It Just Feels Right

September 1, 2010

Lets’ go back to the beginning.

No, not that far back, wherever you found yourself thinking ‘the beginning’ was. Just to this past January, the fourth of, I believe. When the official municipal campaign 2010 kicked off and we all were looking forward with trepidation at having to elect a new mayor. There was anger out there in the hinterlands but who could’ve guessed exactly how much?

Me? I wasn’t a fire breathing silly socialist. If you remember correctly, I was sitting comfortably in the centre, perhaps a little rightish of there. Don’t believe me? Check this out. (Those were much shorter posts back then too, weren’t they. When did we become so full of ourselves?) An admitted John Tory supporter back in `03 who might not have ruled out voting for him again this year if he chose to run despite having misgivings about his stumble through the provincial political arena throughout much of the past decade.

However, I did not develop a hate on for the man that beat him in 2003 and whom I voted for in 2006, Mayor David Miller. The city did not seem like the cesspool we were being told it was. Problems needed to be fixed, certainly; none more so than our aging public transit system, the once venerable TTC. Even that didn’t seem all that out of reach, what with Transit City up and ready to go. I considered myself a Miller convert and was sorry to see him go.

Leaving us with…?

A mad, maddening rush to the right. In some circumstances the surprisingly far right. Much chatter about privatization, outsourcing public services, cuts, cuts, cuts.

Why?

Simple solutions offered up for complicated situations despite what H.L. Mencken (no bleeding heart liberal himself) once said: For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. In other words, if it were as easy as all that, it would’ve been done already. Unfortunately, few of us are immune to the lure of the snake oil salesman.

In place of concrete ideas, those looking for our votes pitched divisions. Left versus Right. Car versus bikes. Suburban versus urban. Everything that was wrong with Toronto could be traced back to those at City Hall, ignoring any outside factors that weighed heavily on us. Negligent and sometimes hostile senior levels of government. An economy that for the past two years nearly tanked and since has barely sputtered along. Continued pains of enforced amalgamation that did not magically disappear by executive fiat.

None beat the drum of discord louder than Etobiocoke millionaire councillor and laughably self-proclaimed ‘Man of the People’, Rob Ford. His noisy entry into the race and subsequent overtaking of perceived front runner, George Smitherman, had everyone scurrying worriedly to the right. Rocco Rossi was already there. He had to dig in deeper. Smitherman, figuring that bombastic Ford had no real constituency in downtown circles, threw caution to the wind and abandoned the centre to scrape away whatever soft right supporters he could. Ford’s extreme right views allowed both Rossi and Smitherman to adopt stances that would make someone like John Tory uncomfortable. Defying all electoral logic, the three amigos are desperately trying to divvy up the right wing pie, leaving their left flank wide open and virtually undefended.

Again, why?

Because they think they can. Reading Jeff Jedras’ post on the long arms registry tug-of-war in his BCer in Toronto, it seems there are no negative consequences in pandering to a conservative base. To not do so, in fact, is to risk an electoral fiasco. This conventional wisdom (i.e. mainstream media) has it that flipping the bird to the left has only an upside.

Leaving us here in the mushy centre with only one real alternative, Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone.

Oh Joe. You should be delighted with how this is all playing out, alone among the leading contenders, to tend to the left of centre garden without fear of having to give up so much as a speck of land to any interlopers. There are those of us out here who don’t think the city’s in such dire shape that it needs a good short, sharp shock of neoconservative home brew. (Isn’t that exactly what amalgamation was?) For every one of those who believe this election’s solely about “money, money, money”, there’s an equal contingent thinking that’s a rather myopic view of how to build a city. Embrace us, Joe. Take up the fight.

Not that he hasn’t tried. It’s just that Pantalone isn’t a strong campaigner. He’s nice. He’s quiet. He’s approachable. His strong suit seems to be behind the scenes where it is said he can be as tough as nails. A 30 year track record of working with mayors, running the wide political spectrum from Art Eggleton to Mel Lastman and David Miller, and time spent on the former Metro Council, reveal a non-divisivenes in Pantalone. He’s a uniter not a divider, as he’s stated, which may be another reason he’s the odd man right now.

Who knows. As election day closes in on us, everyone may snap to attention and realize that fighting tooth-and-nail for one side of the political spectrum may not be the best strategy. It certainly hasn’t been in the past. Otherwise, unless Pantalone can successfully scoop up a good portion of the centre/centre left citywide – or someone else breaks out big time — we will elect a mayor with a dangerously low percentage of the popular vote. And if you think Toronto’s polarized and divided now…

trepidatiously submitted by Urban Sophisticat