Time’s Up

September 23, 2010

How on earth do people fill the hours in the day if they’re not talking/thinking/writing about the municipal campaign? Exercising? Exorcising? Watching TV? Raising children? What?

No time for any of that, have I, and during one late night bull session about the issue recently, it struck me that, despite politicians’ best efforts and laid plans, they are ultimately done or undone by nothing more than timing. Take our outgoing mayor, David Miller, for example. Swept to power on a demand wave for change in the wake of the Lastman administration’s inability to cope with the megacity beast that emerged from amalgamation, seven years later Miller himself was chased from office in the face of a rising tide of discontent within the populace.

His offense? Well, to these not unbiased eyes, it is mostly a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for Miller. That is not to say he was blameless or that he couldn’t have done some things differently. Politicians make mistakes. To expect anything approximating perfection is a little unreasonable.

But in this part of the world (namely Toronto, Ontario), Miller is the first of our elected officials to face the voters’ wrath in these post-economic meltdown times. Things are tough out there. Peoples’ livelihoods are not secure. We’re not at all convinced that we’re out of the woods yet. The future is… unsettling, let’s put it.

So the Miller administration gives voters the chance to let their displeasure with the state of affairs be known. The premier ducks and hides for another year. Our Prime Minister manipulates a minority government with a weak opposition, biding his time until things become more favourable towards those in the seat of power. So our ire finds its target at City Hall.

An added bonus at the municipal level is the opportunity for voters to give the heave-ho directly to an unpopular politician. So while Mayor Miller is gone, any candidate seen representing his terms in office (and we all know who that is) becomes his surrogate. At the provincial and federal levels, unless someone lives in the riding of the premier or prime minister, they’re voting for or against the government by proxy with the candidate representing the party in their riding. Municipally, the name’s right there on the ballot to do with whatever a voter wishes. There’s some power in that.

The irony of this is that the one candidate benefiting most from current voter anger, the guy who’s masterfully tapped into it, is running on a bare bones, inventively buoyant platform that stays afloat on the sea of outrage despite gapping holes in it that should’ve rightly sunk it as soon as it hit the water. It prescribes a healthy dose of the same warmed over neo-conservative uncommon sense that helped get us into this present mess, macro-ly speaking. Small government stepping out of the way of the almighty free market which will fix all that it broke in the first place. Really, trust us. This time it’ll work.

For some reason, voters think that some of this at the city level will cure the ills that ail us. There may be no convincing them otherwise because, well, timing is everything. And this time, time may not be on our side.

somewhat fatalistically submitted by Urban Sophisticat