Post Mortem and Analysis

On the theory that there is much to talk about re: results of Toronto’s October 25 municipal election, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke has assembled its crack team of observers to dissect what happened, why and what’s next. This week, well, we just said. They’ll discuss the outcome of Monday’s election.

Cityslikr (heretoforth, CS): Well, the verdict’s in. Rob Ford won and everyone who didn’t vote for him is to blame. Especially hipster urbanites who never took him seriously and spent the entire campaign mocking, ridiculing and denigrating him and those supporting him. We didn’t get the anger.

Acaphlegmic (heretoforth ACA): Truer words have never been spoken. Which is why I’ve decided to go live amongst them.

CS: What? Live amongst whom?

ACA: There you go, getting all elitist. Whom! Amongst people who say ‘who’ not ‘whom’.

US (heretoforth US): But are still OK with the word ‘amongst’.

CS: What do you mean you’re going to live amongst them?

ACA: We can’t understand a people or empathize with them until we’ve seen through their eyes, walked a mile in their shoes. So I am venturing forth to live amongst them. To observe them. To understand what motivates them. To truly get under their skin in order to grasp their hopes, their dreams.

CS: So you’re like what? Margaret Mead of the inner suburbs?

US: Try Dian Fossey.

ACA: See? That’s just what everyone’s talking about. Mocking. Ridiculing. Denigration.

CS: But I don’t get what you mean, ‘live amongst them’. You going to hang out at the Jack Astors at Sherway Gardens?

ACA: There it is again. The mocking and ridicule. They don’t just shop, you know.

US: Yeah. They have to take regular breaks to fill up their Hummers and SUVs.

ACA: Mock away, my friend, mock away but you better start getting used to the fact that you’re in the minority now and start acting accordingly.

CS: Technically that’s not true. Ford did only get 47% of the vote which is why [turns to look directly into pretend camera] you should support RaBIT, the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto. To start making every vote count.

ACA: Cling to that little pipe dream all you want, buddy. Me? I’m going to where the real action is. Larry’s garage.

[inserting very prominent … here to signify a monstrously large pause in the conversation. A really big one.]

CS: Who’s Larry?

ACA: Larry. You met him Monday night here, drinking. We got to talking afterwards. His son, Larry Jr., just got married, and he and the wife are moving into the trailer that’s parked in the driveway. So, Larry-pere offered me the garage. You should see this place! It’s not a garage. It’s like a 2nd home. All decked out. Like this 140” plasma screen TV. Ping pong table. Bar. You name it. A sound system like you would not believe! 4 speakers, maybe 8. I don’t know. Speakers all over the place. I have not listened to that much Foghat since… I don’t know… June of ’77, maybe.

CS: And you’re going to live there. In Larry’s garage.

ACA: You betcha! Live there and observe. Eat the food they eat. Play the games they play. Learn what it is that’s important to them. Rob Ford knows. I should too.

US: So you’re embracing your inner mullet?

CS: (to US) And you? No, wait. Let me guess. You’re moving to Calgary.

US: Well, hey. They took a bold step into the future. We fearfully clung onto… some misguided view of the past. Where we paid no taxes and there was no traffic congestion.

CS: Which brings up something that struck me about the election. There’s all this talk about the downtown-suburb divide, the angry car driving, backyard BBQing Ford supporters versus us effete bike riding, latte loving urbanistas. Yet right here, smack dab in the downtown core, we had three open council seats, none of which were filled with what you’d call new, forward thinking, vibrant Nenshites. Ward 19 went stolidly status quo, replacing old time moderate lefty Pantalone with old time moderate lefty Mike Layton, ignoring a much more interesting progressive candidate in Karen Sun. Ward 18 went hardcore centrist Ana Bailão. Ward 17 and Cesar Palacio—

US: Palacio didn’t retire, did he?

CS: Didn’t he? How could you tell? They had this dynamite challenger, Jonah Schein, but went with their tried and true non-entity incumbent relic.

ACA: What’s your point? I gotta cut out soon. There’s some sort of… sporting event everybody’s getting together to watch at Larry’s.

CS: My point is, maybe this city’s not nearly the outpost of progressive politics we downtown elites would like to think it is. We live in this little bubble, dreaming of bike lanes, complete streets and being just like Portland when, in fact, we’re nothing more than another small minded North American burg concerned only with paying as little as we can and getting as much as we want. Rob Ford as our mayor shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s not the anomaly. David Miller is. He was the outlier. Ford’s just a regression to the mean.

US: Nice. Regression to the mean. Works on a couple levels, too.

ACA: Blah, blah, blah. You guys just don’t get it! There’s nothing to analyze here. Nothing to deconstruct. People are just pissed off. End of story. Rob Ford gets it because he’s pissed off too. Guaranteed!

CS: No, we get the whole anger bit. What we don’t understand is how Rob Ford is going to help in any way to deal with it. What in his platform will help lessen the anger.

ACA: Wh-wh-wh-what are you talking about? Rob Ford isn’t going to lessen the anger. The last thing he wants to do is assuage the resentment.

US: You might want to curtail the use of words like ‘assuage’ with Larry’s crowd.

ACA: Right. The last thing Rob Ford wants to do is the dumb word for assuage the resentment. Without resentment, he’s just another self-interested politician wrapping his own narrow concerns into a populist package.

US: Exactly. And what are we doing in the face of that? Caving in and taking the blame. We got out-politicked, no question. That’s what we should be examining now not shouldering the blame for the perceived grievances of 47% of the population who refused to engage in an honest discussion about the real problems this city has to deal with. We spent very little time here, writing about Ford’s appearance or operatically sized personal failings. We kept asking, over and over again, how his policies on public transit and cutting spending were going to help address the city’s problems. The response? Wrapping themselves in a cloak of victimhood like pouty teenagers. Stop picking on me. You don’t understand. The guy’s not even sworn into office yet and he’s already backtracking on one big doozey of a campaign nose stretcher about replacing streetcars with buses, claiming he never said that, his opponents said he did. Then he gives a babblingly incoherent radio interview and calls it a smear campaign, so he can withdraw further into the safe cocoon of sympathetic press coverage at the Toronto Sun, National Post and AM talk radio. We’ve seen this movie before, guys. Remember. George W. Bush.

CS: Yep. I think we can now officially stop looking south at the Americans and smugly laughing at who they elect into office. Or their eating habits. Did you see where Canada broke the record for sales of KFC’s Double Down?

ACA: (standing) Are we done here? I really don’t want to miss the first quarter… or half of the… thing.

CS: Godspeed to Larry’s garage. Godspeed us all to a Larry’s garage somewhere.

ACA: I’ll be in touch. Under an alias. Send you my serial exposé of the Ford movement.

CS: Stay safe, Serpico.

(Rolling up his collar, Acaphlegmic skulks from the office.)

CS: So, the battle for hearts and minds has just begun.

US: Fuck that. I’m traveling to the Continent. Rent out my house and follow in the steps of Byron, Shelley, Keats. They want elite? (Pulls out his pipe) I’ll give them elite.

CS: No, don’t. You’ve already set off the smoke detector once.

US: I disconnected it.

CS: It stinks. Don’t.

(Urban Sophisticat puffs away at the pipe, trying to get it to stay lit. Eventually a smoke detector goes off in the distance.)

CS: This is going to be a long 4 years.

submitted by Cityslikr

The Bloody Aftermath

Is it discombobulation I’m experiencing? I am distracted, to say the least.

Not wanting to get out of my bathrobe today, I made the short jaunt to the office wearing it. Hey. It’s unseasonably warm out there, my friends. And it’s not like it’s a long commute. A couple, 3 stops. And needless to say, I wasn’t alone, wearing morning flannel on the streetcar. At least I had the decency of wearing something under the robe, unlike someone sitting next to me, let’s call him ‘Brett Favre’, who absolutely refused to cross his legs.

My fears of what I would find (or not) at the office when I got here were well founded. Against my better judgment I’d left Acaphlegmic alone when I headed out to mourn and commiserate with the crowds reeling from last night’s election results. He’d rounded up a couple fellow Ford supporters, and they were cleaning out our bar stock while singing Eye of the Tiger and other Rocky theme songs. I should’ve kicked them out but had little fight left in me.

This a.m. not only was all the liquor gone but most of the office had been ransacked as well. Don’t get me wrong, I point no fingers at the character of Ford supporters. Acaphlegmic is not a stranger to petty larceny, so I’m keeping the blame entirely in house on this one.

The more startling aspect of what I was looking at, over and above the fact that the office had been largely cleaned out of its contents, all the windows were sealed up with that plastic wintertime shrink wrap. Why, I wondered. The place was a sweatbox no matter what time of year.

Yes, it’s going to be a strange next 4 years.

Which is probably why Acaphlegmic will fit into the Ford era so perfectly. My other colleague, however, might not be so adaptive to the change. I’d met up with an ashen faced Urban Sophisticat along my magical misery tour last night. Much of his lack of colour could be explained by an adverse reaction to the evening’s election outcome. Some had to be due to the fact that I’d found him out on a patio furiously puffing on a pipe. A pipe?!

“They want to call me an ‘elite’?” he told me in response to the quizzical look on my face. “I’ll give them elite.” He then inhaled a little too defiantly, sucking smoke deep into his lungs and setting off on an extended coughing spell. Poor Urban Sophisticat. He hasn’t the constitution to cope with the coming 4 years. They’ll eat him alive. I wanted to give him a hug of deep consolation and assurance but between the hacking and smell of singed hazelnut, well, we’re not that close. I moved on before he started expiring blood.

That is not to say I possess an unassailable sang-froid about the Ford situation. What’s eating me this morning is the idea that I’m very much responsible for this fiasco. Perhaps if I hadn’t started this thing and joined in on the municipal politics conversation way back in January, things would not have transpired as they did. Before we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke appeared on the scene, there was only 1 Ford at City Hall. Now there are two. How can’t that be our fault? Maybe if we’d just kept our big yaps shut and simply continued doing what we were doing (I was content enough at my millinery work), things would not have turned out so very, very badly.

Of course, correlation does not imply causation. I may be taking myself a little too seriously, magnifying my importance in all this, way out of proportion. (You think?) But as I sit here, in my robe, in a plundered office, I cannot help but think that as a part of a movement, we did not beat back the storm of anger that descended upon the city. We did not/could not counter the anti-everything sentiment that swept over us last night. Instead, we chose the route of ridicule and disdain; dismissive of the feeling of alienation and outrage that was allowed to run amok, allowing the unbelievable to become the improbable that blossomed into the inevitable. Rob Ford’s success was our failure. There’s nobody else to blame.

Accept it. Learn from it. Move on. A much bigger battle lies ahead.

And why is it so fucking hot in here!

over-heatedly submitted by Cityslikr

Election Day. Vote. Vote. Vote.

It’s here. Election day. (Or Election Day, as the auto-correct insists on my writing it.) 294 days since this Campaign 2010 kicked off, back in blustery, blowy, blizzardy January. Yes, I am guessing what the weather was. It might’ve been cold, crisp and bright. But we can agree that it was January.

Partisan bickering and jostling has subsided somewhat. A general agreement has been reached at least between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Vote, people. Whatever else you do, however which way it is you plan to cast your ballot, just go and do it. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.

The common sentiment on why this is important seems to be, if you don’t vote, you can’t bitch. Let’s take that a bit further. If you are an eligible voter who doesn’t vote, if you can’t find the time during this 10 hour period to take 15 minutes, ½ an hour, 2 hours to make it to your appointed polling station and cast a ballot (having already not gone to advance polls earlier this month), then what you’re really telling everyone is that, fuck it, you don’t give a shit about what happens in this city. You are letting it be known that you’re not an engaged citizen or active participant. You’re just somebody who lives here.

Much has been made throughout this campaign about the disengagement between City Hall and the general public. Less than 40% of the electorate voted in the last municipal election here in 2006, including an eye-poppingly low 18% of the 18-34 year-old demographic. Electoral reform is clearly needed, through ranked ballots to increased powers at the community council level.

But it is a two-way street, this civic disengagement.  When less than 4 in 10 of us actually bother to vote, it sends a message to those that do get elected that a solid majority of us don’t care, aren’t following what’s going on and, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what happens down at City Hall. It gives our representatives carte blanche. A green light to run roughshod and to say, when we do raise our heads in indignation (our heads only ever raise in indignation, it seems), oh hey, I thought you weren’t paying attention…

So, no excuses, OK? Do your democratic duty and get out and vote. I don’t care who for (maybe I do, just a little) or if you make a point of going in and spoiling as a form of protest. Just vote, be counted and have your voice heard. As our Twitter friend bikeroo wrote, “Hey Toronto, vote like your city depends on it!”

already having votedly submitted by Cityslikr