Say It Ain’t So Joe

February 25, 2010

With his new campaign headquarters open for business, Councilor Joe Pantalone has “officially” announced his intention to become the next mayor of Toronto. Fingers crossed, people will now start to notice his presence in the race because since his actual official entry back in mid-January, nobody really has.

Why would they? The man’s just been Deputy Mayor for the last 6 years and a city councilor for nearly 30 but, as we all know, nobody really pays any attention to municipal politics. At least, not until their taxes go up or another TTC ticket collector is photographed asleep at his post. No, it’s all about name recognition when it comes to City Hall elections and the gorilla in the room this time around is a former MPP, provincial cabinet minister and Deputy Premier which trumps a Deputy Mayor any day of the week. In one early poll, Pantalone’s even trailing a neophyte candidate who has oozed out of federal Liberal backrooms.

But as they say, today is the first day of the rest of your campaign and at this juncture Joe Pantalone should be smiling wide. He is the only perceived legitimate candidate coming from the left side of the political spectrum after fellow councilor Adam Giambrone’s exit a couple weeks back. The progressive field is Joe’s and Joe’s alone. In a race that has been so far leaning hard, hard right with the frontrunners fighting to establish themselves as the meanest, nastiest reactionaries this here town has ever seen, Pantalone can simply spend his time shoring up the solid progressive base and taking aim at the just left of centres that have been largely ignored.

So when this week’s headlines come rolling in off the country’s most read newspaper, the head scratching began. Pantalone Pledges A New Era Of Frugality, says Paul Moloney of the Toronto Star. Joe Pantalone Born Again As Tightwad, opines the Star’s Royson James.

Huh?! What’s that, Joe?

Now to be fair to the candidate, the Star’s election coverage to date seems to be driven through the prism of their columnist James’s virulent anti-David Miller views. Anything and everything to do with our mayor, James loathes with a keenness that borders on the pathological, almost to a Sue-Ann Levy degree. Almost. So their presentation of Pantalone needs to be read in that light.

Still, there he is evoking images of the penny-pinching side of the leftie demi-God (and Greatest Canadian®™©), Tommy Douglas in the Moloney article. “If you don’t have a nickel, you don’t spend a nickel,” Pantalone said, quoting his ‘idol’ who ‘was very prudent’. “Miller’s was the expansionist approach,” the deputy mayor told James last week. “Mine will be a consolidationist approach. It’ll be nip and tuck; it doesn’t give a grand vision of nirvana; it’s not sexy but it’s what you have to do to survive. The times require a middle ground.”

As a campaign strategy, I don’t get it. I mean, I do get it in its very cynical approach. Nipping and tucking at the middle ground in hopes of peeling away some of those squishy moderates who are unimpressed with the alpha chest beating emanating from the other contenders.

Being the lone left dog in the race, perhaps Joe thinks he doesn’t need  to cater to the NOW crowd. They’re already in the bag because where else do they have to go? Joe throws them the odd bone as he did pointing out in today’s National Post that some of the city’s budget goes to provincially mandated services like welfare so his opponents’ slash and burn proposals are easier said than done. Still, taking your constituency for granted is not exactly infusing heart into your campaign.

With Smitherman and Rossi tapping into and exploiting the righteous indignation of voters who see an out of control City Hall that is impervious to their demands, their base is engaged and ready for battle if wildly misdirected. Counting on them to split the vote and opening up the middle for you to sprint to victory is simply cold calculation. It’s less than inspiring and may leave the usual supporters home on election day. At best, they’ll head to the polls with their noses held and tepidly vote for you. If that’s the kind of mandate you’re looking for, Joe, well you’ve got yourself started in the right direction.

miffedly submitted by Cityslikr