Don’t Hoist Up The Mission Accomplished Just Yet

March 25, 2015

wetblanketNot to rain on anybody’s parade, and get their blanket wet in order to dampen out their enthusiasm, but a ranked ballot system of voting is not some silver bullet that’s going to singularly slay our election and governance woes.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of ranked ballots. Any improvement on the corrupted first-past-the-post manner in which we currently elect our politicians will be a good one. A system is fundamentally broken that allows a person/party with the support of less than 2-in-5 voters to make 5-out of-5 of the decisions.

And I heartily applaud Mayor John Tory for his enthusiastic endorsement of the ranked ballot initiative currently awaiting final approval at Queen’s Park. It’s one thing for a politician, elected the old fashioned way, to mouth platitudes about an electoral system that will possibly make it more difficult for them to get re-elected. Another thing entirely for that politician in power to actively push for that change.

Still…

I worry about our collective sigh of relief if ranked ballots do come to pass for the 2018 municipal election. There, that’s now done with. magicwandEverything will immediately be better.

While I have absolutely no reason to doubt the immediate impact the move to ranked ballots had on the municipal election in Minneapolis in 2013, I’d warn against any assumption of an automatic transference of similar success in Toronto. Variables between cities are many, starting with a big size differential between Minneapolis and Toronto. Toronto’s city council is 3 times the size of the Minneapolis council. Does that make implementation easier there than it would be here?

My guess is ranked ballots will have an instant effect in places of the city with an already highly engaged resident base. They know the issue. Some have helped fight to make it a reality. Ranked ballots will be an easy take in these places.

But as anyone who’s knocked on doors during an election campaign will tell you, such a heightened level of civic engagement is not uniform throughout the city. fallowgroundIn many spots, disengagement is the norm, and much of it has little to do with how we elect our members of city council. Indirectly, it’s not even about who we elect to city council. It’s about the low level of expectations residents have about what City Hall does to make their lives better.

Any notion that an improved voting system will suddenly re-engage a deeply disengaged citizenry is nothing short of wishful thinking. To imagine the voter who can’t tell you the name of their sitting city councillor will enthusiastically embrace a list of names to pick three from seems, I don’t know, overly optimistic. Just more names and more choices of do-nothing politicians who will only make an appearance when they want your vote.

Knowing Dave Meslin, the prime mover behind RaBIT, I can confidently state that he doesn’t view ranked ballots in this magic solution manner. I’m just afraid that too many of us will see its implementation and get complacent, figuring the deadweight city councillors that sit heavily on Toronto’s politics will be swept aside by the tides of history. Here’s a hammer, people. RaBITFinish building the house with it.

It’s fantastic to offer up the possibility of how to change the system. There’s little reason to expect ranked ballots won’t deliver the opportunity to shake things up. But true civic engagement lies with convincing those not yet convinced why they would want the system changed. The how to won’t fully work without the how will. How will electing new faces, more diversity on city council, improve the lives of residents, their streets, neighbourhoods and communities?

Answering that question will take a lot more than changing the way we vote.

not unenthusiastically submitted by Cityslikr


Building A Machine To Defeat The Machine

December 1, 2014

This week all the post-election hypotheticals begin to collapse into reality. The very long, drawn out, seemingly at times without punctuation chapter of the Ford Era closes. quantumdecoherenceJust the chapter, alas. We’re pretty sure that book remains open.

The 2010-2014 term of Toronto city council makes way for 2014-2018, leaving behind a mess of crises, to paraphrase the incoming mayor. To use some sprots terminology, this city is in rebuilding mode. Nothing’s been fixed over the last four years, hyperbolic protestations to the contrary. Everything’s got a little more frayed around the edges.

Worst case scenario, we begin having rational discussions again about how to get our civic shit together. (Actually, a late addendum. Worst case scenario? Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.) Best case? City council actually coalesces in a meaningful way and starts implementing concrete plans to do just that.youagain

It’s hard to imagine how the proceedings will be any worse than they were last term, although perhaps too many of us have misplaced expectations in the change that’s happened at the top. (Exhibit A: the new mayor’s choice for Executive Committee.) Most of the main offenders, enablers, deadweights and flat out crackpots who contributed to the mayhem and dysfunction at City Hall last term are back for yet another kick at the can. Maybe a semblance of sanity in the mayor’s office will help rein in their worst instincts but can it really make them better city councillors?

We can hope for the best but I’m fairly confident that before long we’re going to realize our local government is terribly broken. How we elect and who we elect to represent us fails miserably in reflecting the people of Toronto. exactlythesame2Despite a very strong group of challengers throughout the city in October’s election, council managed to get whiter and more male. Even most of the newcomers felt like the usual uninspiring suspects.

Jonathan Goldsbie wrote an exhaustive piece last week in NOW about the seemingly status quo entrenchment that’s occurred. There’s no end of ideas on how to combat it and to contend with the overwhelming power of incumbency. Some possibly right around the corner (ranked ballots, permanent resident voting), others still up for debate (formation of municipal parties, term limits). None, I believe, even enacted all together, would serve as any sort of magic bullet and transform our democracy.

That’s going to take a whole lot more hands on engagement. If we learned nothing else from this past election, it should be that best wishes and high hopes contribute nothing more to a campaign than… best wishes and high hopes. exactlythesame1Too many strong candidate challengers were left to their own devices, lots of them out in our poorly represented inner suburbs, without much institutional help for the all essential ground game, ultimately picked off by lesser opponents who’d garnered party-friendly, unofficial backroom support.

As much as we hear about our municipal campaigns being too long, for most council candidates the 10 months is not long enough. Too often, candidates enter a race unprepared, under-financed and without enough human resources to get their names and faces out there in time to established themselves as legitimate contenders. No amount of social media adoration or late in the game endorsements will unseat an incumbent, even the worst of the worst incumbents, even incumbents under criminal investigation.

The reality — the sad, sad reality – is the 2018 race for city council starts right now. Sitting city councillors cannot be allowed 3 years of unchecked governance. Shadow opposition must commence immediately. Challengers popping up onto the scene in year 4 of a term, telling residents that change is needed, and that they are the needed change are seen as interlopers, opportunists. perpetualmotionmachineWhere were you when all this so-called bad shit was happening around here?

Unfortunately, very few people can just set aside 4 years to campaign, monitoring their city councillor or get themselves a Monday-Friday AM talk radio gig to maximize their exposure. Hell, not everybody knows 4 years out if a run for city council is even in the cards. The incumbents’ advantage is like a perpetual motion machine.

City council challengers need to be nurtured not just encouraged. As importantly, a campaign apparatus needs to be established, free of political party-ship, that will develop off-season electoral muscle. Create an active community throughout the city that starts to learn the doors to knock on, the phones to ring, the meetings to attend, connect to and organize.

The best city councillors are always out there, engaging with their respective neighbourhoods and communities. fix1Any prospective candidate needs to be doing exactly the same thing. Those of us discouraged by the results of our last election must pitch in to help create a system that makes that possible.

Clearly this is a process requiring a hands-on effort by a committed group, getting the proverbial boots on the ground. As we discovered once again to our dismay (and are re-learning as the new administration begins to take shape this week), we can’t hope and wait for change. It’s not going to be wondrously legislated for us. It’s going to take all sorts of people, working to make the change.

determinedly submitted by Cityslikr


Challenger Endorsements I

October 1, 2014

So, let me begin this, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s first non-incumbent city councillor endorsement post, as a plea for ranked ballots by the time the next municipal campaign rolls around. (Looking good! Fingers still crossed.) rabitVoting should not be a tactical game, a compromise that rarely amounts to anything inspiring. Settling because, well, it could be a whole lot worse.

Take Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina, for instance. Of some 19 candidates or so, 5 are very interesting or, at least, palatable (says hello to Joe Cressy). It would be easy to list off your favourite 3 and be quite content with whatever the outcome instead of pitting them against one another in the hopes of one of them not winning. Or, whatever the mindset is in a first past the post mindset. It isn’t particularly positive.

That said. Here we are. In an imperfect system, we begin our imperfect endorsements.

endorsement3

Ward 2 Etobicoke North

Back in early June, before any sort of Ford entered this race, we talked to Luke LaRoque. We liked Luke LaRoque. We still like Luke LaRoque. He’s chock full of good ideas about how to re-engage with residents of the ward. He’s got a real grasp of municipal politics. Luke LaRoque is an ideal candidate for city council.

There’s just one hitch.

The air’s been sucked out of the race by the Fords, in particular the outgoing mayor and former ward councillor, the ailing Rob Ford. What little space is left over has been occupied by Andray Domise. He’s got the media’s attention. He is articulate and passionate about the ward. He presents the perfect foil to the Fords’ dynastic pretensions.

Having not talked in detail with Mr. Domise, I can only assess his campaign based on reading through his website and his entries on WiTOpoli’s Position Primer. I was happy to see things being fleshed out yesterday, starting with his transit platform because until then I wasn’t seeing many robust ideas. There were good, positive initiatives framed in vague generalities and rhetorical platitudes. That seems to be changing.

Andray Domise does, however, speak up for those who haven’t had much of a voice at City Hall under the Ford regime, those they claim to have done more for than anybody else in the world.

In an ideal world, one where we have ranked ballots, at this point, Andray Domise would be my second choice for Ward 2 city councillor. That’s not 2014, unfortunately. We have to deal with the situation at hand.

Andray Domise looks like the sort of positive change that could actually defeat Rob Ford at the polls. For the city to turn the page on this turbulent past 4 years, Rob Ford needs to be defeated at the polls. For that reason alone, we endorse Andray Domise for Ward 2 Etobicoke North city councillor.

endorsement1

Ward 17 Davenport

This one’s another toss up for me. It was in May when we sat down with Saeed Selvam and while he is a very impressive candidate by almost every other measure, he would still be our second choice in Ward 17. We endorse Alejandra Bravo.

Why?

Electability, in a word. She is well positioned to defeat a terrible incumbent. The stars finally seem aligned for her.

Ms. Bravo is seasoned and ready to assume her role as city councillor. She’s taken a run at this office a couple times before, in 2003 and 2006, and has a long history of community activism, most recently working on the Board of Health and with the Maytree Foundation. Mr. Selvam is a very, very worthy contender with a detailed platform that puts most other candidates to shame. Unfortunately, this just isn’t his time.

It sucks that this is how such important decisions get made. It feels cheap and shallow. But there it is. Politics in Toronto in 2014.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Wards To Watch — Surprise Edition

May 22, 2014

There’s a dust up brewing over in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth where Jane Farrow, the Jane Farrow, former CBC media type, donnybrookformer Executive Director of Jane’s (the other Jane) Walk, former Executive Assistant to Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon and just generally fabulous left of center Jane Farrow registered to run against the incumbent, Paula Fletcher, a well-established, long time left of center councillor who barely squeaked out a victory in 2010 over media celebrity, notably not left of center and back for another run at it, Liz West.

VOTE SPLIT!! was the almost immediate reaction by many City Hall watchers, with the assumption generally being that this automatically paves the way to victory for Ms. West. Each ballot cast for Ms. Farrow would be one less cast for Ms. Fletcher. ptahasdisbandedThat only needed to happen about 250 times and the race would be over.

This is presumptuous on a whole bunch of levels.

To start, Councillor Fletcher hasn’t even registered to run yet. Sure, the election’s still over 5 months away but if she is in the race, she really should signal her intentions. Waiting on the sidelines is kind of oily incumbent behaviour. Keep everybody guessing. Either a bunch of people jump in with the expectation of an open ward, ending up carving up the vote or it keeps everybody on the sidelines, wondering, should they enter, shouldn’t they, until it’s too late to mount a serious campaign.

As I tweeted out when the news broke, since when has incumbency bestowed any sort of squatter’s rights on a ward? kingofthecastleA designated position until either the candidate or voters deign to say otherwise. Until there’s an actual vote splitting scenario, you know, between two actual candidates, maybe we can back off the sturm und drang for a bit.

More annoyingly, who says all progressive, left of center voters are the same, expect the same from candidates? It is hardly a uniform bloc of singular group think. In fact, just the opposite, much to its exploitable electoral detriment.

Maybe it’s time that Councillor Fletcher has her progressive qualifications taken out for a test run, see if they’re still what the residents in Ward 30 are looking for. My guess is, while there is much overlap between the two, she and Ms. Farrow have some very distinct views of what constitute progressive values in Toronto in 2014. allthesameA good airing out of ideas and opinions never hurt any discourse or policy positions in the long run.

Besides, how do we know for a fact that this thing’ll get settled on a left-right split? Sure, Liz West was a Ford-lite sounding waste and efficiency finding vessel and Councillor Fletcher was a high ranking target of the outgoing David Miller administration. While I don’t think she’d achieved a Sandra Bussin level of loathing in the media, Fletcher did make something of a spectacle of herself when she badgered one budget deputant she thought to be a John Tory radio show plant. “Come on down, baby!”

Couldn’t it have been Ms. West just struck Ward 30 residents as the best possible alternative to Fletcher in 2010? She was a two term councillor at the time. Maybe she had just almost worn out her welcome.

What’s not to say that Jane Farrow may present Ward 30 voters as their best alternative come October? toughchoiceIn that case, she may just as well strip votes from Liz West who, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t spent the time between the last election and this one, working the constituency, establishing herself ready to step up and serve as city councillor. Unless, of course, appearing on Hamilton TV constitutes working the constituency.

Look, I don’t have any beef with Councillor Paula Fletcher. Her voting record over the last 4 years shows a strong resistance to the Ford agenda. The Boys and their crew never missed an opportunity to drag her name out as the prime example of the tax and spenders they were constantly doing battle with in order to be respecting the taxpayers.

But from my perch observing the proceedings at City Hall, she was not one of the go-to bulwark stalwarts against the hurry up offense of the Fords. toughchoice2That grunt work was done more often than not by the likes of councillors Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis, Gord Perks and Adam Vaughan, both at council meetings and with regular appearances as visiting councillors at standing committees where much of the public input happened and policy decisions took shape. A reliable no vote? Sure. But there’s that goes into the sausage making than that.

Perhaps most annoyingly about all this is that we’re still having the same conversation about vote splitting. If there was ever the case to be made for ranked ballots, this would be it. Two candidates, of similar political persuasion, neither would be a terrible choice for councillor. rabitOne speaks to your sensibilities, just a little bit more. That one is # 1. The other, # 2. And let the run off begin.

Unfortunately, we’re still lagging behind on that count. Until such time as we finally step up and embrace ranked ballots (Hello, Queen’s Park!) voters are going to sometimes have to face the unpleasant prospect of vote splitting. We’re not there yet in Ward 30. So let’s take a step back, relax, and enjoy having too many good candidates to choice from rather than too few.

excitedly submitted by Cityslikr


A Blast From The Past

March 21, 2014

(As the 2014 mayoral debate season begins to pick up steam, and the inevitable discussion about which candidates to include and which ones to ignore, we were reminded of an event from back in 2 ought 10 during a quick conversation with Dave Meslin earlier this week. We vote — online and using ranked ballots, of course — for the candidates we’d like to see on stage with all the pre-determined front runners. Last time around it was 2. But there’s no reason necessarily there couldn’t be more, or more than one of these kinds of debates.

If the media isn’t going to encourage are more inclusive process, we just might have to be a little more proactive.)

*  *  *

Attending my first mayoral debate last night, thrown by the folks at Better Ballots at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, it’s difficult to properly assess the proceedings. There’s no baseline to measure it against as the scientists say. Are they all like this because if that’s the case, debates are a lot of fun. More people should make a point of attending them. It was infinitely more entertaining than, I don’t know, Iron Man 2, although in reading that sentence I realize it could be taken as less than complimentary toward political debates.

I do know that this one was different than previous debates so far as it introduced some of the other 22 candidates who have registered to run for the office of mayor. Two, Rocco Achampong and Keith Cole, had won an online poll to join the 6 main contenders up on the stage while the other 20 were given the opportunity to give a 1 minute speech throughout the course of the evening. (We’ll go into more detail about how the “other” candidates fared in our Friday ‘Meet A Mayoral Candidate’ post, only to say now that Mssrs. Achampong and Cole acquitted themselves very, very well on stage last night.)

Held in the very proper Debates Room, the atmosphere was both stuffy and almost carnivalesque. Stuffy, owing mostly to the lack of A/C in the place. It was warm, close. To the point where I was half expecting a wet-pitted Huey Long to appear on the podium, exhorting a radical redistribution of wealth.

Yet, at least metaphorically speaking, the event felt light and airy. Finally allowed access to a wider audience, many of the previously overlooked mayoral candidates who were present took the opportunity to mingle with the crowd, some handing out their campaign literature, others promenading down the middle aisle of the room, holding up handmade campaign posters. Candidates on parade! Place your vote for mayor here!

Doing their level best to dampen the upbeat mood, however, was the Red Menace. A group of youthful red t-shirted Rocco Rossi supporters, hogging up chairs by the row full, wrestling the loose vibe in the room to the ground, harshing the mellow. As the jostling swirled around me, I realized they were in a pitched battle with equally young but perhaps even more doe-eyed, undercover George Smitherman (only one of them sported their team’s purple shirts which he quickly removed) backers. I fought the urge to ask one of these youngsters why on earth they were wasting their formative years working for such soulless candidates but fortunately resisted, not wanting to ruin the evening with fearful thoughts of our future well-being.

As for the debate itself, it was a tightly run operation based around the 14 electoral reform proposals that Better Ballots have been working on, ranging from extending the municipal vote to permanent residents and online voting to term limits and campaign finance rules.

If I can offer up two bits of constructive criticism, it would be as follows:

  • One, since Better Ballots had held 4 town hall meetings throughout the city in April for interested members of the public to discuss and vote on, I might’ve used the numbers to eliminate the issues that least caught peoples’ attention, i.e. municipal parties, at-large councils, even possibly term limits. That way, there would’ve been more time to discuss the remaining issues in more detail and not allowed any of the candidates to simply agree or disagree without giving the reasons why.
  • Two, again to afford more time to delve further into details, I would nix the 6-10 minute open portion after each of the candidates were given their 1-1½ minutes to speak on a specific issue. It only opened the door to pre-packaged digs between candidates and empty, rhetorical posturing that often had little to do with the issue at hand.

That said, for much of the evening all the candidates seemed to be in the spirit of things, offering up thoughtful opinions on electoral reform. Except maybe Rob Ford who came across as completely uncomfortable and out of his element. To be fair, he was the main target of shots from the other candidates and the Hart House crowd was not his crowd and the room grew increasingly hot so he was sweating a lot but I still half expected him to break out into a Chris Farley “I live in a van down by the river!” routine. Ultimately, if I were voting for the candidate who I thought would make the best Walmart manager, Ford would be my candidate.

Sarah Thomson struck me as a high school valedictorian. Whenever she kept pointing out that she’d built a multi-million dollar business, I wanted to stand up and scream, “But government isn’t a business, Ms. Thomson!!” Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti drifted in and out of lucidity, constantly badgering Ford, dismissing his incessant call to reduce the number of councillors to 22 as nothing more than empowering the unelected bureaucracy and calling for (I think) publicly funded elections. George Smitherman was smooth, said pretty well next to nothing(a voting reform package sent to a council committee) and struck me as extremely unlikable.

I must admit that, despite the presence of his Redshirts, Rocco Rossi caught my attention with his thoughtfulness and passion. So much so that whenever he talked I found myself thinking, if we only could get him off this whole selling of public assets nonsense… Then came his final statement where he tried to convince the audience that the real reason for voter disaffection is due to the choices the current mayor has made, and then proceeding to dismiss plastic recycling and public toilets as unimportant.
Clearly the man had no read on who he was talking to on this particular evening and his ideas of civic engagement are wildly antithetical to mine.

Leaving us with Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone. Neither here nor there, pretty well lost in the shuffle, he didn’t seem out of place so much as content to go along, surf the various tides as they swell up in order to be one of the last candidates standing come October. He seems non-ideological and cordial enough to work well with a fractious council.

But I just wish he’d stand up (no pun intended) and be more forceful about why he thinks government matters, why he would be a good mayor and that after 29 years in office, the city he’s represented is not doing too badly despite what the gaggle of naysayers on the stage around him are saying.

It is still just June yet. Lots of time remaining for policies, platforms and personalities to coalesce. Onward and forward to future debates!

— dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


A Mayoral Catch-22

March 20, 2014

I was mulling over Edward Keenan’s piece in The Grid yesterday about, well, fringe mayoral candidates, thinkinganddrinkinglet’s call them for lack of a better heuristic when, don’t you just know it, up pops the news that former candidate Sarah Thomson is planning another run at the mayor’s office.

You know Ms. Thomson. Barely cracked double digits in the 2010 race before throwing her lightweight weight behind the eventual 2nd place finisher, George Smitherman. Then ran something of a spirited campaign for the Liberals in the 2011 provincial in the riding of Trinity-Spadina, giving the long time incumbent Rosario Marchese a bit of a scare. Sarah “Transit” Thomson who basically took her one good idea from 2010 – road tolls – and built a platform of self-promotion around it. Yeah. That Sarah Thomson.

As I write this, Thomson showed up at City Hall this morning in a horse drawn red wagon to register. Whatever. But it does provide me a nice little segue into a larger discussion about fringe candidates.

Next Wednesday CityNews will be holding the first televised mayoral debate of the 2014 campaign. cinderellaAll 5 “major” candidates have signed on to participate, according to the announcement. Olivia Chow. Rob Ford. David Soknacki. Karen Stintz. John Tory.

Will a 6th podium be added now for Sarah Thomson? If so, why? Because she ran previously? Because she organized events around regional transit problems? Because she owns a publication? Because all this combines to give her public standing?

On the other hand, if CityNews doesn’t extend an invitation to the debate to Ms. Thomson, why not? Why do they get to make that decision? Who determines which candidacy sits beyond the fringe and which one doesn’t?

Mr. Keenan seems to suggest that’s it’s kind of an organic process. “As with any job — in this case, the CEO of a $10 billion-a-year organization responsible for millions of peoples’ daily necessities,” Keenan writes, cv“the hiring criteria includes significant experience and demonstrated abilities as much as anything else.”

There’s certainly some truth to that. In Toronto, it’s been the case for pretty much forever that the only way to the mayor’s job is through city council. Mayoral hopefuls have traditionally put in time as councillors first. No outsiders need apply.

“Putting together a successful campaign is actually a pretty good proxy for many of the attributes you need to govern,” Keenan continues, “managing a staff and volunteers, inspiring people to work on your behalf, raising funds, and engaging in a public debate that convinces citizens to put their trust in you and your plan. The press will pay close attention to candidates who show they can do that on a citywide scale. And so will voters.”

Again, certainly true, but for me, really only half of the equation. “Managing a staff and volunteers…raising funds…engaging in a public debate” are essential but none of it just appears out of the blue. All that’s easier said than done. Without an established name or easy access to money to buy yourself one, outside candidates have to work doubly hard (at least) to get their name and ideas out there. backroomI am troubled by that notion.

What I see is a slate of candidates that is presented to voters on the basis of money and influence. Prominent, backroom donors, well-worn campaign strategists, political party apparatchiks, all cajoling, tempting and eventually signing on to work for candidates they deem acceptable to run for mayor. These are your candidates, Toronto. Now, vote as you see fit.

And the media, especially media outlets that wind up hosting mayoral debates and forums, are complicit in this heavy-handed winnowing of the field. Only candidates from the given slate are invited to participate. Why? Well, because these are the ones voters want to hear from? Why is that? How does the media determine that? Look at the polling numbers, we’re told. Numbers derived from polls featuring only the non-fringe candidates’ names.

It’s a pre-determined, closed loop. An iterative process with only a handful of appointed variables, ultimately ending up with the choice from pick one of the above. closedopensystemNone of the above is never presented as a viable alternative.

Look. The 2014 campaign is about two and a half months old. Candidates have been registered since January 2nd. Yet, only after Olivia Chow — who everybody knew was running — officially entered the race last week were we informed that the official debates would begin. I’m not alone in finding the timing a little fishy, am I? It feels like the fix is in.

Instead of hashing and rehashing the will he or won’t he/when will she narrative and pursuing the HMS Destructive tour of the current incumbent, maybe a little time could’ve been devoted to listening to some of the other candidates for mayor, suss out their fitness for the job. In early February the U of T Scarborough student union held a mayoral forum that featured the mayor, David Soknacki and 3 of the fringe candidates. footinthedoorThe Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale covered it and, in his opinion, declared that one of the 3, Robb Johannes just might’ve won the debate.

So why hasn’t Mr. Johannes been invited to participate in the CityNews’ debate? Based on the observation of an experienced City Hall reporter giving his candidacy some legitimacy, what must he do to be given a shot at proving himself worthy of further consideration?

In 2010, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke ran some 30 or so Meet A Mayoral Candidate posts throughout the campaign. Admittedly, most, a high percentage of them, rightfully deserved the fringe label. Remember, anybody with $200 to spare can run for mayor. It was hard to tell why many were in the race. A lark. Mere attention seeking. Misguided sense of direction.

But a handful of them were thoughtful, interesting and dedicated to giving their time and energy to the city. Hell, we ended up endorsing one for mayor when all was said and done. Not every fringe candidate should be viewed fringe simply because they don’t yet have money, resources or influence.musicalchairs

And I would argue that this time around, there are even more potentially serious fringe candidates then in 2010. The subject of Mr. Keenan’s article, Ari Goldkind, immediately strikes me as somebody worth listening to. Matt Mernagh. Jeff Billard. Richard Underhill. Morgan Baskin. The above mentioned Robb Johannes.

Are any of these credible mayoral candidates? I don’t know. But who the fuck am I to blithely brush them off before giving them a chance to hear what they have to say, deliver their plans and ideas to a wider audience?

“You don’t need the press to legitimize your candidacy,” Keenan informs the fringers. “Only your campaign can do that.”

That sentiment seems hopelessly and impossibly pollyannish or unaware on Keenan’s part; neither adjective I’d normally attach to him. Yes, we can all look to Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi as living, breathing proof that an unknown entity can come out of seemingly nowhere to score an improbable victory. ignoreOutsider candidates should look to Nenshi to see how exactly he and his team pulled that off. But to point to that very, very rare example and conclude it’s all about a little innovative DIY, and that somehow the media’s exclusionary practices to all but the few anointed candidates doesn’t play into the fringe determination of the many, that only truly viable candidates will earn a place in the spotlight, I think ignores just how a vast majority of the voting public gets their information and processes it in determining what way their support is going to go.

disappointingly submitted by Cityslikr


On Activism And The World We Live In

June 13, 2013

The great thing about doing the thing I do, and yes, this is me doing something, aside from getting to trade barbs with former Harris government knobs, goodnewseveryoneis all the smart, engaged people I meet along the way.

Two of the smartest, most engaged people I’ve had the opportunity to meet are Desmond Cole and Dave Meslin. On Tuesday, the two helped roll the rock of voting reform a little bit further up the hill as the Government Management Committee’s Proposed Electoral Reform item made its way through city council, relatively unscathed. Now the questions of permanent resident eligibility to vote municipally, ranked ballots, internet voting and a review of municipal election finance rules are on their way to Queen’s Park to secure the provincial approval needed for any of these initiatives to go forward.

It’s just another step, for sure, with more than a few obstacles still to clear but, pick your own hoary cliché here, a long march is only completed step-by-step.rollingrock

Being an activist can’t be easy.

There are assholes like me, just popping up on the scene, who start yelling and think that’ll make an immediate difference. True, effective activism doesn’t work like that. It’s a slog. A long, tough slog.

Meslin has been stirring up the pot here in Toronto since the last century it seems. Oh. I’m sorry. What? 1998 is the last century. Well then. Meslin has been stirring up the pot here in Toronto since the last century.

Reclaim the Streets. Toronto Public Space Committee. City Idol. Toronto Cyclists Union. RaBIT. He was part of all those movements.

For his part, Desmond Cole’s been around the activist block a time or two himself. A Project Coordinator for I Vote Toronto, he’s been at ground zero for the push to open municipal voting to permanent residents. busyHe was a winning candidate for City Idol back in 2006, running in Ward 20 against Adam Vaughan. As a writer-activist, Cole has also been front and centre covering relations between the Toronto Police Services and the city’s visible minority communities.

The status quo is firmly entrenched. Budging it even just a little takes a lot of time and effort. You’re labeled a special interest or a usual suspect by those who like the status quo just fine, thank you very much, or who can’t see anything past it.

Even those fighting the same fight can turn unfriendly and unhelpful. I’ve witnessed firsthand the internal warfare going on between the camps trying to change our first-past-the-post voting system. Allies fighting for a better way to elect our representatives arrive at loggerheads over the exact method to do it.

Activism is not for the faint of heart. I think that’s especially true in these days of deep cynicism and disconnect to our political system. getbusyMuch easier to throw up your hands and say, well, they’re all corrupt, they all lie, a pox on all their houses than it is to roll up your sleeves, get into the trenches, firm in your conviction of changing this motherfucker up.

So I tip my hat to the likes of Dave Meslin and Desmond Cole, and say thank you. Not only are they fighting the good fight, they do so in such an infectious, enthusiastic way as to make it almost seem like fun. And why not? Civic participation is fun, despite opinions to the contrary.

And it would be remiss of me not to send out a big thumbs-up to Councillor Paul Ainslie as well. As chair of the Government Management Committee, he grabbed hold of the electoral reform issue and saw it through some very choppy waters especially at times due to his own unfriendly committee. His determination to see this through was as dogged and tireless as that of the likes of Meslin and Cole.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke spend much of our time expressing disappointment in the conduct of our local representatives at City Hall. So it behooves us then to take a moment and acknowledge when they exhibit exemplary behaviour. (Frankly, they do so at a much higher rate than they are ever given credit for.)

At the outset, Paul Ainslie never struck me as a particularly outstanding councillor. Early on in this term, he seemed to be just another right wing lap dog for Mayor Ford, obediently doing the mayor’s bidding and voting along party lines. thumbsup1That started to change for me when he stood up, outraged as the TPL board chair, to respond to then budget chief Mike Del Grande’s dim view of all the non-English language books and videos in the library’s catalogue.

His drift toward independence has continued and, while still too right leaning for my particular tastes, he has come to represent a moderate voice on council. Maybe he always was and it got lost in the ideological thunder that rolled over City Hall in the fall of 2010. He deserves a lot of credit for rising above the partisan tumult and delivering on what could be a real game-changer in terms of local politics.

Not immediately. But soonish. That’s the reality for activists and the politicians responsive to them. We owe both a huge hug of gratitude.

thankfully submitted by Cityslikr