Why Are You Asking Me?

March 28, 2011

Three days into our federal election campaign and we’re all still breathlessly awaiting word from the Oracle of Etobicoke. As mayor of the country’s biggest city, just what issues does he want to see addressed by the politicians out on the hustings? How can Ottawa best contribute to the well-being of the nation’s cities? A national transit strategy? A national housing strategy? A more even split of tax revenues like the gas tax?

What? What? What? Oh, great silent One. Use this time when your leverage is strongest to put forth an urban vision. And no, a quick email missive repeating one of your campaign chants will not suffice.

The sad joke of our mayor’s failure to lead (hell, make an appearance even) as the federal election begins to take shape is that he had 7 months or so during last year’s municipal race to put forth some sort of vision for the city and failed miserably to do so. It was all about what shouldn’t be happening as opposed to what should be. Negative rather than positive. City diminishing not city building. So expectations for him to suddenly emerge with a concrete, Wish List of items that federal politicians need to check off to gain his approval shouldn’t be any higher than practically nil.

Besides, what kind of asks can Mayor Ford make of either senior level of government? Toronto doesn’t have a revenue problem, remember? It has a spending problem and while the mayor and his team are grudgingly realizing that the situation just may not be as straightforward as all that, how do you reframe such an important plank in your popularity? It’s like trying to reconfigure your very political DNA.

On top of which, this is an administration that’s proving unable to make requests or to seek any sort of consensus with anyone it sees as not being completely simpatico with its way of thinking. It demands, instead. Makes threats. Give us this or else. Or else what? The wrath of Ford Nation.

Or at least, that’s how it rolls with those who don’t share the same political colours like the current premier of Ontario, Liberal Dalton McGuinty. Premier McGuinty better play ball or else the mayor’s all in with the like-minded conservative, Tim Hudak. I want my ill-advised subway or else.

But what to do when a Conservative is already in power? Not to mention that one of the bigwigs, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, is also a family friend? To make requests or demands of them in return for your support would be to suggest that they’re already not doing enough. Almost like a criticism. Criticizing is what you do to opponents not brothers-in-arms.

So personally, I expect to hear very little from our mayor during the federal campaign. He’ll lie low, maybe even use the 5 weeks or so as a distraction, to pull off some stuff that might draw more attention if eyes weren’t otherwise focused elsewhere. And hope for a Conservative majority win. Once that’s in place, then it’s on to Queen’s Park to install a Conservative government there this fall.

With those ducks all in a row, a trifecta, city, province, country, then the real work can begin and our city will grow and prosper as cities always do under the beneficent and enlightened rule of Conservatives.

submitted by Cityslikr