The Friends You Pick And The Company You Keep

October 20, 2014

When a mayoral candidate begins endorsing city council candidates, what image is it that they’re trying to project?

choosechooseA sense of inevitability?

This is a lock, folks. I will be the next mayor and these are the councillors I want to be working with me. Help me bring a wave of change to City Hall!

But what if a mayor miscalculates in his pre-election endorsements? What if his endorsed city council candidates lose? Their victorious opponents arrive at (or return to) City Hall knowing the incoming mayor doesn’t think too much of them. It could set a rather chilly tone to the start of a working relationship.

Back in 2010, Rob Ford attempted to ride a growing tide of support as the election neared, to influence some council races, to mixed success, I’d call it. He scored Vincent Crisanti but had a series of near misses against Gloria Lindsay Luby, Peter Milczyn and Marie Augimeri. Aside from loyalty to the end from Crisanti, it’s hard to see if his choices in the other races had much affect on his working relationships with the eventual winners.picksides

But honestly, Rob Ford may not be the best example for this, as his whole approach to governing was based on a binary, you’re for me or you’re against me dynamic. Picking sides was just how he rolled.

Maybe rather than a tactical manoeuvre, we should view mayoral campaign endorsements as a reflection of what kind of mayor we’d be getting. The council candidates a mayoral candidate endorses are the kind of councillors the would-be mayor would like to work with. They represent the ideal city council.

Last Friday mayoral frontrunner, John Tory, officially endorsed two city council candidates, Kristin Carmichael Greb in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence and Jon Burnside, Ward 26 Don Valley West. Ward 16 is an open ward with no incumbent running. John Parker is a two-term councillor in Ward 26.

What do these endorsements say about John Tory’s opinion of city councillors he’d like to work with? According to Josh Dehaas of CTV News, “Tory responded that he did not endorse those candidates because they favour jets, but because they share his vision for the city, including his transit plan.”

logrolling“They both support SmartTrack,” Tory said, “they both support tax increases at or below inflation and they both support contracting out garbage in the east end of the city.”

Carmichael is the daughter of the local Conservative M.P. who had endorsed Tory for mayor just days earlier. Her website is chock full of conservative support and she certainly toes a very fiscally conservative (one might go as far to call it Ford-like) line.

Toronto, and in fact all governments across Canada, are facing increasing pressure on their budget due to growing costs, rising demand for its services, and waste and inefficiencies. They need to operate within their means – you cannot mortgage your kids’ future simply to get by today.

Given this fiscal reality, we need to be able to do more with less. We need to look at things like alternative models of service delivery. This could provide much needed cost savings while maintaining the quality of services we deliver.

Jon Burnside, on the other hand, is a complete cipher. I cannot get any sort of handle on his candidacy at all. I have come across many platitude and slogan filled websites during this campaign but Burnside’s ranks up there among the blandest and least consequential.cipher

In his Accountability and Customer Service section, he pledges a 24 hour callback guarantee and monthly Town Hall meetings. Both admirable but then he states he will “Champion the needs and interests of all of our Ward 26 neighbourhoods. My interest in making a difference will be consistent, earnest and genuine.” And then, “Lead in a collaborative and co-operative way, working together with the Mayor and all Councillors to move our City forward.”

Is it just me or is that little more than space filler?

“The debate about subways versus LRTs is based on the false premise that one of these transit solutions is the best answer in all parts of Toronto,” Mr. Burnside writes. Good, good. Go on. “I support a holistic approach to transit that includes improved subway, LRT, bus and above-ground train services.”

And… ?

Aside from the Fords, who doesn’t agree with that view on transit?

On and on, it continues with little more than mush in bullet points.

I will take my business experience, entrepreneurial spirit and energy to City Hall and ensure that tax dollars are spent responsibly – with a focus on delivering maximum value for every dollar.

City Hall needs Councillors with positive attitudes and an optimistic outlook; people who find solutions rather than offering excuses.  I have a track record of cutting through the red tape and delivering results — results that make a difference in our community.

Zzzzzzzz…

Out of hundreds of candidates running for city council, this is one John Tory chooses to endorse?!fingerscrossed

Look, I endorsed other candidates in both these races. John Parker struck me as a reasonable, civil conservative councillor who stood up to bad transit decisions. City council could use a few more of those types not less. You’d think he’d align perfectly with Tory’s proclaimed moderate, centrist values.

In Ward 16, J.P. Boutros is one of my go-to, A1, top notch challengers. While it’s not surprising Tory didn’t share my views on that endorsement, given Boutros’ very strong stance against proceeding with the Scarborough subway extension, it is disturbing that, according to a media release put out by Boutros after Tory’s endorsements last week, “Tory’s announcement comes two weeks after Tory’s campaign team pledged to me that they had no intention of endorsing anyone in the Ward 16 race.”

Yeah, you know that thing we said before? Well, not so much now. No hard feelings, I hope, if it turns out we backed the wrong horse on this, yeah?killpeacejpg

Frankly, I would’ve thought that, given the divisiveness and acrimony at city council, a mayoral hopeful might want to stay above the fray and come in to office with a clean slate. John Tory’s told us he’s a uniter. He’s all about One City.

Yet, he’s not even elected and here he goes picking sides already.

I’m beginning to suspect John Tory isn’t the kind of candidate he’s been trying to convince us he is.

suspiciously submitted by Cityslikr


Toronto, Order Must Be Restored, Our Strength

October 19, 2014

If nothing else good comes out of this 2014 municipal election (and yes, I assume nothing good will come out of it as it’s just easier to deal with the crushing disappointment that way), diversityourstrengthI hope that we will finally lower that torn and frayed Toronto the Good, Diversity, Our Strength flag, bundle it off, put a frame around it and hang it somewhere in the basement of City Hall with a placard: Historical Curio, and underneath: We Really Thought That?

Yes, apparently we did.

And yet…

The latest burp of racist indigestion during the campaign appeared in a Globe and Mail article written by David Hains on the race in Ward 7 York West, the long time domain of Giorgio Mammoliti. It appears Giorgio Mammoliti has a problem with outdoor basketball.

“Some kind of sports just need a bit of supervision, and I think basketball” {blackpeople}* “is one of them,” the councillor said.

“For one reason or another, [basketball hoops] seem to attract the wrong crowd” {blackpeople}* “outside,” Mr. Mammoliti said in a telephone interview.

“What I’ve heard loud and clear is that nobody is playing outdoor basketball” {blackpeople}* “any more, they seem to be selling drugs” {blackpeople}*, Mr. Mammoliti said – a claim, he added, that he heard from the local police division.

He said that at least one of the basketball courts {blackpeople}* has been replaced with outdoor ball hockey {whitepeople}*, which has made it safer for families {whitepeople}*.

*italics ours.

This after news of a candidate in Ward 2 Etobicoke North, Munira Abukar, having her election signs defaced with Go Back Home and mayoral candidate Olivia Chow also told to Go Back To China. dogwhistleWe heard too that another mayoral candidate, Doug Ford, is not in the least bit anti-Semitic. Why some of the best lawyers/doctors/accountants he knows are Jewish.

Isolated incidents, signifying little more than outlying racism, you think? Nothing to see here except for a handful of bully bigots? There’s no such thing as “white privilege”, says a third mayoral candidate although he’s revised that thinking. “There are people who are not treated fairly based on the colour of their skin,” John Tory later told Daniel Dale.

The first step to dealing with a problem is admitting there’s a problem to be dealt with.

Royson James’ sprawling, troubling and problematic epic of a column pretty much lays out Toronto — politically, socially, geographically – here in 2014. It comes on the heels of last week’s Real City Matters, Can’t We All Just Get Along? 3citiesThe city isn’t so much Good as it is divided. Along racial, economic, social, cultural and geographic lines. Divisions easily exploited by self-serving and havoc-wreaking politicians like the Fords and their ilk.

We can hide behind all the indices we want, the world’s 4th best city to live or do business in or whatever. But we can no longer pretend that such bounty applies to everyone city-wide. Access to opportunity is not equally spread. It is dictated by income and geography which both in Toronto of 2014 run very much in parallel to race.

Look hard at our race for mayor.

Two white men, millionaires both, battle it out for the hearts and minds of our diverse city, assuring all of us they understand what it’s like not to be white, male and worth millions. whiteguymillionairePeople just need a hand up not a hand out, you’ll hear both of them say, like the generous benefactors they tell us they are and will continue to be.

In 3rd place now is a woman, a non-white woman, who entered the race as the presumptive favourite. Lord knows, she’s run a terrible, terrible campaign. We’ve talked about it in these very pages. She ran away from her strengths out of fear for being called out on those very strengths. She took her base for granted, and it wandered off in search of a more edifying candidate long enough for her to drop down in the polls and hand one millionaire man the opportunity to claim that only he could defeat the other millionaire man which was really the only thing this city was pretty much agreed upon.

But aside from championing the Stop the Ford Family movement, how good a campaign has John Tory run? He’s offering nothing of substance on any of Toronto’s most pressing problems. respectableoldetymePoverty, housing, childcare, infrastructure. Just more low taxes and finding efficiencies.

And his transit plan, SmartTrack? Fanciful lines on a map funded by a whole boatload of wishful thinking. Sound familiar, folks?

Issues, however, were never really a part of this campaign. It all boiled down to one thing. Character, and the strength of it.

After 4 years of international embarrassment, only John Tory, we’re told, will restore respectability back to the office of mayor of Toronto. John Tory, a leader in the business community. John Tory, community leader. John Tory, leader.

Toronto the Good re-established under the symbol of a white male millionaire who’s only different from the previous white male millionaire in matters of style and presentation.

elephantintheroom2

Diversity, Our Strength? We’ll just have to go along pretending that’s a thing for a little bit longer.

subdudely submitted by Cityslikr


A Promising Start

October 16, 2014

So it seems (based on the first day of advance polling, at least) that voters in Toronto are rip-roaring to get out there and cast a ballot in this year’s municipal election. crowdThe city clerk informed us that the one-day turnout on Tuesday nearly doubled 2010’s 6 weekday totals, some 28,000+ to the previous 16 K. The single day turnout came in at over one-third of 2010’s total advance voter numbers.

The tea leaves were quickly read. Tory supporters of all stripes getting out there to fend off the Ford horde. Chow voters quickly casting their ballot before giving over to the fear induced Anyone But Ford stampede. People just getting into line because they heard it was for Ford bobbleheads.

Actually, no. I didn’t hear anyone make the claim.

The conventional wisdom seems to suggest that increased voter turnout doesn’t tend to augur well for the incumbent, if there’s an incumbent, and yes, there’s an incumbent. A betting man might see the advance poll numbers and lay down large on Doug Ford not winning this thing, maybe not even placing. kickthebumsoutIf there’s one thing a rock solid majority of Torontonians can agree on at this point, it’s that we don’t want to see another Ford sitting in the mayor’s office come October 28th (or whenever it is the next council is officially sworn in.)

Let me just take the opportunity to say, if that’s the case, if the Ford era days are numbered, our job here is not done. No, no, no, my pretties. It has just begun.

As we have learned over the course of the past 4 years, the notion that simply voting as your one act of civic duty is insufficient to the proper maintenance of local democracy. Regardless of who becomes our next mayor, we can no longer sit back, grab a drink and hope for the best. Chasing one bad politician from office will not magically make the city’s problems disappear. rollingrockTo declare the war won is to sweep everything under the carpet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Engagement is ongoing. Vote with hope but work for results. We cannot leave the future well-being of Toronto in the hands of our politicians. As a group they’ve shown not always to have the best interests of the city or its residents at heart. It is up to us to continue working with our politicians (and against them, if need be) to keep reminding them of who it is they’ve actually been elected to represent.

enthusiastically submitted by Cityslikr


My Lunch With Andray

October 14, 2014

We’ve been writing much here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke during our conversations with city council candidates about the battle many of them face with a lack of nurtured, encouraged civic engagement. disengagedThis has been especially noticeable to me in the former municipalities of the so-called inner suburbs. Etobicoke. York. North York. Scarborough.

And then there’s ‘enforced disengagement’.

This was a topic of discussion I had last week with Ward 2 Etobicoke North council candidate, Andray Domise. We endorsed Mr. Domise a couple weeks back but hadn’t actually talked to him in person save a couple quick handshakes at a few public functions where our paths had crossed. I quickly realized that the subject of civic engagement was, I don’t know, a theoretical one for me while for Domise and the other candidates running in Ward 2, it was very, very real.muniraabukar

Most of us have heard by now of the sign wars going on up in the ward. Fellow Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar was nastily instructed to ‘Go Back Home’ on her signs, part of a disturbing racist outburst that has occurred during the later part of the campaign. Domise too has had sign battles, defaced and replaced in a concerted effort to keep his campaign team otherwise occupied.

We can try and shrug it off as the usual electioneering antics and tactics but it’s hard not to see it as having a chilling effect on both candidates and residents alike. Who wants to put their name forward or speak out publicly if the reaction you’re going to get is based on nothing more than your skin colour or ethnicity? Go back home. You’re not wanted here. Your opinions don’t count.

Neither does your vote.

Hardly the environment to cultivate civic engagement.

Making matters worse, of course, is that Ward 2 is the Ford family’s playground. You only had to look at this campaign to realize just how entitled they feel they are to it. wardbossDoug Ford, one-term councillor, announces he’s had enough of municipal politics and will be leaving. In his place they attempt to prop up 20-something nephew, Mikey, and keep him away from any and all media. Rob, the mayor and former councillor, gets sick, decides instead to run for his old position in Ward 2 without really campaigning, bumps nephew Mikey to local school trustee candidate, Doug runs for mayor.

All this after Doug parachutes into town in 2010 to claim the Ward 2 council seat, trouncing local activist and 2006 runner-up, Cadigia Ali, by 10,000 votes. “Hope in Ford country”? Don’t think so.

Add in a degree of fatalistic inevitability – the Fords rule this roost – to the sense of racist unwelcoming, only further fuels that ‘enforced disengagement’.

On top of all of this, life for many residents in Ward 2 has not noticeably changed for the better under the 14 year misrule of the Fords. Follow along with Domise’s Twitter feed to see just how little improvement there’s been, how little engagement, interaction even, especially during Doug Ford’s time in office. justanotherpoliticianWhat’s the use of getting involved if the politicians who are going to win anyway do nothing for you? And when you do, when you throw you hat into the political ring, you’re viewed as just another say-anything-do-nothing politician.

Hostility, inevitability, ham-fisted ineptness = apathy, indifference, disengagement.

Yet, despite all this, the council race in Ward 2 has 3 viable candidates challenging the Ford legacy, with the breakout star being Andray Domise. That in itself should be cause for great joy and celebration. I think those of us who’ve never put their names forward for political office, who live in areas of the city not dominated by zero-tolerance for inclusion and engagement, under-estimate just how much courage that takes.

But you can’t simply flick on wider civic engagement like a switch. It doesn’t pop up from fallow ground. There has to be a history to build on. The Fords claim to speak for the people without ever actually having listened to them or actively attempted to let them speak for themselves.civicengagement3

The Ward 2 city council race will be something of a bellwether for the rest of the city indicating just how far along we are down the path of engaged democracy. Andray Domise has emerged as a new voice in support of that civic undertaking and in opposition to our traditional complacent boss politics. This election represents only the beginning of that change. We all will need to pitch in to continue pushing the concept forward.

submitted by Cityslikr


The Four Sures — Council Challenger Endorsements VIII

October 10, 2014

So we come to the end of our official endorsements for the upcoming municipal election (although we won’t rule out maybe a surprise one or two here or there. Don’t quote me on that though.) bootsonthegroundWe want to remind everybody reading along that even more so than the mayor’s race, these council races really, really matter. In the end, despite some additional legislative powers, the mayor is just one vote. City council is many.

Moreover, council races can be determined by the 10s, 100s of votes. Even the slightest uptick in votes or turnout can flip a race. In 2010, 13 wards were determined by an average of 347 votes. Five of those the eventual winners were elected by less than one-third of the popular vote.

It’s now 17 days until the election. That’s plenty of time to get out there, donate some time or money to the candidate(s) of your choice, the ones you think will do a great job in advancing the interests of every resident of this city. This is when your help’s needed. This is what they call crunch time.

endorsement1

Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence

I feel I have to state this upfront. I am a friend of J.P. Boutros. I mean, not a close enough friend to know that he was planning a run for the open Ward 16 before the fact. Still. I have broken bread with J.P. I have had drinks with J.P.

In his role as assistant to the then TTC chair, Karen Stintz, he was frank and fair with me in discussions during the very heated and seemingly ongoing transit debates that consumed last term. As frank as one could be, I think, when it’s your job to adhere to the boss’ plan of action. That’s just the nature of the relationship.

With those cards on the table, let me state unreservedly J.P. Boutros will make one dynamite city councillor.

The least I can say of a possible Councillor Boutros is that he will be one hell of a step forward from his predecessor. The whole transit file aside, don’t forget that Karen Stintz was an unabashed right winger and supporter of much of Mayor Ford’s agenda. Boutros will not be that vote.

His adamant stand against the Scarborough subway during this campaign shows an independence that will be immediately tested if John Tory is elected mayor. Similarly, his outspoken opposition to the island airport expansion. He is a smart growth proponent which too will be subject to a quick study as the Eglinton Crosstown makes its way into the ward.

We think J.P. Boutros is more than up to the task.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse J.P. Boutros for city council in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence.

endorsement2

Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth

In what should be something of celebratory campaign (as much as any campaign, aside from the winning one, can be celebratory), with 3 women vying for a council seat, there is instead much consternation, driven by fear of vote-splitting and demands for strategic voting, blah, blah, blah.

Look, I have no particular beef with the ward’s incumbent, Paula Fletcher. Point to her absolute anti-Ford voting record as proof of her solid credentials. Tell me how we shouldn’t let our desire for the great threaten getting the good.

But the fact of the matter is, Jane Farrow may be the finest non-incumbent running for city council this time out. Forget great. I’m telling you spectacular.

I cannot rave enough about the new sensibility she would bring to city council, a new approach to governance that has at its core heightened civic engagement. She gets it. She encourages it. Jane Farrow represents a fundamental shift in how business would get done in this city. Ward 30 is being offered the opportunity to make a huge difference in Toronto’s politics.

Hopefully voters there won’t kill their chances at great for fear of the bad. There’s too much of that going on these days.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Jane Farrow for city council in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth.

helpfully, hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Four Sures — City Council Challenger Endorsements VII

October 9, 2014

The Four Sures are a subset of our Essential Eight city council challenger endorsements, an entirely subjective (as if this whole process isn’t heavily subjective) categorization based on little more than just the positive reaction in sitting down, talking. These four candidates (two today, two more tomorrow), I could’ve hung out with them, drinking coffee, discussing their ideas for the city, for hours. Imagine how great it’ll be for the next four years!

endorsement3

Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina

It’s impossible to see a bad outcome in this race to replace Adam Vaughan. As far as I can tell, there are 3 or 4 candidates who could more than ably fill the former councillor’s shoes. I mean the worst outcome on October 27th will be a Joe Cressy victory, and we could survive that.

But for my money Anshul Kapoor is the best bet for Ward 20. Instrumental in building the NoJetsTO grassroots push against the island airport expansion, the possibilities of what he could do in an official capacity like city councillor are truly exciting. He represents a new wave of young people moving downtown, raising their families there because of the richness of the public domain rather than the vastness of their private space. Build neighbourhoods not just condos, he told me. Let him continue that conversation down at City Hall.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Anshul Kapoor for city council in Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina.

endorsement1

Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest

Let me just sum up my pure admiration for Bob Spencer by lifting a quote (like I did for the post I wrote about the Spencer campaign last month) from his interview with David Hains in the Torontoist.

The reality is the city is only great because its people are great. The city only works well because we all get together and work together. I think there’s a whole slew of issues that are missed—if you only look at the hard services in a city, you miss what makes a city useful: art, culture, community education, good health programs, and good nutrition programs for kids. Those are all within the mandate of the City. They’re all much more interesting than arguing about whether eight years from now an environmental assessment is going to be put on this alignment or that alignment, this number of stations or that number of stations.

The added bonus is Spencer’s running against one of the most spectacularly ineffective and insignificant city councillors at City Hall, mayoral portraitist and musical accompanist, Gary Crawford. Spencer lost the council race in 2010 by about 400 votes. It would be a tremendous addition to city council if he turns that result around on October 27th.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Robert Spencer for city council in Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest.

hopefully helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


The Essential Eight — Council Challenger Endorsements VI

October 8, 2014

Our next installment of city council challenger endorsements begins in Etobicoke. Seems we’re always starting in Etobicoke. Maybe Etobicoke is the nexus of change at City Hall this October. (A different, more positive change than the one that came eastward in 2010.) As Etobicoke goes, so goes Toronto?

endorsement2

Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore

This one landed on the radar late in the campaign. An open ward left vacant by the departure of Peter Milczyn (not necessarily in a hurry) for the provincial legislature at Queen’s Park. The only “names”, such as they are, vying to replace him are a former staffer in the former councillor’s office and the runner-up in Ward 5 in 2010 who came within a hundred votes or so of defeating Milczyn.

But the real deal in Ward 5 is Raymond Desilets. I cannot say enough good things about his candidacy. He is a pro-growth, urban-minded challenger with a platform full of ideas to revitalize and renew neighbourhoods and communities in the ward. How many candidates have you heard make this kind of statement? Property Taxes – I’m Not Complaining. He’s even got a streetcar proposal to provide relief to transit users commuting to and from work downtown.

Perhaps my favourite bit of information about Desilets — Spoiler Alert! This story is contained in the post I wrote about him a couple weeks ago – is how, when mulling over a possible run, he took 4 months to put together his reasons for running and held a mini-Town Hall for 35 friends and family to see what they thought. Fortunately he got a thumbs up from them.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Raymond Desilets for city council in Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

endorsement1

Ward 18 Davenport

Alex Mazer is in an odd kind of uphill battle in the Ward 18 race. He’s facing a not entirely awful one-term incumbent but a wholly uninspiring one. Ana Bailão may be one of the most inconsistent, flippy-floppy councillors of the past term.

As we discovered in our talk with Mazer back in June, his is a dynamic campaign built on a foundation of increasing civic engagement. He wants to push forward the concept of participatory budgeting, opening up the budget process to wider public input. He’s a fierce supporter of using schools as community hubs and is strong in his defence of not selling off school properties for simple residential development.

While I don’t think there’s much of an age gap between Mazer and the incumbent he’s looking to replace, their respective ideas on city building seem generations apart. Alex Mazer represents a new era. Ward 18 could use the change.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Alex Mazer for city council in Ward 18 Davenport.

hopefully, helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


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