Once upon a time there existed a relatively peaceable and stable territory known by the name Metro Toronto. It consisted of 6 duchys, made up of one city and 5 other burgs and sticks, and for over 40 years (that’s 400 in children years!), it managed capably if not spectacularly, even once garnering the faint praise of a garrulous (ask your parents) English knight! Residents were content and lives ran smoothly, more or less. The garbage was collected. Potholes filled. The trains ran on time on enough of a consistent basis that few kicked up much of a fuss.
Then, one day, an ogre from the north seized control of the Pink Palace and, soon after, decreed that all 6 duchys of Metro Toronto become one, citing efficiencies and cost savings for his diabolical machinations although everyone knew the real reason: to take power away from those who did not agree with him. Despite fierce resistance from the residents of Metro Toronto, their defiance was in vain as the very undemocratic nature of their subjugation to the despots in the Pink Palace was hideously revealed. Metro Toronto was reduced to just Toronto, the Megacity, which sounds much more impressive than it really is.
It became quickly apparent that there were no savings to be had from the enforced merger, promised efficiencies turned out to be mere phantasms and the corridors of local power, now situated in ye olde city Clamshell, filled with clowns, jokers, buffoons, charlatans and backroom courtiers believing themselves to be shadowy power brokers. Cash was short. Holes were filled with dirt where new public transit projects had been planned. There was talk of cannibals. Shady deals were done in underground parking garages. Snowfall brought the city to a standstill.
One petty tyrant up in the Pink Palace, squeezed from his elected office after a single term, decided to inflict upon the city he represented one final indignity, using his political connections and affiliations to foist his waywardest of wayward sons (although such a measure is very subjective as all his sons were wayward in their own respective way… wards) as a councillor from the former duchy of Etobicoke (a silent ‘k’). Said son quickly made a name for himself as the clowniest of clowns at the Clamshell, regularly putting on a masterclass of buffoonery. While his practical knowledge of the job he’d been elected to do was quite limited, obstinately so as time went on, he most certainly knew how to get noticed, almost always in the worst way. His shenanigans frequently stood out even in the highly competitive environment of knuckle-headed dimwittedness at the Clamshell.
After some time, much time, too, too much time, it felt at the time, the main clown prince moved on, undefeated in electoral matches, beaten by NOOOOO-body! Out from the shadows, one of his oleaginous courtiers emerged, prepared to claim the crown almost as if it were his birthright. It was determined to be his to lose, and lose it he did. (The crowd cheered wildly!) Swept aside with a broom drop. A-change in the air! For even up the long road at the Pink Palace, the bullies and martinets had been chased, replaced by a more benevolent if still paternalistic gaggle of thin-necked partisan reds. They didn’t fix or undo the damage done upon the city by their predecessors but neither did they inflict further harm. For a time.
Things ran smoothly, more or less, well and long enough, that it could be argued the future seemed to be brightish. They might be able to make this amalgamated city work after all despite the worst intentions of its architects. Toronto was even granted additional powers by its new provincial overlords, to use or not use as city leaders saw fit, in a much-heralded document that pointed toward an era of collaboration and a more level playing field. A document whose substance would prove to be not worth the paper it had been printed on.
(That’s what is referred to as ‘foreshadowing’ kids. Again, ask your parents.)
About 5 years into the détente, global forces brought the economic wheels to a grinding halt. Panic ensued. Money sources contracted. Promises broken. Agreements altered. Fingers pointed. Excuses made. Bad blood boiled over. Anger became the most valued currency.
Rather than seek compromises or broker new deals in order to smooth out rough patches between them, the Pink Palace decided a change of leadership was needed at the Clamshell to restore a sense of order. It unleashed one of its disgraced own to do battle with the incumbent mayor and everyone was caught flat-footed when the incumbent declared ‘No Más!’, choosing instead to withdraw back into private life. Everyone, that is, but the raging, reigning buffoon from Etobicoke (with the silent ‘k’) who, with his beef against gravy, declared he would be the next mayor of Toronto. The crowd, it laughed uproariously and derisively. No way in hell, they chortled. Ain’t gonna happen. In what world?
Etc., & Etc.
But the unthinkable came to pass. Clown Mayor 2.0. Bringing with him to the Clamshell his political neophyte of a brother, loudly and abrasively, from the wild frontier of the American Midwest, talking trashily of Timmies, liberries, world famous Canadian authors, waterfront ferris wheels and group homes, flashing $20 bills as proof that he really does care about the people, the People, the Folks.
Unsurprisingly, chaos ensued. Disorder, the order of the day. An all-you-can-eat buffet of chicanery, tomfoolery and divisiveness. The city stalemated, not the worst of worst possible outcomes. The mayor and his councillor brother put Toronto on the international map for reasons that made the Chamber of Commerce blush.
Alas, the mayor sickened in the lead up to his re-election campaign, replaced by his councillor brother atop the ticket. His main opponent? Another blast from the past, the megacity’s first mayor’s backroom broker who’d been rejected for the job more than 10 years earlier, who’d spent the past decade unsuccessfully trying to seize control of the Pink Palace and then on the radio, making his voice heard to those stuck in traffic, that guy.
Jumping into the race with a promised agenda of nothing more than calm. Reasonableness. Low taxes. Everything as neatly measured as the tight part of his hair. A safe harbour from the storm of the current administration. Did I say, ‘reasonable’? ‘Low taxes’? Reasonable. Low taxes. Reasonable. Low taxes. Reasonable. Low taxes.
The message resonated, if not with excitement than with relief. Just make it stop, sir. That’s all we ask of you. We need to get back to normal.
So, it came to be. The Squires of Etobicoke (silent ‘k’) were sent packing, one in a very literal sense (ask your parents), and the new mayor was as good as his word. For the next four years, pretty much nothing happened. Lots of talk, a cascade of talk, words, so forthing and so onning. All talk and almost no action, just enough to give the impression of motion.
This was all good enough for enough residents of Toronto to earn the mayor a second term. What the hell, eh? It was 2018. What could possibly go wrong? (Another example of ‘foreshadowing’, kids, with a little dose of irony. Ironic? To tell you the truth, boys and girls, I don’t really know.)
The former city councillor and brother of the former mayor, he claimed the leadership of the opposition party at the Pink Palace and in the ensuing election swept the government from power in what might be called A Return of the Goon Squad. Almost immediately, he began inflicting damage on the Clamshell, slashing and burning, reducing democracy to cinders, everything he had hoped to do as a city councillor and prospective mayor back in the day, everything he would never have been able to do without assuming power at the Pink Palace.
(Now that, I am pretty sure, kids, is what you’d call ‘irony’.)
Thus, began what surely must be seen as a return to the Great Tribulation, the third installment, suggesting to any objective observer, that the city, the megacity, the amalgamated city, as it has been structured for the past twenty-five years, lies fundamentally ungovernable and politically misshapen. Disruption is the rule rather than the exception, subject to the whims and personal peccadillos of the top dogs at the Pink Palace, aided and abetted by a mayor of the city, collaboratively working on the project to further diminish local democracy, the one thing they seem to actually agree on.
Sometimes, boys and girls, there are no happy endings. Life’s just like that, and don’t let your parents tell you otherwise. More often than not, the bad guys triumph and the good guys, if not compromised to the point of ineffectualness, are left, trying to defend an ever shrinking piece of turf as best they can while doing what they can to bandage up the bleeding and glue broken pieces back together again. Salvage operators.
It’s messy. It’s dirty business. It makes you question your belief in humanity because it sometimes seems that the Happy Ever Afters only happen for a few people, usually the worst kind of people.