Post Mortem and Analysis

October 28, 2010

On the theory that there is much to talk about re: results of Toronto’s October 25 municipal election, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke has assembled its crack team of observers to dissect what happened, why and what’s next. This week, well, we just said. They’ll discuss the outcome of Monday’s election.

Cityslikr (heretoforth, CS): Well, the verdict’s in. Rob Ford won and everyone who didn’t vote for him is to blame. Especially hipster urbanites who never took him seriously and spent the entire campaign mocking, ridiculing and denigrating him and those supporting him. We didn’t get the anger.

Acaphlegmic (heretoforth ACA): Truer words have never been spoken. Which is why I’ve decided to go live amongst them.

CS: What? Live amongst whom?

ACA: There you go, getting all elitist. Whom! Amongst people who say ‘who’ not ‘whom’.

US (heretoforth US): But are still OK with the word ‘amongst’.

CS: What do you mean you’re going to live amongst them?

ACA: We can’t understand a people or empathize with them until we’ve seen through their eyes, walked a mile in their shoes. So I am venturing forth to live amongst them. To observe them. To understand what motivates them. To truly get under their skin in order to grasp their hopes, their dreams.

CS: So you’re like what? Margaret Mead of the inner suburbs?

US: Try Dian Fossey.

ACA: See? That’s just what everyone’s talking about. Mocking. Ridiculing. Denigration.

CS: But I don’t get what you mean, ‘live amongst them’. You going to hang out at the Jack Astors at Sherway Gardens?

ACA: There it is again. The mocking and ridicule. They don’t just shop, you know.

US: Yeah. They have to take regular breaks to fill up their Hummers and SUVs.

ACA: Mock away, my friend, mock away but you better start getting used to the fact that you’re in the minority now and start acting accordingly.

CS: Technically that’s not true. Ford did only get 47% of the vote which is why [turns to look directly into pretend camera] you should support RaBIT, the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto. To start making every vote count.

ACA: Cling to that little pipe dream all you want, buddy. Me? I’m going to where the real action is. Larry’s garage.

[inserting very prominent … here to signify a monstrously large pause in the conversation. A really big one.]

CS: Who’s Larry?

ACA: Larry. You met him Monday night here, drinking. We got to talking afterwards. His son, Larry Jr., just got married, and he and the wife are moving into the trailer that’s parked in the driveway. So, Larry-pere offered me the garage. You should see this place! It’s not a garage. It’s like a 2nd home. All decked out. Like this 140” plasma screen TV. Ping pong table. Bar. You name it. A sound system like you would not believe! 4 speakers, maybe 8. I don’t know. Speakers all over the place. I have not listened to that much Foghat since… I don’t know… June of ’77, maybe.

CS: And you’re going to live there. In Larry’s garage.

ACA: You betcha! Live there and observe. Eat the food they eat. Play the games they play. Learn what it is that’s important to them. Rob Ford knows. I should too.

US: So you’re embracing your inner mullet?

CS: (to US) And you? No, wait. Let me guess. You’re moving to Calgary.

US: Well, hey. They took a bold step into the future. We fearfully clung onto… some misguided view of the past. Where we paid no taxes and there was no traffic congestion.

CS: Which brings up something that struck me about the election. There’s all this talk about the downtown-suburb divide, the angry car driving, backyard BBQing Ford supporters versus us effete bike riding, latte loving urbanistas. Yet right here, smack dab in the downtown core, we had three open council seats, none of which were filled with what you’d call new, forward thinking, vibrant Nenshites. Ward 19 went stolidly status quo, replacing old time moderate lefty Pantalone with old time moderate lefty Mike Layton, ignoring a much more interesting progressive candidate in Karen Sun. Ward 18 went hardcore centrist Ana Bailão. Ward 17 and Cesar Palacio—

US: Palacio didn’t retire, did he?

CS: Didn’t he? How could you tell? They had this dynamite challenger, Jonah Schein, but went with their tried and true non-entity incumbent relic.

ACA: What’s your point? I gotta cut out soon. There’s some sort of… sporting event everybody’s getting together to watch at Larry’s.

CS: My point is, maybe this city’s not nearly the outpost of progressive politics we downtown elites would like to think it is. We live in this little bubble, dreaming of bike lanes, complete streets and being just like Portland when, in fact, we’re nothing more than another small minded North American burg concerned only with paying as little as we can and getting as much as we want. Rob Ford as our mayor shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s not the anomaly. David Miller is. He was the outlier. Ford’s just a regression to the mean.

US: Nice. Regression to the mean. Works on a couple levels, too.

ACA: Blah, blah, blah. You guys just don’t get it! There’s nothing to analyze here. Nothing to deconstruct. People are just pissed off. End of story. Rob Ford gets it because he’s pissed off too. Guaranteed!

CS: No, we get the whole anger bit. What we don’t understand is how Rob Ford is going to help in any way to deal with it. What in his platform will help lessen the anger.

ACA: Wh-wh-wh-what are you talking about? Rob Ford isn’t going to lessen the anger. The last thing he wants to do is assuage the resentment.

US: You might want to curtail the use of words like ‘assuage’ with Larry’s crowd.

ACA: Right. The last thing Rob Ford wants to do is the dumb word for assuage the resentment. Without resentment, he’s just another self-interested politician wrapping his own narrow concerns into a populist package.

US: Exactly. And what are we doing in the face of that? Caving in and taking the blame. We got out-politicked, no question. That’s what we should be examining now not shouldering the blame for the perceived grievances of 47% of the population who refused to engage in an honest discussion about the real problems this city has to deal with. We spent very little time here, writing about Ford’s appearance or operatically sized personal failings. We kept asking, over and over again, how his policies on public transit and cutting spending were going to help address the city’s problems. The response? Wrapping themselves in a cloak of victimhood like pouty teenagers. Stop picking on me. You don’t understand. The guy’s not even sworn into office yet and he’s already backtracking on one big doozey of a campaign nose stretcher about replacing streetcars with buses, claiming he never said that, his opponents said he did. Then he gives a babblingly incoherent radio interview and calls it a smear campaign, so he can withdraw further into the safe cocoon of sympathetic press coverage at the Toronto Sun, National Post and AM talk radio. We’ve seen this movie before, guys. Remember. George W. Bush.

CS: Yep. I think we can now officially stop looking south at the Americans and smugly laughing at who they elect into office. Or their eating habits. Did you see where Canada broke the record for sales of KFC’s Double Down?

ACA: (standing) Are we done here? I really don’t want to miss the first quarter… or half of the… thing.

CS: Godspeed to Larry’s garage. Godspeed us all to a Larry’s garage somewhere.

ACA: I’ll be in touch. Under an alias. Send you my serial exposé of the Ford movement.

CS: Stay safe, Serpico.

(Rolling up his collar, Acaphlegmic skulks from the office.)

CS: So, the battle for hearts and minds has just begun.

US: Fuck that. I’m traveling to the Continent. Rent out my house and follow in the steps of Byron, Shelley, Keats. They want elite? (Pulls out his pipe) I’ll give them elite.

CS: No, don’t. You’ve already set off the smoke detector once.

US: I disconnected it.

CS: It stinks. Don’t.

(Urban Sophisticat puffs away at the pipe, trying to get it to stay lit. Eventually a smoke detector goes off in the distance.)

CS: This is going to be a long 4 years.

submitted by Cityslikr


The Bloody Aftermath

October 26, 2010

Is it discombobulation I’m experiencing? I am distracted, to say the least.

Not wanting to get out of my bathrobe today, I made the short jaunt to the office wearing it. Hey. It’s unseasonably warm out there, my friends. And it’s not like it’s a long commute. A couple, 3 stops. And needless to say, I wasn’t alone, wearing morning flannel on the streetcar. At least I had the decency of wearing something under the robe, unlike someone sitting next to me, let’s call him ‘Brett Favre’, who absolutely refused to cross his legs.

My fears of what I would find (or not) at the office when I got here were well founded. Against my better judgment I’d left Acaphlegmic alone when I headed out to mourn and commiserate with the crowds reeling from last night’s election results. He’d rounded up a couple fellow Ford supporters, and they were cleaning out our bar stock while singing Eye of the Tiger and other Rocky theme songs. I should’ve kicked them out but had little fight left in me.

This a.m. not only was all the liquor gone but most of the office had been ransacked as well. Don’t get me wrong, I point no fingers at the character of Ford supporters. Acaphlegmic is not a stranger to petty larceny, so I’m keeping the blame entirely in house on this one.

The more startling aspect of what I was looking at, over and above the fact that the office had been largely cleaned out of its contents, all the windows were sealed up with that plastic wintertime shrink wrap. Why, I wondered. The place was a sweatbox no matter what time of year.

Yes, it’s going to be a strange next 4 years.

Which is probably why Acaphlegmic will fit into the Ford era so perfectly. My other colleague, however, might not be so adaptive to the change. I’d met up with an ashen faced Urban Sophisticat along my magical misery tour last night. Much of his lack of colour could be explained by an adverse reaction to the evening’s election outcome. Some had to be due to the fact that I’d found him out on a patio furiously puffing on a pipe. A pipe?!

“They want to call me an ‘elite’?” he told me in response to the quizzical look on my face. “I’ll give them elite.” He then inhaled a little too defiantly, sucking smoke deep into his lungs and setting off on an extended coughing spell. Poor Urban Sophisticat. He hasn’t the constitution to cope with the coming 4 years. They’ll eat him alive. I wanted to give him a hug of deep consolation and assurance but between the hacking and smell of singed hazelnut, well, we’re not that close. I moved on before he started expiring blood.

That is not to say I possess an unassailable sang-froid about the Ford situation. What’s eating me this morning is the idea that I’m very much responsible for this fiasco. Perhaps if I hadn’t started this thing and joined in on the municipal politics conversation way back in January, things would not have transpired as they did. Before we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke appeared on the scene, there was only 1 Ford at City Hall. Now there are two. How can’t that be our fault? Maybe if we’d just kept our big yaps shut and simply continued doing what we were doing (I was content enough at my millinery work), things would not have turned out so very, very badly.

Of course, correlation does not imply causation. I may be taking myself a little too seriously, magnifying my importance in all this, way out of proportion. (You think?) But as I sit here, in my robe, in a plundered office, I cannot help but think that as a part of a movement, we did not beat back the storm of anger that descended upon the city. We did not/could not counter the anti-everything sentiment that swept over us last night. Instead, we chose the route of ridicule and disdain; dismissive of the feeling of alienation and outrage that was allowed to run amok, allowing the unbelievable to become the improbable that blossomed into the inevitable. Rob Ford’s success was our failure. There’s nobody else to blame.

Accept it. Learn from it. Move on. A much bigger battle lies ahead.

And why is it so fucking hot in here!

over-heatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Election Day. Vote. Vote. Vote.

October 25, 2010

It’s here. Election day. (Or Election Day, as the auto-correct insists on my writing it.) 294 days since this Campaign 2010 kicked off, back in blustery, blowy, blizzardy January. Yes, I am guessing what the weather was. It might’ve been cold, crisp and bright. But we can agree that it was January.

Partisan bickering and jostling has subsided somewhat. A general agreement has been reached at least between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Vote, people. Whatever else you do, however which way it is you plan to cast your ballot, just go and do it. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.

The common sentiment on why this is important seems to be, if you don’t vote, you can’t bitch. Let’s take that a bit further. If you are an eligible voter who doesn’t vote, if you can’t find the time during this 10 hour period to take 15 minutes, ½ an hour, 2 hours to make it to your appointed polling station and cast a ballot (having already not gone to advance polls earlier this month), then what you’re really telling everyone is that, fuck it, you don’t give a shit about what happens in this city. You are letting it be known that you’re not an engaged citizen or active participant. You’re just somebody who lives here.

Much has been made throughout this campaign about the disengagement between City Hall and the general public. Less than 40% of the electorate voted in the last municipal election here in 2006, including an eye-poppingly low 18% of the 18-34 year-old demographic. Electoral reform is clearly needed, through ranked ballots to increased powers at the community council level.

But it is a two-way street, this civic disengagement.  When less than 4 in 10 of us actually bother to vote, it sends a message to those that do get elected that a solid majority of us don’t care, aren’t following what’s going on and, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what happens down at City Hall. It gives our representatives carte blanche. A green light to run roughshod and to say, when we do raise our heads in indignation (our heads only ever raise in indignation, it seems), oh hey, I thought you weren’t paying attention…

So, no excuses, OK? Do your democratic duty and get out and vote. I don’t care who for (maybe I do, just a little) or if you make a point of going in and spoiling as a form of protest. Just vote, be counted and have your voice heard. As our Twitter friend bikeroo wrote, “Hey Toronto, vote like your city depends on it!”

already having votedly submitted by Cityslikr



Mayoral Endorsement III

October 24, 2010

My Endorsement For Mayor: HiMY SYeD.

He calls himself The Peoples’ Mayor. It is not empty campaign rhetoric. As Mr. SYeD correctly points out, this race has been all about things. Tax cuts, subways and gravy trains. Where are the people?

Semantics, you say? A little, perhaps. But our front running candidates have all been talking about what they are going to do for people, to people. HiMY SYeD talks about what he’ll do with people. Civic engagement sits at the very core of his campaign. While Mr. Smitherman has attempted to buttress his left flank by rolling out the likes of John Sewell and David Crombie as his emissaries on the local democracy front, HiMY SYeD represents the very essence of it. Inclusion isn’t something he’ll seek to do as mayor, a single plank in his policy platform. Inclusion is the engine that drives his candidacy.

The sad irony of that is just how excluded Mr. SYeD has been during the course of this campaign. No bigger travesty manifested itself over the last 10 months than how independent voices – not just HiMY SYeD – were so summarily and systematically shut out. Well into the proceedings, with a majority of Torontonians expressing immense discontent with the gang of 6, then 5, then 4, then 3 candidates on offer to them, no one with the power to do so thought to address those concerns. Not anyone in the mainstream media who could’ve simply said (after a quick look at Mr. SYeD’s campaign material), what the hell, let’s try this one on for size. Instead they held onto the term ‘fringe’ right to the bitter end. Not any of the front running candidates who could’ve flashed a sign of selflessness to the electorate by demanding a seat at their debate table for HiMY SYeD. Choosing their self-interest above the interests of the general public, and letting us know in a not very subtle manner exactly the kind of mayor they will be.

Mario Cuomo, a leading candidate of ours in the Best President of the United States Who Never Was race, said “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” Well, HiMY SYeD was our bard in campaign 2010. In a wave of turgid, uninspiring, squalid, vacuous words, he spoke to us, no… dare I say it? Fan by brow. I do declare we find ourselves becoming a little flushed… sang to us in beautiful, elevated language, with his vision of empowerment and hope.

Because of HiMY SYeD I now know about a place called Curitiba, Brazil and its former mayor, Jaime Lerner. Curitiba was a city facing much more dire problems than Toronto is (or will even come close to having to face regardless of Monday’s election outcome) with much fewer resources to deal with them. But with the guiding hand of Jaime Lerner the city transformed itself into a modern urban centre, brimming with innovative ideas on public transit and sustainability.

Because of HiMY SYeD I now know about a man named Jeb Brugmann and his book, Welcome to the Urban Revolution. I now know how little I really do know about how cities function, develop and grow (and somewhat depressingly, I realize just how little many of our candidates running for municipal government know about new urban ideas as well). But I also now know that there are many smart and original thinkers and activists, contributing mightily to the public discourse. HiMY SYeD is one of those people.

Most importantly, because of HiMY SYeD I have not grown disenchanted or disillusioned about the political process or prospects here in Toronto despite overwhelming proof and evidence that I have every right to be one or both of those things. Witnessing his resilient spirit and indefatigable sense of civic duty in the face of shameful inattention and even hostile disregard on the part of serious opinion makers, buoys me with hope and resolve. In this campaign, the battle for the heart, soul and mind of Toronto has been rancorous, divisive and not a little disheartening. Unless the unexpected happens on election day, it certainly doesn’t promise to be any less so as we settle back down into trying to build a better city.

I want to be part of that because I know HiMY SYeD will continue to soldier on and contribute to the ever evolving urban fabric of Toronto regardless of the outcome on Monday.

The lunatic ravings of a cock-eyed optimist, blind to the realities on the ground? Nope. I’ve thought long and hard about this and am fully cognizant of the repercussions of my decision. While I always vote in the hopes of casting my ballot for the winning candidate, that urge must be tempered with the fundamental reason we participate in the democratic process in the first place. To publicly declare what kind of city (province, country) we want to live in. Let it to be known here and now that the kind of Toronto I want to be part of is one where HiMY SYeD is mayor.

My heart tells me it’s a vote for 2010 but my head says 2014 and the future. But the future will actually come much sooner than that. October 26th, to be precise. When we wake up to see what we’ve created and a majority of us won’t be at all pleased. The work to make it right will begin immediately. HiMY SYeD will be there, on the frontlines to battle back those forces who will be bent upon, will believe they have a mandate to pull apart everything that has been accomplished over the last 7 years.

That’s a fight I want to be a part of and which is why I, Cityslikr, am endorsing HiMY SYeD for mayor of Toronto.

endorsingly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayoral Endorsement II

October 23, 2010

My Endorsement For Mayor: Joe Pantalone.

Although I may still vote for George Smitherman. I mean, David Crombie just endorsed him. Come on!

But I’m still endorsing Joe Pantalone.

I am that living, breathing, mushy middlist voting cliché everyone has been on about for the past week or so. The Smitherman team wants me. The Anybody But Ford coalition hounds me. We few, we unhappy few, we band of political brothers (and sisters) apparently hold the key to the outcome of Monday’s election. In our hands, lies the future fate of our city. Oh, the weight of such responsibility.

I, for one, know that George Smitherman will make a more capable mayor than Rob Ford. What I’m not as convinced about is if the city will be any better for that. Yes, Smitherman’s decked out his outerwear finery with the bow of John Sewell and ribbon of David Crombie. Perhaps that’s the silent signal to me that Smitherman will not ignore my concerns if he’s elected to City Hall. Just cross my fingers and hope that all the other stuff he’s been far more vocal about throughout the campaign, the right of centre meat and potatoes of tax freezes/cuts and job elimination through attrition, is just political posturing, necessary in the negative atmosphere that’s polluted election 2010.

It’s a leap of faith I’m just not sure I’m prepared to take.

I like living in Toronto. The past 7 years have not struck me as the dysfunctional quagmire many pundits and electioneering candidates have tried to make it out to have been. I’m not alone in that assessment. Check out here, here and here if you don’t believe me. There have been hiccups, no question. Some self-inflicted, others far beyond our control (i.e. the economic meltdown and subsequent recession). All things considered, I feel better about living in Toronto than I did in 2003.

I bought a house and had to pay the then newly instituted municipal land transfer tax. Came with the territory, as the city tentatively tested new powers granted to it through the City of Toronto Act.  The Vehicle Registration Tax had no affect on me as I don’t own a car and if there’s one major difference I have with Joe Pantalone it’s his pledge to remove it if elected. People may not like it. It may be regressive. But I think we should use all the tools at our disposal to make owning a car in this city a grind.

My garbage and recycling is picked up as often as I need it to be. I don’t mind the exercise shoveling snow from my own walk. I can walk home at night through a back alley, slightly drunk, playing with my telephonic gadget with very little fear of having harm done to my person. I spend more money per month on my Rogers bill than I do on services the city provides to me and I am much more satisfied with what the city delivers.

As you’re probably thinking as you read this, yes, I am one of the fortunate people living in Toronto. Indeed, I may do even better under a fiscally conservative regime at City Hall, what with all those taxes being cut and frozen under either a Ford or Smitherman administration. Except that, what I see emerging from both these candidates is a city more desperate. They’ve said little to absolutely zero about combating poverty, about continuing to work on fixes for our high priority neighbourhoods. Their transit plans are woefully short of properly dealing with congestion. One term of either a Ford or Smitherman mayoralty will result in a city that’s less livable. So all of us will be the worse for it.

Since I am also convinced that out there in the bigger, wider world, we may not yet be through the economic shit storm that started blowing through back in ought-8, and senior levels of government seemed pumped to begin budgetary slicing and dicing at the behest of what should be discredited neo-liberal voices that they are still mysteriously listening to, I trust neither Rob Ford or George Smitherman when the inevitable calls for further cuts start to ring out. I can already here the post-election statement from Ford or Smitherman. It’s much worse than I thought it was but don’t worry, it’ll only hurt a little.

No, in what will inevitably be a rough next few years, I am much more comfortable with the idea of Joe Pantalone as our mayor than anyone else. He will not turn on us. He’s had 30 years fighting for a fairer, more equitable and livable city, through good times and bad. He has the city’s best interests at heart. That, I know, is not true of Rob Ford. George Smitherman has not convinced me he does, either.

Read these Pantalone endorsements at ChangeToronto and blogTO. They are much more eloquent and thorough in their endorsements of Joe Pantalone than I’m being. Then for fun, take a glimpse at NOW’s Alice Klein endorsement of George Smitherman.

If there’s anything that’s pushed me more firmly into the Joe Pantalone camp, it’s the hectoring self-righteousness coming from those who’ve decided strategically voting in order to stop Rob Ford from winning is our only recourse. Hey. Fair enough. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to tell you who you should or shouldn’t vote for. Yes, Rob Ford is a despicable man. Yes, he’ll make a despicable mayor. But spare me the hysteric he’ll be Sauron who actually gets hold of the ring and transforms Toronto into Mordor if he gets elected mayor narrative. It leaves me cold. We will live to fight if this grisly scenario comes to pass.

In answering for my self @arvelomcquaig‘s quandary, I can’t decide if a Ford mayoralty is more worse than a Smitherman mayoralty than a Smitherman mayoralty is worse than a Pantalone mayoralty, yes, yes I believe a Mayor Smitherman would be significantly worse than a Mayor Pantalone than a Mayor Ford be worse than a Mayor Smitherman. Or, to put it another way, a Mayor Ford and Mayor Smitherman are more closely related than are a Mayor Smitherman and Mayor Pantalone.

For that reason (as convoluted as it may be) I, Urban Sophisticat, am endorsing Joe Pantalone as Mayor of Toronto.

endorsingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


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