After such a tumultuous 4 years at City Hall, the melodrama, the outright assault on civility and common sense, the ripped from the crime fiction pages, you’d think choosing an alternative would be easy. The bar has been set so incredibly low. How couldn’t you find a candidate to be enthusiastic about?
Yet. Here we are.
Doug Ford is a non-starter. I hardly need to explain that statement, right? The only positive aspect I can say about the prospect of a Doug Ford mayoralty is that it would be a lonely one for him. He’d be an isolated figure from the outset, nothing more than an irritable object to be worked around. But that’s not going to be a problem because Doug Ford isn’t going to be mayor of this city. Despite what many supporters of John Tory want you to believe as you go to cast your ballot.
John Tory’s entire pitch, the all-in roll of his dice this second time around running for mayor is that only he can defeat Rob Doug Ford. That’s it. Once he was able to push past Olivia Chow in the polls during the summer, all he set out to do was convince enough middle-ground, centrist voters that the only thing that mattered this election was the defeat of a Ford and the only one who could do that was John Tory.
John Tory the candidate trotted out John Tory the civic-minded patron as proof of his progressive bona fides. Remember the John Tory who talked about genuine revenue tools as the only way to build transit? Remember CivicAction John Tory’s support of diversity and inclusion? Vote John Tory!
The fact John Tory the candidate never did more than talk about progressive issues didn’t seem to phase those who gravitated into his camp. As our friend MookieG77 pointed out over on Twitter, John Tory has committed $0 to social programs in his campaign platform. Instead he’s emphasized the need to find more efficiencies, weed out more waste and played up the role of the private sector and tapping the senior levels of government for more money as ways of paying for our services and programs.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s been the Ford mantra for the last 4 years.
Factor in Tory’s only less laughable than the Fords’ transit plans, his SmartTrack, a smartly designed graphic with fundamental construction flaws and purely magical funding mechanism, and essentially what’s on offer is a smiley, functional happy face on the Ford agenda. An agenda John Tory openly supported until Rob Ford’s personal demons politically neutered him. An agenda John Tory in no way repudiated during this campaign.
Arguably the most interesting candidacy was that of former city councillor and budget chief, David Soknacki. A wonk’s dream, it pitched itself on the notion of substance of style. If the politics of personality got us into this mess, maybe an issues oriented campaign could get us out.
Platform ideas flowed freely over the course of the 7 months Soknacki was in the race, many of them good, almost all of them worthy of discussion. He was unafraid to tackle controversial subjects like the ever-expanding police budget and unabashedly told us that if we wanted things, we had to figure out realistic ways to pay for them. He injected a passion for reason and rationality into the campaign.
The Soknacki team either miscalculated the electorate’s desire for serious discourse or, perhaps, David Soknacki wasn’t the right candidate to capture the public’s imagination. Too wonky? Too nerdy? Certainly the direction the campaign’s taken suggests the problem wasn’t the messenger but the message itself.
Ari Goldkind, a newcomer on the political scene, certainly tried to push the idea of an issues campaign. A criminal lawyer by trade, he was more dynamic a candidate than Soknacki but he ran into a very familiar wall anyone faces when they’re coming at it from the outside. Who are you and why should we give you an opportunity to speak? He got himself into a few debates, established some credibility, getting himself on the wrong side of Doug Ford in the process, but never caught enough of the popular imagination to make himself a serious contender in the wider public’s eyes.
Goldkind did shape a platform that most closely aligned with my politics. The irony here though is, his style ultimately trumped his substance for me. As I told him in our couple conversations we had just after he got into the race, I wasn’t looking for a white knight to swoop in and solve our civic crisis. I’ve been at this, following municipal politics closely for nearly 5 years now, and I feel unqualified to run for mayor. It takes a lot more than good ideas and good will to generate good governance although it’s a pretty good start.
If Ari Goldkind sticks around for the next 4 years, reaches out and begins working with and contributing to the wider civic-minded group that’s emerged since 2010, I’d say he’s laid out an intriguing and extensive platform for another run at the mayor’s job in 2018.
I have complete faith in the fact Chow would make a much better mayor than she has a candidate. Unlike either of her two main opponents, she actually has a history of collaboration with colleagues as an elected official. Always smoothly? No, but that’s a little unreasonable to expect from someone who’s served in public office for 30 years or so.
When Chow finally got around to playing to her strengths as a politician (more on that in a second), she brought the issues that really sit at the heart of building a better city to the fore. Equality, fairness, opportunity, inclusion. This is Olivia Chow’s bread and butter. After 4 years of the Ford administration’s assault on all those things, out of the gate she should’ve been trumpeting them, establishing them as the go-to themes of this election.
Why that didn’t happen is one of the reasons I hesitate to endorse Olivia. It could be seen as endorsing her terrible, terrible campaign. Those in charge of it should never be allowed to run a campaign again. Olivia’s strengths were downplayed for fear of attacks from her opponents. The campaign emphasized her fiscal “common sense” and held back on the notion of investment in our neighbourhoods, communities and city. Rather than humming and hawing about property tax increases ‘around or about the rate of inflation’, Olivia should’ve boldly stated she’d do whatever was necessary to make sure this city functioned well and functioned fairly.
If we’ve learned nothing else from this campaign, it should be this. Unless you’re white and male, never run a campaign as if you’re a frontrunner. Clearly you’re not.
My other brief hesitation is that, whatever happens on Monday, we need to have a long, hard discussion about who determines who is a progressive candidate around here. However we’ve been doing it for the past two elections has not worked out. The blame for that I place squarely on the political party machines that are in play in the background and on the sidelines at the municipal level.
We need to bust these fucking things up. They serve one thing and one thing only, the party. Having watched this campaign closely, I feel confident in stating that if city council fails to shift in a progressive direction, it will be because political parties put their interests first. A slew of interesting and exciting candidates, politically unaffiliated many of them, cropped up all over the city and many were left to their own devices while parties put their resources toward their own and other parties put their resources to stopping their opponents from being elected.
So I endorse Olivia Chow for mayor, in spite of her political affiliation not because of it.
I endorse Olivia Chow because she reflects the kind of city I want to live in and be a part of. I endorse Olivia Chow because she represents our best ideals. An immigrant to this country as a young woman, growing up, if not poor, at least scrambling to get by, who took hold of the opportunities offered to her. I endorse Olivia Chow because she then dedicated her life to public service, a public service dedicated to helping others who faced similar obstacles she had along the way, a public service dedicated to fighting for those things that make us better, make our city better. Equality, fairness, opportunity, inclusion.
That’s why I endorse Olivia Chow for mayor of Toronto.
— guardedly submitted by Cityslikr