The Smitherman Design Model

June 9, 2010

It’s becoming more and more apparent to us, here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, that George Smitherman is not an actual living, breathing human being but rather a reasonably lifelike facsimile of one; an automaton programmed and hardwired to ape the sound, movement and cadence of a 21st-century politician without all the messy and complicated shortcomings like reflection, belief and the possession of a conscience. His rudimentary 1/0 algorithmic data processing capabilities deny him the aptitude of coming up with any original thoughts or ideas. The intention of his design is singular: to react, with efficiency, ruthlessness and little regard for consequences outside of winning an election race.

This realization dawned on us with the unveiling of Smitherman’s latest campaign platform this past Friday in a speech delivered to the Toronto Rotary Club. Reading through “PronTO” we were struck by the fact that it is a plan that could’ve easily emanated from the gob of Rob Ford. In fact, it did with Ford’s call for “customer service” at City Hall during the Better Ballots mayoral debate on June 1st.  Brazenly and, seemingly, without fear of being taken to task for plagiarism, Team Smitherman announced in the first sentence of their Smitherman Unveils pronto press release, Plan Will Ensure Quality Customer Service In City Run Services. [Italics and bolding ours.]

Coming on the heels of the Smitherman campaign calling a press conference to announce their candidate’s transit plans which was nothing more than a warmed over version of Transit City (which Smitherman has been mocking since announcing his intention to run for mayor) with a few subway dollops borrowed from rivals Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi, and a definite strategy is emerging. Steal ideas from your opponents that seem to be gaining traction with the public, repackage them in a malleable and generic language, add nothing new of your own, border it in regal purple and send the robot out to sell it as if it’s his. Repeat until October 25th.

It would be laughable if it didn’t seem to be working. The man has no vision, no new or innovative ideas to bring to the table. Nearly half way through the campaign and there’s still no real sense of why this thing calling itself George Smitherman wants to be mayor of Toronto. Yet, he remains the frontrunner, the ‘man’ to beat, even accepting an invite from the Chinese government for an all expenses trip to China for the International Mayors Forum on Tourism. Errrr, Robot George? You and your designers do realize you’re not mayor yet, right? First you get elected and then you attend global mayors’ forums.

This element of presumption has infected the mayoral campaign far beyond Team Smitherman’s arrogant certainty of victory. The range of discourse is as limited as the number of ‘credible’ candidates. It is presumed that the city’s spending is out of control. It is presumed that we are over-taxed. It is presumed that all our services are poorly run and bureaucratically inert. It is a closed loop, a limited buffet of choices and narrow breadth of discussion. The Smitherman campaign’s cherry-picking strategy is nothing more than the 1st Law of Political Thermodynamics: no issue can be created or destroyed, only transformed. Merely a regurgitation of easily exploitable hot button bullet points that keep new, innovative or even radical ideas from entering the debate and drowning the democratic process in its wake.

While this may be good for Team Smitherman and their walking, talking, sometimes overheating political replicant, it is doing absolutely nothing for the people of Toronto or their local democracy.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr