In the end, he couldn’t even come out on stage, look us in the eye and say, I quit.
The Canada Stephen Harper detested, Liberal Canada, after nearly a decade of derision, came roaring back and punched the man right in the face. Irony, eh? It often (or especially or eventually) undoes the most hubristic of us.
Ding dong, the witch is dead. The dog barks. The caravan moves on.
My enjoyment of the moment was short-lived, not just because the man denied us the pleasure of resigning to our face, but we’ve seen this movie before. A conservative government collapse followed by a big Liberal sweep. 1993, federally. 2003, here in Ontario. Over the past 22 years, we’ve had Liberal governments in Ottawa for 13 of them. Liberals have ruled Queen’s Park for 12 of the past 20 years.
Whatever challenges we face, whether it’s income inequality, precarious employment, a lack of affordable housing, a precipitous infrastructure deficit, none of these have come about by the neglect or purposeful scheming of one man or one party. None of it happened overnight. Much of it occurred under a Liberal watch.
This morning, I am relieved. Last night’s outcome could’ve been so much worse. That’s hardly the edifying feeling one might like to experience with a much desired change in government. But, once again, I guess it’ll have to do.
As the interminable federal campaign draws to a close and our well established liberal media (newspaper division) largely circled its collective wagons around the incumbent Conservative party (some following tortuous paths to get there), one thing becomes clearly evident. If you’re not voting for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, you’re the radical, you’re out of step with the mainstream. You’ve lost your way from traditional Canadian values.
If nothing else, this election has attempted to normalise Conservative behaviour as the old stock baseline. Sure, there were a few mistakes and missteps. Nobody’s perfect. Are you? But ultimately, steady as she goes, no serious deviation from the core principles that have defined this country since Confederation. Above all else, Canadians have fought and died for low taxation and a sound economy. Everything else is suspect.
“But mostly the critics [of the Harper administration] are seething with ideological zeal that warns that today’s Canadian progressives have veered to new extremism,” David Frum tweeted out on Saturday. Opponents of Stephen Harper are the extremists, says the guy who helped cheerlead the U.S. into a misguided war in Iraq that set the Mideast on fire. Yes, we’re the extremists.
As much as we’d like to think we are different than our neighbours to the immediate south, more tolerant, more moderate, more reasonable, in the light of this election campaign and the continued viability of the Conservative brand, we need to rethink that smug point of view. Our conservative segment of the population has drifted farther and farther from the middle of the political spectrum, dragging the centre with it and eyeing suspiciously everyone who hasn’t followed their rightward march. From that relative position way over there, enthusiastically enabling the vanishing of Canada, it sees its opponents and critics as the ones out of touch, out of step with their Canada. Radicals. Extremists.
So be it. Accept the fact that at this juncture in our history, we must consign a quarter to a third of our voting population to intractable conservative fanaticism. My party, right or wrong. A faction living quite comfortably in its no longer veiled racism and bigotry, happy at war with information and history, defiant in denying the inconvenient realities of the world around them. One time fringe thinking now mainstream conservative thought.
We need to stop catering to it, to cease trying to woo it or appeal to its better nature. There’s no such thing as a Conservative better nature. That died a long time ago.
You can’t ignore it but you can isolate it. 25%, 33%, that’s still a minority, healthily so, in fact. It’s not enough to govern properly but it is ample enough to disrupt the proceedings.
When Stephen Harper hooked up with the Ford Bros. for a campaign rally on Saturday night, it was a full and frank admission that this was all it was about, all it had ever been about. Disruption. Governance mayhem. Disregard for anything and anybody not holding to their narrow and dim world view. All of them feeding into and off of our worst instincts, asking nothing more from us than our hatred and fear.
Supporters and apologists tried to make that appear as normal, standard practice, conventional wisdom, plain ol’ common sense. You don’t think so? You disagree? You’re out of step with the rest of us. You’re out there, radical, extreme.
To believe that, though, is to admit that you don’t trust numbers, that basic math is an unreliable source of information. Somehow 25%, 33% makes a majority and dictates what constitutes the mainstream. The rest? Deluded, suffering from a simple case of Harper Derangement Syndrome.
It doesn’t add up but it never was supposed to. A stubborn wilfulness sits at the core of conservative thought belief these days. That’s why it’s so hard to engage. We need to stop trying. It only lends credibility where none is deserved.
There are days when my rational and sane side win out, when my contempt and general misanthropy wane, taking a back seat and making me, I think, a moderately agreeable person. It rarely occurs without a battle. I don’t enjoy taking the dim view but whoever said that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile couldn’t have been fully on top of either human psychology or physiology.
Reasonable me wants to believe Mayor John Tory is more concerned, is more of an advocate for addressing Toronto’s affordable housing crisis (as part of a broader anti-poverty strategy) than was his predecessor, Rob Ford. That should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, no sooner had Ford assumed the mayor’s office than he started making noise about selling off Toronto Community Housing stock and letting the private sector deal with the mess. There were few social programs he didn’t deem to be akin to thug hugging.
Mayor Tory, on the other hand, has handpicked Councillor Pam McConnell to devise a poverty reduction strategy. Earlier this year he appointed Senator Art Eggleton to oversee the functioning of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and recommend ways to make it work better. Councillor Ana Bailão continues to focus on ways to deal with the Mount Everest backlog of TCHC state of good repairs. Just last week, the mayor pressed the ReSet button on an initiative to streamline the manner TCHC goes about fixing its housing stock.
So yeah, sane and rational me prevails, seeing Mayor Tory as a step in the right direction on the poverty and affordable housing fronts after the Ford years. Check that It Could Be Worse box.
But here comes disagreeable me to demand that it’d be really great to see the mayor speak and act as passionately and as often about poverty and affordable housing as he does on road repairs and car congestion. He’s pushing a $350 million agenda item at city council meeting this week to expedite work on the Gardiner expressway, reducing the construction timeline down 8 years, from 20 to 12. Just today, the mayor was defending an extra $3.4 million spent on a section of the Gardiner to shorten the repair completion date a few months.
Watch Mayor Tory vigorously champion the $350 million Gardiner rehabilitation expenditure at last week’s Executive Committee meeting on economic grounds (right near the end of the clip).
There is no mountain the mayor does not seem willing to move, no amount of money he will not spend to free drivers of congested traffic. Poverty and affordable housing? He’ll appoint people to make reports. He’ll tweak procurement practices. He’ll press senior levels of government to do their part.
That’s a whole lot better than showing up at buildings and handing out $20 bills but it’s hardly enough. It’s all well and good. It’s not Gardiner expressway rehabilitation level good, though.
This is where the sunny disposition, sane and rational me loses the upper hand on this discussion. No amount of reports or fiddling with the system is going to seriously address the problems at TCHC. Neither will they do much in dealing with poverty in Toronto, and the rise of David Hulchanski’s 3 cities within this city. These are long simmering problems abandoned in any serious way by all 3 levels of governments for the better part of a generation now.
And Mayor Tory’s go-to move on the files? Not dissimilar from Rob Ford’s when he was mayor. Ask/cajole/plead with/shame the provincial and federal governments to pitch in and do their part. Try, and try again. Only this time, it’ll be different because… because… because… ?
The Ontario government is trying to squeeze millions of dollars out of the City of Toronto by appealing the property-tax assessments on several provincial properties – including the Legislature Building at Queen’s Park and the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance.
During the Executive Committee debate over the Gardiner expressway rehabilitation item, it was pointed out that in order to access federal government infrastructure money the project had to use a P3 process. Sure, you can have some money. But always with strings attached. Always.
Mayor Tory hopes to tap into some of that federal infrastructure cash to help with the $2.6 billion repair backlog at TCHC. Another wish that comes, presumably, with strings attached. If we’re lucky.
This is where I can fight off the contempt and discontent no longer. Our mayor seems unprepared, unwilling or unable to challenge this status quo. He talks and talks and talks around it, expresses occasional dissatisfaction with it but in the end, he bows down before it. With an eye on the polls, acting on those things which churn with possible voter anger and ballot retribution, he prioritizes his agenda accordingly. Thus, we find ourselves flush with $350 million to speed up repairs on the Gardiner but improvements to living conditions at the TCHC remain dependent on successful asks from senior levels of government.
The poors and their poverty aren’t traditionally big vote getters. That’s simply the undeniable status quo. Mayor Tory isn’t big on challenging the status quo.