If We’re Not Going To Take Ourselves Seriously

June 1, 2011

Friends and family often question my obsession with municipal politics. While recognizing its importance in the operation of our city, they express serious reservations about the cast of characters involved.

“Municipal politicians are clowns,” I’ve heard said. “Buffoons. Bush League. The B-Team.”

In part, I think such a dismissive view just comes with the territory. Municipal politicians oversee mundane but vital matters. Sewage, snow plowing, parking, pot hole filling. It all lacks a little nobility. Like sending off soldiers to die in faraway lands.

There’s also a degree of over-abundance, let’s call it. A problem of perception. Here in Toronto, for every 1 MPP or MP, there are 2 city councillors. So there are double the chances of experiencing clownish behaviour and buffoonery.

That said, it’s very difficult to ignore the fact that Toronto, especially since amalgamation, has flirted, courted and indulged in some very heavy petting with political folly. If Mayor Ford actually serves out one term (pending campaign financing audit), 10 of our first 17 years as a mighty megacity could, and very likely will be, deemed as an abject failure to take ourselves seriously. We’re all adults. How could we not foresee the consequences of our actions and realize that no good would come from the mayoralties of Mel Lastman and Rob Ford?

So yes. There are times, too — too many times it feels like — when following the municipal politics scene can only be viewed as a mug’s game. Rubber-neckin’ at a car wreck. Assistant coaching your kid’s t-ball team and your kid is the worst player on the team.

Why bother? Just step aside and let the big boys use the field.

Such a Bad News Bears moment played out last week when federal Finance Minister and Ford family friend Jim Flaherty came to town to last week to take part in the groundbreaking or another piece in the Waterfront Toronto development, Underpass Park. “This is transformative,” Flaherty pronounced. “It’s important not just for Toronto, but for Canada.”

Not just for Toronto. But for Canada.

Or as the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug, has said, ‘a boondoggle.’ In fact, he wrote off all of Waterfront Toronto as “… the biggest boondoggle the feds, the province and the city has ever done.

The Fords seem unable to toss up anything besides lifeless hanging curve balls about belt high for other politicians with even a modicum of ability with the stick to go yard with. It’s not even fun to watch. Switching sports analogies, remember the teachers-students rugby match in Monty Python’s ‘The Meaning of Life’? Just like that.

Even with his fresh majority win in last month’s election and a minor Conservative breakthrough in Toronto itself, it’s hard to imagine the Finance Minister taking his late friend’s sons out to the woodshed on this. But maybe there was a bull session over son beers and nachos at the family compound. “A boondoggle?!” Flaherty exclaims. “A boondoggle!? I’ll give you a boondoggle. How about a cool $35 billion for engineless fighter jets? I know my boondoggles, boys. Waterfront Toronto ain’t one of them.”

The Finance Minster along with the local MPP and city councillor then head off to witness the start of this transformative piece of waterfront real estate. The mayor and his brother are AWOL. Like the mayor has been for every Waterfront Toronto meeting he has supposed to attend as a sitting member of the board. As a councillor, he wasn’t a big fan either of the city’s involvement with the waterfront, voting against approval for private investment near the Sherbourne Common late last year. (h/t to Ford For Toronto for all the links. We swim in the beneficence of your knowledge pool.)

It takes some doing for someone to make this Conservative government seem like city builders or deep urban thinkers. Yet somehow we’ve elected that very person and his equally blinkered and terminally short-sighted brother as our dynamic duo mayors. What does that say about us, as citizens, taxpayers, residents of Toronto? That we don’t care about how this city grows and develops as long as it doesn’t cost us too much? Or are we just cognizant of the fact that it hardly matters who we elect municipally? Ultimate power doesn’t lie with us or our locally elected officials. So why not just go for the entertainment value and send in the clowns. There’s only so much damage they can inflict before the adults step in and sort the mess out.

Such a condescending view, with correspondingly low expectations for municipal politicians, invariably leads to candidates seeking only to limbo under the low bar and nothing more. High fliers and over-achievers need not apply. As Homer Simpson once said, ‘trying is the first step to failing.’ Municipal politics is only for those who dare not to dream big or are merely content to take marching orders from their betters.It may be fun to watch for a little while but like any Punch and Judy show, the spectacle grows dismal and dreary. Humour is replaced by cruelty, and you’re left wondering why the hell you continue to watch.

clownishly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


It Couldn’tve Worked Out Any Better

March 24, 2011

If he were alive today, think of what a proud papa Mike Harris would be of the municipal government in Toronto that he sired. Maybe he’s smiling down beatifically from Heaven upon his progeny and all the conservative goodness he helped wrought… Mike Harris is dead, right?

(Sorry. Can never passed up the opportunity to pilfer that bit from Stephen Colbert. A few years back, he joked about something that would have ‘Lou Dobbs rolling over in his grave.’ He then turned to ask his crew, ‘Dobbs is dead, right’?)

I was thinking of this as I read through an article Ben Bergen linked to from 1998. Megacity: Globalization and Governance in Toronto by Graham Todd in Studies in Political Economy. Of the many reasons the Harris Tories rammed through Bill 103 in the face of widespread opposition to it throughout the entire 6 cities facing amalgamation, one was particularly nefarious if highly speculative and largely restricted to the old city of Toronto and the borough of East York. It suggested that the neo-conservative Harris was looking to smother the more liberal downtown tendencies under a stuffed suburban pillow that was more closely aligned to his politics. Such thinking gained a degree of legitimacy when the mayor of North York, Mel Lastman, defeated Barbara Hall, Toronto’s final mayor, in the first election of the new megacity.

Now a third administration in and it’s interesting to note that the mayor and his most trusted advisor, Councillor Doug, are from Etobicoke. The Deputy Mayor is one Doug Holyday, the last mayor of pre-amalgamated Etobicoke. The Council Speaker is Frances Nunziata, the last mayor of pre-amalgamated York. The Executive Committee is made up entirely of suburban councillors save Cesar Palacio whose downtown ward butts up against suburban York. A certain pattern emerges regardless of how intentional.

Of course, if we want to dwell on the damage inflicted upon this city, both downtown and suburban, by the ill-thought out amalgamation, there would be worse examples than those currently at the helm. Not a whole lot worse, mind you. But most definitely worse.

To lay the blame for our current fiscal crisis solely on the profligacy of the Miller administration, to spuriously point to the big budgetary numbers that grew during his 7 years in office as even the moderate councillor, Josh Matlow, did on Newstalk 1010 last Sunday, as proof positive of waste and gravy at City Hall, is to suggest that only what happens in the last two years or so matter. It denies history, really, or at least, your grasp of it. Or it suggests you’re just an ideologue.

The provincial Tory view of the reduction of costs through an increase in efficiency with amalgamation was suspect to many from the very beginning of the exercise. (Enid Slack, current Director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, wrote back in the early days of amalgamation: “It is highly unlikely, however, that the amalgamation will lead to cost savings. On the contrary, it is more likely that costs will increase.”) Most studies since have backed that view up.

In fact, how the Tories went about amalgamating flew in the face of the neo-liberal world view they were espousing. “Flexible forms of governance,” Todd writes, “it is thought, are more consistent with the reality of and necessity for competitive, export-oriented, knowledge-based, whiz-bang approaches to economic development.” So the Harris government replaced 6 smaller municipalities with 1 big, lumbering behemoth and claimed that it would be somehow more efficient? More cost effective? They seemed to have mistaken having fewer local governments for flexibility.

Or maybe they were just using a different definition of the word ‘flexible’. Todd suggests in the paper that unlike previous municipal governance reforms that had intended “…to consolidate the role of local government and the public sector in regulating development…”, the 1998 amalgamation was intended to do just the opposite. It was never about dollars and cents. That was simply a red herring to make the process more palatable. There was still going to be the same number of people demanding the same level of services whether they came from 6 governments or one. At some point of time, economies of scale simply don’t work.

It was all about control of how the city functioned. One government over a wider area was politically more pliable, flexible if you will, and easier to deal with than six. There were more differences of opinions, a wider area of dissension to exploit. Imaginary savings were offered up in exchange for the keys to City Halls. By the time we realized that, what were we going to do, de-amalgamate?

Add to this loss of local control and inevitable rise in costs of running a bigger city, there was that whole downloading/offloading of services onto Ontario municipalities by the provincial government. Cities told to cough up portions “… of provincially mandated social services such as social assistance, public health care, child care, homes for the aged, social housing, disability and drug benefits”. Some, I repeat some, of which have been uploaded back to the provincial government, slowly and on their time line. A $3.3 billion gap according to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario estimated back in 2007.

Of course let’s not forget the de-funding of their half of the TTC annual operating budget that the Harris Government undertook and that has never been reassumed by Dalton McGuinty. Call it $200 million/year that Toronto property taxes must come up with. Add to that the hundreds of millions of dollars foregone by Mel Lastman during his property tax freeze during his first term. A brilliant fiscal move copied by our new mayor on his first budget cycle, along with eliminating the vehicle registration tax and any other form of revenue generation the province had given the city with the City of Toronto Act. No, no. We don’t want that on our hands. We didn’t ask for that responsibility.

Instead, we’ll blame the last administration for our financial woes. We’ll blame the lazy unions and other special interest groups that are looking for handouts. The Gravy Train has stopped, haven’t you heard. The time has come to privatize anything that isn’t nailed down. Sell off lucrative assets too if we have to. Maybe even if we don’t. Everything is on the table.

Yeah, it’s hard not to view our new mayor as the inevitable outcome of decisions made nearly 15 years ago. The offspring, the love child of our former premier. Too bad Mr. Harris didn’t live long enough to see the success his political son had become.

condolencely submitted by Cityslikr


Can’t Touch This

January 27, 2011

So, imagine you just finished a game of coed slo-pitch. You and the team’s centre fielder are the last ones at the bar and are into that ill-advised 4th pitcher of Canadian. He hit 4 home runs in the game although, two would’ve gone down as ‘errors’ in any official scorecard, and a 3rd one probably should’ve been caught as well. No question, though, he hit one of them really hard, really far.

“I don’t think it’s out of the question,” he offers bibulously, “given the right pitch, at the right moment, I could take Doc Halladay yard.”

You might call that a little deluded, right?

And yet we allow the mayor and his equally self-aggrandizing councillor brother to promote the idea that they — inheritors of a label printing business from their father that employs, what? 300, 400 people? (You’d think I’d remember since the mayor took every opportunity to tell us on the campaign trail) — are equipped and have the business acumen to bring the corporation of the city of Toronto to heel. An organization with annual budgets over $10 billion and that employs 34,000 full and part-time employees. Sure, why not, boys? And after that, why don’t you mosey on over and sort out GM or Ford? Business is business, right? Government is business. Easy-peasy.

“I can assure you every department down here has fat,” Councillor Ford said at the budget committee meeting on Tuesday, touting the 2 months of experience he’s accumulated at City Hall already. “There isn’t one single department that does not have fat down here and they would not survive in the private sector, I guarantee you … In my guesstimate, there’s probably 10 per cent waste and fat …People have been down here too long, they don’t know what’s going on in the real world. The real world is making things run efficiently.”

There’s a lot more where that comes from, and sifting through it would be worth another post but I use this as an example of how cavalierly and nonchalantly the councillor, the mayor, his budget chief and every one of the other right thinkers on the budget committee just toss about numbers as if there are no implications or repercussions to them. Just like that, Councillor Ford  ‘guesstimates’ there’s ‘probably’ 10 % waste and fat that can be disposed of and no one would be the wiser. So simple, it’s a wonder no one’s ever thought of that before.

There’s just one hitch to this whole New Sheriff In Town schtick that the mayor and his posse are playing at. It’s not going to be all that and a bag of chips. As pointed out by Matt Elliott over at Ford For Toronto (and if you haven’t checked the site out yet, bookmark it now or follow along on the Twitter at @FordForToronto He is so much more informed than we are and doesn’t demand that you take up your entire lunch to read his posts) this past Monday, the city’s fairly handcuffed financially.

It goes something like this: Toronto’s biggest source of revenue, nearly 40%, comes from property taxes (which the mayor happily broke a campaign promise and froze this year). About 77% of that money goes to pay for largely inelastic items that can’t easily be sliced and diced because they are provincially mandated programs or are services that, either, “involve arbitrated labour contracts” as Ford For Toronto puts it and/or the mayor wouldn’t touch in a million years like the Police Services, at least not 10% worth.

Which means when the Fordites realize that privatization isn’t going to bring them anywhere near the amount of savings they, with their infinite private sector wisdom planned for, they are going to be faced with either raising taxes (the horror! The Horror!) or bringing the axe down on things like libraries, children’s services, long term care homes and services, city planning. They might be just fine with that but I’m guesstimating here it’ll start cutting into their popularity as all those folks who didn’t really vote for service cuts because the mayor assured them – no, guaranteed them — he wouldn’t cut services, will snap to attention when their bus stops running or their library branch starts closing on Sundays or they’re forced to put their little tot into unlicensed child care. There’s just not that much money, er, fat left over for them to cut away at.

It’s not like at Deco Labels and Tags when ‘customers call you up and ask for a 10 per cent reduction or they’ll go somewhere else’ and you have to lay off just 2 or 3 people and make do without year-end bonuses. Hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, will be affected by your customer demanding a 10% reduction at City Hall. That’s why the government isn’t just like a business, no matter how much you think it is and how much your supporters want to believe that’s true.

And, lest we forget, the Fords aren’t the first businessmen-turned-politicians who have brought their private sector savvy to City Hall. Remember His Honour Mel Lastman? The self-made millionaire appliance salesman possessed much more municipal governance experience than the Fords and he ultimately proved to be way in over his head, discovering (to our detriment not his) that a city of this size and complexity is nothing like running your own business.

It’s unfortunate we insist on re-learning that lesson over and over again.

submitted by Cityslikr


The Mayor’s True Colours

December 9, 2010

If you’re one of those people who think our city councillors are underworked and overpaid, I highly recommend that you attend a council meeting or two to disabuse you of such inaccurate notions. While just the tip of the iceberg of what their job description, meetings are grinds with as much, if not more, going on behind the scenes as what we see performed out in the open. Yes, you can point to the laggards, those not actively engaged and who would receive failing grades for class participation. I’d be willing to bet that for many of those, the parry and thrust of debate simply is not their forte. They excel in the multitude of other duties councillors are responsible for. And then there’s Cesar Palacio. I kid. I kid. I’m sure every council needs an invisible non-entity taking up space.

Council meetings can also be extraordinarily engrossing to witness. They’re like visual variations on the Pixies song structure. slowslowFASTFASTslowslowFASTslowFASTslowslow. Nothing happens. Nothing happens. Languor and stultifying boredom. Interminable talk about meal breaks. And then, the proposed schedule comes up for a vote and the seemingly innocuous ‘expedited budget process’ lying there within, suddenly mayhem breaks loose. Amendments start flying. Staff is summoned. Councillors scramble to and fro. Points of order demanded. Points of privilege taken. Rhubarb-rhubarb-rhuarb. Rhubarb-rhubarb-rhuarb. And then… calm. Repeat as many times as necessary. Vote. Adjourn.

Now it’s entirely possible that yesterday’s meeting was something of an anomaly. Uncharacteristically fraught with political machinations, the first skirmishes of a new council that has undergone a radical shift from centre-left to far right. Like a couple boxers in the early rounds of a fight, feeling each other out with jabs and some fancy footwork to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their opponents.

Opponents? you say. The election is over. City council should be a place where there is a coming together. A meeting of minds to hash out and seek to solve the problems of the city. Leave your partisanship at the door, buckos. Time to roll up your sleeves and get down to the business of building a better Toronto.

Well, no. While City Hall has never been free of politics (especially since amalgamation), this session is shaping up to take the discord to a whole new level. Starting with the executive committee and working down, senior posts in the Ford Administration are exclusively occupied by right wing councillors. More importantly, they are also almost entirely from the suburbs, meaning that on vital, big ticket matters like the police service and budget, there are no voices from downtown at the committee level. No geographic input for voters who didn’t hop aboard the anti-gravy train train.

And no, before you even try blurting it out, David Miller did not do the same thing (exhibit A: his 1st budget chief was a Scarborough councillor from the right of centre who supported Miller’s rival, John Tory in the 2003 election.) Neither did Mel Lastman so nakedly and insecurely pack his committees with such slavish loyalty for that matter.

On day 1, it worked for Mayor Ford. As he crowed to the Globe’s Kelly Grant, “We got everything we wanted.” Yep. Everything came up Ford on Thursday but not without some surprisingly strong pushback from a group of councillors led by Adam Vaughan, Gord Perks and Janet Davis over the ‘expedited budget process’ that the mayor is pushing, hidden within the council schedule proposal. When amendments were offered to give more time for council to sort through budget matters between scheduled meetings and to hear from the public, Team Ford scrambled hard to get just enough votes to send the amendments to the Executive Committee where they will in all likelihood die an ignominious death. A couple squeakers should give pause to the mayor’s machine that it just might not be as invincible as it thinks it is. Although, judging by the 5 hours or so I sat in council chambers, the mayor hasn’t surrounded himself with many of the reflective types.

No, the mayor’s team in council seems to consist of bitter ideologues more interested in exacting revenge for their exclusion from power during the Miller years than they are dealing with the problems of the city. In fact, a noticeable waft of anti-democracy hangs about them. During the debate over public input on the city budget, the Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, opined that deputations were largely for those wanting to get their face on cable television. Giorgio Mammoliti chided those councillors fighting for proper and extended public input for representing wards where their constituents were little more than public organizers. “The trouble with processes with lots of time in them, is that they allow people to organize,” the councillor griped. What?! The people organized! Well, that just won’t do.

All of which flies in the face of Mayor Ford’s open and transparent City Hall promise on the campaign trail. His ‘expedited budget process’ seems dodgy and unnecessary. Their claim of merely seeking to eventually shift it to a January 1st-December 31st timeline has as many minuses as it does pluses. The haste in wanting to get the budget wrapped up by the end of February (rather than the usual April) appears to be driven more by stealth than any sort of respect for the taxpayers.

Of course, that seems absolutely preposterous. Rob Ford campaigned on a platform of looking out for the little guy. Surely, his objective now that he’s in office wouldn’t be to exclude them from such an important civic matter as the budget. Because that would mean that within less than one council meeting, he’s already broken one of his main election platforms. Clearly, I must be jumping the gun.

stealthily submitted by Cityslikr


Signing Off On Mayor David Miller

November 25, 2010

David Miller’s legacy? Rob Ford.

So conventional wisdom has it as our out going mayor gives way to our incoming one, again glaringly revealing our backward belief in the fallacy of correlation proving causation. (Simply because one thing follows another does not mean the first caused the second, people. How many times do I have to tell you that?)

Listening to Mayor Miller’s interview this morning with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning, I couldn’t help thinking that those waiting for His Worship to aurally prostrate himself before them and humbly admit defeat and beg their forgiveness for a job poorly done were going to be sorely pissed off. He did nothing of the sort. And good on him, frankly. Because if you are seriously going to look back over the past 7 years and conclude that this city is in worse shape than when Miller first took the mayor’s office than you are suffering from one of a host of ailments and quite possibly a combination of a few of them. Amnesia. Mental myopia. Congenital stupidity. Blinkered ideology. Factual debasement.

And your pants may even be on fire because you are a big fat liar.

Is that to say that everything the mayor touched turned to gold? Let’s not run aground on the shoals of false dichotomy here. To expect anyone, let alone our elected officials, to perform perfectly is unreasonable and the surest cause of disappointment.

The way Miller lead the charge in sweeping police actions at the G20 meeting in June under the rug was, for me, the low point in his mayoralty. No one truly concerned with civil rights could’ve urged the city to “…put what happened over the weekend behind us…” regardless of how politically expedient. In comparing police behaviour at similar gatherings around the world “…the only conclusion you can come to is that we have a police service that respects peoples’ rights, that acts with incredible professionalism…” Miller said at a post-summit press conference. That obviously wasn’t true when the mayor said it and it’s painfully obvious 5 months later.

Yet it does not make me regret twice voting for him and certainly would not have stopped me from doing it again had he sought another term. Others were not so forgiving. For those writing the history of Mayor David Miller will invariably point to the Toronto Civic Employees Union strike in the summer of 2009 as his undoing, his Waterloo. As the garbage piles grew, his support dropped and when he didn’t crush the unions into oblivion, well, the only conclusion you could come to was that he caved and handed over the keys to the vault to them.

Complete and utter nonsense, of course. Pure bullshit in fact. But no matter. “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” as Mark Twain suggested. The unions won. Miller lost. He had to go.

Never mind that in engaging with the union so aggressively, Miller went where no municipal politician dared to go before. Certainly not our previous mayor, Mel Lastman, who never made a peep about such contentious matters as banking sick days when he faced a strike by the same union in 2002. He still couldn’t come to any sort of agreement, needing provincial intervention to end that strike which, arguably, gave much more to the union than Miller did.

This is what should be the hallmark of David Miller’s time as mayor of Toronto. His resolve to wade in and deal with messy matters of governance that had to be faced for this city to progress.

Transit City. Bringing workable public transit to parts of the city that are dying on the vine without it. The mayor rightfully points out that it’s the biggest transit development the city’s had in 3 decades. Why? Forging agreement and the financial resources necessary is not very easy at the municipal level, let alone bringing the other two levels of government into the mix. So previous administrations ignored it or took half-measures to appear as if they were doing something.

Urban renewal. Especially in his 2nd term, Miller took to heart the social/economic divide within the city and endeavoured to initiate steps to address it. Thus the redevelopment of Regent Park and the proposal to do likewise with Lawrence Heights. The Tower Renewal Program to revitalize Toronto’s aging high rises. Targeting 13 priority neighbourhoods – most inherited from the pre-amalgamated inner suburbs that had created them – in order to address issues of poverty, crime and isolation.

Of course, the irony is that these same neighbourhoods and communities Miller had attempted to reach out to soundly rejected his initiatives and voted heavily for the anti-Miller, Rob Ford. As has been written at great length both here and elsewhere, there was a failure to fully sell these accomplishments to those areas most benefiting from them. Actually, it was probably more a failure to beat back all the misinformation about them.

It also suggests that politicians of David Miller’s caliber aren’t a dime a dozen. Without him on the campaign trail, trumpeting his agenda, it withered under the assault from those seeking to undermine it for their own political gains. We somehow expected another David Miller to step from the shadows, displaying similar skills and smarts. Now we should realize he may be the exception not the rule.

The simple fact of the matter is, David Miller didn’t elect Rob Ford. We did. He has nothing to apologize for. He presented us a vision of the kind of city he wanted Toronto to be and, after 7 years, we bailed in a shocking failure of nerve. We chose easy sentiment over hard work, pithy phrases over complicated solutions. David Miller is not responsible for the next 4 years. We are.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


What’s The Story With John Tory?

October 17, 2010

I was asked the other day what it was we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke would write about after October 25th. Pointing out that life does go on after an election, and a city will be run – for good or ill — regardless of who does the winning next Monday, so it will probably be more important to follow what’s going from that point than it was throughout the campaign. That’s when they can do the most damage.

“One thing I definitely won’t be doing after October 25th,” I went on, “is listening to another single word that comes out of John Tory’s mouth.” Unless I were to find myself mysteriously trapped inside a demonically possessed car during a weekday sometime between the hours of 4 and 7 pm, the radio dial refusing to budge from Newstalk 1010, driving me to the brink of insanity. I rule nothing out. Odder things have happened.

It seems almost as if we’ve come full circle since our debut post, way back on the first official day of campaign 2010. We exhorted Mr. Tory not to enter the race as we believed that he really brought nothing but baggage to the table. It was nip and tuck there for awhile, as he hummed and hawed, Hamlet-style, before officially declining sometime in late August. Pheee-ew, we thought. That’s that.

And yet the man hung around, always lurking near the spotlight, a regular debate moderator. Now, I realize Tory’s a Toronto media figure and wasn’t the only one of that breed who took part in the process. But he was treated as something more, like some civic sage, successor of David Pecault at the helm of the Toronto City Summit Alliance. An agent positive change.

Now come the much heralded and desirable John Tory endorsements. Candidates (challengers and incumbents alike) flaunting His benevolent tap on their shoulder as the chosen one of their respective ward. Vote For Us Because John Tory Would If He Lived Here.

Can I just take a moment and remind everyone that JOHN TORY WAS NEVER MAYOR! He lost the 2003 election after which, he did not stick around to contribute to the general well being of the city, but moved on to bumble and stumble through the vast wilderness of provincial politics, before getting chewed up and spit out back here. You don’t like the notion of a career politician? How do you feel about a failed career politician?

As a professional pontificator doing his schtick on the talk radio circuit, Tory has done his part to create the atmosphere of Toronto being a failed city under the Miller administration. Wise, objective truth telling or a little personal score settling; burnishing his own halo as the one that got away? If only we’d voted for John Tory in 2003, things would be so much better now…

A second reminder, folks. Before declaring himself a candidate for mayor back in 2003, a certain John Tory was a member of the infamous Mel Lastman ‘kitchen cabinet’. Ahhhh, Mel Lastman. Remember that guy? He and his cronies bear much responsibility for whatever financial straits the city finds itself in now with their ill-advised property tax freeze (hello, George Smitherman) and outright refusal to deal with the financial realities taking shape under amalgamation. As corrupt (of the official, MFP kind as opposed to the Rob Ford pretend stuff) as it was inept, it left behind a city reeling under not only weak governance but more than a little red-faced out there on the international stage. From that, we are to somehow jump to the conclusion that John Tory would’ve made a great mayor.

No, in more perfect world, a John Tory endorsement would be treated as pure poison to any candidacy. Yeah, thanks for that, Mr. Tory. But you know, my opponent has a lot to offer too. Here, take a look at their campaign literature. You’re going to like what you see. Instead, it’s a big deal to be trumpeted, perhaps even a game-changer in a close race. That says as much about the truly twisted nature of this campaign than even the fact of Rob Ford being one of the front runners. Unimaginable, lamentable and more than a little unsettling.

exasperatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Terror Babies, Council Corruption And The Long Form Census

August 16, 2010

The crazy train is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, is it.

For anyone who caught a glimpse of this last week, you know what I’m talking about. Pure, unhinged, paranoid in-fucking-sanity. Yes, that is a double dare to all those not yet in the loop. Check it out, starting at the 1’12” mark although the warm up act is worth sitting through too.

In the days before our all pervasive high-speed internet and proliferation of cable channels, the kind of crazy on display from Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert was largely restricted to religious revival meetings, street corners and family BBQs where we all had some slightly touched Uncle Louie who, after a few rye and gingers and a pile of potato salad, started spewing forth about the coloureds, UFOs and braless women wearing short shorts. (Deny it as you might.) I remember back in the mid-80s when Morton Downey Jr.’s vitriolic rantings began wafting across Lake Ontario from some Buffalo affiliate station. It was nothing short of shocking and unsettling. We’re really giving airtime now to our crazy Uncle Louies?

Twenty-five years later, Morton Downy Jr. seems tame in comparison, what with the mainstreaming of TV personalities like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly and the radio behemoth, Rush Limbaugh. And we’re not just making media superstars of this crowd, we’re electing them to public office. Cranks and kooks from forlorn backwaters, striding to within almost a heartbeat of the self-proclaimed most powerful position in the free world.

After watching Gohmert’s video performance last week, I smugly tweeted something to the effect of wanting to travel down to the Texas district he represents to meet those folks who saw fit to elect him. Almost immediately, I rethought my arrogance. Who am I to cast aspersions on other voters when I live in a city that elected Mel Lastman as its mayor twice? Now, just seven years after that unmitigated disaster, the (possible) front runner for the job is perhaps even more unfit for the office and prone to similarly wacky, outlandish outbursts and behaviour.

Take away Gohmert’s dullard suggesting Texas twang and it could be Rob Ford talking. His entirely unsubstantiated council corruption smears last week were no less devoid of rationality and truth than Gohmert’s screeches about terror babies. No iota of evidence was needed. In its place, pure gossipy innuendo.

While the biggest culprit so far in campaigning purely on style and forgoing even so much as a scintilla of substance in order to plug into the resentment vein of the electorate, Ford is hardly alone. Both George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi are running on platforms built on ideologically unstable ether. Cut taxes. Cut wages. Maintain services. Build subways with money from… well, we’ll get back to you on that. Somehow in a way that no one’s ever thought of before, the private sector will swoop in and sort it all out. Just remember, voters, you’re angry at the direction the city’s heading!

Such illogical, visceral appeals to our dark side are all neo-conservative/liberal proponents have anymore since their cause had its brains bashed out on the sidewalk of reality. Reasoned argument is no longer part of the equation because they’ve been pedaling pure bullshit for decades now. All that remains in their arsenal is divisiveness and emotional sorcery.

Which brings us to the federal government’s War on the Long Form Census. When fact and reliable data become your enemies, undercutting your assertions at every turn, there is only one course left to you. Stop trying to ascertain facts and disable the apparatus for collecting reliable data. If you can’t win an argument through reasoned thoughts and rational discourse, why allow anyone else to? Freeing all of us from having to test and prove our beliefs means we’re all on equal footing. All points of view are valid and it’s only a matter of making a smooth, easy-to-understand case.

So who are you, Anderson Cooper, to demand proof of Louie Gohmert about terror babies? And if Rob Ford says that the council he’s been part of for a decade is corrupt to the bone, then anyone arguing to the contrary is obviously a shady dealer. Don’t tell us that building billions of dollars of prisons in this country and doubling up prisoners in cells flies in the face of a declining crime rate. How can you be sure the data’s reliable?

It’s the age of Orwell’s 1984 with a sadly unfunny touch of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. We’re right if we say we’re right. You can’t prove otherwise even if, well, you can prove otherwise.

sure-footedly submitted by Cityslikr