Stifling Debate

With little fanfare, Toronto’s municipal election heated up yesterday with 3 – count `em – 3 mayoral candidate debates. Now alas, 2 weren’t open to the wider public, with one being at a school in Scarborough and another for the Toronto Real Estate Board where, surprise, surprise, according to a poll conducted by the host group, the second most important issue to voters after public transit is the repeal of the Land Transfer Tax. We’d love to see how that question was posed to end up with such a fortuitous stat.

What’s equally interesting to note from the Day of Debates©®™ is that regardless of the venue, only 6 candidates received invitations to participate. Whether it was the TREB, the Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute or the good people of the Bloor West Residents Association, they all have accepted the given narrative that there are six, and only six, candidates to be listened to and considered as legitimate hopefuls to be mayor. What’s going on here?

Do only those sporting a high media profile or with impeccable connections make the cut? What has Sarah Thomson done that has merited her a spot on the debate podium? Does being a sitting councillor automatically qualify you for contender status even though most of the shit coming out of your mouth is no less crazy or unworkable than that coming from those sidelined as ‘fringe’ candidates? Rocco Rossi is purely a backroom one trick pony and yet there he is, being treated like serious mayoral material.

At last count there are 20 other candidates who have paid their $200 and have every right to be heard but are clearly being marginalized. How does this help our democracy or open up the debate to wider, more diverse voices by excluding people who have expressed a clear interest in our local politics and registered to run for office? Yes, there are undoubtedly cranks standing out on the fringe. That’s what happens when everyone is free to vote and free to seek public office. The alternative is far more frightening.

Throughout our weekly Meet A Mayoral Candidate profiles, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have encountered some very intriguing prospects. Sonny Yeung. Wendell Brereton. Keith Cole. George Babula and his Parkdale Party. They all bring certain political ticks and quirks to the table that limits their reach at the moment. But which of the leading candidates don’t?

Four months into the campaign and let’s take a moment to look at what we’re being given. Aside from curfews and tax breaks for senior citizens, who knows why Giorgio Mammoliti wants to be mayor or what he might do if elected. The man’s been a councillor in North York and Toronto for nearly 15 years and I have no idea what he stands for. Then there’s Rob Ford. A clown (a mean, nasty one at that) by any other measure who has plugged into the anti-incumbent, unfocussed anger out there and is riding it into contention on a platform of idiotic and detrimental policy proposals. Ditto Rocco Rossi only with a slightly smoother presentation. Sarah Thomson introduced the idea of road tolls and subways into the debate and then seems to have taken a powder.

Leaving us with two other candidates. The first, the perceived front runner, is an undistinguished former Toronto MPP and cabinet minister in an undistinguished government who sometime last year got it into his head that he wanted to be mayor. Why? Who knows. It’s tough to get any sort of answer from a candidate who doesn’t want to engage fully for fear of making a mistake and finding himself in a horse race. So we get essentially a counter-punching offensive, attacking whatever his opponents say and then uttering mealy-mouthed platitudes like ‘an integrated transportation plan’ or ‘Services First Approach’.

Then there’s Joe Pantalone, the lone ‘viable’ candidate running from the progressive-left. That alone should make this his election to lose, what with him having been on council for 30 years and being the Deputy Mayor for the last 6. Yet Joe seems so petrified of being linked with David Miller that it seems his strategy is just to lay low, keep quiet and wait for all the lefties to eventually find their way to him.

Although to be fair to Joe, he’s not being treated with much respect from the press. Following last night’s debate from Runnymede United Church via the Twitter, when the candidates were asked what green initiatives of Mayor Miller’s they would keep if elected, Kelly Grant from the Globe and Mail tweeted Pantalone’s answer like this: Pants… reminds us of his tree hugging… Uhhh, Ms. Grant? Environmental issues aren’t just for dirty hippies anymore.

No, people. Time is of the essence. We are being sold a bill of goods here. Contenders have been unjustifiably anointed. Issues corralled and packaged for easy digestion. We need to open things up, bring in fresh perspectives. With another 6 months to go in the campaign, the process has already started to simply spin its wheels. Everyone is running in place.

Let’s ignore the prix fixe we’ve been given and demand to order from the a la carte menu. Twenty-six candidates have registered to run for mayor and twenty of them have been shut out of the process. That is not democracy. That is not a free and open debate. It’s a façade. A charade. A façade of a charade and no one save the chosen few are being well served by it.

It’s time to find ourselves a barn and put on our own show.

Judy Garlandly submitted by Cityslikr

One Response to Stifling Debate

  1. Walt says:

    Dear Cityslikr
    Thank you for having the courage to comment on the “Big Six”.
    Man my ears started to bleed when I heard the exchange yesterday between Ford and Smitherman. “You’re ugly……no, you’re ugly………oh yeah? you’re uglier”. By letting the “also-rans” have their fifteen minutes of fame we may actually increase the level of professionalism at such a debate. Might even hear some good ideas?
    One thing that must be done, though, is that a moderator is required so that the children stay to the script. Answer the question and then shut up! Otherwise the Big Six will taint the reputations of the Also-Rans.

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