Hope Always Courts Disappointment

October 29, 2014

No question.

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Hope is better than fear. Unfortunately, fear has a much more direct route into our hardwiring and manifests itself more readily than hope.

I think about this in the post-election haze, from a conversation I had with Ward 2 candidate Andray Domise during the height of his campaign run. He told me that he was regularly meeting residents who were too afraid to hope. They had been disappointed too many times to simply put it back out there again. hopeandfearSure, hope is better than fear but hope hurts when it crashes against the rocks of reality.

(And certainly judging by the Ward 2 election results again this time, fear of hope was entirely justified by the voters.)

Yet, there they were, candidates of all political stripes, running on little more than hope. Hope, good intentions, public service. Many of them I know quit their jobs or took a leave of absence in order to give if it a shot. It would be very easy for most of them to look at how it all played out, how incumbency can be a deadweight that’s impossible to lift and toss aside.

Aside from an impressive increase in voter turnout, there was very little to show for their efforts.

I mean, fuck. Here I am, from largely on the sidelines, and the only way I can describe my reaction to the numbers as they rolled in is crushing… crushed? … crushing…

My easy analysis of what transpired this campaign is that it was all about the mayor. blindersMost voters had one thing and one thing only on their mind when they cast their ballot. The mayor’s race. Everything else was tickety-boo. At the councillor level, name recognition won the day, and won the day by a wide margin in many cases.

This wasn’t about fear versus hope. This was all about making a very practical decision. The baby was cuddled close as the bathwater got tossed.

Such rudimentary rationalization hardly quiets the disappointment, mind you, but hopefully (there’s that word again), it helps ease us softly toward the reality of the situation we’re facing at City Hall. A lot changed or very little did. It’s too early to tell.

So we should take a step back and best we can lick our wounds. Recoup all that genuine energy and maybe be still for a bit. Hope is better than fear. It’s just a whole lot harder to maintain.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke will be going quiet for a few weeks, contemplating our collective navel and trying to think about anything and everything other than municipal politics. Like say, elephants. We’re going to think about elephants and listen to the canary sing.

rest

signing offly submitted by Cityslikr


Post Mortem Mea Culpa

October 28, 2014

John Tory will be the next mayor of Toronto. It says something about the rest of the results from yesterday’s municipal election that, this morning, on the day after, I’m largely ambivalent about our new mayor-elect.rosecolouredglasses

Throughout the campaign people I respect told me John Tory would be just fine. Give him a chance, they said. Let him find his sea legs and see what he can do before passing judgement.

So be it.

This morning I’ll choose to believe the John Tory we’ll see emerge as mayor of Toronto will be the John Tory his supporters told us he’d be. Sensible and a consensus builder. Moderate. A healer of our self-inflicted civic wounds.

I say that without a hint of sarcasm or mockery. If John Tory proves to be any of those things, Toronto will be better for it.

I am far less sanguine about the new shape of city council. And by ‘new shape’ I mean the exact opposite, of course. whitelayercakeIf anything, city council got whiter and maler, suggesting that the racist and sexist outbursts we witnessed throughout the campaign and summed up perfectly this week in one cartoon of Olivia Chow by the Toronto Sun’s Andy Donato, weren’t really outliers so much as a reflection of systemic attitudes that belie our municipal motto of Diversity, blah, blah, blah. Electing a white guy mayor was merely the strawberry slice on top of our white bread, penis shaped, white layer cake council we settled on, answering in the affirmative (at least on the political level) Colin Marshall asked in The Guardian yesterday, Has Toronto’s great multicultural project failed?

A resounding number of terrible, terrible, terrible incumbents were re-elected last night with no refreshing or inspiring newcomers figuring into the mix. changeplacesIt’s as if the voters of this city believed that all the trouble and turmoil we went through over the past 4 years could be exorcised simply by switching out mayors. Nobody else was held responsible for the bad decisions that were made. The circus, it was deemed, only had one ringleader, one two-headed ringleader. Remove one of those heads and order would be restored.

Wishful thinking, I think. Pitched battles, I imagine, are already being dreamed up over the fate of rapid transit throughout Scarborough, the island airport expansion, the 2015 budget. Ohhh, the 2015 budget. While the discourse should become more civil around the council chambers, expect little elevation in content, judgment or common sense. I fear we’ve entrenched parochialism not diminished it.meaculpa1

In case you think I’m sitting here, pointing fingers at others, assigning blame in that direction, that is not my intention. Perhaps the most egregious bit of wishful thinking over the past 4 years was perpetrated by people like me. People who thought that simply by highlighting and talking and writing about the bad behaviour and decisions being done by our local representatives, a wave of change would be fomented. The need for it would simply be self-evident. I mistakenly assumed the clamour for change at the mayoral level would permeate down through the council ranks and sweep out a few of the worst offenders.

You’d think by now I’d be aware enough to know that change doesn’t happen easily. When it comes, if it comes, it comes reluctantly, grudgingly, obstinately. Change is an active not passive verb.

So to imagine that voters would simply be in the mood to throw the bums out with very little prodding was beyond hopeful. It was beyond magical subways for free thinking. duginWe had a record turnout at the polls this time out and, aside from at the mayoral level, the status quo was overwhelmingly endorsed. We want to change that? There’s no waiting until 2018. It’s a conversation that happens today, tomorrow. (OK. Maybe in a couple weeks after everybody catches their collective breath.)

How many times have we heard the complaint around these parts, Where is our Nenshi? To use the parlance of our transit debates, Nenshis don’t sprout up out of nowhere from magic beans. The ground has to be fertile from many hands working the soil. If we learn no other lesson from this municipal election of ours, it should be the change we want will never be delivered from the top down with only some urging by us from the sidelines. It’s only going to happen bottom up.

Actually, there’s one more thing.changeishard

Probably the most striking visual for me from last night’s post-election coverage was Rob Ford’s speech in which he warned us that the Ford’s ‘never, ever, ever give up’. I think that may be the most truthful thing I’ve ever heard the man say. The status quo is relentless. The forces of white privilege, racism and exclusion are relentless. The apple cart is heavier than it looks and isn’t flipped with a simple gesture. We have to push back, and push back hard.

2018 doesn’t start in 2018. It starts now. Rob Ford has warned us. This time we better be ready.

unsagely submitted by Cityslikr


Election Day 2014

October 27, 2014

It’s one minute into Election Day, folks, and already my mind fills with dark thoughts. witchinghourAll those what might-of-beens mingling with the open sores of fearful speculation. What if this happens? What if things break that way? No matter how disengaged the good people of Ward 7 York West are, Giorgio Mammoliti can’t possibly be re-elected, can he? Not this time. Not again.

I push such ruminations back to the back, to that little corner of my consciousness called the Den of Denial. Uh-uh. No way. Can’t happen.

Look, given the events that transpired on Election Day 2010, things could be looking much, much bleaker for us as a city. madeitthroughWe are a little worse for wear, no argument there. Is Toronto a better place to live, work, get around, get ahead than it was 4 years ago? Probably not for the majority of residents. I think it safe to say that, on the whole, we are paying more and getting less.

Still, the outgoing administration’s worst instincts were thwarted and fended off. Governance ground forward not to a halt. City Hall remains standing despite some attempts to crater it.

I’m not one for making bold predictions but I do believe, despite all the nagging doubts and bitter-esque disappointment that I regularly do battle with at this time of the day, tomorrow today’s results will be better than those we received 4 years ago. iceitThat is to say, it could be bad but it won’t be as bad. We should expect at least some perceptible improvement in how City Hall goes about its business.

I think. I hope.

And on this one day, for the next 23 hours and, I don’t know, 55 minutes or so, I’m going to believe that everyone who dedicated the time and effort running for office, and those who put in their time and effort and dollars in helping to elect these people to office, and those covering and reporting and commenting on all the races, all who’ve done so did so for all the right reasons. They truly believed that they were working to help make Toronto a better place for every resident choosing to call it home. letsdothis1Despite the ugliness and outbursts of anti-social behaviour during this torturously long campaign, most of us believed we were contributing to a bigger cause than our own insignificantly small circle of self-interest.

On this, Election Day 2014, we’re all in it together.

So get out and vote if you haven’t already. And if you’ve got some spare time, a few hours from 10am-8pm, get out and help your candidate get elected. Because democracy just starts with a vote. When all the numbers are tabulated and winners declared, the real work begins.

kumbayahly submitted by Cityslikr


Our Mayoral Endorsement

October 24, 2014

It just shouldn’t be this difficult writing an endorsement.hardclimb

After such a tumultuous 4 years at City Hall, the melodrama, the outright assault on civility and common sense, the ripped from the crime fiction pages, you’d think choosing an alternative would be easy. The bar has been set so incredibly low. How couldn’t you find a candidate to be enthusiastic about?

Yet. Here we are.

Doug Ford is a non-starter. I hardly need to explain that statement, right? The only positive aspect I can say about the prospect of a Doug Ford mayoralty is that it would be a lonely one for him. He’d be an isolated figure from the outset, nothing more than an irritable object to be worked around. But that’s not going to be a problem because Doug Ford isn’t going to be mayor of this city. Despite what many supporters of John Tory want you to believe as you go to cast your ballot.

John Tory’s entire pitch, the all-in roll of his dice this second time around running for mayor is that only he can defeat Rob Doug Ford. That’s it. himormeOnce he was able to push past Olivia Chow in the polls during the summer, all he set out to do was convince enough middle-ground, centrist voters that the only thing that mattered this election was the defeat of a Ford and the only one who could do that was John Tory.

John Tory the candidate trotted out John Tory the civic-minded patron as proof of his progressive bona fides. Remember the John Tory who talked about genuine revenue tools as the only way to build transit? Remember CivicAction John Tory’s support of diversity and inclusion? Vote John Tory!

The fact John Tory the candidate never did more than talk about progressive issues didn’t seem to phase those who gravitated into his camp. emptypromiseAs our friend MookieG77 pointed out over on Twitter, John Tory has committed $0 to social programs in his campaign platform. Instead he’s emphasized the need to find more efficiencies, weed out more waste and played up the role of the private sector and tapping the senior levels of government for more money as ways of paying for our services and programs.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s been the Ford mantra for the last 4 years.

Factor in Tory’s only less laughable than the Fords’ transit plans, his SmartTrack, a smartly designed graphic with fundamental construction flaws and purely magical funding mechanism, and essentially what’s on offer is a smiley, functional happy face on the Ford agenda. An agenda John Tory openly supported until Rob Ford’s personal demons politically neutered him. An agenda John Tory in no way repudiated during this campaign.

Arguably the most interesting candidacy was that of former city councillor and budget chief, David Soknacki. A wonk’s dream, it pitched itself on the notion of substance of style. If the politics of personality got us into this mess, maybe an issues oriented campaign could get us out.policy

Platform ideas flowed freely over the course of the 7 months Soknacki was in the race, many of them good, almost all of them worthy of discussion. He was unafraid to tackle controversial subjects like the ever-expanding police budget and unabashedly told us that if we wanted things, we had to figure out realistic ways to pay for them. He injected a passion for reason and rationality into the campaign.

The Soknacki team either miscalculated the electorate’s desire for serious discourse or, perhaps, David Soknacki wasn’t the right candidate to capture the public’s imagination. Too wonky? Too nerdy? Certainly the direction the campaign’s taken suggests the problem wasn’t the messenger but the message itself.

Ari Goldkind, a newcomer on the political scene, certainly tried to push the idea of an issues campaign. newsherrifA criminal lawyer by trade, he was more dynamic a candidate than Soknacki but he ran into a very familiar wall anyone faces when they’re coming at it from the outside. Who are you and why should we give you an opportunity to speak? He got himself into a few debates, established some credibility, getting himself on the wrong side of Doug Ford in the process, but never caught enough of the popular imagination to make himself a serious contender in the wider public’s eyes.

Goldkind did shape a platform that most closely aligned with my politics. The irony here though is, his style ultimately trumped his substance for me. As I told him in our couple conversations we had just after he got into the race, I wasn’t looking for a white knight to swoop in and solve our civic crisis. I’ve been at this, following municipal politics closely for nearly 5 years now, and I feel unqualified to run for mayor. It takes a lot more than good ideas and good will to generate good governance although it’s a pretty good start.

If Ari Goldkind sticks around for the next 4 years, reaches out and begins working with and contributing to the wider civic-minded group that’s emerged since 2010, I’d say he’s laid out an intriguing and extensive platform for another run at the mayor’s job in 2018.

endorsement2Which leaves me with Olivia Chow.

I have complete faith in the fact Chow would make a much better mayor than she has a candidate. Unlike either of her two main opponents, she actually has a history of collaboration with colleagues as an elected official. Always smoothly? No, but that’s a little unreasonable to expect from someone who’s served in public office for 30 years or so.

When Chow finally got around to playing to her strengths as a politician (more on that in a second), she brought the issues that really sit at the heart of building a better city to the fore. Equality, fairness, opportunity, inclusion. This is Olivia Chow’s bread and butter. After 4 years of the Ford administration’s assault on all those things, out of the gate she should’ve been trumpeting them, establishing them as the go-to themes of this election.

Why that didn’t happen is one of the reasons I hesitate to endorse Olivia. It could be seen as endorsing her terrible, terrible campaign. Those in charge of it should never be allowed to run a campaign again. Olivia’s strengths were downplayed for fear of attacks from her opponents. The campaign emphasized her fiscal “common sense” and held back on the notion of investment in our neighbourhoods, communities and city. Rather than humming and hawing about property tax increases ‘around or about the rate of inflation’, Olivia should’ve boldly stated she’d do whatever was necessary to make sure this city functioned well and functioned fairly.smash

If we’ve learned nothing else from this campaign, it should be this. Unless you’re white and male, never run a campaign as if you’re a frontrunner. Clearly you’re not.

My other brief hesitation is that, whatever happens on Monday, we need to have a long, hard discussion about who determines who is a progressive candidate around here. However we’ve been doing it for the past two elections has not worked out. The blame for that I place squarely on the political party machines that are in play in the background and on the sidelines at the municipal level.

We need to bust these fucking things up. They serve one thing and one thing only, the party. Having watched this campaign closely, I feel confident in stating that if city council fails to shift in a progressive direction, it will be because political parties put their interests first. A slew of interesting and exciting candidates, politically unaffiliated many of them, cropped up all over the city and many were left to their own devices while parties put their resources toward their own and other parties put their resources to stopping their opponents from being elected.

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So I endorse Olivia Chow for mayor, in spite of her political affiliation not because of it.

I endorse Olivia Chow because she reflects the kind of city I want to live in and be a part of. I endorse Olivia Chow because she represents our best ideals. An immigrant to this country as a young woman, growing up, if not poor, at least scrambling to get by, who took hold of the opportunities offered to her. I endorse Olivia Chow because she then dedicated her life to public service, a public service dedicated to helping others who faced similar obstacles she had along the way, a public service dedicated to fighting for those things that make us better, make our city better. Equality, fairness, opportunity, inclusion.

That’s why I endorse Olivia Chow for mayor of Toronto.

guardedly submitted by Cityslikr


The Tory Story

October 23, 2014

It has come to my attention from a couple trusted sources that maybe, just maybe, I’ve been irrationally hostile to the whole concept of John Tory for Mayor. irrationalSo blind I am to the possibility that a Tory mayoralty wouldn’t be all that bad that my pushback is too over the top, aggressive, emphatic and resolute in rejecting the positives. Missing the forest for the trees, and all that. Come on. Really? Mayor Doug Ford?

It’s a fair accusation to make. In style and appearance, in putting our best face forward, yes, John Tory is no Rob or Doug Ford. After 4 years of regular embarrassment and some 1500 days or so of What The Fuckiness?, electing John Tory would announce for all that world to see that Toronto is once more back to taking itself seriously. The man walks upright. He speaks as if he might actually be thinking about what he’s saying. His suit fits.

I even over-stepped the other day, demanding someone name a significant policy difference between John Tory’s platform and that of his rival, Doug Ford. There is one very noteworthy distinction in terms of policy between the two men. The Land Transfer Tax. Ford thinks it can be gradually done away with, no problem. deepbreath1Never mind the $300 million annual revenue it brings in. Done and done.

Full marks to John Tory. This week he stood before a very anti-LTT, real estate crowd and told them he wasn’t going to tell them what they wanted to hear. The city needs the revenue from the LTT. The LTT has not hindered home sales. The LTT would remain in place if John Tory was elected mayor.

But after that? In all honesty? I strain to come up with much daylight at all between John Tory and Doug Ford when it comes to stuff of substance. (And enlighten me, fill up the comments section of where I’m wrong in this.) John Tory does better copy than Doug Ford. He sounds better telling us he cares about things. Tory’s made a lifetime of personal dedication in the private sector to a multitude of causes throughout the city. His awards and accolades have been earned not purchased.

This isn’t, however, about merit badges for volunteer service. texaschainsawmassacreThis is about politics and policy, about ideas to enhance the lives of every resident in this city, about delivering opportunity to everyone regardless of where they live or work. This is about standing up and giving an honest assessment about where the city is now and how it needs to proceed forward.

As a candidate, John Tory has failed miserably on that account.

Like Doug Ford, John Tory sees Toronto having a spending problem not a revenue problem. Despite advice to the contrary from the city CEO, Joe Pennachetti, or counter-evidence from municipal governance experts like Enid Slack, Tory insists we just need to tighten our belts, root out all those ‘inefficiencies’ at City Hall and we’ll have all the money we need. Tory is on record saying “low tax increases, at or below inflation, impose spending discipline on governments.”makeitupasyougoalon

Actually, low property tax increases, at or below the rate of inflation, impose service and programs cuts or hikes in user fees. At best, they ensure no expansion of those service or programs. It’s a self-induced zero sum game where we have to unnecessarily choose between our priorities. A game we’ve been playing for the last 4 years during the Ford administration.

John Tory is offering nothing different.

His SmartTrack transit plan is only slightly less implausible than the Subways! Subways! Subways! mantra of the Fords, and that’s a mighty low bar to clear. SmartTrack is full of questionable construction details and a financing gimmick that is untested anywhere in the world at the level he’s pitching. His assurances that he will get it done by sheer force of will are as empty and meaningless as the Fords’ guarantee about building subways.handthekeyback

The endorsements now flooding in for John Tory from most of our mainstream newspapers and media want us to believe that we’d be voting for CivicAction John Tory, John Tory the magnanimous private sector benefactor. There’s little mention of Tory’s political track record. Not so much his career as a Progressive Conservative operative and elected official, but his time spent as a well-placed backroom figure in the post-amalgamated Toronto Mel Lastman administration.

Ahhh, Mel Lastman. Only slightly less eye-rollingly embarrassing in light of Rob Ford. Still. Who the hell’s the WHO? African cannibals. MFP. The Sheppard subway. 1st term guaranteed property tax freeze, and here we are. John Tory was close to all of that. In 2003, he wanted us to ignore that. We didn’t. In 2014, we seem ready to let by-gones be by-gones.

What’s changed? Rob and Doug Ford, you’ll tell us. Rob and Doug Ford.

If the endorsements are any indication, what we want as a city is just a little bit of peace and quiet, a break from all the rancour and partisan divide that’s ground the city to a halt over the past 4 years. The only candidate who can do that, it seems, is John Tory, our great white establishment hope. sternheadmasterToronto needs a nice big fatherly hug. We need some civic soothing.

Frankly, that’s like applying make up to cover the bruising we’ve taken from the Ford administration – an administration John Tory supported until it became untenable to do so. Let’s all pretend like it didn’t happen, like Rob and Doug Ford were mere anomalies, sprung out of nowhere for no reason whatsoever. That they didn’t represent actual grievances and political, social isolation that existed well before they cynically tapped into for their own hubristic political gain.

In his article yesterday on what a possible John Tory mayoralty might look like, Edward Keenan suggested that Tory’s ‘laudable charitable work’ could be seen not so much as attempts to change a system that doesn’t include everyone but “helping people network their way into the system.” captainstubingLadies? Take up golf, am I right?

John Tory isn’t a candidate for change. His campaign has been pretty much Steady As She Goes, Only Quieter and Less Scandal-filled. More Captain Stubing than Francesco Schettino. Everything’ll be fine once we get rid of the Fords.

The funny thing is, at the council level races, the push for change is popping up all over the place. There are exciting candidates throughout much of the city. In Ward 2 alone, the Ford petty fiefdom, I estimate 3 strong candidates challenging Rob Ford, one of whom, Andray Domise, is knocking on the door of knocking off the mayor. If that comes to pass, it would be a more significant result than whatever happens in the mayor’s race.

John Tory is yesterday’s man. He represents the values of the old status quo. knowaguyA top down leadership paradigm based almost entirely on who you know, connecting inward not outward.

The John Tory campaign message has little to do with where we want to go as a city. It’s all about re-establishing order. Order under the (fingers crossed!) beneficent gaze of he who knows some people. He’ll make a couple phone calls, get some stuff done. Just keep your voices down, if you don’t mind. It’s been very loud around here for too long.

– cathartically submitted by Cityslikr


Scarborough Subway Debate, Part ??

October 22, 2014

In an election that has boiled down to essentially restoring order back at City Hall, a return to civility and decorum, one city united, this explosive deuce got dropped into the proceedings. notagain1“Fate of Sheppard East LRT depends on results of city election” goes the headline of Mike Adler’s article in the York Guardian. Hey Toronto. Enjoy the quiet while it lasts because Scarborough subway, Part 3 is coming soon to a public debate near you.

While other incumbent councillors have been busy seeking re-election for the past few months, it seems the outgoing Deputy Mayor, Norm Kelly, has been hard at it concocting a new way to wreak havoc on the city’s already havoc wreaked transit planning.

“The plot against the LRT line is being quietly led by Norm Kelly,” Adler writes, “Toronto’s deputy mayor, who hasn’t talked to Tory about his plans.”

“We’ve not had a tete-a-tete on this matter,” Kelly said in an interview, suggesting it may not matter if Tory, as mayor, chooses to fight for the LRT line or another planned for Finch Avenue West.

“The last chat I had with John, I tried to get across to him the nature of political life at Toronto council,” where members aren’t bound by caucus discipline, and a mayor’s position on issues “will be tested just like that of any other member,” Kelly said.

Talk about setting the agenda. I thought that was the mayor’s job? Kill the Sheppard LRT or your mandate gets it.

Now, you might chalk this up as little more than the babbling of a city councillor with too much time on his hands and too much time spent in public office doing a whole lot of nothing but it would seem Kelly’s not alone in his thinking. hatchingaplanA couple more Scarborough incumbents spoke out in favour of stopping the LRT as well as the new M.P.P. in the area, Soo Wong.

“As your M.P.P. I have listened to the community, and heard that the vast majority of you want a subway, and that is what I will continue to work for,” Wong told a crowd during last spring’s provincial election.

The provincial Transportation Minister, Stephen Del Duca, certainly didn’t rule out the possibility in a conversation this morning with Metro Morning’s host, Matt Galloway. When asked about the government’s plan on proceeding with the LRT along Sheppard Avenue, Del Duca said:

Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words…

Pressed further by Galloway on his government’s support of the Sheppard LRT, the minister continued filling the space with words.

Well the bottom line is that we ran on an election platform, of course, throughout May and June, and we passed a budget, and there are a number of public transit projects for Toronto and elsewhere that were contained including the Scarborough subway… the Sheppard LRT is in our plan and it’s the mandate we were given by the people of Ontario, and my focus is on going forward with implementation.

Now, a whole lot of shit jumped out at me from that paragraph.readbetweenthelines

According to the minister, the Scarborough subway was included in the recent budget. If so, does that mean the Master Agreement with Metrolinx has been altered to make official the change from the planned LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth line into Scarborough to a subway? I certainly heard no news about that.

And while the minister claims the people of Ontario gave the Liberal government a mandate to proceed with the Sheppard LRT, the M.P.P. in the area certainly doesn’t seem to see it that way. Soo Wong, as you might remember from a few paragraphs ago, is committed to building a subway along Sheppard, mandate from the people of Ontario be damned.

But don’t get yourself too tied up in knots about it. The minister’s ‘focus is on going forward with implementation.’ Implementation of what, the LRT or the subway? He conveniently didn’t say.smarttrack

So once more, provincial politics and internal Liberal party machinations land smack dab in the middle of City Hall and threaten the progress of transit building in Toronto.

All this, of course, should renew questions being asked a few months back of John Tory’s decision not to include either the Sheppard or the Finch LRTs on his SmartTrack transit maps. “I want the LRTs to proceed,” Tory assured skeptics of his commitment to the LRT plan. “I will move them forward. I have no problem with them proceeding.”

Sounds… definitive, I guess, in a way that also leaves an opening for Tory having no problem if things change in a more subway-like direction. SmartTrack and the Scarborough subway will be his priorities. The Finch and Sheppard LRTs can fend for themselves.

“Things that are on track (e.g.: the Finch and Sheppard LRTs),” Team Tory spokes person, Amanda Galbraith assured us, “don’t need the full force of the mayor behind them to keep them on schedule.”falseassurances

Is that right, Ms. Galbraith? Norm Kelly seems to think otherwise. ‘A mayor’s position on issues’, as we quoted earlier, “will be tested…”

As stated here countless times before, the mess our transit plans have descended into is not to be blamed solely by the noisy know-nothingness of the Ford boys. There’s been too much internal party politics at play, too many other politicians cravenly pandering for votes and not standing firm with expert advice on the matter, for this to have been nothing more than a two-man shit show. John Tory’s expressed ambivalence has helped feed the beast, and now he faces a real dilemma if he’s elected the next mayor.

He’s vowed to proceed with the Scarborough subway because re-opening up the debate will only cause further delays. stopfightingNow there’s a new eastern front, demanding we re-open that debate on the Sheppard LRT. Again. How’s a self-proclaimed uniter and get along facilitator going to delicately balance those competing interests?

So if you’re hoping to see a more consensus minded city council in the next term, a kinder gentler dynamic, I’d suggest not holding your breath. Politicians of all stripes and from all levels in Scarborough are already pounding the drumbeat of discord over transit. Recent history has shown us we should expect no quiet resolution.

sick-and-tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


If You’re Not Even Going To Try…

October 21, 2014

Friends, living in Ward 11 York South-Weston, asked the other day what on earth they should do when it comes to voting for their local councillor. decisionsdecisions1As many of you probably know, Ward 11 is the domain of long time city councillor, Frances Nunziata. Frances Nunziata is easily one of the 5 worst city councillors at City Hall. She’s been ill-representing residents of the area for over a quarter of a century.

You might think with such an abysmal record and tradition, there’d be a long list of challengers out there, knocking on doors, talking to residents in the hopes of defeating Ms. Nunziata. You might think. But my friends’ dilemma was real. There is no viable candidate running to unseat her in Ward 11 York South-Weston. I checked. I watched.

Voting against Frances Nunziata in 2014 essentially comes down to, Well, candidate X couldn’t do any worse, right? holdyournoseandvoteAnd in the case of Dory Chaloub, I’m not sure I could say that with a whole lot of confidence.

How is that possible?

This takes me back to a theme that’s emerged most glaringly during this campaign. In amidst talk of infrastructure deficits, transit deficits, what’s lost in the shuffle is our democratic deficit. In places throughout the city, like Ward 11, residents have been so poorly served for so long by those they’ve elected to City Hall that they’ve simply given up hope for anything different. There’s no reason to hope for change because change never comes, and when and if it does, it rarely is change for the better.

One of the first questions council challengers hear at the door when they’re out canvassing is, How are you going to be any different? That’s a tough one to answer because “they” haven’t been any different for years, decades, a generation.

So who on earth is going to put their neck out there and risk what is almost certain defeat?

What is remarkable is how many people have actually done that this election year. holdyournoseandvote2There are a lot of eminently electable candidates running in areas of the city where good candidates are not the norm. Despite an uphill battle convincing constituents that it can be different, they’re out there, convincing them.

Not in Ward 11 this time out, unfortunately.

There is no good choice to be made for city councillor in Ward 11. If I lived there, I’d probably leave my council vote blank, decline it as best you could, as a form of protest.

I was surprised a little bit then when yesterday in the Toronto Star’s city council endorsement list, they gave a thumbs up to Dory Chaloub, reasoning, pretty much, that anyone would be better than Frances Nunziata. “A dose of vitality.” Obviously, they saw something in him that escaped our notice or (and I’m thinking this is much more likely) they weren’t paying that close of attention.decisionsdecisions

I base this assertion on some of the other endorsements the Star made including perhaps the most jaw-dropping. Denzil Minnan-Wong in Ward 34 Don Valley East. “A thinking conservative,” the Star called him. “An asset on council.”

It’s hard to believe the person who wrote those words watched the same last 4 years of city council as I did. Minnan-Wong was every bit as destructive, divisive and partisan as Frances Nunziata, arguably more so as he held much more policy sway than she did. (Think of him as last term’s John Tory to Nunziata’s Rob Ford.)

The big difference between them is Minnan-Wong’s actually got a viable, interesting challenger running against him in Mary Hynes. Yet he gets an endorsement and Frances Nunziata doesn’t. How?

This happened elsewhere throughout the city in the Star’s endorsements. endorsement1They give a ‘lukewarm’ endorsement to Michelle Berardinetti in Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest even though she’s got a very good challenger in Paul Bocking. In Ward 7 York West, they overlook Keegan Henry-Mathieu for the non-entity but last election’s runner-up Nick Di Nizio to replace Giorgio Mammoliti. With a series of open wards in Etobicoke, the Star just as often went with names as they did interesting choices. Andray Domise for sure. But Stephen Holyday and Justin Di Ciano?

And aside from showing up, it’s hard to see how Diane Hall will be a better representative for Ward 44 than Ron Moeser especially when there were at least a couple other strong candidates running there.

Look, we agreed with the Star more often than not in its endorsements. (They did pick Franco Ng over Jim Karygianis to replace Mike Del Grande in Ward 39). We certainly didn’t expect to agree across the board with them.holdyournoseandvote1

But I look at their endorsements and I’m not sure what kind of city council the editorial board of the Toronto Star wants. Cynically, my first guess is familiar faces. Aside from the worst of the worst of incumbents – your Nunziatas, your Mammolitis, your Crisantis, Fords Crawfords and Grimes – I’d argue the Star went with name recognition even in many of the races where they wanted the incumbents defeated, they picked 2nd place finishers in previous elections or other candidates who had some traction already.

“We’re not big fans of political dynasties but…” Stephen Holyday? Why?

It’s not that we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke ran an exhaustive survey of the council races. We did our diligence in many of them and where we didn’t feel we did? We didn’t endorse. It seemed unfair, uninformed and arbitrary. eenymeenyminymoWe wanted our choices to reflect our values of what we expected from city councillors not be little more than, I don’t know, lottery picks.

Trotting out a list of endorsements heavy with name recognition does little to battle the power of incumbency. It further beefs up the status quo and gives the impression of immutability. Change comes slowly if it comes at all.

It helps feed into the sense of hopelessness in places like Ward 11 where someone like Frances Nunziata reigns supreme.

disconcertingly submitted by Cityslikr


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