Of all the madcap weeks we’ve seen at City Hall since late-2010, this one just ending probably wouldn’t qualify as the madcappiest. Maybe not even in the top 5. But if there’s a greatest hits compilation ever issued, this week would most definitely be included.
On Monday, two new city councillors were appointed. One of them, by week’s end, had voted against oversight and in favour of councillors being able to pocket money from lobbyists and others doing business with the city. A real keeper, Ward 5. You should definitely urge him to stay on.
On Tuesday, Mayor Ford’s ‘sobriety coach’ kicked a protester.
On Wednesday, the mayor remained seated during a standing ovation for the recently concluded World Pride event here in Toronto. Some serious questions were also raised about his time spent during the two month rehab stint.
On Thursday, weird machinations surrounding the renewal of the Ombudsmen’s contract swirled around council chambers. While rejecting the basic 5 year renewal term, an in camera motion was approved, the details of which we don’t yet fully know. We are aware that at least 15 sitting councillors don’t like the current Ombudsman and many of them have failed to explain exactly why.
And what sort of zany week at City Hall would there be without a Doug Ford outburst?
Of course it would be very easy to shrug all the wackiness off onto the mayor and his unpredictable brother-councillor-campaign manager. Change that dynamic and order will be restored. Presto-magico!
Free of the mayor’s grip for over two years now, city council itself manufactured the Scarborough subway debacle, perhaps the biggest cock-up of the term. It continued to dance with the TPA and Porter Air over the island airport expansion and allowing jets on it. It’s muddled relationship with the city’s accountability officers remains confounding.
So, the idea of changing one member of council, even the titularly most powerful one, and creating a whole new positive, constructive dynamic amounts to little more than wishful thinking. Worse still. Hoping to achieve even that modest change by yelling over social media or staging PR protests alone amounts to nothing short of a dereliction of civic duty.
The theme we need to take away from this week is pure and simple: get active and really participate in producing the kind of city council you want to see in place.
(Full disclosure before going into full rant mode. I have been working on the Idil Burale campaign in Ward 1 Etobicoke North. This may seem very self-serving, and to some degree it is. But try to focus on the bigger picture. Pick a candidate and get involved.)
As of this writing, July 11th, with just over 100 days before the municipal election, there are 12 open, incumbent free wards. (Wards 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 20, 24, 30, 38, 39, 44.) While that number will drop as we get closer to the vote, this presents an opportunity to help instill new blood into council. The candidate slates in many of those wards are numerous, offering plenty of choice for people to join a team.
In 2010, 13 ward races were, very, very close, determined by mere percentage points and a few hundred votes. (Wards 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 25, 26, 27, 30, 36, 44.) In another 7, the winner got less than 50% of the popular vote. (Wards 7, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 29.) This suggests plenty of fertile ground for change.
Then there’s my very subjective, harder to define wards were the seeming untouchable incumbent needs to be seriously challenged because of their continued contribution to the undermining of good governance of this city. That list would include Ward 11, Councillor Frances Nunziata. Ward 34, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Ward 35, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. Ward 42, Councillor Raymond Cho because he just doesn’t seem to want to be a City Hall any more.
Of course, alarm bells should be ringing because in 4 of the city’s 44 ward, incumbents are currently sitting unopposed. Ward 21, Councillor Joe Mihevc. Ward 22, Councillor Josh Matlow. Ward 25, Councillor Jaye Robinson. Ward 40, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
Nobody, no one, not even the most glorious, munificent politician who’s able to spin gold from straw should be acclaimed into office. Certainly none of these four have track records that have earned unquestioned support. It’s an utter failure of the democratic process if any of them run unopposed. Acclimation is something that happens in small town reeve races not in the biggest, most complex and diverse city in the country.
Hopefully, that scenario will change before the September 12th registration deadline date. If you can’t even drum up enough engagement for a contested election race, it makes the argument for greater participation in the process a little more difficult. It’s hard to imagine anyone watching the last four years at City Hall and coming to the conclusion that they are entirely satisfied with their representation.
For the time being, at least, there are 40 other council races. Many of them will be highly competitive, the outcome in doubt right up until the very end. The difference will come down to who has the resources to get out the most number of voters to the ballot box. That means volunteers and donations.
You really, really want to have your say in the make-up of the next city council? Set aside a couple, few hours a week between now and October 27th to go knock on doors. Shy and don’t like meeting new people? Fair enough. Contribute some time, stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, entering data. More of the manual labour type? Come early October, volunteer your time and effort hammering in lawn signs.
If any and all that is too much, send some money in your chosen candidate’s direction. $5, $10, $20, the whole donation limit enchilada. Every bit helps. Every penny appreciated.
Our politicians can brush off much of the displeasure they’ve generated with their constituents when it’s expressed from a distance. They can log out of Facebook and Twitter or simply not return email and phone messages. It’s a little more difficult when they’re forced to come face-to-face with it.
Disapproval and discontent become impossible to ignore, however, when a credible threat to their office arises come election time. Such a threat is built purely on the back of a movement based on dedicated volunteers and engaged residents. There is no other way, no flash gimmick-y approach that can be pulled off from a distance. Boots on the ground and money in the bank. End stop.
Unless you are prepared to dedicate more than just a voice, to scream and holler and cast a vote in the fall, you cannot call yourself a truly engaged, civic-minded resident of Toronto. You cannot call for change, demand change and not also chip in and work for it. We are where we are with the city council we have because – and only because – too few people put in the effort to make a difference. There’s still time this time around to try and ensure a different outcome.
It all starts with the littlest of efforts. Pick a candidate. Make a call, drop them an email. Say you want to help out.
— deploringly submitted by Cityslikr