Coming to a town near you

Coming to a town near you, more intrusive municipal oversight. Because big government isn’t big or pervasive enough. Margaret Wente has noticed too.

Once upon a time, I used to think that the job of city government was to fix the potholes, police the streets, clear the snow and pick up the garbage. How wrong I was!

So did we! But that isn’t enough to keep the red tape machines and their meddling self righteous fingers busy.

I live in Toronto – the only city in the world where grown-ups can’t be trusted to choose their own lunch from a street vendor. …

First, the city councillors decided to purchase a fleet of carts and lease them back to the vendors. When the cost ($700,000) proved too prohibitive, they specified an official city-approved cart, which vendors are required to buy for as much as $28,000, not including licences and location fees. (Why does a food cart cost more than a car?)

Would-be vendors were required to submit their food plans, with samples. All submissions were graded on a long list of criteria, including food safety, nutrition, use of local food, business plan, ethnic diversity and home-cooked taste (even though all the food must be produced in commercial kitchens). A taste test was conducted by a four-chef judging panel. Hot dogs and sausages were strictly forbidden, because the city is only interested in “healthy options.”

“I have a problem with hot dogs from a health point of view and from a diversity point of view,” declared John Filion, who chairs the board of health. He’s the city councillor who’s in charge of this bold initiative.

Healthy options, because they know what’s good for us. Smoking and drinking (bottled water) aren’t enough. Once those  have been over controlled, well, food is next on the list of vices. Business unfriendly? You bet.

In the end, only eight plucky contestants made the grade. Many others were defeated by the high costs of entry and the red tape. For example, the owner of the cart must be on site at least 70 per cent of the time … and any change of menu must be preapproved by the medical officer of health. Absent from the new offerings are such staples as hot pretzels, falafel and the peameal bacon sandwich – Hogtown’s signature delicacy.

Kinda hard to have both ethnic diversity AND use of local food.

In New York, the customers are allowed to judge the street food for themselves. Naturally, that would never do in Toronto, a city run by control freaks who think street food should be about social justice and nutrition. Don’t get me started on the bottled water. It’s been banned from city premises because it’s anti-environmental. From now on, thirsty citizens will just have to drink Coke.

There is an upside, though. Now that the street-food issue is resolved, our elected officials can turn their attention to the other pressing issues of the day – such as the search for a recyclable coffee-cup lid. The economy is in the sewer and the city’s costs are soaring, but those things will have to wait. The most urgent task at hand is to enforce virtue among the populace.

Yep, big brother knows what’s good for us, even if we don’t, but they had better not solve that coffee lid problem by banning Tim Horton’s or they will have a real revolt on their hands.

Related: Message to mayors – Step Aside

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