The Recumbent Incumbent

September 3, 2013

Gawd! These infernal pre-campaign polls. Story generators produced by those without caller ID on their phones, onthephonewilling to engage with anyone who dials their number. Idle speculation meant to fill in the gap between actual stories.

The only folks these polls are intended to help out are those mulling over a mayoral run. An informal testing of the waters. Polls establish front runners, differentiating them from those without a hope in hell of becoming the city’s next mayor. Hey. Possible candidate X was seen having lunch with John Laschinger at Spadina Garden. How would they do in next year’s election matched up against candidate Y?

The funny thing is, if the history of amalgamated Toronto is anything to go by, such polls conducted so many, many months before the actual election are pretty much meaningless aside from confirming the name (or names) of the candidates to beat. In 2003, John Tory and Barbara Hall. wiltsIn 2010, George Smitherman. All lost the subsequent elections to candidates few had on their radar when the campaign actually commenced.

So beware everyone currently placing their bets and hopes on the likes of John Tory (again), Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz. Our recent electoral history has not treated early front runners well.

I think the one certainty we can take from the likes of Forum Research’s most recent poll for next year’s municipal election in Toronto is that the incumbent, unlike his predecessors, is going to find himself in the midst of a bruising battle to keep his job. In 2000, Mel Lastman was as good as acclaimed for a second term, facing no politically established opponent in the campaign. In 2006, Councillor Jane Pitfield stood as little more than a sacrificial lamb in her attempt to deny David Miller another go-around at the job.

It ain’t going to be so easy for Rob Ford. The one caveat is that both Lastman and Miller went into re-election mode after only two years (of a 3 year term)donnybrook in office, perhaps seeming a little more fresh-faced than our current mayor who’s had an additional year of public scrutiny in office before his re-election campaign begins. Perhaps this will be the new norm with 4 year council terms now. A one term mayor facing an uphill battle in a bid for re-election.

For many incumbents that might seem a little daunting but may be this is nothing but good news for Mayor Ford. He loves playing the underdog, the outsider. The little engine that nobody said could and nobody better think of writing off as an impossible long shot again. Every indication suggests that 2014 is the mayor’s election to win. Just like 2010.

deweydefeatstruman

If you didn’t know any better, you’d almost think that’s the exact spot he’s positioned himself to be in at this juncture. Failing miserably toward a second term

cassandraly submitted by Cityslikr


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


Vision Quest VI

October 21, 2010

It’s Thursday. So you know what that means. Time for another Vision Quest. Toda—

But wait, you’re all saying, probably. Vision Quest usually happens on Friday. What’s with the Thursday Vision Quest? It’s throwing my equilibrium all off.

Well, the thing is, with just 4 days before election day, we needed to set aside 3 for our mayoral endorsements. So, we decided to push the last of our Vision Quests ahead by a day. Hopefully, this won’t be a constant source of disappointment to those who then keep thinking it’s Friday, only to have the fact that it’s actually just Thursday constantly thrown in their faces.

And to be clear: this in no way should be viewed as an official endorsement. This is not an endorsement. This is not an endorsement. Nope, not an endorsement.

Vision Quest VI (Thursday and final edition): George Smitherman!

Nicknamed Furious George, but for those of us with more leftish hues, what Smitherman should be better known as is, Infuriating George. Smart, thorough and tirelessly hardworking, he should’ve been everyone’s (who wasn’t backing Rob Ford) easy 2nd choice for mayor. Yet, it’s as if he made it deliberately impossible for us to take to him, seemingly intent to alienate and provoke us, almost as if it were part of a… diabolical plan.

The rube in me, who treats everything on the level, no subtext, no ulterior motives, saw the unfolding Smitherman campaign as a bumbling, stumbling mess. Determined almost, to repeat the exact same mistakes as his former boss, Barbara Hall, in the 2003 election, going from frontrunner to a distant 3rd place. He practically disappeared there during the spring and summer months, threatening to become another big name bust.

But then it clicked into place as soon as it was announced that, in fact, Rob Ford had become the candidate to beat. In mid-September, his victory was pronounced as pretty well inevitable, his almost 25 point lead was viewed as insurmountable. A collective OMG!!! arose from the general populace. What are we going to do?! This can’t happen. We need to elect Anybody But Ford!!

Cue the sounds of horses approaching from the distance, the arrival of the cavalry. Fear not, good people of Toronto, your white knight riding to the rescue. George Smitherman is here to drive the evil Rob Ford gang back to the wilds of Etobicoke. Our hero!

Pure brilliance, if a little disturbingly calculating. A truly post-modern campaign that smartly up-ended the big name, early front runner dilemma. Tactics trumping substantive thinking and the need for any sort of comprehensive complete policy platform. In 2010, that may be all that’s necessary to become mayor.

Had Smitherman Our Saviour then arrived and stood up vigorously to the radical, right wing retardedness of Rob Ford, it may’ve been a done deal. Instead, George lurched right, aping much of the Ford anti-City Hall populism and firmly embracing the modus operandi of another former boss of his, Dalton McGuinty, who has built his entire political career on the notion of being only slight less bad than the Mike Harris era Conservative government. Vote for me because I’m not as bad as that guy.

George Smitherman. Just another unprincipled, scheming politician with a hollow core. But hey. At least he’s not as bad as that other guy.

And as the campaign winds down, he then has the balls to try and castigate those who haven’t fallen into line behind him, portraying them as the villains if he comes up short and Rob Ford wins this thing. Holding a gun to the city’s head, his endgame now consists of, vote for me or this guy gets it.

Yeah, that’s the guy I want as my next mayor.

So repellant has Smitherman’s tactics become that I refuse to cut him any slack or give him the benefit of doubt on anything. We were rightly reprimanded by a commenter on our post a couple days ago who pointed out that we misrepresented Smitherman’s rejection of safe injection sites. His position on the issue is much more “nuanced”. Fair enough. But at this point, we cannot grant him anything resembling nuance. We can only see the darkness.

To us George Smitherman is simply a political hit man, dispatched from Queen’s Park to quell a restive and vocally frustrated city that has become noisy in its displeasure with the contemptuous disregard and mismanagement at the hands of its provincial overlords. He doesn’t want to lead Toronto. He wants to keep it in its place. In that, he is no better than Rob Ford.

The company he keeps is Tory blue, through and through, including Harrisites, many of whom wouldn’t be considered friends of Toronto. Ralph Lean, best known in political circles as a David Miller band wagon jumper whose very public break with the mayor last fall helped grease the way to the mayor’s decision not to seek re-election and opened the floodgates of anti-City Hall sentiment that Smitherman slid in on, is a key part of his fund raising arm. And the fact that Barbara Hall has babysat George’s son does little to alleviate our growing mistrust of Smitherman’s intentions.

He wants us to merely settle on him as our next mayor. It could be worse, he tells us. Rob Ford. Yes, he’s right. It could be worse. On the other hand, it might not be. There’s much of the devil you know at work right now. And if George Smitherman can’t win this thing based on his own merits, well, maybe he just doesn’t deserve it. For 10 months or so, all we’ve asked is that he prove to us that he does. Four days before election day, George Smitherman has come up woefully empty on that account.

angrily submitted by Cityslikr


I’m Not Rob Ford

September 30, 2010

“I think Smitherman’s run a brilliant campaign.”

Coming from our office’s regular drug taker, I’dve normally let the statement pass without comment. Something that just pops up and out with no prodding from anyone or anything in particular save the chemical reactions bubbling and brewing inside his own head. But it struck me that the heated conversation it precipitated offered up a window into what passes as discourse around here. So consider what follows not a verbatim recreation of an All Fired Up in the Big Smoke editorial meeting so much as a spirit of the thing recounting.

“You says what now?” asks Cityslikr.

“What?”

“Did you just say that George Smitherman’s run a brilliant campaign?”

“…Yeah,” Acaphlegmic responds with no trace of defensiveness. It’s more thankful that someone in the room remembered what he’d just said.

“By what gauge do you use to measure brilliance, old timer?” Cityslikr asks in that slightly highfalutin way he has to make it seem he’s much more intelligent (and younger) than he actually is. Couldn’t he have just posed the question like, “Tell me how you think Smitherman’s campaign has been brilliant, Acaphlegmic”?

“Proof’s in the pudding, boy!” Acaphlegmic exclaims, thereby justifying the previous punctuation mark. “How else do you explain him still being in the thick of things?”

Before Cityslikr can even start to run down his list of possibilities like money, name recognition, media pimping and lack of serious competition, Acaphlegmic is off and running as often happens when he combines mild forms of hallucinogens and alcohol.

“Out of the gate, he’s the front runner, the candidate to beat. It’s his election to lose, right? Problem is, you got to maintain the pole position for an eternity. How do you do that?”

“A slow, steady roll out of innovative ideas and forward-thinking planks of your platform that galvanizes voters behind the concept of you being the best person to be our next mayor?”

There’s nothing funnier than watching one person who is high — really high — look at another person as if they are the ones who are high and talking nonsense. It happens a lot around here. Things kick back into gear after a brief pause.

“… Or… Or you could slowly not become the front runner. Make a big splashy entrance into the race and immediately start humming and hawing, and not saying much of anything until people start to wonder where the hell you are and what the hell you’re doing.”

“The Barbara Hall Strategy,” I chimed in. “From front runner to also-ran. Champ to chump.” Acaphlegmic smiled, sensing I’d plugged into his vibe. I hadn’t.

“But she lost!” Cityslikr yelled, finally. “That’s not a strategy. That’s gross incompetence.”

“Or is it?” Acaphlegmic asked cryptically. When the answer to a question is so glaringly obvious, it’s hard not to think of it as a trick, fully loaded. Just like the person who’d asked it.

“Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth.” Acaphlegmic pronounces and bounds up onto the desk to tower over Cityslikr as he recites. “Prince Hal: Yet herein will I imitate the sun/Who doth permit the base contagious clouds/To smother up his beauty from the world/That, when he please again to be himself/Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at/By breaking through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.”

Honestly, the only thought going through my mind at that particular moment? What a shameless ham Acaphlegmic was. Cityslikr had already turned back to his computer, assuming the conversation had reached its illogical conclusion. But this was just the first act.

Acaphlegmic jumped down from the desk to the floor like a man half his age, muttering “Fucking illiterates” not very under his breath. He then turned back and let forth another burst of thought. “It’s the political equivalent of Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy. Think about it! Take a pounding. Look helpless, defenseless, out of your league. Give the impression that it’s only a matter of time before your opponent lands a knock out blow.”

“It’s easier than coming up with a substantive platform and credible candidacy,” I offer helpfully.

“Let someone else take the lead for awhile and get worn down, taking hits from all quarters. Flailing away, single-mindedly with one approach. Pound, pound, pound. Hammer, hammer, hammer. Slowly losing steam.”

“Rob Ford as Smitherman’s Falstaff!” I chime in enthusiastically. Stretching the Henry the Fourth analogy a bit thin but Acaphlegmic’s Ali-Foreman comparison was a little dubious as well. It was good enough to break down Cityslikr’s futile resistance.

“Yeah but, didn’t Hal have to eventually do something good to prove his worthiness? Like win a big battle?! St. Crispin’s Day! ‘Once more into the breach, dear friends’!”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Acaphlegmic tells Cityslikr as he turns back toward the couch. “That was Henry the Fifth.” He then deftly pirouettes, performs an Elvis-like Las Vegas rock and roll kick before plopping back down on couch. His peace has been said.

Cityslikr watches him for a bit, not in the least bit convinced. I’m not ready to dismiss it just yet.

“Ford’s teetering now. He’s scorched the earth. His numbers don’t add up.”

“Neither do Smitherman’s!” Cityslikr yells, steadfastly refusing to submit.

“Yeah but, he’s number 2. No one’s focusing on him. Ford’s still the man to beat. All Smitherman has to say at this point is, ‘At Least I’m Not Rob Ford’.”

“I’m Not Rob Ford,” Acaphlegmic chants from the couch. “Nice cadence to it. I’m Not Rob Ford. Keep Hope Alive. Yes We Can. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford.”

“He wins the election and becomes mayor, it still works for him. He cuts and hacks away, privatizes a little of this, outsources a little of that. Everyone gets pissed and all he has to say is, At Least I’m Not Rob Ford.”

“I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford,” Acaphlegmic continues.

Cityslikr shakes his head and will not join us in believing anyone, even the soulless George Smitherman, could be that calculating or would be capable of pulling off such a diabolical tactic.

“So crazy, it just might work,” I say to him as he starts typing away at the computer. He won’t respond which means that the discussion’s over but I’m free to do with it as I see fit. Here it is. You’re welcome. And the crazy old man on the couch continues to chant.

“I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford.”

insiderly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


We Don’t Know Hockey But Know Somebody Who Does

September 9, 2010

(Just in case you’re getting tired of hearing the same old nat-nat-nattering from these quarters, we thought it’d be good to change it up a bit today. So, ladies and gentlemen, we bring you a guest commentator…)

*  *  *

This week in Eye Weekly, Shawn Micallef wrote a perspicacious open letter to George Smitherman, urging the Toronto mayoral candidate to be more like Wendel Clark than Tie Domi. Although I am not a Maple Leaf fan, I’ve watched the team for decades and inevitably started wondering what Leafs our former mayors most resemble:

* David Crombie = Ted Kennedy

Okay, I never saw Kennedy play—I’m not that old—but many hockey historians consider him the greatest Leaf ever. Captain for eight years, “Teeder” helped the team win the Stanley Cup five times and was the last Leaf to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Mayor from 1972 to 1978, Crombie led a reform council that left a legacy the city has coasted on for decades. We still remember him fondly as Toronto’s Tiny Perfect Mayor.

* John Sewell = Frank Mahovlich

A big, supremely talented player, the Big M helped the Leafs win the Stanley Cup four times. And yet, management mistreated him and fans booed him. Sewell had been a smart and scrappy activist alderman, but after he had the temerity to suggest Toronto cops were anything less than tops, he lasted just one term as a bike-riding, rights-defending mayor. Pearls before swine, I guess.

* Art Eggleton = Inge Hammerstrom

An ineffectual player, Hammerstrom could, according to owner Harold Ballard, “go into the corners with eggs in his pockets and not break one of them.” Eggleton was equally ineffectual. Unfortunately, he lasted longer as mayor than the Swedish winger lasted as a Leaf—and a lot of things broke in Toronto while he was in office.

The Other Swede

* June Rowlands = Tie Domi

A classic NHL goon, Domi served as Leaf enforcer. Rowlands ran for mayor on a law and order platform, but is best remembered for banning the Barenaked Ladies, an innocuous Scarborough pop group, from performing at Nathan Phillips Square. While both Domi and Rowlands were embarrassing, the big difference between the two was that Domi was, inexplicably, wildly popular in Toronto.

* Barbara Hall = Mats Sundin

The only Swedish player to score 500 NHL goals, the talented Sundin was a rare likable player on a team full of unlikable ones (Tie Domi, Darcy Tucker, Shayne Corson). Hall was mayor during Premier Mike Harris’s war on the city. Like Sundin, she served with class during a difficult era.

* Mel Lastman = Tiger Williams

A notorious bad boy, Williams remains the NHL’s all-time penalty leader. Some hockey fans thought he was a goof; others found him entertaining. Ditto for Lastman.

* David Miller = David Keon

When I was a kid, the hockey magazines I devoured regularly referred to the small, skillful Keon as “pound for pound the best player in the NHL.” Although he was one of the greatest players to ever don a Leaf sweater, his relationship with the team eventually soured and he split. As mayor, Miller had smarts, skill and vision—and was equally underappreciated. But many of the mayor’s supporters have a nagging suspicion that, like Keon, who won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player, the mayor would have been even more effective if he’d had Gordie Howe’s elbows.

skates strapped on-edly submitted by Tim Falconer, author of Drive: A Road Trip through Our Complicated Affair with the Automobile


Ford Tough. We Laugh.

March 27, 2010

When news broke about councillor Rob Ford’s entry into Toronto’s mayoral race, well, let’s just say that pandemonium broke out here in the editorial space of All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. “I want to write the post!” “No, I want to write the post!!” No, I want to write the post!!!” “No, I do!!!!” “No, I do!!!!!”

You get the picture. But I eventually won out because this is my site. I call the shots. If somebody else wants to step up and start contributing a little more than doodles on cocktail napkins or even.. just anything, every now and then. I mean, we still haven’t caught up with Acaphlegmic since he pulled the Houdini act in Niagara Falls last week. If you’re out there, buddy, how about just a quick note to let us know everything’s cool?

Anyway, Rob Ford’s now running for mayor and we’re even more excited than Sue-Ann Levy. He represents everything we hate in today’s “grassroots” right wing political thought. The bogus claim of populism. Long since discredited Common Sense that is anything but. Fiscal prudence masking nothing more than a miserly mean-spiritedness. The man’s demeanour smacks of pure I got mine, Jack, and you can go fuck yourself.

He’s a politician that hates politicians leaving you unsure why he ever ran for public office in the first place aside from protecting his and his own. Now he wants to be the head of the 6th largest government in the country?! And we couldn’t be happier about that even if we were Sue-Ann Levy. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist another look. Is the lady honing her skills for a crack at a spot on Fox News or what?)

Some of our joy springs from a tactical place. Ford’s entry into the race crowds an already crowded right of centre spectrum and promises to divvy up conservative votes. It will force the others who have pledged fidelity to reactionary policies to differentiate themselves from the hard core values that Ford brings to the table. Rocco Rossi has already attempted the repositioning tango when he declared last week that he was not nor had he ever been a right winger. There’s little sense now in courting Rob Ford voters now that the real deal’s arrived at the dance.

But mostly it’s the theatrical shenanigans that Ford will bring to the campaign that has us over the moon. There is the very serious possibility of some retro-Lastmanesque buffoonery that brings on a wave of oxygen-inducing giddiness. A dash of unscripted, wacky remarks mixed with a soupçon of belligerent outbursts topped off with heaping cups of bluster and blather that is the Fordian trademark. His is a horn of plenty candidacy that will never leave those dabbling in political commentary empty of meaty material to run with.

If this sounds like little more than a hasty dismissal of Rob Ford for Mayor, it is. Although we did likewise when Mel Lastman threw his hat into the ring back in the day and much egg wound up on our faces. But this is different (fingers crossed.) Lastman was alone on the right side of center when he faced off against Barbara Hall. Ford is sharing those digs with others who have, at least so far in the campaign, been treated as viable candidates.

We also heartily welcome Rob Ford into the race because it places everything that he stands for on a much wider stage than he’s had as merely a councillor from Etobicoke. Now a far bigger audience will be given the opportunity to plug into his preposterous anti-politics politics. The soap box is that much higher for him to bellow out to the heavens explaining how exactly he would run a city by spending less, taxing less and basically doing less. Governing by not governing.

Call us naïve. Call us cock-eyed optimists but we still think a majority of Torontonians have heard that siren call before and witnessed the havoc it wreaks on the common welfare of this city and aren’t prepared to get fooled again.

So welcome to the circus, Councillor Ford. We’ve been waiting for the clown act to appear.

gleefully submitted by Cityslikr


George Smitherman Is Kicking Asses And Taking Names Later

February 5, 2010

Just when I started to think that George Smitherman had dropped out of the race to be the next mayor of Toronto, he’s popped back up into view, spitting, snarling and feisty. Embracing his Furious George, bully boy image (“If my bureaucracy basically shot me the finger,” Mr. Smitherman said [in a Globe and Mail interview], “well, I’ll let my reputation speak for itself…”), Smitherman promises to apply his trademark bulldog style to deal with the city’s woeful finances and the uppity bureaucracy that, apparently, is all that stands in the way of a brighter, fiscally rosier future for Toronto.

Now maybe George is simply over-compensating for what has been perceived as a tepid campaign performance so far. As the big name, front runner he’s been adhering to the rule of saying nothing and doing even less in order to not be dragged into the fray so early on. But as an insider on the Barbara Hall 2003 campaign flame out (she too was the early frontrunner) perhaps George does not want to see history repeat itself.

So we have George Smitherman channeling his inner Howard Beale. Mad as hell, George isn’t going to take it anymore. As mayor, he’s vowed to get tough, knock some heads and make sure that the TTC trains start running on time. How’s that for a deliberate evocation of a catch phrase in order to conjure up images of ruthless, fascist efficiency?

Still, as the perceived centrist candidate George can’t step on too many toes. He has to garner some support from the right and some from the left to be able to piece together a winning combination. So there’s a bit of a whirling dervish quality to Smitherman’s strikes; not so much surgical as they are erratically tactical.

Nowhere is this more in evidence than in his pronouncements about getting City Hall’s fiscal house in order. Aside from whipping the TTC, civil servants and their departments into shape, George has openly mulled over the idea of things like road tolls while also circling some taxes he’d like to cut. Apparently, the municipal land transfer tax is one that Smitherman can live with but vehicle registration tax.. ? Well, that was the proverbial straw “… that broke the camel’s back,” Smitherman told the National Post, “and elicits from so many people this feeling that they have been nickel and dimed…”

Nickel and dimed?!

Maybe someone should tell the former deputy premier of Ontario that while he was in the inner sanctum of Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, they passed this little thing called City Bill 53 Stronger City of Toronto for a Stronger Ontario Act. In case George never got around to reading it, the bill contains some elements that broaden, ever so slightly, Toronto’s ability to raise revenue through various taxation powers. Revenue needed to plug the huge financial gaps created almost exclusively by senior levels of government who have, for the better part of a couple decades now, more than nickeled and dimed municipalities to the point of insolvency.

Thus grudgingly, the city ultimately got around to instituting land transfer and vehicle registration taxes. Now George wants to rescind one of them while trying to bring about some fiscal sanity. How? Well, that kind of information’s just going to have to wait until later in the campaign. When George is able to get a better sense of which way the political winds are a-blowing. For now, it’s all about attacking, attacking, attacking and painting a dystopic picture of a city that he alone can ride into and straighten out.

We all know and can list off what’s wrong with the city, George. Being mad as hell is the easy part. How you propose to fix it all is the thing that we’re waiting to hear from you.

impatiently submitted by Cityslikr