Let’s Just Disagree To Agree

October 16, 2013

Watching as the wagons circle tighter around Mayor Ford, what remains of his loyal footmen launching darts at the most recently exiled from the base camp, iwonderI wonder if I too am being politically opportunistic. While the likes of councillors Giorgio Mammoliti, Denzil Minnan-Wong and (of course) Doug Ford along with the faithful stenographers at the Toronto Sun attempt to diminish and denigrate their colleague, Paul Ainslie, with school yard name calling, I embrace him as one of ours. A principled, well-informed participant in our local democracy.

Yeah. That’s how I see myself when I look in the mirror in the morning. After applying a little spit and polish. Don’t you?

I wasn’t alone yesterday in finding myself wincing slightly while taking in Councillor Ainslie’s press conference denouncing the mayor’s robocall response to Ward 43 residents after the councillor had voted against the Scarborough subway plan.

“What I’ve been about as a Councillor is the value of taxpayers’ money,” Ainslie said, “I’m with this mayor in fighting the gravy train at city hall…Many people like the Ford agenda, and so have I. That’s why I backed Rob Ford from the outset, and was a member of the Mayor’s Executive Committee. I’m proud of all that has been accomplished.”

There’s so much about that statement that makes me want to scream. The gravy train! simpsonsshudderWhat accomplishments? I’m sorry, councillor. You backed Rob Ford from the outset?

Looking back at some of my posts from early on in this administration, I clearly had a low opinion of Councillor Ainslie. Confession time. I was the brains behind a Twitter parody account mocking the councillor. (A sidebar: parody accounts are really, really hard to sustain. My hats off to all of those who can pull it off.) For me, he represented that largely silent block, enabling the administration’s worst instincts.

But as I pointed out in my post yesterday, Councillor Ainslie was also quietly going about interesting business in terms of civic engagement and participation as chair of the Government Management Committee. Earlier this year, he pushed forward with the Nathan Phillips Square revitalization (which he had originally opposed back in the day) complete with a new bike parking station. “If you’re getting people off the road, out of their cars using either public transportation or their bikes, in the long run, I think it is worth it,” he said. reconsiderAinslie’s been instrumental in trying to alter the approach the city takes with development charges in order to direct growth in areas that have been long neglected.

I can’t believe I actually have to write this — for my sake as much as anybody’s – but times being what they are… Gradations of political approaches, let’s call them, actually still survive out there in the world of imaginary black and white. Only those thriving on an us-versus-them divisiveness want to pretend otherwise. Despite the attempts at easy to understand packaging that highlights a brand, it’s counter-productive to try and govern in such a manner. As we’re currently experiencing.

Look, I’ve already said that, given the importance of subways to the very viability of the Ford administration and just how vocal Councillor Ainslie was in opposing this particular one in Scarborough, there should’ve been a parting of ways. But the unnecessary attempts to vilify him, the Burn The Witch squeal is nothing but scorched earth policy. paintswatchesDefy us, Defy Ford Nation, and there will be dire consequences.

That’s not how things get done. That’s how things get undone.

Councillor Ainslie and I arrived at an agreement that the LRT option for extending the Bloor-Danforth subway further into Scarborough was the best way forward for entirely different, if related reasons. His was financial. It was a needless imposition on municipal taxpayers. “For the record, I have always supported a subway for those who live in Scarborough,” the councillor said in his statement. “Just two and a half months ago I joined the Mayor and voted in favour of a subway. I voted for a subway based on sound financial transparency, disclosure and the commitment there would be no tax hike for people in this city and especially my constituents.”

I don’t happen to agree. Scarborough doesn’t need or deserve a subway. consensuspieIt needs better transit and it needs it 20 years ago. In my opinion, LRTs are a much better fit. I’d be perfectly happy with a dedicated property tax increase that built more LRTs running all through Scarborough and York and North York and Etobicoke.

Despite that difference of opinion, Councillor Ainslie and I ended up in the same camp. That’s how democracy is supposed to function. Reaching a workable consensus through negotiation and horse-trading.

That’s just a basic civics lesson we seem to have forgotten, much to our detriment.

kumbiyahly submitted by Cityslikr