Our daily dread

Canadians are so nice, goes the myth, so courteous. Indeed, there are regular occasions when we do act in thoughtful ways. If you follow someone into a mall or through a workplace doorway, chances are that they held the door so it did not swing shut in your face. I’m of an age now where young people regularly offer me their seat on the subway. I always decline. I’m not over the hill yet, but their kindness is welcome.

However, put those same gracious Canadians behind the wheel and instantly they become irate road warriors. Pedestrians don’t get the right of way, horn honking replaces Christmas carols and road rage runs rampant. In Budapest, where we visited recently, it’s a different world. There’s a tangled intersection on the Buda side of the Chain Bridge where multiple roads and a tram line intertwine. There are no traffic lights. Everyone takes their turn, and it works smoothly. On other roads in Hungary, whenever you let a driver move ahead of you into your lane, once in place they switch on their hazard lights for a couple of blinks to say thank you. All I see in Toronto is the finger.

Toronto Mayor John Tory is threatening to raise property taxes to increase revenue. But there are other means:  first, a congestion fee like the one that has worked in central London would not only fill the till but also reduce downtown traffic that often comes to a standstill. Second, charge tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway. The previous provincial government rejected the idea; the current regime may be more amenable.

And, third, yes, hike property taxes, too. In his memoir, The Duke of Kent, the Hon. Darcy McKeough, former Ontario Treasurer, writes that the tax rate on his home in Chatham is double the tax rate on his condo in Toronto. His message to Toronto: “Quit bitching, stop asking Queen’s Park for more money, and bring your property tax rates up to the same level as other municipalities.” Take all three steps and road rage dwindles, the pace quickens, and there’s money to spend on important projects.

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