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May 28, 2008

Fact: Toronto sucks

There is very little I could possibly say about this that it doesn't say itself.

Toronto's plan to cook up more diverse street food won't be happening this summer as promised, though it was still being touted on the city's website yesterday.

In what looks like a red-tape mess, the latest idea calls for 13 street vendors, mostly downtown, to start selling their non-hot-dog snacks next spring.

It would be part of a pilot project lasting five long years so that vendors who invest in specialized carts can recoup their costs.
Last summer, when Health Minister George Smitherman amended provincial law to allow for a wider variety of foods to be sold on the street, Toronto decided to hold off on opening up the menu until a firm plan was in place.

Initially, the city thought of borrowing $700,000 to buy 35 carts that it would lease out at $450 a month, as a way to keep control and block "cart conglomerates" from emerging.

Given the optics of a cash-poor city spending money on that project, Mayor David Miller shut down the proposal.

The latest idea – dubbed Toronto à la Cart – would get going next April with 13 vendors.

Most pilots last only two years, not five, officials concede, but they promise an evaluation after a year that could result in changes or expansion.

Or the city "could terminate it earlier, if it was a fiasco," said the city's economic partnership adviser, George Wheeler.

The proposal, to be debated at executive committee next Tuesday, would involve leasing or buying carts from Brantford-based Crown Verity, the sole bidder on a tender the city put out this spring. Its partner, Equilease, a leasing brokerage company, would find financing for vendors if needed.

Interested vendors would be required to purchase or lease specific carts from Crown Verity. A non-refrigerated cart would cost $26,100; one with refrigeration runs $32,300.

Lease rates over five years would be $7,056 and $8,796 per year, respectively, at a minimum interest rate of 12.5 per cent. That rate would be available to candidates with food business experience and above-average credit. Others would face a higher rate, negotiated case by case.

Vendors would be selected based on their business plan and the type, diversity and quality of the food, its nutritional content and use of local food where appropriate.

An expert panel will sample the items to be sold and select the winning vendors. They include John Higgins of George Brown College's hospitality program and Marney Levitt of Whole Foods

That is utterly breathtaking. Everything is wrong with this situation, and it's more than a new mayor could fix. Toronto, like Nepal, needs to effect wholesale democratic reform, starting with drastically shrinking its government to the point that nobody has the time to even try to manage things that inherently manage themselves. Licence the vendors, lease out the locations and deploy enough health inspectors to keep everyone safe--that's it; that's all. Jesus effing Christ!

Posted by Chris Selley at May 28, 2008 10:13 PM

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I am simply appalled at your indifference to the potential emergence of "cart conglomerates". My God -- you really want to live in a city with cart conglomerates? CART CONGLOMERATES!!!

Posted by: Matt at May 29, 2008 11:29 AM

You're right. This is ridiculous. Let the people decide which street foods are worth paying for. It seems ridiculous that some can't be out there selling crepes or samosas or heck, even a slice of pizza this summer.

Posted by: Bailey at May 29, 2008 10:34 PM

Well said, Chris. This is real-life satire, worthy of a hypothetical Kafka in a light mood.

Posted by: Dr.Dawg at June 3, 2008 10:23 AM

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