Civic Inaction

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” Groucho Marx is said to have quipped.

I thought of that quote as I followed along with the proceedings of this week’s Better City Bootcamp hosted by the venerable CivicAction Alliance. grouchomarxSuch righteous goals. Vital breakout sessions. Elevated discourse about city building.

But through it all, the one thing that kept dancing, pogo-style, around my head was: John Tory. John Tory. John Tory. John Tory.

Good intentions may pave the road to hell but I’m wondering if they also provide solid footing for entry level access into the entrenched status quo.

Is that too harsh?

I know people speak very highly and fondly of CivicAction’s founder, the late David Pecault and his Toronto City Summit Alliance, CivicAction’s early incarnation. There’s no reason for me to doubt those sentiments. Nor is there any reason for me to doubt the integrity and good intentions of those now at the helm of the organization.

It’s just… It’s John Tory, dammit.

What does it say to a group of aspiring community leaders that no matter what kind of  ideas or novel approaches you may have in dealing with some of the problem issues this city faces, congestion or youth employment say, you leave those ideas and approaches behind the moment you get into any position of real, elected power? Thinking outside the box is all well and good when there’s nothing at stake, when you’re just making suggestions not decisions. Once you’re out there in the real world, well, come on. It’s the real world. marxbrothersThinking outside the box is just an empty phrase you say to make it seem like you’re open-minded and all about shaking up the status quo.

Take the former CivicAction chair and now actual mayor of Toronto, the aforementioned John Tory.

Remember CivicAction John Tory and their Your 32 campaign? What would you do with an extra 32 minutes in the day if our commute times were reduced through a grand investment in public transit? That campaign, led by CivicAction John Tory (and, not coincidentally, former CEO and now Liberal government M.P.P. Mitzi “Subway Champion” Hunter), demanded our politicians start having an adult conversation about new revenue tools to pay for it. Evidently both of them have forgotten the particulars of that campaign.

“Indeed, the public has figured out,” CivicAction Tory speechified back in 2013, “that transit plans without money are almost worse than no transit plans at all because they create nothing but false hopes.”

That was CivicAction John Tory. Mayor Tory has offered up SmartTrack, a largely unfunded transit plan, creating ‘nothing but false hopes’. CivicAction John Tory’s words not mine.

So how does he face the gathering at CivicAction’s Better City Bootcamp?

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Be bold. Be innovative. Be tireless in your pursuit of doing the right thing. Just don’t expect any of that from anybody holding public office.marxbrothers1

Dare to dream. Prepare to embrace disappointment. Change that threatens the status quo can be talked about, hashed over in forums like we’ve gathered together for here. Implementation is another matter entirely.

Democracy’s all well and good. I’m as big a fan of it as there is. But there are limits. Corporate boardrooms are where the real action is. If you want to wield ultimate power and influence, put on your networking hat and get yourself mingling out in these hallways today.

Thank you very much and have a good day.

John Tory is living, breathing proof of the stunted policy positions corporate drenched organizations like CivicAction will ultimately affect. Hyperbole? Check out the board of directors or, as they like to think of themselves, “A Team of Strategic Thinkers”. The man chosen to replace Tory as the group’s chair, Rod Phillips, is yet another product of corporate and political backrooms. Chief of staff to former mayor Mel Lastman. A staffer with Tory during his time as provincial Progressive Conservative leader. Former mucky muck of OLG and now mucky muck with Postmedia.

These are not people who will be advocating for fundamental social change. They have it pretty good as it is. Tweaks to the system will suffice. Reasonable, common sense tweaks, you understand.

Look at Tory’s mayoralty so far to see the kind of changes CivicAction players really stand for. See it? Look harder. marxbrothers2Anything? No? Yeah, me neither.

I don’t know if this is the kind of vehicle David Pecault envisioned when he established the organization back a dozen years ago, if John Tory is the kind of leader he wanted to see step up to tackle the problems the city faces. If so, it was doomed to failure from the start. A failure, that is, for everyone else but the establishment types like John Tory who use the organization as a false patina to give them the appearance of being agents of change and not the standard bearers of the status quo which is what they truly are.

contrarily submitted by Cityslikr

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