Fringe Candidates

There was much talk around these offices last fall as the municipal election campaign wound down toward its ugly, ugly conclusion. Strategic voting or mark an X with your heart, or simply pack up and head somewhere more reasonable for the following 4 years. (Have you been reading Toronto Life again? — ed.) How best to try and stop the Ford juggernaut? Don’t go getting all high and mighty with me, mister. Splitting the left of centre vote will only help his cause. Yes, I do think there are fewer worse case scenario’s than the prospect of a Mayor Rob Ford.

In the end, none of it mattered. Our current mayor won with a big enough plurality that nearly all of the 3rd place finisher Joe Pantalone voters would’ve had to throw in their lot with the eventual runner-up, George Smitherman, to overtake the frontrunner. Smitherman simply had not made that possible. (Nor are we convinced Toronto would be faring any better under a Smitherman mayoralty. A big sigh of relief from residents followed by a slow, perhaps even imperceptible bleed, rather than a gashing head wound. — ed.)

My Pantalone vote sat OK with me. I was not a displeased Torontonian under the Miller administration and Pantalone, despite his underwhelming campaign style, made the case that the city was on the right track. Or, if not on the right track, hadn’t derailed as all the other leading candidates for the office claimed. Certainly, 10 months after the fact, his accusations of the other leading candidates being mini-Mike Harris’s, bent on re-configuring Toronto into another Buffalo or Detroit has something of a ring to truth to it. Oh, the mockery and derision Pantalone received from the others for his scare-mongering. Rob Ford ‘guaranteed’ no such thing would happen under his watch.

My colleague here felt no such peace of mind in defeat. His candidate for mayor, HiMY SYeD, to whom he felt far greater attachment to than I did toward Joe Pantalone, not only lost but lost big. Crushed. 31 of 40 bidders for mayor with a paltry .071% of the popular vote. The very definition of a fringe candidate.

Few folks here were surprised about the outcome. Despite a huge social network presence, Mr. SYeD failed to get himself included in any of the countless debates. Any press he did manage to garner came with the ‘fringe’ adjective attached. Expectations of some sort of Nenshi miracle were nothing short of delusional. (Yeah, alright. We get your point. — ed.) To vote for HiMY SYeD; to waste your vote. (I said we get it. Is that really a proper use of a semi-colon? — ed.)

Yet, as I sat watching Mr. SYeD’s deputation at last month’s marathon Executive Committee meeting, I began to wonder about the ‘fringe’ designation. Certainly he was only one of countless Torontonians who delivered passionate, articulate, highly informed presentations to committee members who almost all possess none of those attributes. Passion maybe, but not toward city building so much as city shredding. These were the candidates deemed worthy of serious consideration and here they were, being schooled on what makes a city work.

Think back over the antics and shenanigans on display by many of these councillors during the course of the last 10 months. Giorgio Mammoliti? By any measure except for electoral success, he should be thought of as a fringe candidate. Doug Ford? Only someone out on the fringes would have the ease to say the things that come out from his mouth. Didn’t Councillor Cesar Palacio express surprise at how little rent the city was charging some Toronto Community Housing tenants? How long does one have to be in office before learning the first thing about social housing? 6 months? 6 years? Or at least possess a sense of self-awareness that edits such obliviousness before you can send it along for public consumption.

And Mayor Ford himself. A career long fringe councillor, unable to get along with almost all of his colleagues for a decade and still woefully unsure just how municipal government works. Nothing he has done since assuming office has alleviated the feeling that he has no idea what he’s doing except for an ability to bully through his fringe ideas. If it wasn’t obvious before the election (It was. — ed.) it is painfully on display now that he is frighteningly out of his depth. We handed over the keys to City Hall to a fringe candidate.

We obviously need a new definition for the word ‘fringe’. Perhaps devising a means test for anyone seeking elected office. It should start with the question: Do you believe that there is a positive role for government in society. No yes or no responses please. Answers must be longer than can fit on a bumper sticker.

It would assist us in determining who is a fringe candidate and not leave it in the hands of some arbitrary adjudicator. (Yes, we’re looking at you, CityTV — ed.) Being fringe shouldn’t be about who you don’t know or how much money you don’t have access to. It’s ideas that count, and true fringe candidates are always incapable of coming up with any good ones of those. (Like I was saying all last year. — ed.)

houndedly submitted by Urban Sophisticat