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


It’s All In The Presentation

October 17, 2014

Last night, as an October’s worth of rain fell around the city, CBC hosted its mayoral debate. Streets, a subway station flood, power outages here and there. heavyrainFor what? The third time in over just a year, if not a storm of the century, an outburst of weather that Toronto clearly is not up to handling.

Yes, we have an infrastructure deficit. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have a child-care deficit. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have an affordable housing deficit, a looming crisis really. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have a transit deficit. (I don’t really have to link this one, do I?) One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.problems

And yet, here we are, just over 9 months into the campaign and none of these things are we talking about dealing with head on. At least the mayoral front runners are doing anything but. Olivia Chow has been talking the issues up lately. Long shot candidate Ari Goldkind’s built a platform around them. Long gone candidate David Soknacki built a campaign on the platform people wanted to talk about these issues head on.

He miscalculated.

What we want, evidently, from this election is to restore our respectability in the eyes of the world, by chasing all the buffoonery, malice and low-brow spectacle from the mayor’s office, clear out of City Hall. Toronto is tired of being embarrassed. Toronto yearns once more to be world class, with a world class mayor.

Whoever promises to do that for us, well, they’ve got our vote for mayor. No other questions asked. Certainly not answered.

As for the rest of it? M’eh. What are you gonna do? personalitycontestAs long as we have a mayor in place who isn’t smoking crack, it’s all good. Baby steps, eager pants. Baby steps.

Very adroitly, the John Tory team framed this election as one about personalities not issues. Conveniently so too since he really had no issues to run on despite his self-proclaimed years as a civic advocate for the city. That infrastructure deficit? Don’t worry. Property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation will fix that. Child-care? Provincial government’s problem. Affordable housing deficit? Let the feds take care of it. Youth unemployment and a growing inequality gap? Good jobs. Private sector. Sobeys. My rolodex.

But his real doozy comes in response to our transit deficit.

SmartTrack.

A totally unworkable, unfunded piece of transit planning sorcery rivalling the slogan-heavy and equally laughable Subways! Subways! Subways! from the Ford Brothers.brushitoff

It’s not that our new emperor has no clothes. It’s that, as the Torontoist referred to John Tory, he’s “…just Rob or Doug Ford in a better suit.”

If the polls are to be believed, a plurality of Torontonians are OK with that. In fact, polls suggest over 70% of voters in Toronto are fine and dandy with the Ford policies dressed up in John Tory’s button-down, Bay Street attire. Some will protest and tell you, hey, it’s not that they’re voting Tory because they like him, it’s that he’s the only one who can beat Doug Ford. They’ll keep insisting on that even though the likelihood of a Doug Ford victory dims with each day we get closer to the election.

If this all comes to pass and the election plays out as we’re told it’s going to, there’s no reason to think these things that actually matter, transit and congestion, welldressedmancrumbling infrastructure, affordable housing crunch, increased inequality, will be addressed in any sort of substantive manner. Why should we expect they would? John Tory has shown he doesn’t actually give a toss about any of that. He just wants you to know he’s not Doug Ford and that’s all that really matters.

We seem shallow enough to be poised to agree with him and make John Tory our next mayor.

frankly 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


Our Very Own Cody Jarretts

October 12, 2014

There’s just one culprit here, guys.

That somehow the conversation deviated from that this, and finger-pointing elsewhere prevailed, whiteheat2suggests that we’ve allowed the bad guys, the political thugs, to dictate our political reality here in Toronto.

Doug Ford, once more, tried to manhandle a situation and tilt it in his favour. As we should all know by now, that’s what the Fords do. There is no rule they won’t ignore. No sense of decorum they won’t take a dump on. They are The Entitled who walk amongst us. The dudes don’t abide.

So when Doug Ford decided to lean on Friday night’s Inner City Union debate organizers and force them to dis-invite another candidate because, well, Doug didn’t want to be on stage with him that was the only bullshit move that needed to be called out. The rest of it? whiteheat4The who should’ve done what and when in reaction, and by not doing what when, yaddie, yaddie, was nothing more than pure partisan, reactive opportunism.

It simply validated Ford’s political game-playing. That it’s all just game-playing. There are no rules to adhere to. It’s a free-for-all. Tit-for-bloody-tat. A blood sport, just like Doug Ford had predicted months ago.

Once again, Doug Ford tried to kick the shit out of democracy and, once more, too many of us joined in, taking our boots to the battered and bruised body.

The Fords and their dwindling number of fervent supporters are thugs. Straight up. They have no regard for process, little inclination to pay any attention to simple courtesy. Respect? Respect this.

I may be naïve but I’m not naïve enough to believe the other mayoral camps didn’t weigh their reactions to the Ford foot stomping on a political scale. whiteheat3Neither John Tory nor Olivia Chow are served particularly well by having a second nothing-to-lose candidate up on stage, debating them, especially one as articulate and pointed as Ari Goldkind. It’s not hard to imagine either one figuring out how to massage the situation to their best advantage.

But frankly that doesn’t matter and is utterly beside the point.

Doug Ford, the Fords, are the Cody Jarretts of our local politics. They’ve climbed to the top of the world and they’ll blow the fucker up before they’d contemplate gracefully stepping down. It does not matter to them, the mess they leave behind. In fact, the messier, the better. It only proves their point. Government, right? No good can come of it.

Doug Ford is the bad guy in this situation.whiteheat

Let’s stop forgetting that.

And let’s stop being afraid of the Fords, afraid of calling them out, so afraid of them that we’ll even think about voting against our best interests in order to be rid of them. The best way to get rid of the Fords and everyone still in their corner? Continue to stand up to them.

sick and tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


Our Mystery Mayor

September 29, 2014

At a party Saturday night, municipal politics was very much a front and centre topic of conversation. cocktailpartyPerhaps my sample group skews that way, biased because of what I do on a daily basis. Hey! So what do you think about the election? Do you think candidate X is going to win?

Or maybe I’m just a single-minded social bully, forcing my conversation on anyone I can trap in the corner of a room. That’s some election going on, eh? You know what I think? Here’s what I think…

Four separate conversations I had during the evening — count `em, 4 – revolved around the strategic, fearful vote for John Tory in order to prevent Doug Ford from winning. There was no passion for the candidate. No seeming attachment to him except for the perception that only he could ensure that no Ford would be mayor come October 27th.

“What if I told you there was no way Doug Ford was going to win this election?” I push-polled them. cornered“Any way you slice it, his numbers just don’t add up. You can vote how you want. It doesn’t have to strategic.”

To a person, John Tory was an anti-Ford weapon of choice. Nothing more. A firm belief that nothing, not even John Tory, would be as bad as Ford More Years.

Such a sentiment is hardly surprising. That’s been the Tory tactic all along. He, and only He, can keep the Fords at bay.

The fact that no one I spoke to on Saturday night could articulate any reason to vote for John Tory aside from that speaks volumes to the blind path were heading down currently. When we should be asking what values a candidate represents, whose voices they are seeking to empower at City Hall, we’re only focussed on ridding the mayor’s office of our Ford shame. What comes after? Doesn’t matter. There’s only one battle to win right now.

John Tory. Because, It Could Be Worse.

But with exactly four weeks to election day, with the inevitability of a Mayor John Tory staring us hard and cold in our face, shouldn’t we be asking deeper questions of the candidate? What are his core values? (Why does he want to be mayor?) scareWhose interests is he running to represent?

We get Doug.

Like his brother before him, it’s all about the ‘little guy’ and ‘the hardworking taxpayer’. The angry. The disaffected. The disenfranchised. Those who see City Hall as the enemy, the source of the city’s dysfunction. The disillusioned and the delusional.

Those refusing to see that at every opportunity, Doug and Rob vote against their interests. Vote to cut taxes. Vote to cut services. Stoke divisiveness and promote resentment.

Many things can and have been said about this base, Ford Nation. But whatever it is, whatever you may think about it, it isn’t imaginary. It’s real, made up of real people.

Who does John Tory speak for?

Never forget that John Tory was an ardent supporter of Rob and Doug Ford in their respective runs for mayor and city council in 2010. So much so, he donated to both their campaigns. In his role as radio talk show host, Tory continued his vocal support of the mayor during the first couple, tumultuous years of his administration. toryandthefordsUntil the crack scandal broke, there was little daylight between the politics the Fords and Tory espoused.

So what does that say about the kind of mayor John Tory will be? Who will he advocate for? If John Tory becomes mayor who do you think will have a seat at the table of power?

As limp and as lifeless as Olivia Chow’s campaign has been at times (and do not get me started on the just completed Toronto Arts Vote debate stunt), it’s clear about what her priorities are. A push for increased bus service because a solid majority of transit users, especially in the city’s inner suburbs, depend on buses to get around. After-school recreation and nutritional programs for children, more affordable housing because the city is facing an unconscionable rise in childhood poverty. The disaffected. The disenfranchised. The voiceless.

Disagree with her all you want. Take issue with her policy ideas and platform. Same for Doug Ford. Chop his candidacy to bits. hollowman1But at least with both of them, we know where they stand.

Can you truly say that about John Tory?

What does he stand for? Who’s he going to represent as mayor? What is the one word defining principle of a John Tory administration?

What does a Mayor John Tory’s Toronto look like?

Those might be the type of answers we should be looking for over the course of the next month instead of all needlessly fear rushing to a candidate who, so far, steadfastly refuses to respond to those questions.

questioningly submitted by Cityslikr


The Tory In Us

September 24, 2014

I arrived back home last night after just over a week away prepping some soul-searching about the expected mayoralty of John Tory. jetlaggedThe late night snapshots I’d picked up out on the road pointed to not only a victory for Tory in next month’s municipal campaign but, if his numbers held up, a kick-ass win. What did that very real possibility tell us about the mindset of voters in this city?

Of course, I dropped back in right in the middle of the York South-Weston debate that featured the debut of candidate Doug Ford for Mayor. While a campaign of this duration will hardly turn on one debate, Tory’s wobbly performance should probably set of some minor alarm bells in his camp, given his historical electoral inability to close the deal. underattackBeing the clear frontrunner now, the presumptive favourite, Tory will be the main object of attack and, with whatever remains of the Ford machine lurching back up onto its hind legs, and with absolutely nothing to lose at this point, the attacks will be vicious, mindless and unrelenting.

That could play into Tory’s favour, serving as a useful bogeyman to scare more voters his way. Do you really want this guy running the city? You think Rob was bad? Come in under the big Tory tent for a warm, protective hug.

Which brings me back (conveniently) to my original intent.

In post-Ford Toronto, why is it to John Tory a plurality of voters are turning?

“A safe set of steady hands.” No wait. “A safe, steady set of hands.” No. “A safe set of steady hands.” Hmm. “A safe, stead set of hands”? Nick! Run that by a focus group, would you? See what people prefer, what’s the easiest way to say that.

yodaJohn Tory wants to be the next mayor of Toronto but can’t really tell us why. His whole approach to date has been to generally riff on the theme, he’s not that guy or that guy or that NDP candidate. Toronto wants John Tory because it doesn’t want either of the Fords or Olivia Chow.negativespace

It’s a campaign of negative space. John Tory is the least worst, basically. Rally round, troops! Together we will… hunker down and hope the storm passes without leaving too much damage behind. Hunker down, troops.

Not that he’s alone in failing to fill the electorate with hope and create a wave of forward-thinking can-doism. That ‘vision thing’, as another largely negligible politician sniffed at back in the day. The amazingly disheartening thing about the 2014 mayoral campaign is just how lackadaisical in public spirit it’s been. emptypromiseIf nothing else, the mugging the city has been subjected to over the past 4 years exposed many of its weaknesses, and not just the obvious infrastructure fault lines but how it’s failing too many of the people living here.

Yet, here we are, haggling over keeping to the rate of inflation with tax increases or still talking about finding efficiencies. We continue to talk the Ford talk despite the fact that with every passing day such blather gets exposed as pure fantasy and unfiltered bullshit. Clearly, John Tory doesn’t think so. The messenger’s the problem not the message.

And collectively we seem to want to believe that. That all the city’s problems and needs can be wished away and dealt with by somebody else or with fanciful plans on a map that won’t somehow cost any of us a cent. Pander to us, John Tory. Tell us what we want to hear. Fill our minds with delusion. The same trite shit we bought into 4 years ago.

Having surfed that nonsense into a firmly established lead with more than a month to go now, duckandcover2we should expect the Tory Turtle. Duck and cover. Make no mistakes. Engage only as needed in order to keep up appearances. John Tory has told us as much as he’s going to (or as little as he’s had to) about how he will serve this city as mayor.

We seem just fine with that. John Tory has more than met our lowered expectations. So we can now just get on with ignoring the problems at hand.

grumpily submitted by Cityslikr


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