Our Cancerous Campaign

I write today in soothing tones like those of the 1970s FM DJs, all smoky and silk, in hopes of ratcheting the shrill tone of the mayoral campaign down a notch or two. It has been all vitriol, spouting nothing but contempt and vilification. Yes, some of it is unfriendly fire between candidates as one might expect especially from an uninspiring brood of candidates who lack anything close to resembling a forward thinking vision for the city.

But much of the ugly, mean-spirited rhetoric has been directed at the very body the mayoral hopefuls are vying to lead: the municipal government itself and all those who Tend to the Garden of Its Upkeep (the title of a never released ELP album from the late `70s). The bureaucracy, in other words. The allegedly ‘corrupt’ council. City workers who have the temerity to inconvenience us and go out on strike. Oh sure, Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, the standard bearer of incumbency, does chime in with the occasional dissenting peep, peep, peep of ‘This isn’t Cleveland. This isn’t Detroit’ but it’s usually lost in the indignant jeering of his rivals calling for a jihad against those making our lives miserable. Entrenched and self-serving civil servants and career politicians.

Vote for me because I hate the institution of democratic governance as much as you do!

Never mind the bent, twisted logic of that sentiment and please ignore the results of electing the practitioners of such political thinking (the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, the diminution of Ontario under the Harris-Eves-McGuinty rule, Stephen Harper’s full frontal assault on the state currently underway), when we’re angry we have a tendency to favour politicians who mirror our distrust and dislike of politicians. And nothing eggs on our ire toward politicians more than hearing about the kind of salaries they enjoy and the perks they wallow in. They make how much?! That’s unbelievable, outrageous, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph…

It’s a funny dichotomy. We extol those in the private sector raking in much larger sums of money per annum and enjoying far more luxurious perks. They are the titans of industry, we say. Creators of jobs (although not so much lately) and floaters of boats everywhere (again, not so much lately). Making a success of yourself in business is the height of accomplishment. Toiling away in the bowels of government, well, clearly you’ve settled and should consider your life wasted.

It is an odd case of self-hatred. Shouldn’t we encourage our best and brightest to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the business of government? Wouldn’t that make for a better society? Instead, we shower praise and riches on those who package our middle class aspirations overseas and make monstrous returns for their investors. When business is paramount, government is seen as nothing more than an irrelevant impediment.

So here we are, cheering on millionaires and the well-to-do, telling us that they’ll improve our lives by dismantling the very apparatus that paves our roads, brings us water, maintains peace and order (on most days). Not only that, but they’ll happily do it for cut rate prices! Rocco Rossi pledged to slash the mayor’s salary by 10%. Rob Ford, George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson have promised to freeze their pay if elected in October. Hell, Ford could probably seal the deal and become this city’s next mayor if he promised to do the job for free.

All this in the face of a recent report suggesting that, in fact, the position of mayor in Toronto was under-valued, remuneratively speaking. No matter. A politician should not be concerned with niggling things like pay, pension or their financial future. At least, according to Rocco Rossi.

“Politics is a high calling, but it should be a time of service, it’s not a career, and the moment you start looking at it as a career, that’s when people start worrying about the salary, the pension and the benefits, as opposed to serving the people,” Rossi said.

So, only the selfless and those that can afford a life in politics need apply. Or, to steal a phrase from business parlance, you get what you pay for.

sedately submitted by Urban Sophisticat