Layton was all about jacking up T.O. taxes
NDP Leader Jack Layton speaks at a rally at Fort Edmonton Park in Edmonton on April 27 2011. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - When NDP Leader Jack Layton left Toronto City Hall for greener federal pastures in the spring of 2003, I bid good riddance (to bad rubbish).
I figured he couldn't do much damage being the head of a moribund third party. I could be eating my words on Monday night.
Not that Bicycle Jack, or the Patron Saint of the Environment or Just Jack the Smog Saviour - the names I gave him depending on what cause of the day he was pushing - ever made life dull.
Nevertheless I quickly learned that whenever he rolled up the sleeves of his buttoned-down shirts in some city committee or in council - his trademark gesture to show he was the Everyman - Layton was about to make some pronouncement that would jack up our taxes.
Whatever pet cause he was zealously promoting - the environment, the homeless or himself - money was no object to this relentless spender.
The Patron Saint of Many Causes had no problem, either, making a shameless spectacle of the very people he purported to be championing.
I will never forget that day in the fall of 1998 when - as 450 of his homeless friends and assorted poverty pimps packed the council chambers - he convinced councillors to declare homelessness a "national disaster" in Toronto along the lines of an ice storm or tsunami.
But Layton achieved what he intended. He promoted himself as the council point person on homelessness and manipulated then mayor Mel Lastman into pouring millions and millions of dollars into emergency homeless shelters, grants and what I called not-so-affordable housing.
His homeless schemes didn't stop there.
In June of 2000, he tried to convince councillors the city should erect "creative" emergency shelters - trailers, tents and mobile homes - to allow the homeless to live in downtown parks all summer.
Less than a year later, he did manage to persuade a majority of councillors to proceed with proposals for pre-fab housing (at $50,000 to $100,000 per home) to accommodate the squatters living in Tent City on a waterfront piece of property. Those squatters were finally evicted a few months later, much to Layton's chagrin.
It should come as no surprise that his hypocrisy extended to his environmental crusade as well.
Despite repeatedly painting himself as a Smog Saviour, Layton was found to be one of the highest users of the city's fleet of limos.
When I questioned Bicycle Jack about it in 2001, he told me 20% of the 541 rides he used were to "deliver stuff quickly and efficiently" to constituents and the rest were to get to the airport or to a ward meeting.
His outdid himself, however, in October of 2000 when he convinced his NDP pals on council to grandstand for eight long days at council in an attempt to derail the $1-billion contract to ship Toronto's garbage to the abandoned Adams Mine site near Kirkland Lake, Ont.
The deal eventually fell through and we can thank Layton for spearheading the backup plan - that is, to send Toronto's trash using up to 200 trucks daily along Hwy. 401 to a Michigan landfill site, a far more costly and environmentally unfriendly deal which ended just last year.
Let's not forget Layton's partner in crime - wife Olivia Chow, now an NDP MP, who made some very unholy alliances while at City Hall, particularly with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) terrorists.
A fierce opponent of the revitalization of the island airport, Chow was there along with her islander friends protesting the day Porter Air took off for the first time.
So this folks is what Canadians can look forward to if the Patron Saint of Many Causes finds himself in a position of power, or heaven forbid, prime minister: Shameless theatrics, A Sky's the Limit attitude when it comes to spending on the environment and the downtrodden; A Unions Rule mentality and most of all Taxes, Taxes and more Taxes.
Let's not forget one other bonus - Olivia Chow snuggling up next to him at 24 Sussex.