Toss Us A Bone, George

So it seems George Smitherman has unveiled the final act of his storybook – no, wait – Grimm Brothers march to the mayoralty. Rather than an uplifting coda, singing to us all about his plans to make Toronto a better place, he goes subterranean, pointing out the monster waiting under the bed if we don’t vote for him, appealing to our basest trait, fear. The picture perfect, logical conclusion to the most cold-blooded, calculating campaign in recent memory.

The Smitherman ploy? To hammer at the lingering progressive voters who haven’t yet jumped ship over at the Joe Pantalone camp, not with incentives or positive reasons as to why they should switch allegiance to Team Smitherman but because if they don’t… if they don’t… Mayor Rob Ford! Oogliebooglie!! And if that scary, scary scenario comes to pass, well, it’ll be everybody’s fault who didn’t vote for George. George’ll just be some innocent bystander. He told us so.

The man is kicking sand in our faces, people. He’s taunting us, brazenly running on a resolutely right wing platform and telling us that we over here on the left side of the political spectrum have no choice but to vote for him. Why? Because he’s not Rob Ford. That is the very definition of a deal with the devil.

Take Smitherman’s latest poke to the eye of progressives when he dropped by for a quick cup of coffee at last night’s 519 Community Centre debate. When asked if he supported safe injection sites, he rejected them out of hand, suggesting that he “…wasn’t convinced of its merits.” The former Minister of Health for Ontario isn’t convinced of the merits of safe injection sites?! You know who else isn’t convinced of the merits of safe injections sites, George? Rob Ford. And he’s an idiot.

If this were just an aberration or odd tic in Smitherman’s otherwise moderate campaign (and at this point, I’m not looking for anything more radical than moderate), it could be overlooked. Harm reduction is contentious. But it simply further tilts his candidacy further right into Ford Country.

A Pantalone-prone exaggeration? Smitherman’s proposed a one year tax freeze if elected. A tax freeze in the middle of a supposed financial crunch? You know who else loved to freeze taxes? Mel Lastman. He’s proposed to cut about 1300 jobs from City Hall (while increasing police numbers by 50 which would be half the number Rob Ford promises) through attrition while increasing service to the city’s citizens through the magical neo-conservative way of defying common sense. Less workers = more service. His transit plans are fuzzy at best, both bashing Transit City while expropriating most of it with minor tweaks to call it his own. And mysteriously, he’ll pull in a cool $100 mil from the province to chip into the TTC’s operating costs although he’s been castigating Pantalone and the current administration for always going to the province, cap in hand. Oh yeah, and he’s pledged a “time out on construction of new bike lanes on arterial roadways.”

George Smitherman has shown very little progressive tendencies during this campaign but since Rob Ford has shown none that somehow justifies Smitherman asking, no, demanding, our vote. Well, you know what? Fuck you, George. It’s going to take a lot more than scare tactics to pry my vote away.

So instead of meekly handing over our franchise simply because we’re frightened (and call it ‘strategic’), how be we demand at least a little quid pro quo? We don’t have to ask for the complete capitulation from George that he’s asking from us. Just a morsel. A tidbit. Throw us a bone, George, because simply campaigning on being less bad than Rob Ford isn’t going to do it.

How about something like this?

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke vow to at least think about voting for George Smitherman if he pledges to adhere to the recommendations that emerge from the panel he promises to convene if elected, headed by John Sewell, to look into “restoring local decision-making and local democracy.” It ain’t much as we notice that he explicitly doesn’t mention ballot or voting reform and hems everything in by stating any recommendation cannot increase spending at City Hall. But, it’s something we could hold on to; to help rationalize and justify, even a little, to ourselves that by giving over our vote to such a despicable and disagreeable candidate, we weren’t completely selling our souls out of childish fear.

If every progressive voter who hadn’t yet gone over to the dark side demanded just one thing – a proper bike lane rethink, no increase to the police budget, a realistic transit plan – from George and all his minions out there, rustling up the scare, then at least we’d have something, an unwritten pact with the man. And if elected, he began to stray and ignore what he once promised to us, we would have a common cause, uniting us in dedication to chasing him from office in 2014. Progressives who’d sold out and bitter centrists, working together in a sweet sounding coalition called Anybody But George.

— defiantly submitted by Cityslikr

3 thoughts on “Toss Us A Bone, George

  1. The full context of Smitherman’s comments on safe injection sites included a comment that he didn’t think it was the appropriate solution for Toronto’s drug culture (a view that appears partially supported by researchers at St. Mike’s and included references to the work he did as Minister of Health to promote harm-reduction strategies, which is a more nuanced position than you present. Pantalone, on the other hand, did not answer Smitherman’s question about where he’d put a safe-injection and did not support safe injection sites on the record in August:

    On harm reduction, at least, Smitherman’s response has been consistent. You may disagree but he’s not pandering to his audience on this issue. And I respect that in a pol, even when I don’t respect the position.

    • Dear Lifeonqueen,

      Unfortunately, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke could not open the link to the article from the Star you sent. Are you suggesting that researchers at St. Mike’s ‘partially support’ Smitherman’s view that safe injection sites were not appropriate solutions to Toronto’s drug culture? That there isn’t enough of a critical mass, say, of IV drug users to warrant the use of them?

      Will acknowledge such in tomorrow’s Smitherman profile.

      • Apologies.

        Not to self – do not include brackets in HTML link –

        This is the article I referred to above. The relevant paragraphs:

        ‘”We showed Insite saved money and extended lives,” Bayoumi said. “But that was very specific for … Vancouver. The Vancouver situation is unique in North America, and perhaps in the world, in that it has many drug users in a concentrated area. I think everybody would be hesitant to translate the findings from that study to other cities.”

        ‘Toronto has the largest number of injection drug users in Ontario, but unlike Vancouver, drug users are not concentrated in one area, Bayoumi said.

        ‘”One thing we know for sure is there is a high level of crack cocaine use in Toronto,” said assessment investigator Peggy Millson, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana school of public health. “That raises another whole set of issues, including providing services for people whose risks are more associated with smoking rather than injecting.”‘

        Personally, I think Smitherman’s attitudes are influenced by his personal experience with addiction. But his assertion that a safe injection site like Insite isn’t necessarily an effective solution to TO’s drug problem (unlike Vancouver, there’s no one drug neighbourhood, etc) is at least an informed position. Possibly (probably?) entirely wrong but informed.

        Smitherman’s “where would put [the safe injection sites]” line is cheap electioneering but, at the same time, Pants’ refusal to consider an answer displays the problem with Pantalone’s platform in general – he’s happy to promise voters bike lanes (that he couldn’t deliver in May), safe injection sites and ponies but without an actual plan on how to deliver these promises at council, Pantalone’s support for safe injection sites is worth as much as Ford’s promise to halve council.

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