Getting Back In The Ring But Still Punch Drunk

June 20, 2014

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Can you hear it? flavorflavCan you just feel the pulse of anticipation?

20 days. 19 days. 18 days.

For those of you not regular Twitter partakers, the Rob Ford Campaign has been building the suspense for the big guys return on June 30th with countdown tweets. 14 days. 12 days.

Oh, goodiegoodiegoodie! He’s coming! He’s COMING!!

“News of Ford’s return feels like watching the trailer to the sequel of a bad Hollywood adventure flick that’s about to hit theatres,” writer John Lorinc tweeted a couple days ago.

Exactly. It’s going to be terrible. You know it’s going to be terrible. But somehow, there’s just no way to avoid it.

I will confess. It’s been a joy not feeling compelled to write about Rob Ford for the past little while. impendingdoomSure, his councillor-brother and knucklehead colleague (Giorgio Mammoliti, in case you haven’t been following along) have more than ably filled the ridonkulous quota in any given week. Still, going Rob Ford free has been a pleasure. I’m looking forward to more of it.

But clearly the countdown is on for this peaceful interregnum. Rob Ford is returning, like it or not, and for the next little while at least, we will have to take him semi-seriously. For how long exactly? It’s hard to tell.

We’ve been told again and again that Rob Ford is like no other politician. Scandals and misrule, both great and small, simply don’t stick to him. Any other mere mortal would long ago have been chased from office with the revelations we’ve had about Rob Ford. But not him. teflonThe man’s unsinkable.

Now with this time out taken, the phoenix is on the rise. Forgive and forget. Second chances. Back in fighting shape, the mayor will come out swinging.

Or so Team Ford hopes the narrative plays out.

Just how realistic is this pipe dream?

For the moment, let’s assume the best case scenario for the mayor. That he’s diligently rehabbed himself. That he’s clean and sober, and will remain so for the remainder of the campaign. That he’s indeed a new man with an old record of political accomplishments to come back to.

(I know, I know. Just assume. For the moment.)

Even with that overly-optimistic rosy scenario painted, it’s difficult to see how the numbers add up for the mayor. numbersdontaddupHis favourable rating has tanked in his semi-absence, into the 20s, from where very few politicians successfully re-emerge. But—But—you’ll say. Rob Ford’s like very few politicians. Conventional wisdom does not apply. He defies gravity. He defies basic arithmetic.

While in one aspect that is very true, not all Rob Ford’s math adds up, there’s one equation he can’t really disregard. That’s his recognition numbers.

Everybody knows who Rob Ford is. He’s sits at something like a 98% recognition factor. That’s simply unheard of by most politicians, and especially municipal politicians, many of whom can skate through an entire career in near anonymity. Not Rob Ford. Not now. (David Hains explored this point in much more depth early this year.)

Everybody knows who he is. Everybody has an opinion of him. Mweebleswobbleany of those have very, very strong opinions of Rob Ford. Their minds are going to be very, very difficult to change.

Unfortunately for Rob Ford, a solid majority of people don’t like him and would never vote for him. Few people are going to take a flyer on him this time around. He’s boxed himself in at an unwinnable level of support and has little room to expand it. As unpredictable as these things can be (and as bad as I am at predicting these things), I’d guess his numbers can go nowhere but down from this point.

And that’s the best case scenario, folks. Never mind further revelations of videotaped debauchery or full disclosure about his time spent in rehab. Whatever shot he’s got at making himself a contender once again – and it’s a long, long, long, long shot – it will be just one shot. Any more bad news and the highly improbable becomes the absolute impossible.fryingpanfire

The other formidable challenge the mayor faces is, this time out, right of centre, small c conservatives have other options. Team Ford’s biggest fear in 2010, a John Tory candidacy, is now a reality. There’s every reason to expect that he’ll suck up the donations and volunteers even an incumbent needs for re-election. There’s also Karen Stintz and David Soknacki if Tory doesn’t fit the bill.

So there’s no organization to speak of eagerly awaiting Rob Ford’s return. Only the ragtag bunch of true believers, led by the delusional campaign manager, Brother Doug. The re-election campaign feels haphazard and purely improvisational. Hell, even the Twitter countdown schtick misses days almost like it’s little more than an afterthought.

I see this playing out in one of two ways.

ragingbull1) Sensing insurmountable numbers and invariable defeat, even the wilfully obstinate and shame-free mayor will seek whatever shred of dignity he can get and pull out of the race, citing health and family reasons for doing so. He will be at least partially right about that.

Or 2), and the more likely scenario, Rob Ford soldiers on. You never knocked me down, Ray. You never knocked me down. Rather than being the presumptive favourite, he will settle back into a familiar role. The outsider. The no-hoper, telling it like it is, railing at the career politicians who have no respect for the taxpayers. Just like he did back in 2010. Much like he did during his time as mayor.

When he wasn’t smoking crack, that is.

The Mayor Ford re-election campaign is doomed, in other words. Dead incumbent walking. It will be great when everyone recognizes it. Then, we can’t stop writing about the man as anything other than what he was. An ugly footnote in this city’s history. A novelty gift that quickly wore out its welcome.

In 20, 19, 18, 14, 12, 11…

clock watchingly submitted by Cityslikr


What Becomes A Fiscal Conservative Most

June 19, 2014

With the provincial election in our rear view mirror and the new majority Liberal government ready to get down to the business of governing, haveachatperhaps it’s time to press the reset button on the conversation of fiscal policy. Especially once we kick into municipal campaign gear and everyone starts chattering away again about billion dollar savings, previous year’s surpluses and out of control government spending. Let’s re-examine the conversation on what constitutes good fiscal sense.

Last week David Dodge, former Bank of Canada governor and a Finance Department mucky muck from Pierre Trudeau through to Jean Chretien, suggested that maybe high-octane deficit reduction isn’t necessarily the way governments should be going right now. Yes, that David Dodge. Not some wild-eyed, socialist leaning, CCPA economist, David Dodge. Inflation-hating, deficit fighting, David Dodge.

“It is thus important to realize that in the current environment of low long-term interest rates, fiscal prudence does not require bringing the annual budget balance to zero almost immediately. Small increases in borrowing requirements to finance infrastructure investment would still lead to declines in the debt-to-GDP ratio.”

“Governments should expand their investment in infrastructure while restraining growth in their operating expenditures so as to gradually reduce their public debt-to-GDP ratio.”

That analysis is very different than Diagnosis: Austerity which every self-proclaimed fiscal conservative is demanding and touting texaschainsawmassacreas inevitable these days. Take on some additional debt, start spending money on much needed infrastructure (a deficit estimated in 2012 at $123 billion at the municipal level), hold the line on other operational expenditures and try to grow the economy rather than cut, cut, cutting into shape.

I didn’t see any pitch for lowering taxes. No drastic reduction in the civil service. Reasonable suggestions devoid of tough talk about tough choices.

The irony is not lost on me that the source of our current infrastructure needs can be traced back, at least in part, to the war waged on the federal deficit back in the mid-90s featuring none other than David Dodge, then a senior level Finance department bureaucrat. Downloads to the provinces, cuts in transfer payments, all managed to trickle down to cutbacks in spending on new infrastructure projects and the neglect of that already built and in place. There’s a little bit of the inflictor of damage stepping forward with his trowel and pail of cement, whome1offering to help repair the shit he knocked over.

Hell, I don’t even know if David Dodge is right but he’s presenting an alternative to what’s being sold to us as the only way to get ourselves back into the black. Austerity. An approach implemented elsewhere without any satisfactory results to show for it yet. If we just cut a little bit deeper, a little faster, we can stop this ship from sinking, this ship is sinking…

So when the federal government gets all sanctimonious about Ontario’s out-of-control deficit, and the need to introduce harsh measures to rein it in, we can just respond, But David Dodge said… Or if the provincial Liberals cite budgetary concerns for not, say, electrifying the GO corridor or building a particular LRT line, we can respond, But David Dodge said…

This is important to remember at the municipal level too. Although cities can’t run annual operating budget deficits (as per legislation from another, deficit-plagued level of government), there’s always the question of what to do with the inevitable operating surpluses that arise. If a municipal government is budgeting properly, there should always be an operating surplus.

Our current administration at City Hall has proudly puffed out its chest at the fact it’s used its operating surpluses to pay down capital debt and keep taxes low. areyousure2Meanwhile, the state of good repair for the TTC and TCHC continues to grow. The roads and parks are just a little worse for wear. And the city’s credit rating remains unchanged from the so-called profligate days of David Miller.

Fiscal responsibility doesn’t mean being cheap or simply hating the concept of government spending money. It means making smart decisions, decisions based on the reality of the day and not some theoretical exercise that looks great on a blackboard and fits neatly into an ideology. There’s no one way to be a fiscal conservative except for, maybe, a right and wrong way.

sensibly submitted by Cityslikr


Be Better, Angels

June 18, 2014

Let me run one of those chicken or egg questions by you. What comes first? chickenoreggBad political representation or a preference for bad political representation?

Now, I know the second half of that makes no sense. Who would prefer bad political representation if they had an alternative? But I have to tell you. Sitting through yesterday’s Etobicoke York Community Council meeting and watching councillors Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti go through their paces, two long serving local politicians (I know Doug Ford’s a first timer but let’s think of him as the Ford brand extension), you have to wonder. Who keeps putting the likes of these two back into office?

At issue was, to an outside observer at least, a seemingly benign new development proposal along a western stretch of Eglinton Avenue. badpoliticianSixty-eight, three story townhouse units built on the intended route of the new Eglinton crosstown LRT, phase 2. Not entirely surprising, really. Even plans for a new rapid transit corridor tend to encourage new, denser development. At least, that’s how the theory goes.

Councillors Ford, Mammoliti and many of the people in the filled to capacity plus overflow rooms were having none of it. An outrage! A threat to their way of life! Another example of downtowners inflicting their new urbanism on the unsuspecting residents of Etobicoke!

More traffic chaos!!

Both Ford and Mammoliti took the opportunity to deride and denigrate the very concept of the LRT or, more specifically, its above-groundness. They filled the air in the room with misinformation and misdirection. demagogueCouncillor Ford’s main target was Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, the local councillor for the development, and her support of the LRT. Councillor Mammoliti? Well, he was just making noise in order to be heard. I rant, therefore I am.

Now it might not be all that disconcerting if they were just a couple stray mutts, snapping and yapping in an attempt to mark out some territory. Sadly, much of the public who got up to speak encouraged the outburst, feeding it and into it with their angry deputations and demands that everything remain just as it is. How dare you try to change the composition of our neighbourhood. We bought a home and settled here in the belief that it would stay the same forever.

I exaggerate for effect. It wasn’t quite that unreasonable. I am happy to report that more than a few in attendance were clearly appalled at the tone of the proceedings, shocked by the sniping and full on frontal attacks between councillors. angryvotersThat said, the vibe in the room over these plans was pitchfork-y. You will build this development and LRT over our cold, dead bodies, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.

Perhaps that is the key to understanding the enduring presence of piss poor political representation in the system. Angry matters. Angry gets heard. Angry gets indulged. Angry is easy.

It’s easy to incite. It’s easy to maintain. It is easier to make people angry than it is to inspire them.

Thus, the always present demagogue in our midst.bullhorn

Councillors Ford and Mammoliti are the dark angels in our political process. They prey upon our deep-seated fear of change. They paint pictures of chaos and disaster, assuring us that will be the inevitable result if we take a different approach or alter things from the way they are now. Only they can protect us and our way of life from the future. Sure, things might be bad now, they could be better. But they also could be worse, folks. The devil(s) you know are preferable to the ones you don’t, and all that.

The likes of Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti appeal to our very worst instincts. Unfortunately, those tend to be our easiest to access instincts too. We are perpetually vulnerable to attack from lazy, dyspeptic and ill-informed politicians who honestly believe themselves to be the standard bearers for the status quo. goodangelbadangelLooking out for the little guy, am I right?

As long as we continue to leave that flank open to them, they will take it. That’s all they’ve got. They know no other way. The Fords and the Mammolitis (and the Minnan-Wongs and Nunziatas) will continue to represent us until we push back against their brand of divisive fear-mongering. Until we stop being a little less like we are and a little more like we should be.

angelically submitted Cityslikr


This Fucking Guy

June 17, 2014

There are many reasons to dislike many politicians. From fundamental disagreements over policy matters to simply, shirtlessmammolitiI don’t know, their general tone of argumentation. He’s such a smug smart-aleck. I just don’t care for the cut of his jib.

And then there’s Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti.

If there’s a more loathsome politician at work today, I would be very interested to hear about them. Actually, no. Scratch that. Spare me the details. I’ve had my fill of vileness, following along with City Hall these past four years.

It takes some doing, in this the Age of Crack Mayor and His Numbskull Brother-Councillor-Consigliere, to outdo the prevailing degenerate tone of discourse and governance. But hey. Giorgio Mammoliti has proven himself up to the task.

His latest foray into dim-witted fuckery is his continued entanglement with the Muzik club and electronic dance music doings down at Exhibition Place. spewIt is hardly worth delving into except to say it’s all about vested interests, and a business that has close ties to the mayor and the rather unsavoury side of his time in office. Booze, drugs, barfing.

Why Councillor Mammoliti has taken a special interest in the situation is anyone’s guess. It’s the way he’s gone about it that is beyond shameful. Reprehensible does not go far enough to describe it. Like the mayor he’s so strategically defended, this is a man who apparently operates without any sense of shame.

“Given the many issues surrounding children relating to these events [EDM parties] there should be great concern over the fact that the neighbouring Parkdale is home to one of the highest concentrations of registered sex offenders, including pedophiles, living in the City of Toronto,” the councillor wrote in a media release ahead of last night’s community consultation. “With ‘all-ages’ parties being held next to a pedophile district we are simply encouraging the continued abuse of our children. Given the rampant alcohol and illicit drug abuse and poor security, our children can fall victim to peer pressure participating in these activities or becoming victimized at the hands of current and past pedophiles. It is a disaster waiting to happen. The question needs to be posed to the Parkdale representative, Councillor Gord Perks, who has publically condoned the all ages promoters – why are you advocating for children and adults to be partying together right next door to your ward which has one of the largest concentrations of registered sex offenders in the city? Who are you really representing? This is about much more than a dance party.”

This guy. This fucking guy. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is the reason some people think so poorly of local representation. miredinthegooWhy doesn’t Toronto have more legislative power to decide its future? Because Toronto keeps electing the likes of Giorgio Mammoliti is why. That guy. That fucking guy.

Set aside for the moment how mired in ethical lapses Mammoliti is currently. On trial for campaign finance violations from his 2010 election campaign(s). Allegations of an illegal fundraiser held for him last year. Below market rent on an apartment owned by a developer who does business with the city. Just last week, he had re-election signs up nearly 4 months before the allowed date. The dude simply does not abide. By any rules he finds inconvenient.

Clearly, he doesn’t abide by acceptable methods of debate either. Rolling around in the goo of darkest paranoia, tapping into our worst fears and prejudices, scotfreehe has little compunction tossing around rhetorical pipe bombs just for the sake of it. The sensational sake of it. Giorgio Mammoliti engages in distressingly nasty outbursts of bile because that’s the only way he can get noticed. If there was ever a time in his political life where he contributed positively, it was a long time ago and even then, you’d be hard pressed to point to many examples of it.

Giorgio Mammoliti does what he does because he’s never had to face the consequences of his actions. There are no repercussions for him. Despite delivering up little more than nonsense and malevolent parochialism throughout his nearly quarter of a century — yes, Giorgio Mammoliti has held elected office for almost 25 years, yes, 25 years – he continues to be rewarded by the voters in Ward 7. Nothing could be better for the tenor at City Hall if 2014 was the end of that improbable and destructive run.

Giorgio Mammoliti needs to be chased from office. pitchforkFor the good of Ward 7. For the good of the city.

If you’ve ever needed a reason to become politically active, if you’ve found yourself fed up but unsure of just how to go about making a contribution, find yourself a candidate who is running against Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti this year and donate some time or money or both to help defeat the incumbent on October 27th. You would be doing Toronto a great service.

call to armsly submitted by Cityslikr


Sore Losing

June 16, 2014

One last thing about Thursday’s provincial election… OK, maybe one last thing for now… onemorethingYou know… we’ll see.

If nothing else, the reaction to the Liberal win from the two main parties (and their supporters) that went down to defeat serves as valid justification for having not voted for them.

Ousted from the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding he’d claimed only last year in a by-election, Doug Holyday summed up the reason for the loss. Union attack ads. A conservative politician bemoaning his fate at the hands of attack ads. Imagine that.

For its part, the NDP were still smarting from the perceived betrayal by the traitor within its own ranks during the campaign. When 3 MPPs from Toronto lost on election night, it was all, see what you went and did, you bunch of Judases? You got played, dumbasses. Here, let me help clean that egg off your faces.

Whatever happened to taking responsibility?

I mean, the NDP and PCs presented their respective platforms from a campaign strategy “…developed over years” as NOW’s Susan G. Cole stated. blameothersThey took it to the electorate over some 40 days. Here, voters. This is who we are and what we’ll do if we form the next government. Vote for us.

The dice were rolled and came up snake eyes for the two opposition parties. For reasons that can only superficially be explained at this early juncture, Ontarians rejected the PC and NDP bids (based, of course, on a first past the post model) and gave the Liberals a majority mandate. The vagaries of democracy, eh?

Now, a noble person, full of humility, would, at least publicly, accept the loss as the result of the wisdom of the masses. It’s not necessarily that they were wrong and the public right on any particular issue. The messaging didn’t work, this time around. Or maybe, it was just the messenger who failed to click with people, failed to tell a compelling story.

Take your pick but, my god, take responsibility.

One particularly condescending bit of unwillingness to accept defeat graciously came from a chorus of conservative commentators. blameothers2Pampered and entitled voters refused to take the dose of tough medicine needed to turn things around in this province. So this line of reasoning went.

Aside from the various mad scribblings to this effect inside the Toronto Sun, the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee put on his somber face. “Investment may be good for Toronto,” he wrote. “A provincial government that continues to go into debt is not.” Further, “While she [Premier Wynne] carried the day by arguing in the campaign that it is wrong-headed to cut the way to success, it is it is unclear what answers she has for the broader Ontario problem.”

“Wrong-headed” but not necessarily wrong to think, like Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives, that you can cut your way to success.

In other words, enjoy your victory lap, Liberals. blameothers1Your day of reckoning is at hand.

The National Post’s Matt Gurney took it one step further, assuaging the troubled minds of conservatives with the soothing assurances that, it hardly mattered who won the election, the tough choices were coming whether the Liberals like it or not. “If Ontario is to maintain any fiscal credibility, and avoid ruinous ratings cuts,” he writes, “there is significant austerity ahead.”

While the Progressive Conservative platform was unpalatable for voters in Ontario, it is inevitable. Like night following day, fall following summer, austerity is coming, folks. It doesn’t matter who’s in power.

Mr. Gurney may be right. The Liberals may accept that reality as it’s being pitched. Certainly there were dark utterings of austerity measures being loaded into the back end of the budget that brought the Liberals down in May and that they have pledged to bring back post haste.

But my question to him over the weekend, and to all the others singing from that same neocon songbook, was why? There’s no question the province’s fiscal fitness is worrisome. The economy remains fragile. Our debt level is high. But where is it written that austerity is the only way out of this? I’ve pleaded for austerimaniacs to point me to an example where it has worked. blameothers3The response so far? A shrug.

So maybe voters in Ontario didn’t reject the conservative bad news reality because they were unwilling to face up to the harsh facts of life. Maybe they just didn’t accept the premise. Maybe they weren’t prepared to go down that brutish road of untested economic theory. Especially since the alleged upside, the million jobs that would be created, was, well, maybe not that robust. A claim, based as it was, on faulty math. Or “glitches” as the National Post’s editorial board referred to it in its endorsement of Tim Hudak.

We all know from our own personal experiences that being rejected is tough. It’s difficult to accept the fact that you didn’t measure up. Despite your best intentions and firmest belief in them, your plans just did not work out.

When that happens, though, we don’t really indulge the impulse to blame others for the failure. It tends to lead to a narrowing of vision, a hardening of conviction, a wobbly sense of certainty and confidence. What we really should expect is that, in the face of defeat, we go through a period of reassessment and rethinking. What did I do right? Where do I go wrong? lookinthemirror3What could I have done differently to bring about a different outcome?

Going back to the drawing board, as they say.

But it’s hard to correct any mistakes you might have made when you refuse to admit mistakes were made in the first place. It seems at this point of time, the PCs and NDP are refusing to make the tough choice necessary in acknowledging that they fell short again this time, and the culprit for that is looking straight at them in the mirror. That is, if they decide they really need to have a look in it.

honestly submitted by Cityslikr


Well, That Didn’t Work, Did It

June 13, 2014

I guess this is one of those J. Walter Weatherman times for the NDP, where they need to be taught a valuable life/political lesson.

jwalterweatherman

… And that’s why you never get outflanked on the left by the Liberal party!

About 10 days, two weeks ago I began hearing from various corners of NDP support that the Liberal budget they brought down which sparked this election wasn’t, in fact, all that progressive. There were all sorts of austerity measures tucked away, out of sight, somewhere in the back. It was just another example of Liberals campaigning left before they shifted back right once they got elected to office.

whatimeantwasTo which many responded: WHY DIDN’T YOU START WITH THAT?!

Why didn’t you come out of the blocks presenting yourself as the only viable progressive alternative to an unethical government that was clearly more interested in maintaining its own hold on power than it was in governing properly?

What we got instead from the outset was a whole lot of jargon-y talk that had a whiff of the Common Sense Revolution and Rob Ford’s Gravy Train run. Respect for Ontarians. Hardworking families. Pocketbook issues. Looking after tax dollars. Mom and pop.

And then when the actual real life conservatives bared their fangs and scared the shit out of every voter with a moderate bone in their body, many threw their support behind the party which had spent the campaign distinguishing itself from the hideousness of the PCs rather than the one that chose to play the conservate-lite card.

Look, NDP.

No matter what you do or say. No matter how twisted your ideological contortions are. overlookedTrue blue conservatives are never going to vote for you to a degree that will offset your loss in base support in trying to woo them. Disaffected PC voters will either hold their nose and vote Liberal or chose to stay home before they’d even think of voting NDP.

I mean, look at the three daily newspapers in Toronto, three of them sitting on the right side of the political spectrum. Zero endorsements for the NDP. The Toronto Sun was the most generous before giving their entirely predictably thumbs up for the Tories. The NDP didn’t even register a mention in the National Post’s endorsement of Tim Hudak.

Where the NDP lost seats, they lost them to the Liberals and they lost them in Toronto. They only succeeded in taking one seat from the Progressive Conservatives. Their forward push to the right stalled while their defensive protection on the left faltered. It didn’t collapse as some feared but the strategy netted them nothing more than a standstill. calculating1A standstill with a loss of influence as they no longer hold the balance of power with a Liberal majority government now in place.

Only in light of the two or three wheels coming off the Progressive Conservative wagon does the NDP lack of progress seem less disappointing. The fact is, they remain the third place party. Their base of support lies deep in 4 regions of the province but not very wide. Andrea Horwath convinced too few voters that the party she led had much populist, small-c cred while alienating too many traditional supporters with her willingness to ignore issues important to them.

Political calculation is a tough business. While you can limit yourself with a campaign only appealing to your base (see, Tim Hudak and Rob Ford), taking it for granted doesn’t seem like a very good strategy either. Progressive politicians and parties regularly seem to operate under the assumption their supporters will dutifully follow them as they venture out to court new voters in their pursuit of power, no matter how many of their core values they offer up in sacrifice.

circularfiringsquadGiven the results of yesterday’s provincial election, they may want to rethink that approach.

disgruntledly submitted by Cityslikr


Our Provincial Endorsement — 2014 Edition

June 12, 2014

(We pull this up from our archives, October 5th 2011, because, really, not a whole lot has changed since then. The Liberal candidate in Trinity-Spadina isn’t Sarah Thomson but has not been any more impressive. The government itself, now led by Kathleen Wynne rather than Dalton McGuinty, has not become any more trustworthy — see the Scarborough subway file. The Progressive Conservatives have moved a whole lot further to the right, promising a whole lot more pain which they’ve called ‘hope’ and a lot less constructive governance. The NDP has continued to drift further away from my values in a bid to… win, I guess. The Greens remain the only party that is speaking to the issues that matter to me. So once more, in 2014 as we did in 2011, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Tim Grant of the Green Party as the candidate of choice for Member of Provincial Parliament from Trinity-Spadina.)

*  *  *

With the importance provincial governments play in municipal life, I’m somewhat bewildered by my lack of engagement with the 2011 election. I should be on top of this, combing through party platforms, tracking down candidate debates or otherwise just staying on top of things. But no. I dithered. I procrastinated. I couldn’t beat back this feeling of caring less.

In trying to avoid the burden of responsibility, I lay the blame squarely on the respective campaigns’ shoulders. It all seemed to be about what we don’t need. We don’t need another 4 years of Dalton McGuinty. We don’t need another neo-conservative at the levers of power, desperately trying to steer the ship of state away from the future. No time for change. Exactly the time for change.

Well, if that’s the case, do I really need to be paying attention?

Snap out of it. Of course you do. Must muster interest. Do your duty as a citizen. Engage! Engage!

So I sat through Rogers’ Trinity-Spadina candidates’ debate minus the incumbent MPP. I went through campaign literature. I scoured party websites. And here’s what I came up with.

Surprise! I won’t be voting Conservative. The last thing we need is another anti-urban leader ignoring the interests of municipalities. Ignoring would be generous to Tim Hudak. It’s more like looking at cities as dumping grounds for the disastrous results of their backward policies. Remember Mike Harris?

As for the government of Dalton McGuinty? Ambivalence is mostly what wells up within me. For every strong initiative it’s made in areas like education or the environment, there’s been two steps back in the face of strong, largely misguided opposition. You don’t like wind turbines in toss-up ridings? They’re gone. Catholic school boards got problems with progressive approaches to sex education in the classrooms? Ignore it and carry on with your discriminatory, pre-Second Vatican Council ways.

Oh yeah. And let’s not forget the trampling of our civil rights, police state approving fiasco that was the G20.

The Liberal Government’s dealing with cities has been wishy-washy. Yes, it’s undone a lot of the damage inflicted by the Harris gang. Uploading many of the services dropped into our laps in the late-90s. They passed the City of Toronto Act which gave more powers and flexibility to the city to deal with its particular issues. There’s been the more than half-hearted Big Move and nod to the importance of public transit in the GTA. We got some of the gas tax. Promises have been made since 2003 of restarting provincial contribution to the annual operating budget of the TTC. Transit City was a signature piece of the transit puzzle here in Toronto. Until it wasn’t.

One might hope that, if given a 3rd majority, McGuinty would become more resolute and less afraid of his own shadow. He has stood firm in the formidable face of opposition to the HST. If Ford Nation fails to dislodge him, the premier might start standing up to the more ridiculous whims of our mayor. Moreover, Premier McGuinty might gracefully approach retirement and the Liberal party could entertain the notion of reclaiming its more liberal leanings.

But what about the Liberal candidate in our riding? One Sarah Thomson. We got a healthy dose of her when she ran for mayor of the city last year before she ran out of gas late in the proceedings. Underwhelming initially, she never really caught fire but she did evolve over the course of the race, the first of the candidates to begin backing away from the city’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket narrative and did seem to be listening to the actual problems we were facing. She adapted an extensive bike lane plan and was the first one to float the idea of road tolls, getting laughed out of the place by her opponents.

Yet, she still has a tendency to talk in sound bites. There’s the air of the high school valedictorian about her. I get the feeling she’s running here because there was no riding closer to home. She may be an ideal McGuinty Liberal which I hold against her. On the other hand, she’s not Rocco Rossi.

Normally, I don’t have to go through such a process of elimination about where I’ll be placing my X on the ballot. Trinity-Spadina is an NDP stronghold. I tend to lean that way most of the time. It should be a no-brainer.

However, maybe it’s the fallout of the lacklustre campaign but I’m just not feeling Andrea Horwath’s vibe. Rather than pick up where the federal NDP left off and run unabashedly with a left of centre platform, I’m feeling nickel and dimed by all the talk of capping gas prices, removing the HST from home heating fuels. On the other hand, they have promised to restart contributing to the TTC operating budget and other transit initiatives. But that feels almost ad hoc, not part of a bigger plan for cities.

Where’s the tapping into the Occupy Wall Street movement? It’s a shitstorm out there, people! Governments should not be retreating in the face scary economic news. We need to be talking Keynesian not deficit reduction. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.

And then there’s our incumbent, Rosario Marchese. He may be a very nice man and a crackerjack constituent MPP. But how would I know? I never hear much from or about him until election time. Maybe it’s living in the shadow of MP Olivia Chow who keeps me apprised of everything she’s doing. (What’s that you say, Olivia? A private member’s bill calling for a national transit strategy?) Marchese pales in comparion. But when he missed most of the Rogers’ candidates’ debate, it just struck me that he’s merely doing time.

Leaving me with the Green Party. Now, truth be told, I’ve never really known what to make of the Green Party. I get the environmental thrust but there’s also been the fiscal conservatism they’ve often touted. Some of the pledges in their platform come with the ‘when the budget’s balanced’ caveat. I’m sorry but with all the grim predictions making the rounds out there about an almost certain double-dip recession, budget balancing should be the last thing we’re talking about now.

That said, the Green Party candidate in Trinity-Spadina, Tim Grant, has caught my fancy. A former teacher who has been involved in the environmental movement since the days when most of us were asking, what’s that? He was a member of the Harbord Village Residents Association. His platform stresses biking and walking as much as public transit. Mr. Grant advocates a Junk Food Tax and a carbon tax. During both the Rogers’ candidates debate and on The Agenda’s Confronting Poverty, he came across as not only knowledgeable but collegial with his opponents.

On top of all that, he’s pictured riding a bicycle on his campaign signs!

I realize that in voting for Tim Grant, I’m doing little more than lodging a protest. There’s no hope in hell he’ll be elected. But I’m alright with that. Let it be known that I’m protesting the Liberal government and it’s too tentative embrace of a green economy in general and a strong, unapologetic public transit strategy. I’m sending out a protest to the provincial NDP. Don’t take my vote for granted.

— angrily (re)submitted by Cityslikr