Going Our Way?

April 5, 2012

While the cat’s away, we will take about something other than municipal politics today.

Gaze averted for the past year or so from the train wreck that has become the Ford administration, I’ve been keeping myself occupied with the goings-on at other levels of government. Not that there’s a whole lot more to commend from that view either. But at least it lends one a different perspective.

Which is (Segue alert! Segue alert!) what this country is slowly, incrementally facing, a changing perspective. The Albertazation of Canada, let’s call it where the government is the problem not the solution, taxation is a dirty word and all economic problems can be solved by digging into the ground below your feed and mining the resources.

Or as Erna Paris wrote in a Walrus article from March of 2011, “The New Solitudes”: … an outlook more familiar to Americans than to Canadians, at least since the Reagan revolution of the 1980s. Its organizing principles are a powerful commitment to individualism, and to maximum freedom in every sector. Governments should be small, their powers limited, their taxing capacity curtailed. The market must be free and unfettered. Individuals are uniquely responsible for their failures, as well as their successes, and they cannot expect assistance from the ‘nanny state.’

A twist on an old theme, the two solitudes revisited. No longer English and French with its healthy dose of disregard for those here before any European set foot on these shores. But a new division, grounded in western alienation that may be less geographic than it is philosophical. It’s not that Alberta ever wanted in. They wanted the rest of Canada to be more like them.

Or maybe it’s nothing more than sour grapes written from the heart of what was once the economic engine of the nation. The tables have turned. Power has shifted. Money talks, baby, and these days it’s the west with the deep pockets, Canada’s sugar daddies. The new payer of the piper gets a different tune played. If you want to keep dancing, you better learn the new steps.

Not so fast there, bucko. There’s nothing radical going on here. It’s simply business as usual. What we’re witnessing from this long feared stable Conservative majority government is little more than a slightly bluer tinged Chrétienism.

Take last week’s federal budget for example. Nothing out of the ordinary, no draconian hidden agenda. The new normal. Nothing to see here, folks. Everybody back to work.

You see what just happened there?

It is now taken as a simple matter of fact, plain as the nose on your face that government deficits and debt are due to excessive spending. On bailouts and stimulus spending during the global economic crisis. On pensions and other outrageous luxuries afforded to those not willing to do an honest day’s work in the private sector. We are all now true believers in the Rob Ford maxim that governments have a spending not a revenue problem despite all evidence to the contrary here in Toronto.

Buying into that mantra, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government in Ontario instructs Don Drummond not to even consider new taxes as a way of helping to alleviate the provincial deficit. This is a spending problem, remember? Tell us how to spend less not how to generate more revenue.

The flip side of this leap of faith, this embrace of the Alberta way, is that low taxes, cutting taxes creates a robust economy. It’s that simple, people. Although the Ontario government in its recent budget put off further corporate tax cuts, it was seen as a concession, a sop to keep the NDP happy rather than an admission that having slashed the rate over the last few years has generated little economic benefits to anyone but those businesses now paying less tax.

Lower personal income tax rates and the reduction of the GST at the federal level have also proven to deliver somewhat illusory economic benefits. Yet there’s nary a mention of that in much of the budget coverage. Little analysis to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy blowing in from the prairies. Taxes are bad, evil even to some minds. End stop.

No, the only way to turn this ship around, to build a sustainable economy, is to dig our way out. Addition by extraction. Ontario? Quebec? Stop expecting handouts from the rest of the country and get mining. There’s gold (of something else valuable) in them thar hills. Drill, baby, drill!

You see, according to the Alberta way, green may be good in theory but terrible in practice. Where’s the money to be made in wind, solar? Ontario’s very tentative baby steps in that direction have proven to be a bust to those inclined to view alternative energy with scepticism. Nothing more than a vain hope in the eyes of the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson.

Never mind what’s been going on over there in Germany, say. That country propping up the European economy at the moment. Its embrace of solar and wind power has helped turn around moribund manufacturing areas in the former east bloc parts of the country. In just 12 years, green energy went from contributing 6.3% of the country’s energy output to now over 20%, creating over 300,000 jobs in the process.

Hmmm, revive a flagging manufacturing base. Reduce dependence on unsustainable fossil fuel sources. Seems like a win-win strategy to those not wedded to the Alberta way.

Unfortunately, there’s little boldness in leadership in that direction currently. Politicians of all stripes have accepted the handcuffs of fiscal restraint to dampen expectations of new ideas and nip any discussion of charting a new course in the bud. Hewers of wood and drawers of water we once were. Hewers of wood and drawers of water we shall continue to be.

Those of us demanding something different are now another solitude, looking forward rather than backward. With a majority federal government intent on reshaping the country and its institutions bit by bit into a decentralized, corporate-minded, neoconservative plaything, we may have to take the prime minister up on his offer to seize more regional autonomy and assume control of our future. A future divergent with the Alberta way. That, to borrow Erna Paris’s title, is our new solitude.

sneakily submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Our Harmful Politics Of Transit

February 3, 2012

So, a few days of bashing Mayor Rob Ford’s flailing, rearguard action to save some semblance of his ad hoc transportation city plan, it’s time to pause and not forget the other contributor to the sad, sad state of transit affairs in these parts: our negligent overlords at Queen’s Park.

You got to hand it to them for possessing the sized stones they obviously possess, chiming in now, telling us to get our ducks all in a row so we could push ahead with building us some transit. Didn’t we already have that up until March of last year when the premier caved in and signed the Memorandum of Understanding that allowed the mayor to unilaterally rip up a plan that was in place at the time, that thing called Transit City? Where was the province’s demand for council approval back then?

I know, I know. It’s all political. The wobbly provincial government facing a fall election was unsure of the power of this thing called Ford Nation that the mayor touted. Better safe than sorry. Live to fight the fight another day. Besides, if Premier McGuinty forced Mayor Ford’s hand then, the mayor might’ve won the day and we’d already be on the wrong track of transit expansion.

But the equivocation, the serious case of constant cold feet toward public transit have been the rule rather than the exception for provincial governments, if not forever, than for the past 27 years or so. (And lest you think I’m letting Ottawa off the hook on this, I consider them largely an absent parent who shows up occasionally with a gift of electoral bribery.) What if the Mike Harris government never filled in that hole along Eglinton Avenue in 1995 and killed the subway plans? Or, had the same government not ceased paying its portion of the TTC’s annual operating budget? While there is much to criticize about the TTC, it would’ve been a different organization had it and the city not been forced to pick up the provinces half of the tab.

A situation Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals promised to rectify in 2003 when it was elected. And has continued to promise for the past 9 years. It seems the timing just hasn’t been optimum, money-wise. Ever.

Even their grand gesture to finally solve the city’s transit woes with their backing and funding of Transit City, quickly became a little less grand. When the economy went south with the global financial crisis in 2008, they began to blanche and waffle to the tune of some $4 billion, and a scaled back version established a certain easy come, easy go tone to the government’s attachment to the project. A tone the mayor quickly exploited in his bid to kill it last year.

Unfortunately this m’eh attitude toward public transit shown by Queen’s Park is ingrained. Hell, one might even call it endemic. Yeah, yeah. We know there’s a problem but, hey, we already got a lot of balls in the air. When the time’s right, the money’s flowing, when pigs fly, we’ll get right on it. Until then, here’s a biscuit. Don’t count on getting one regularly but be ready to jump when we say jump.

There was that favourite line of mine from The Sopranos, back in season one I believe it was. They shit on our heads and want us to thank them for the hat?! If you’re going to go around acting all mature like you’re the only responsible grown-ups in the room, might I suggest accepting some of the responsibility that goes along with that? Including, but not exclusive, to making deals and then backing out of them on a fairly regular basis.

As the senior level of government in this relationship, shouldn’t they be instilling a certain degree of stability into the dynamic? Isn’t that what good parents do for their children? Bring a sense of consistency.

Whatever you thought about the government of Mike Harris, they couldn’t be knocked for a lack of consistency. They hated Toronto and couldn’t give a fuck about public transit. Unfortunate but you were never dealing with surprises.

This Liberal government? All over the map. And there’s not even a pattern to its inconsistency. We’ll call it, willy-nilly.

Champions of Transit City, then not so much. Do whatever you want kids. Come on! Make up your mind already!

There’s no rhyme. There’s no reason. No vision. No leadership.

So why are we answerable to them? A historical glitch. This once rural country gave provinces sole domain over what were, at the time, insignificant cities. An after thought. A, yeah whatever.

Sadly, an attitude that remains in place nearly 150 years later, long after the country has become predominantly urbanized. A haphazard, outdated approach that puts the province’s interests first, ignoring the glaring obviousness of the new reality that as go the cities, so goes the provinces, the country. So a bad decision (or worse, an ill-informed, solely political one) on transit at this juncture as we already lag so far behind other cities throughout the world, will not only adversely affect Toronto but Ontario and Canada.

And the galling thing about it for us (perhaps not the politicians involved) is that we have a built in structure of plausible deniability. No one has to take the blame. We gave them money. They wanted to build subways. Kids, eh? What are you going to do?

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Politics Of Transit

January 26, 2012

If you’ve ever played one of those 3-D board games, like say, chess or Battleship, you can get a sense of what’s going on currently with public transit planning here in Toronto. Layers upon layers of intrigue and political jockeying where one seemingly unrelated move has serious ramifications on the machinations happening below. It sets the head a-spinning, and not necessarily in a good way.

Not to drive a wedge in the opposition now coalescing against Mayor Ford’s harebrained ‘Subways Only’ Transit – I mean, Transportation – Plan, and, oh yes, opposition is clearly coalescing. Last week, TTC Chair and Team Ford stalwart Karen Stintz openly mused about bringing the eastern portion of the Eglinton LRT back up from underground where the mayor had single-handedly banished it last year. She wasn’t the first one of the mayor’s gang to question the wisdom of burying it. Councillor John Parker had called the idea ‘goofy’ a few weeks back. But certainly Councillor Stintz as head of the TTC, her words carried significant weight. Enough certainly to draw Scarborough councillor Michael Thompson out of the woodwork as he expressed no particular drive to keep the Eglinton LRT buried.

Now the Chair was political enough to offer Mayor Ford a compromise of sorts, a facing saving out. She proposed that any money saved by keeping some of the Eglinton LRT at street level would be ploughed into building the mayor’s cherished Sheppard subway extension. But… but here’s where it gets murky, possibly operating on a second level. If the mayor were to take the money to build the subway, wouldn’t he be breaking one promise to keep another? He said there’d be no public money needed for Sheppard, and here he’d be taking public money.

A moot point perhaps, as the mayor seems categorically incapable of accepting compromise as was on display last week during the budget debate. Instead, the loyal members of his entourage went on the offensive. Mark Towhey, the mayor’s Policy Director proclaimed, “Residents don’t want trains running down the middle of the street.” Then Councillor Doug, the mayor’s brother, went full on bluster with the Toronto Sun. Forcing taxpayers onto streetcars or LRTs (Stalin style) relegated them to “second-class” citizenship. And apparently, according to the councillor, all that money that was diverted from other Transit City projects in order to bury the Eglinton LRT would somehow not be there if that decision was reversed. “There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow for $2 billion to fund something else.”

And where the mayor and his brother go, so goes the likes of Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, right?

Not so fast. This morning in the National Post Councillor Mammoliti is on record gently disputing Mayor Ford’s claim that everybody loves subways but not nearly as much as they hate streetcars. Read this last paragraph and tell me there isn’t an open revolt brewing within Team Ford’s ranks.

Councillor Mammoliti, who has pushed for a subway on Finch Avenue, says that if a forthcoming report on how to build the Sheppard line determines that private-sector funding will be hard to come by, then “we should be looking at improving what is there to begin with” on Finch. He favours a swift surface light rail line over a dedicated bus lane. As for what should happen on Eglinton, Mr. Mammoliti said that “during the election I didn’t hear anybody on the eastern side say they had some concerns with [surface light rail].”

If you’re counting at home, folks, that’s the TTC Chair, 2 members of the all-powerful Executive Committee and one staunch supporter of Mayor Ford openly and frankly challenging his Transportation City vision. It’s the kind of internal disarray proponents of a more sensible and feasible transit plan couldn’t be happier about. Alas, it’s also the kind of discord our ultimate political overlords at Queen’s Park can use to give them the appearance of having sound judgement and being above the fray.

“The city still doesn’t have its act together,” said Bob Chiarelli, the Minister of Transportation. “We have the chair of the TTC speculating about changes. We have some city councillors, we have the Mayor really not commenting on it. So, we need some clarity from the city.”

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGHH!

It’s this kind of multi-levelled, political gamesmanship that has stunted transit planning in this city for three decades now. If the province had remained resolute and kept to the already agreed upon Transit City plan last year, we wouldn’t have lost another 12 months or so chasing the mayor’s phantom transit vision. If the premier had called for a “formal proposal” from city council then to change course as he is right now to change back to the original plans (????), we might’ve had this discussion last year not now.

Instead, he capitulated in the face of the mayor’s self-proclaimed Ford Nation, signed on to the Memorandum of Understanding with the mayor, end-running city council, to use all the province’s money to bury the Eglinton LRT in what could only be seen for personal political reasons. Facing an election with, at the time, very dismal prospects, and a mayor of Toronto in his ascendancy, he chose to sacrifice the city’s transit future for his own political one. Unfortunately for the city, it wasn’t the first time such a thing has happened.

But… but… again, this is where it gets murky. I don’t credit Premier McGuinty with many things but his political acumen isn’t one that I question. Perhaps, he knew that if he forced the transit issue to a vote at city council last year, Mayor Ford may well have won the day. Transit City would truly have been buried for good along with the Eglinton LRT. By making nice and surviving last October’s election while exposing the ethereal foundations of Ford Nation while at it, he kept Transit City alive. The honeymoon now over, Mayor Ford faces a rejuvenated city council and very vocal, well-organized opposition to his transit plans.

Wheels within wheels. What should be a fairly straight-forward how to build a better transit system for the city situation is anything but. Perhaps the most aggravating aspect of it is that those who rely on public transit here the most aren’t the ones contributing to the decisions. It’s left in the hands of those who view it in terms of little more than their personal and political gain.

head spinningly submitted by Cityslikr


Letting Them Off The Hook

October 12, 2011

I’ve got no particular axe to grind with the Globe and Mail’s columnist Marcus Gee. His columns seldom either infuriate or excite me. He’s not the worst journalist covering the City Hall, not by any stretch of the imagination. At least, not until Sue-Ann Levy stops her doodled rants on the pages of the Toronto Sun. And takes Joe Warmington with her when she goes. Mr. Gee is much more palatable writing about this city than he was international affairs all those many years ago.

But he still doesn’t get it. Or, if he does, he adamantly refuses to accept the facts as they are. His stubbornness in viewing municipalities as mere after thoughts on the governance scale, last on the bus, last to exit, does us no favours. In fact, he may help entrench the view of cities as wayward children, naïve to the ways in which the world works.

“Whatever party had won [the provincial election] on Thursday night,” Gee wrote last Friday, “and whatever governing arrangement emerges now, the prospects of wringing a wealth of benefits for Toronto out of the provincial government are dim. With a projected $15-billion budget deficit, and the threat of a global economic crisis, Queen’s Park is in no position to help another level of government with its money problems in any substantial way.”

The Toronto-Queen’s Park relationship shouldn’t be about leverage and looking to cash in on enforced, political largesse. Any problems the provincial government has with its books must include obligations it has to the municipalities it oversees. Ditto the federal government. The rising deficits cities face, both from a fiscal and infrastructure stand point, originate with the debt the two upper levels of government owe them.

Even that phrasing – upper or senior levels of government – denotes a degree of priority which is long past a best before date. Municipalities in this country are groaning under the weight of negligence inflicted upon them by Ottawa and the provincial legislatures. They’ve washed their hands of responsibility and left cities to make the impossible decisions of what to cut and how deep. We are living in an era of absentee landlords, deadbeat dads if you will.

We are told by Mr. Gee that as premier Dalton McGuinty has done alright by us. He’s re-upped some of the downloads imposed by his predecessor, Mike Harris. He’s made strides on the transit portfolio, albeit in half measures. What more do we want? “Even under NDP pressure,” Gee opines, “he [McGuinty] seems unlikely to reverse himself completely and disinter Transit City. A provincial commitment to 50-50 sharing of transit costs seems just as far-fetched, given the great cost and the awful state of the provincial accounts.”

Why, Mr. Gee, should we not expect the premier to live up to his promise, now almost a decade old, to resume the provincial share of the TTC annual operating budget that was in place until the previous government at Queen’s Park reneged on the deal? How is it any different than a citizen of Toronto deciding he could no longer afford to pay the full amount of the property tax bill and cutting the city a cheque for 50% of the amount? Walking away from your responsibility is still walking away from your responsibility regardless of the state of your finances.

Besides, allowing municipalities to sink in a sea of red ink and to collapse under the weight of neglected infrastructure and a second-rate transit system does no one’s bottom line any good. That shit’s got to be paid by someone sometime or everyone suffers irreparably. This isn’t about doing something out of the goodness of your heart or because it’s politically expedient. It’s about good governance. Withholding on your responsibilities is anything but.

Marcus Gee enables such deplorable behaviour from our senior levels of government. He gives them an escape clause. We’d really love to help you out but we’re a little bit strapped at the moment. Maybe after that whole economic meltdown plays itself out, we can talk about what it is you need to get yourself back up on your feet again. Until then, you’re on your own. There’s really nothing we can do.

That’s a cop out, plain and simple. We’re paying the price for someone else’s shirking of duty. And Marcus Gee blithely let’s them off the hook scot-free.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Ford Nation Decimation

October 7, 2011

A fitting end to an uninspiring provincial election campaign. The best one could say is, at least the worst possible outcome did not come to pass. Or as the Toronto Sun put it: Welcome to Hell. OK. Maybe that’s the best thing to emerge from last night. The mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are totally in a tizzy.

Actually, that’s completely untrue for two reasons. 1) I assume the mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are always totally in a tizzy for some reason or another. 2) The best thing to emerge from yesterday’s provincial election is the absolute repudiation of any notion of a Ford Nation. As Councillor Adam Vaughan predicted a few weeks back, “Ford Nation is a notion. It’s just a notion. It’s not a factor, it’s not going to be a factor. It does not translate to the province, it won’t translate beyond the last election. Some people voted for Rob Ford, based on some promises of tax cuts with no service cuts. They found out that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to build subways, that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to get rid of the gravy down here, and he’s found no gravy.” Or as Sol Chrom more succinctly put it last night: “Can we officially retire the phrase Ford Nation now? There’s no such fucking thing.”

The complete shut out of the provincial PCs in the 416 area code would point in that direction no matter how much the mayor tries to distance himself from the result. What’s that he said on Metro Morning today? (Yes, Mayor Ford actually stepped into enemy territory at the CBC. All by himself.) “My name wasn’t on the ballot.” He didn’t endorse anyone.

Yeah, but how about this from March, Mr. Mayor? “If he [Premier McGuinty] says no [to the mayor’s request for additional money], obviously there’s a provincial election coming up on October 6 and I want to work with him, not against him, but obviously if he’s not helping out the city I’ll have no choice to work against him.. I’ll have no other choice but to call Ford Nation, and make sure they’re not reelected in the next election. But I do not want to do that.”

So maybe it was a case of the mayor not wanting to unleash Ford Nation as opposed to being unable to.

Either way, Mayor Ford is today facing a somewhat different scenario at the provincial level than he was yesterday. The Liberals are still in power and no longer entirely in election mode although with a minority government, you never can tell. Toronto and much of the GTA, if no less Blue, the Red and Orange are shimmering a little brighter. His own home turf of Etobicoke remained a Liberal stronghold as did neighbouring Mississauga. And, horrors of horrors, right on the doorstep to the north, an NDPer was elected in Bramalea-Gore-Malton!

The political ground beneath his feet may not have shifted drastically but it sure got a whole lot rockier. Will it force him to start playing nice, or as nice as he is capable of, with those he so despises politically? The left wing kooks. The bike riding pinkos.

The answer to that may lie in how the premier chooses to play his cards. Having survived, albeit not unscathed, what was supposed to be another Blue wave here in Ontario will he stop pandering to a more vulnerable mayor here in Fortress Liberal/NDP Toronto? Incoming newcomer, Jonah Schien was a big proponent of Transit City. Will he and the other downtown NDP MPPs use their minority government leverage to put the plan back on the table? I’d be happy just to see the mayor forced to bring it to council for debate. That seems like a very minor demand to make. More importantly, perhaps the timeline for the province resuming their obligation to pay for half the operating costs of the TTC can be pushed up. That’s something the mayor can get on board with.

At council, it’ll be interesting to see if the game’s changed a little bit too. Two fairly solid supporters of Mayor Ford may now be able to stop helplessly toeing the line now that the election’s over and their respective relatives were easily re-elected on the Liberal ticket. Executive Committee member Michelle Berardinetti’s husband, Lorenzo, retained his seat in Scarborough as did Josh Colle’s dad, Mike, in Eglinton Lawrence in what was supposed to be a hotly contested race against former mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi. It wasn’t. So are these two councillors now more free to display an independence of thinking from the mayor?

And what about Ana Bailão? Her ward has been consumed both federally and provincially by the NDP. Looking down the road to her own re-election fortunes, will that change in colour force her to distance herself a little more often from the mayor?

For all the lifelessness of the provincial campaign, a lifelessness that helped contribute to the worst voter turnout in history in Ontario, it has certainly detonated some reverberations here in Toronto. Very, very noticeable cracks in Mayor Ford’s once seemingly bulletproof veneer have been fully exposed. Having endeavoured to make no friends with anyone not possessing similar political stripes, he’s now at the mercy of those he bullied, berated and otherwise alienated while in his briefest of ascendancies. He left himself no wiggle room.

It’s going to be fun to watch him squirm.

not unhappily submitted by Cityslikr


Vote. Vote. Vote.

October 6, 2011

I’m always surprised come election time that I feel compelled to write this. Not only should it be absolutely unnecessary, paradoxically, it seems so repetitive. Is that a paradox? Ironic? Both? Neither?

Vote. Just vote. Fucking vote.

There are no excuses. Too busy. I forgot. I haven’t paid enough attention to the election. There’s nobody to vote for, everybody’s so lame. It doesn’t matter if I vote because nothing’s going to change.

That’s one that really sticks in my craw. You don’t think things will change if the parties all thought there was going to be a 100% turnout? Currently, they can shape a campaign around 40-50% of eligible voters actually voting. Target, laser-like, a small segment of the population with very narrow, specific concerns, get them fired up and out to vote. If you’re not going to vote, they don’t have to bother with you.

Imagine if parties had to appeal to a much wider swath of the population. They might find that they have to be more inclusive, more open to those who don’t share their exact views. Our politicians might have to spend more time and resources convincing us why we should vote for them rather than why we shouldn’t vote for their opponents.

Yes, it’s because of you non-voters that our election campaigns are so abysmally negative. So if you’re trying to rationalize not voting by telling yourself that everybody’s so negative, that’s just a closed loop of logic. Your apathy is a weapon used against you. Well played.

Right about now I should point out how our forefathers went to war and died so that we would have the freedom to choose our leaders. But really. Should I have to do that? If our bloody history fighting tyranny isn’t enough to get you out to vote, take a moment and look around. Just back a few short months ago. People rising up against repressive, corrupt and let’s not forget, ultimately, unelected regimes, rising up and dying for the rights that we, when we forget, neglect or simply can’t be bothered to vote, sniff at and dismiss as unimportant.

How dare you.

Now we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke realize that through very good fortune we are able to spend an inordinate amount of our time watching, following, writing about and obsessing about politics. It is a charmed life, frankly. We’re aware of the fact that most people, a good majority of them, aren’t so fortunate. Real life demands.

So yes, you may be intimidated and, rightfully perhaps, believe that you just don’t have enough information to vote in a truly informed manner. That’s OK. Just vote. That’s where it all starts. Next time, when you know that no matter what, you’re going to vote, you may take just 15 minutes to read a newspaper editorial, leaf through the copious flyers that are dropped off in your mailbox and think, hey, that’s a nice colour. I’m going to vote for him.

It all begins with a vote. Nothing else matters more than exercising your right to vote. You think that’s overly melodramatic? Ask somebody who can’t.

So just get out there and vote.

— chidingly submitted by Cityslikr


Our Provincial Endorsement

October 5, 2011

With the importance provincial governments play in municipal life, I’m somewhat bewildered by my lack of engagement with the 2011 election. I should be on top of this, combing through party platforms, tracking down candidate debates or otherwise just staying on top of things. But no. I dithered. I procrastinated. I couldn’t beat back this feeling of caring less.

In trying to avoid the burden of responsibility, I lay the blame squarely on the respective campaigns’ shoulders. It all seemed to be about what we don’t need. We don’t need another 4 years of Dalton McGuinty. We don’t need another neo-conservative at the levers of power, desperately trying to steer the ship of state away from the future. No time for change. Exactly the time for change.

Well, if that’s the case, do I really need to be paying attention?

Snap out of it. Of course you do. Must muster interest. Do your duty as a citizen. Engage! Engage!

So I sat through Rogers’ Trinity-Spadina candidates’ debate minus the incumbent MPP. I went through campaign literature. I scoured party websites. And here’s what I came up with.

Surprise! I won’t be voting Conservative. The last thing we need is another anti-urban leader ignoring the interests of municipalities. Ignoring would be generous to Tim Hudak. It’s more like looking at cities as dumping grounds for the disastrous results of their backward policies. Remember Mike Harris?

As for the government of Dalton McGuinty? Ambivalence is mostly what wells up within me. For every strong initiative it’s made in areas like education or the environment, there’s been two steps back in the face of strong, largely misguided opposition. You don’t like wind turbines in toss-up ridings? They’re gone. Catholic school boards got problems with progressive approaches to sex education in the classrooms? Ignore it and carry on with your discriminatory, pre-Second Vatican Council ways.

Oh yeah. And let’s not forget the trampling of our civil rights, police state approving fiasco that was the G20.

The Liberal Government’s dealing with cities has been wishy-washy. Yes, it’s redone a lot of the damage inflicted by the Harris gang. Uploading many of the services dropped into our laps in the late-90s. They passed the City of Toronto Act which gave more powers and flexibility to the city to deal with its particular issues. There’s been the more than half-hearted Big Move and nod to the importance of public transit in the GTA. We got some of the gas tax. Promises have been made since 2003 of restarting provincial contribution to the annual operating budget of the TTC. Transit City was a signature piece of the transit puzzle here in Toronto. Until it wasn’t.

One might hope that, if given a 3rd majority, McGuinty would become more resolute and less afraid of his own shadow. He has stood firm in the formidable face of opposition to the HST. If Ford Nation fails to dislodge him, the premier might start standing up to the more ridiculous whims of our mayor. Moreover, Premier McGuinty might gracefully approach retirement and the Liberal party could entertain the notion of reclaiming its more liberal leanings.

But what about the Liberal candidate in our riding? One Sarah Thomson. We got a healthy dose of her when she ran for mayor of the city last year before she ran out of gas late in the proceedings. Underwhelming initially, she never really caught fire but she did evolve over the course of the race, the first of the candidates to begin backing away from the city’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket narrative and did seem to be listening to the actual problems we were facing. She adapted an extensive bike lane plan and was the first one to float the idea of road tolls, getting laughed out of the place by her opponents.

Yet, she still has a tendency to talk in sound bites. There’s the air of the high school valedictorian about her. I get the feeling she’s running here because there was no riding closer to home. She may be an ideal McGuinty Liberal which I hold against her. On the other hand, she’s not Rocco Rossi.

Normally, I don’t have to go through such a process of elimination about where I’ll be placing my X on the ballot. Trinity-Spadina is an NDP stronghold. I tend to lean that way most of the time. It should be a no-brainer.

However, maybe it’s the fallout of the lacklustre campaign but I’m just not feeling Andrea Horwath’s vibe. Rather than pick up where the federal NDP left off and run unabashedly with a left of centre platform, I’m feeling nickel and dimed by all the talk of capping gas prices, removing the HST from home heating fuels. On the other hand, they have promised to restart contributing to the TTC operating budget and other transit initiatives. But that feels almost ad hoc, not part of a bigger plan for cities.

Where’s the tapping into the Occupy Wall Street movement? It’s a shitstorm out there, people! Governments should not be retreating in the face scary economic news. We need to be talking Keynesian not deficit reduction. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.

And then there’s our incumbent, Rosario Marchese. He may be a very nice man and a crackerjack constituent MPP. But how would I know? I never hear much from or about him until election time. Maybe it’s living in the shadow of MP Olivia Chow who keeps me apprised of everything she’s doing.  (What’s that you say, Olivia? A private member’s bill calling for a national transit strategy?) Marchese pales in comparion. But when he missed most of the Rogers’ candidates’ debate, it just struck me that he’s merely doing time.

Leaving me with the Green Party. Now, truth be told, I’ve never really known what to make of the Green Party. I get the environmental thrust but there’s also been the fiscal conservatism they’ve often touted. Some of the pledges in their platform come with the ‘when the budget’s balanced’ caveat. I’m sorry but with all the grim predictions making the rounds out there about an almost certain double-dip recession, budget balancing should be the last thing we’re talking about now.

That said, the Green Party candidate in Trinity-Spadina, Tim Grant, has caught my fancy. A former teacher who has been involved in the environmental movement since the days when most of us were asking, what’s that? He was a member of the Harbord Village Residents Association. His platform stresses biking and walking as much as public transit. Mr. Grant advocates a Junk Food Tax and a carbon tax. During both the Rogers’ candidates debate and on The Agenda’s Confronting Poverty, he came across as not only knowledgeable but collegial with his opponents.

On top of all that, he’s pictured riding a bicycle on his campaign signs!

I realize that in voting for Tim Grant, I’m doing little more than lodging a protest. There’s no hope in hell he’ll be elected. But I’m alright with that. Let it be known that I’m protesting the Liberal government and it’s too tentative embrace of a green economy in general and a strong, unapologetic public transit strategy. I’m sending out a protest to the provincial NDP. Don’t take my vote for granted. Out with the deadwood and in with new blood.

For all those reasons, tomorrow I will be voting for Tim Grant in the riding of Trinity-Spadina and The Green Party of Ontario.

humbly submitted by Cityslikr