour of revisiting the Jarvis issue to avoid spending needless money removing infrastructure. “Direct the funds to transit. Allow the councillor to consult. Keep lanes,” she wrote.
Berardinetti yesterday voted against both keeping the lanes and allowing public consultation.
And then there’s Councillor Ana Bailão, presiding over a chunk of downtown in Ward 18 – Davenport. She voted against removing the lanes last summer and later told a member of Cycle Toronto that the “decision to remove the Jarvis Street bike lanes was premature and a significant step backwards for safe cycling in the City of Toronto.” She also noted that she had “significant concerns that the removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes have hindered the local Councillor’s on-going beautification efforts to improve the Jarvis streetscape.”
She threw all that out the window when she voted to revert Jarvis Street to a five-lane roadway.
Had these three councillors stuck to past statements, the Jarvis lanes would have very likely been retained on a vote of 22-21 and the city would have saved about $280,000 in public funds that’ll now go toward an infrastructure project neither the local councillor or the community has deemed as necessary or important.
Councillors Berardinetti, Colle and Bailão owe us an explanation.
CLARIFICATION: This post previously indicated that Councillor Josh Colle voted against consultation on the Jarvis bike lanes. While the councillor did vote to immediately remove the lanes, he did also support a defeated motion from Councillor Raymond Cho that would have called for public consultation on the “future configuration of Jarvis Street.”
Toronto council scorecard: Jarvis bike lanes