When a capital ‘L’ Liberal leaning newspapers pronounces on Toronto’s vanishing NDP act, it’s pretty much required reading. Straight up, objective, no dog in the hunt opinionizing. A fair and balanced view, as they say.
“Rising support for Liberals in Toronto may doom Olivia Chow’s mayoral bid,” chirps the subheadline of Bob Hepburn’s piece.
Rising support for Liberals in Toronto? I get the logic from the last provincial election but should we draw a line from that to the recent uptick in support for John Tory in the mayoral race? If so, if Liberals are actually turning to John Tory as some sort of liberal alternative then, well, Hepburn’s article should really be about the disappearance of liberalism in Toronto’s Liberals.
Now look, you’re not going to hear from me any defence of Olivia Chow’s campaign to date. It most certainly has been listless. There’s been no one or two issues put forward that you can really sink your teeth into. No red meat for the base.
I heard apprehensive rumblings as the mayoral race began taking shape, back late last year, questioning the strength of Chow’s campaign abilities. Could she sustain a city-wide drive throughout the entire race? Perhaps there was some truth to such misgivings.
I was a constituent of hers, when she was both a city councillor and MP. The few times I met her during campaigns, she was very engaging and full of energy. But, in truth, I’ve seen little of that outside of her official campaign launch. So, are we, once again, looking at another race where the standard bearer of the left is not up to the task? Like Joe Pantalone in 2010, in the end, will it come down to the fact Olivia Chow could not sell a progressive vision for the city? The messenger unable to sell the message?
We shall see.
But about that message…
In the article, Hepburn points out that in putting together a campaign team, Chow “…recruited senior Liberals…including self-styled ‘progressives’ such as former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman…” Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister? You mean, former failed mayoral candidate, George Smitherman?
I mean, seriously. George Smitherman?! Who the fuck thought that was a good idea? What knowledge was he going to bring to the table for Olivia? How to blow an early lead? Done. Tell us again, George, how you helped run Barbara Hall’s 2003 mayoral campaign into the ground.
To the wider picture, why is an NDP candidate, as her opponent, John Tory, has brayingly labelled her, seeking Liberal help in her campaign? Because they win, you respond. Not always, I reply. George Smitherman, for instance. Federally, not so much lately.
Yes. And who did they beat? Exactly.
Now, you might argue that Liberals know where the NDP’s weak spots are, offer advice on how to patch up the electoral holes. Liberals provide a good sparring partner in the war room. Pop you one on the chin when you drop the left hand. See? That’s what you’re doing wrong.
But here’s what I think.
Liberals, more than anybody, have internalized the 30 year neoconservative drumbeat against the notion of tax-and-spending, interventionist government. That’s what the triangulation bullshit has all been about. It wins some elections, sure, but it only minimizes the damage rather than ends or reverses it.
What’s so frustrating at this point, with the Chow campaign and the provincial NDP one in June, is we’re living the result of three decades of neoconservative/neoliberal rule. An infrastructure deficit. A lack of affordable housing with the unsurprisingly accompanying spike in homelessness. Inequality. Grotesque and incapacitating inequality.
Look at Toronto’s To Do list.
Transit. Transit. And more transit. The horrendous TCHC backlog. Flooding and blackouts. Decreasing affordability for many people to live here.
The public good is wobbly under the weight of neglect, and there’s no finding efficiencies our way out of it. In aping Conservatives, Liberals have assisted in the piling on. The best the NDP can hope for, in copying the copy, is to, hopefully, make matters less worse.
Maybe it’s just me but what I was hoping for in the Olivia Chow campaign was a full on embrace of the tax-and-spender label. Yes, Mr. Tory. It’s time to start taxing and spending again. After years of pretending that this city is built on free swag, we now have to roll up our sleeves, pull out our wallets and start rebuilding.
She wouldn’t be out of line in saying such a thing. For the past couple years now, the city’s CEO, no raving lunatic leftie joe, Joe Pennachetti has told anyone prepared to listen that there’s not a whole lot more fat to be trimmed. “We don’t have all the revenues that probably are needed to ensure that we build and grow a city that we all want,” he said last month.
Hand the ball over to any progressive candidate who wants to run with it. Off you go! To the ramparts!
But no such luck. It’s all been minor measures, tweaks here and there, avoid the big idea because it will demand a big solution. What’s passed for boldness is pretend maps paid for by pretend money, to paraphrase the only mayoral candidate talking to us as if we’re not drooling imbeciles, and he’s mired in the low single digits with regular backroom discussions about whether to continue on in the race.
Contrary to what the Toronto Star’s Bob Hepburn thinks, it’s not that NDP support in Toronto has vanished. There’s just nobody talking their language, speaking to their values. Maybe in hushed tones or in a code, over late night drinks. It’s just not enough to rally around, go to bat for or champion.
— grumpily submitted by Cityslikr