Subway Ground Down

January 28, 2015

I really don’t want to be writing this. Like the Toronto Star’s Ed Keenan, I’m tired of it, of the Scarborough subway debate. Just as likely, you’re sick of it too. notthisshitagainThere’s gathered a great storm of ennui, a wave of yawn. Just Get On With It has now become the default position. Build Something!

But…but…There’s always the but.

In Keenan’s article today he points to a recent Forum Research poll that shows, given the full options of what Scarborough would get if we spent $3+ billion on transit there, 61% of Torontonians would pick the Scarborough LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. A healthy majority of those living in Scarborough too favoured the LRT option given to them.

Just yesterday, as I was railing about the $75-85 million the city is in the midst of handing over to the province via Metrolinx for the work already underway on the Scarborough LRT that council cancelled, I cited a Leger poll from back in February 2014 that showed similar numbers. 61% of respondents preferred the Scarborough LRT option over the subway. 56% of those living in Scarborough leaned that way also.

So why the fuck are we here, spending billions of dollars building something the majority of Torontonians don’t want?

Public enemy number 1, of course, is Rob Ford. Subways, subways, subways, am I right? scarboroughsubwaybellowThe people want subways.

Not to diminish his role in the mess but let me say this. At the very least, Rob Ford and to a lesser extent, his brother Doug, truly believed that subways were the way to go. As committed car drivers, public transit was something of a puzzle to them. They hated streetcars that blocked up the middle of the roads. Buses they tolerated because they were easier to get around. But underground transit? Out of sight, out mind, out of the way.

Because the folks voted for him, giving him a mandate, they too wanted subways. Subways, subways, subways! Like the classic bullshitter that he is, Rob Ford (and again, to a lesser extent his brother) actually believed the bullshit he spouted. He didn’t need no stinkin’ polls to tell him what he knew in his heart, heard every day from the folks he met in line at Tim Horton’s.

This is not to excuse him. He served as the bullhorn for the subway cause. The self-appointed guardian of the taxpayers’ nickels and dimes stubbornly contributed to throwing away of billions of dollars of their money to further a cause he willfully knew nothing about.notthisshitagain1

The larger question though is, how, with these numbers, 4+ years after the debate started, 4+ years after the People Want Subways campaign slogan metastasized into a corrupted conventional wisdom, we’re determined to plunge ahead into this madness? The villainous list is long. Rob Ford becomes little more than the inciting incident in this story, a preening, comic foil Malvolio.

The true monsters in this sorry-assed tale sit up at Queen’s Park. First in the form of the skittish Dalton McGuinty Liberal government, seemingly dead in the polls and facing an election in 2011. In the face of the first (and only true surge) of Ford Nation, they quickly buckled when the newly elected mayor unilaterally declared Transit City dead. Hey. If you say so. Whatever. They would survive the initial assault, holding on to power but reduced to a minority government.

But imagine if instead they had stood their ground, stood up in the face of what was little more than a noise-making machine. Was subway support really ever as strong as the mayor and other Scarborough politicians came to claim it was? Certainly Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker didn’t think so in 2012 when city council wrestled the transit file from the mayor and re-instated Transit City.

At this point of time, it seemed cooler heads had prevailed. Subways, subways, subways had been revealed to be little more than the dying bluster of a mayor who’d soon be sidelined to little more than a cranky observer. Pheee-ew, right? We narrowly dodged that bullet.

But then…

What the hell happened?

Well, here’s where the story gets nothing short of clusterfuckery.

New leader of the provincial Liberals, new premier, new beginning, we’re told. They start to get their sea legs, win a by-election or two including one in Scarborough-Guildwood with Mitzie “The Subway Champion” Hunter. A by-election where, curiously, her NDP opponent, former TTC chair Adam Giambrone, an early Transit City advocate, docilely nods in a similar subway support direction.

Suddenly everybody loves subways! notthisshitagain2Egged on by Scarborough MPPs, city council lurches once more, agreeing to scrap the Scarborough LRT in favour of a subway. A subway the city will now have to contribute to building and maintaining. Scarborough deserves nothing less than a subway, we are told.

Except, still, with the options laid out for them, residents would opt for the LRT.

Despite that, here we are. The Liberals are back as a majority government. They now have both the city and federal government pitching in to build a Scarborough subway. They have a new mayor who, despite his claim to prudent fiscal management, campaigned on a pledge not to reopen the subway debate and is perfectly content to just piss away 10s of millions of dollars in order for that not to happen. In addition to which, his signature transit plan, SmartTrack, is offering even more city money to help the provincial government build their regional transit system.

And all the Scarborough pro-subway city councillors who ran for re-election last year are back. (Interestingly, so is the one very vocal pro-LRT Scarborough councillor, Paul Ainslie, easily re-elected.) notthisshitagain4The debate is over. The people have spoken. They want subways.

Except, apparently, they don’t. Or more precisely, if given an option, they’d take LRTs. It’s the politicians who want subways.

If there’s a more salient example of why we’ve become so cynical and disengaged, I can’t immediately think of one. It’s little wonder we’re bored of this debate. Our elected representatives aren’t listening to us. What’s the use of continued talking?

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr

The Anger Runneth Over

July 29, 2014

Another Ford Fest, another round of ‘What the hell is up with these people?!’


In his Globe and Mail article yesterday about the semi-annual campaign non-campaign event, Ivor Tossell gives it a go at answering that perplexing question.

But Mr. Ford’s core constituency is not a group of any given colour or creed, but a coalition of people who feel they’re on the outside of a booming, changing city. There are lots of different ways to feel alienated — geographically, economically, culturally, ideologically — and Mr. Ford appeals to all of them.

This is not a particularly new notion. Since Rob Ford’s unlikely rise to power at City Hall back in 2010, a chastened rump of non-believers, who’d stood by in growing incredulity throughout the campaign, slowly shaking their collective heads as the election’s outcome hardened into reality, fordnationhave circled that same territory of what makes a Ford supporter tick. Disengagement through alienation and disenfranchisement. The anger of the outsider. The voiceless given a voice.

Message received. But how is it Rob Ford continues to be the messenger? Given the last four years, nothing of much substance has happened at City Hall that would’ve made anyone’s life appreciably better, anyone angry in 2010 would still have reason to be angry now. Rob Ford has done nothing to change that. Yet he remains the vessel in which people’s frustration and resentment are poured.


I’m wondering if it’s just as simple an explanation as since he’s always angry, the angry identify with him. angrymobIt doesn’t matter if they’re angry about the same thing. The important fact is they’re angry together. Brothers in Ire.

Whenever we see the mayor or his brother-campaign manager-councillor these days they’re both angrily denouncing something or other. Debate rules. Apparent conflict of interest rules. Rocks and umbrellas. Yelling at cloud angry.

If the Fords are still mad as hell, then something must be wrong down at City Hall. Denounce. Denounce!

His Worship, Our Anger-in-Chief, Rob Ford.

But here’s the thing.

What remains of the Ford base of support, that unbudging 25-30% who show up in every poll, is driven solely by spite and anger. There’s nothing else that fuels them. I don’t know, resentment maybe. angryvotersThat anger is diffuse. To use Mr. Tossel’s 4 categories, geographic – downtown hating suburbanites; economic – cost of living in the city continues to rise; cultural – homophobic bigots, racists, misogynist; ideological – hate government.

The anger is broad and deep.

I would argue at this point, however, that it was not anger, not anger alone, that put Rob Ford in the mayor’s office. His soft support in 2010, the 15-25% or so who put him up over the top, weren’t motivated purely by anger. There was hope too. angryHope that Rob Ford would change the culture at City Hall and make it start working for them. Hope that Rob Ford was on the level when he said he would be looking out for the little guy. Hope that Rob Ford would make a positive difference in their lives.

But hope is in short supply these days at Team Ford camp. So you get what you got at Ford Fest last Friday. Yelling, badgering, the laying on of hands, and not in the biblical way.

These are no-hopers, burn it to the grounders. Look at me, ma! (We were once) Top of the Worlders!

What it isn’t is a winning coalition.

Candidates vying to replace Rob Ford need to look beyond this base of discontent. They’ve got their man. whiteheatNo amount of pandering will entice them from him. It’s just a question of how many will continue to fight for a losing cause or just simply walk away, even more disillusioned and fed up than they were going in.

What we need to start hearing is some hope. A full and frank admission that governance in this city has been ground to a halt and that it’s in nobody’s best interest that it continue, and the only way forward is with good ideas and a collaborative spirit. Hope that, in the words of Ivor Tossell, fewer and fewer of us will be left “on the outside of a booming, changing city.”

Most of us know what’s wrong with this city. Transit, lack of diverse sources of revenue, opportunity inequality, regional parochialism, to name a few. How we approach solving those problems is what we should be hearing now. texaschainsawmassacreHopeful solutions, based on reasoned, civil discourse and debate, not indignant shrieks and howls of outrage.

For four years now, we’ve mistaken loudness for soundness. It isn’t. We need to plug our ears to the Ford manufactured din and get on with fixing this thing they’ve tried their best to break into pieces.

calmly submitted by Cityslikr

Ward 2’s Family Jewels

July 22, 2014

Look. I’ll cut Mikey Ford, candidate for city council for Ward 2 Etobicoke North, some slack.


Age alone should not be a determinant for holding public office. Mikey Ford is not the only young candidate running in this year’s municipal election. Hell, there’s a high schooler in the mayor’s race and she’s being taken seriously by some folks.

Mikey Ford’s uncle, Rob Ford, wasn’t a whole lot older than his nephew is now when he first ran for city council back in 1997. Like Mikey, Rob hadn’t completed his post-secondary schooling. Like Mikey, Rob had a job title in the family’s business, Deco Labels and Tags. Like Mikey, Rob had some family connections in the business of politics.

And look at all that Uncle Rob’s accomplished during his tenure in office, mikeyford1with just those humble beginnings and an early start at it.

If Rob, why not Mikey?

Give the kid shot. See what he’s got. Maybe there’s more of Uncle Rob’s common touch than the ham-fisted destroyer of all that he lays a finger on of his immediate predecessor, Uncle Doug.

Besides, a Ward 2 Etobicoke North without a Ford would be like, I don’t know. Councillor Vincent Crisanti’s Ward 1 Etobicoke North?

I just wish somewhere in Mikey Ford’s C.V. there was even the slightest whiff of previous political engagement. Something more than simply picking up the SUV from City Hall after one of his uncle’s drunken stupors. A whiff of civic interest.

As it stands right now, I’m seeing… camp counsellor. Oh, and a whole lot of willful, privileged entitlement. Clearly, another inherited trait from his family.

Forget ‘career politician’. What the Fords are trying to perpetuate is generational politicians. A dynastic lineage based on name recognition alone. mikeyford2No wait. Also, inherited wealth.

Even if I admired a politician, thought highly of the contribution they made to the public good, I’d look askance at them trying to unload one of their family members as little more than a placeholder as they moved on (or were moved along) to other pursuits. Hey, folks. Vote for Mikey because he has the same last name as we do.

In fact, I might take offense to such a move.

Why, just last election here in Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina, I faced a similar situation. Another Mikey, Mike Layton was running to fill a council vacancy created when Joe Pantalone decided to run for mayor. Mike Layton, son of NDP leader and former city councillor, Jack Layton, the  husband to the local MP and also former city councillor, Olivia Chow, who even came knocking at my door, canvassing for Mike.

I was underwhelmed, to tell you the truth. Even though Mike had spent some time prior to entering politics working for an actual public cause, I rankled at the appearance of nepotism. fordnation2For me, there was a more qualified, interesting candidate in the race and that’s the way I voted.

Turns out, Mike Layton is a hell of a city councillor. He’s worked his ass off becoming a solid constituency representative while facing huge development pressures in a ward that is transforming almost daily. There’s no question he has my vote in October.

So maybe the lesson should be, give Mikey Ford a break. Grant him the opportunity to prove himself up to the task of being a city councillor. Or at least, hear him out when he decides to tell us why it is he’s running and why he’s the best choice to represent Ward 2 at City Hall. Which, according to the CBC news this morning, will be in a couple weeks when he starts knocking on doors after… his summer camp session is finished, I guess?


Until such time, however, you’ll have to indulge me my scepticism about this whole Ford driven enterprise. I’m not sure what electoral presumption smells like but I hope residents of Ward 2 are able to detect it if a stink cloud of it appears during this campaign.

warily submitted by Cityslikr

Don’t Let The Name Fool You

March 22, 2014

I put myself in the middle of a circular conversation a couple days ago with someone who took exception to my incomprehension at the notion of Liberals, circularmazebig L liberals, throwing their support behind John Tory in his bid to become mayor of Toronto.

You see, I am of a vintage that was still in swaddling clothes during the Lester B. Pearson era. I came of age under Pierre Trudeau. I’ve always lived with a national medicare system, brought in from coast to coast to coast by Louis St. Laurent.

This is how I remember Liberals.

I sometimes forget that time has moved on. The current crop was forged in the face of the Mulroney years and the rise to prominence of the Reform movement. Late career Jean Chretien and his arch-nemesis Paul Martin. Bitter rivals but deficit hawks and downloaders both. The Common Sense Revolution wrought a Liberal automaton, series 2.0 Dalton McGuinty.

These are Liberals seemingly more at home with my misty-eyed nostalgic memories of red tory hued Progressive Conservatives like Robert Stanfield, Bill Davis, Peter Lougheed, Joe Clarke, David Crombie.nostalgic

There you go. Blue Liberals for red Tory John Tory. Makes perfect sense. Remember, he was once the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. A perfectly reasonable confederacy in the face of a possible purple and yellow wave forming over on the left.

But here’s my thing.

As much as the centre of the Liberal party has shifted, so too has it with conservatives. The bland greyness has been wiped clean. We no longer have moderate patrician types with a sense of noblesse oblige as our right of centre party. Federally, they’ve even dumped the pretense of progressive. Here in Ontario, the word might as well be in quotes.

Mike Harris. Jim Flaherty. John Baird. Tony Clement. Stephen Harper. Tim Hudak. The Ford brothers.

Snarling, thuggish, mendacious, regressive, government hating and private sector worshipping neo-conservatives in the American Tea Party mold are these men. robfordbellicoseNoblesse oblige, you say? Is that French for Ayn Rand?

In that light, John Tory doesn’t look so bad. He’s almost none of that. A throwback to an earlier time when Liberals and Progressive Conservatives could sit down to dinner together over a nice bottle of wine. During this 2014 municipal race, he offers the appearance of a safe harbour for disaffected, candidate-less Liberals who could never bring themselves to mingle with the NDP horde.

Looks, as they say, can be deceiving.

Avert your eyes from the image being presented and listen to the words being spoken instead.

At his official campaign launch on Wednesday, he derided tax-and-spending politicians who were eyeing the wallets of the beloved taxpayers. fordnationHe vowed to keep taxes low while promising to invest in the city’s infrastructure including a new subway line. How would he pay for that? Finding savings and efficiencies. Plenty of waste still to be found, he assured the crowd (despite opinion to the contrary).

Doesn’t that sound a bit familiar to you, almost word for word? City Hall doesn’t have a revenue problem. City Hall has a spending problem. Subways, subways, subways! It won’t cost you a dime because it’s time to Stop the Gravy Train.

John Tory is simply a pretty face, a soothing voice, the almost featureless presence fronting what sounds like the very same destructive policies that will be the true legacy of the Rob Ford administration. A Trojan horse for an army already inside the compound. He wants to be mayor of this city only in order to change the name on the door and the trashy newspaper headlines.

Liberals getting in under that big tent with him need to stop pretending that anything’s going to change other than the din of discord and the reality show antics now occupying space at City Hall. trojanhorseThe tone may become more civil but if the discourse remains the same – and that’s what I’m hearing so far from the Tory campaign – low taxes and cutting waste as the primary source of revenue, programs and services will still be under threat, growth based investment a pipe dream. That’s what you’re signing up for.

Which may be a-ok with many Liberals. They just need to stop pretending there’s anything progressive about it.

warningly submitted by Cityslikr

Delivering Low Expectations

February 19, 2014

Don’t look…Don’t look…Don’t look…And if you have to look, don’t look directly into his eyes. Whatever you do! Do not look directly into the man’s eyes!


I looked.

I know I shouldn’t have. But I did. I even looked directly into that man’s eyes and saw what I can only assume to be is the eternal abyss of nothingness, swirling deep down inside of them.

Worse, against Ed Keenan’s sage advice, I’m now talking about what I saw when I looked, giving them a free bump, an additional bit of publicity, such as we can offer here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke.cableaccess

Ford Nation on YouTube.

Exactly why the good Lord in His infinite wisdom created scientists, so they could create the Internetz.

Ford Nation on YouTube.

Having burned all their bridges to access of uncritical and unthinking media platforms, save maybe Sue-Ann Levy and Joe Warmington, including every newspaper in town, AM talk radio, Sun TV – Sun TV, folks! – the Fords, Mayor Rob and Councillor Doug, have turned their mostly undivided attention to the internet for getting their message out to their unswerving supporters and snickering adversaries. No bias there except the good kind of bias. No difficult questions to answer. Not even those squishy-hard ones always lobbed their way by the likes of CP24’s Stephen LeDrew.

The web. The free range domain of conspiracy theorists, rational denialists and amateur political punditry (yeah, I beat you to it) since 1997. internetzI’m pretty sure that’s when the internet was invented.

There’s really no need to offer up any sort of analysis here. Others are doing it more thoroughly and entertainingly. And besides, any evaluation of the merits or lack thereof in the videos, anything that might smack of treasonous disagreement with what’s being said, is simply brushed off as the self-satisfied smugness of a downtown latte sipping elitist dipper leftie subway and Scarborough hater.

Did I leave anything out?

Oh, right. Bike riding, anti-car cyclist. Repetition entirely intentional.

Because if Rob Ford or Doug Ford or any other member of Ford Nation never has to be right, can just make shit up all the live long day, spout nonsense every time they open their mouths without immediately stuffing it with food or drink, why is anyone else held to a higher standard?upyours

Ford Nation is this hermetically sealed place where rational discourse and civil debate are smothered in their cribs. Every number when added together comes out to a billion. The private sector builds a healthy public realm out of the goodness of its own heart. Demands that the mayor do his job and stand up for everyone he was elected to represent, that’s called bullying. War declared on anyone who dared to sanction the mayor for his deplorable behaviour both on and off the clock. Half day, part time work weeks are of no concern to any serious minded denizen of Ford Nation.

Ford Nation on You Tube is amateurish and hackneyed because anything else would come across as slick and too professional and unRob Ford. I mean, frankly, I don’t think at this point Team Ford such as it is could produce anything else. The operations are amateurish and hackneyed. But you go with what you know.

Low production values and low rent drivel is what Team Ford thinks Ford Nation wants to hear. It’s the mark of the non-politician, don’t you know. Sure the mayor fibs every time he’s caught in a lie. Who doesn’t? suaveandsophisticatedYeah, the mayor’s math may be bad but only egg-headed accountants should be expected to get such big numbers right. Of course, the Fords appear awkward and tongue-tied on camera. Who know who isn’t? Actors. Any politician who doesn’t lie, who can do complex math, who looks and talks good on camera is nothing but an actor.

Rob Ford is the real deal. I mean, look at him. He’s just like I would be if I ran this city. I wouldn’t be able to produce some polished, contrived video either. He’s the mayor of Toronto, folks. Not James Cameron.

How exactly we arrived at this juncture, where fumble-assed, know-nothingness with a solid dose of reprobate conduct passes as more than enough qualifications to oversee a city of 2.5+ million people, I’m not exactly sure. We’re told it’s because of the aloofness and disconnect of downtowners to the plight of those living in the inner suburbs. It’s the snark of privilege. We’re out of touch with the needs of the little guy and hard-working taxpayers. They don’t expect much from the city they live in, maybe a returned phone call and occasional visit. Mayor Rob Ford delivers them exactly that and nothing more.

Bargain basement governance, sold as is. The campaign pitch delivered with all the razzamatazz of a late-night informerical. ShamWow, Ford Nation!


It’s the intersection of little effort and low expectations. Even if they were capable of delivering something better, something more informative, something beyond Wayne and Garth in the basement, Team Ford wouldn’t. It’s not their style. Their rock solid supporters wouldn’t recognize them if they did.

It wouldn’t be Ford Nation on You Tube.

under-whelmingly submitted by Cityslikr

Civic Engagement Is A Daily Thing

February 4, 2014

“A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”

attributed to Horace Mann, American educational reformer, among other things.


Point 6. (A recap of points 1-5)

We have been reduced in the democratic equation of late to two points of civic participation. Paying taxes and voting every 4 years (or whenever governments of the day deem absolutely necessary). Outside of that, it’s all, keep on moving, folks. Nothing to see here.

Just such an attitude has been on ample display in Toronto since 2010 where all we’ve heard about is the ‘mandate’. Through divisive service and programs cuts and subway debates to crack and drunken stupor scandals, we’ve been told a certain someone was given a mandate. You can’t challenge the mandate! Not until the next election. nowrunalongDecisions are only made at election time. You don’t like what’s going on in the interim? Vote your displeasure next election.

To contest the mandate is to be a usual suspect. Some sort of elitist, still bitter over losing in 2010, with no job and lots of free time to hang around City Hall, getting all snarky. Hard working tax payers know their place when it comes to governance. In the polling booth. Every 4 years.

If I’m trying to be even-handed here, such disengagement is not specific to this administration. Too many of us (save a band of dedicated city advocates) during the Miller era were lazy, with our heads buried or looking the other way. We assumed Toronto was in good hands and stood on the sidelines instead of pitching in and contributing. It left some of the accomplishments vulnerable to a tax-and-spend counter-attack. Exhibit A, Transit City.

In 2014, candidates need to encourage people not only to help elect them but to continue on in helping them govern once elected. peskyflyVictory (or defeat for that matter) should not end at the ballot box. What you hear in line at Tim Horton’s does not constitute civic engagement.

Much more than the other two levels of government, the municipal level offers up a grand opportunity for more hands-on involvement by city-zens with the actual running of the city they live in. Anyone who wants to can get in there, get their hands dirty with governance. Attend meetings. Make deputations. Badger your local councillor directly. Mayor Ford has said he is accessible 24/7, right?

Municipal government is where the rubber hits the road, as they say, they being people I can’t bother looking up to properly cite saying it.

Of course, much could be done to further strengthen and deepen civic engagement. There’s a grassroots movement afoot for something called participatory budgeting. Small slivers of a city’s budget portioned off to be decided upon and spent directly at the community level. “Creating a more educated platform of voters overall,” says PGP volunteer facilitator, Christine Petro. “So I think this can only be good for the big project of democracy.”

Perhaps more radical still would be an idea to empower citizens at the community council level. Give them more than simply input. getyourhandsdirtyMake people decide on and be responsible for certain local issues throughout the city. Instead of simple an advisory position make room for actual governing.

Hey, hey.

That’s what elections are for, pallie. The people decide who governs them. Then we go home, watch the Leafs and do it all over again in 4 years time. Anything more than that would be pure… chaos.


But even if that were the case, it would be preferable to the democratic somnolence that has crept up on the citizenry at every level of government. The trend with voter turnout continues to point downward. Disengagement smacks of disillusionment.

That void is then filled with real special interests, not the pretend ones imagined by politicians who see any opposition as undemocratic and unsavoury. Participation and engagement beyond simply voting and tax paying amounts to vigilance. No one politician should be expected to keep democracy healthy and vibrant. Nor 45 for that matter, for a city of over 2.5 million residents with a multitude of needs and opinions.fordnation

For nearly 4 years now, Toronto has been bludgeoned with this idea of a manufactured ‘Nation’ that manifested its will back in 2010 and will do so again this October if need be.

My question is, where exactly has that ‘Nation’ been when every single decision has been made affecting them, every month at every council meeting? Where are they when matters are getting hashed out at committee meetings? Where is that nation when the heavy lifting of daily governance is going on?

Politicians only looking for civic engagement every four years aren’t really comfortable with democracy. Their preference is for more of a don’t call us, we’ll call you kind of arrangement. Give us power, stand back and we’ll take it from here.

That’s not engagement so much as it is honorary ceremonial status.  The flag waver at a car race. The bottle smasher at a boat launch.

If you’re only expected to pay attention once every four years, it’s ultimately difficult to muster much enthusiasm for it.

hopefully submitted  by Cityslikr

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

November 29, 2013

I’ll take some of the initial blame.

Reading Chris Ramsaroop’s article, Ford on his own turf, allmyfaultin this week’s NOW magazine and following along and participating in the ensuing chatter about it on Twitter, I thought, Yeah, that’s me, a dismisser of the suburbs.

Back in 2010 during the municipal campaign when Ford Nation began to coalesce into a formidable movement, I remember being dumbstruck by it. What the fuck are you thinking?! This guy??

“Rather than demonize the suburbs (they are already criminalized because of over-policing),” Ramsaroop writes, “it’s important to have a rethink. Poverty and racism are extremely complicated and affect people in numerous ways. The folks who show up at a Ford BBQ or rally are some of the same people denied adequate services, decent housing and good jobs.”

Fair enough. And these same people think Rob Ford was the politician to alleviate all those shortcomings for them? Why? Whatever in his career as a councillor would lead you to think that he’d deliver adequate services, decent housing and good jobs?

You know all those phone and house calls were just about building a voters’ database, right? fordnationLittle he did for constituents individually would help the problems long term. Rob Ford very rarely concerned himself with looking out for the little guy.

If suburban voters didn’t know that beforehand, they’d certainly find it out once he assumed office. That’ll show them, I sulked. Serves them right. (See? Suburbanites aren’t the only ones who can wallow in spite and resentment.)

But as things proceeded, I came out from under my self-imposed funk and started to wonder what it was I wasn’t getting. What was the connection between residents out in Etobicoke, York, Scarborough and this mayor who was doing very little to help their daily lives. Savings in frozen property taxes and the elimination of the VRT were being offset by increases to the cost in using transit and other pay as you go fees. whatareyousayingServices were being reduced and programs cut despite the mayor’s campaign promise that none of that would happen. Guaranteed.

I was loath to think of such support being based on what some referred to as ‘low information’. That’s not far off calling somebody stupid in my view. The kind of patronizing attitude that’s apparently got us into this mess in the first place.

But hey. I was willing to accept the premise that there were plenty of folks out there, busy going about their business, working hard just to get by who didn’t have the time to tune in closely to the ins and outs of city council although, I know plenty of people who were also busy going about their business, working hard just to get by who managed to find the time to be more informed.

Still. I get it. There are loads of people due to their location, race, ethnicity, income level, feeling that City Hall is too removed from their daily lives and just some place that takes money from their pockets and gives back little in return. A sense of disenfranchisement encouraged by those elected to represent many of these same people; roadtrip1city councillors who thrived on exploiting this urban-suburban divide as a way to cover their own inability or disinclination to deliver anything of much to their residents. Not unlike Mayor Ford himself.

The only way to bridge this gap was to start reaching out beyond our comfy, walled confines of downtown. Get on the subway and then onto a bus and then another bus and see what the members of Ford Nation were saying in the places they met and organized. As we were constantly being told (no, Mr. Ramsaroop is not the first person to chastise downtowners for their apparent insularity), get outside of the bubble we were existing in, and get to know our suburban neighbours.

If I’m being honest here, my efforts to do just that have not been as extensive as my best intentions. I have attended a couple handfuls of meetings, both official (community council meetings) and resident organized ones. My ongoing connections with these groups are tenuous although others are gathering a solid database. communitymeetingBut this is a project I have been a part of for a couple years now.

And I will tell you, for my part, it did not get off to an auspicious start. One of the first gatherings I attended outside of the downtown core was a transit town hall meeting which I later dubbed Seething in Scarborough. People were not present to converse or have a dialogue. It was shouty from the get-go. Much of my time was spent desperately trying to look inconspicuous, wondering if I shouldn’t join in and let fly with a howl of indignation just so no one might figure me as an outsider.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to go out to the political hinterlands and impose my views on the locals. I honestly don’t know what motivates suburban residents, what their expectations are of City Hall, what drives them nuts. Aside from probably the same things we all want. buildabettercityA city that strives to provide the opportunities every resident needs to flourish (eudaimonia, to steal a thought from Charles Montgomery’s Happy City). A place that’s easy to get around, safely. A respectful city that allows and encourages all our diversity.

And aside from that one madhouse meeting in Scarborough (and one or two proposed development sessions I’ve witnessed), my impression is most people who take the time to organize and attend community events want those exact same things. The devil’s in the details and the sticking points always tend to be how exactly to achieve those goals. Most of the times I’ve ventured north of Bloor, as we joke, the experience has been positive and a little inspiring.

But I will tell Chris Ramsaroop that misconceptions abound on both sides of this particular fence. backandforthHe wouldn’t want anyone to assume everybody living in the suburbs thinks like the worst of the unhinged supporters of the mayor who show up in the comments section of newspapers. So he shouldn’t assume that there’s a blanket downtown disregard and dismissal of the suburbs represented by the intemperate outbursts expressed in some of those same newspaper pages.

There are many of us trying to understand and engage. But, like those in the suburbs, our lives are full too and we can’t keep on top of everything that’s happening around this city. You want us to come to your meetings, make concrete steps and deliver the goods? You’ve got to do a little reaching out yourselves, let us know when and where. Chances are a few of us will be there.

friendly-ly submitted by Cityslikr


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