Shiner Family Values

[While we’re away living La SoBe Vida Loca, a post from guest commentator, Loose CanonTO.]

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Somehow it wasn’t surprising that David Shiner’s argument for a downtown casino in Toronto boils down to one thing: it would be further away from his constituents than one in Markham. See, Shiner isn’t above wrecking this city for his ward’s gain. He just wants to keep his cossetted Willowdale burghers as untroubled as possible. It’s not surprising because this is the second time in two weeks we’ve seen this behaviour from Shiner.

When council eventually, finally got to a vote on the Metrolinx Master Agreement last week the first thing they wanted to do was try to kick out all the taxpayers in the room (sorry, citizens and reporters) so that David Shiner could launch… something. Nobody’s fessing up about what he wanted to do, exactly, but he wanted it done in secret. One councillor would just say “this is about things happening next year.”

Gee, what’s happening next year? Probably, the end of the Liberal run at Queen’s Park and a different Premier. The Mayor’s people are drooling more than usual because of the prospect of a Hudak government and the chance to reverse the will of council on the transit file.

It didn’t work, of course. Because this is Rob Ford’s council, and Rob Ford is to transit votes what Sideshow Bob is to rakes.

The first thing that happened was that council shot down Shiner’s attempt to force council into a secret meeting. But Shiner wasn’t done there! For his second act, Shiner wanted to insert a poison pill into the agreement with Metrolinx. Instead of saying that Metrolinx would consult with the city when it finally starts building its LRT lines, Shiner stamped his feet and demanded that Metrolinx get the City’s consent, which is a hell of a big ask when the city is contributing nothing but headaches to these lines.

Shiner was overheard hissing at another councillor later in the votes, “stop calling it a poison pill!” But to help clear things up, we got Mayor Rob Ford who explained precisely why it was so important to support Shiner’s motion:

I couldn’t agree more with Councillor Shiner’s motion [to try to impose a city council veto clause]. This goes back to day one, streetcars against subways. You want to support this contract, you’re supporting streetcars. LRTs, whatever you want to call ‘em. That’s the bottom line. People do not want these, they want subways.

So it’s not a poison pill, but if you agree with Shiner it’s because you want to kill the deal. Thanks, Mayor! Nice of you to show up!

But the weirdest part of the day was when Shiner, talking about how many great ideas the city’s seen come and go thanks to the province just up and changing its mind name-dropped the Eglinton West subway… and the Spadina Expressway.

Shiner, of course, is the son of the late North York councillor Esther Shiner, who was as obsessed in her day about the Spadina Expressway as Rob Ford is about subways. Shiner told council he marched to support the Spadina Expressway, but it’s weird in 2012 for a sitting councillor to get up and say “you know what we really should’ve done? Turn Chinatown into a six-lane freeway ditch.”

A funny thing happened when the Shiners lost the fight over the Spadina Expressway. Premier Bill Davis (whose picture sits in the dictionary behind the words “Red Tory”) got up and said

Cities were built for people and not cars. If we were building a transportation system for the automobile, the Spadina Expressway would be a good place to start, but if we are going to build a transportation system for people, the Spadina Expressway is a good place to stop.

But no, the “we must burn the city to save my commute” mentality of the old Metro suburbs isn’t dead, it’s not even resting. It’s still there, trying to break the only transit plan we’ve got in the hopes that Big Daddy Hudak will throw us a subway lolly. And if that doesn’t work, hey, that casino downtown will build us all the subways and freeze property taxes and fund the Doug Ford Memorial Monorail.

Just keep it away from Willowdale, is all.

debutly submitted by Loose CanonTO

Who’s Your Daddy?

A friend sent me this link the other day, Man who claims he’s Diefenbaker’s son closer to discovering true paternity. We laughed. For those of us who remember the former Prime Minister, even vaguely, the idea that he might’ve sired a child out of wedlock at the ripe old age of 70 with a woman in her 30s, Trudeau style, seems (yes, I’m going to say it) inconceivable. I mean, really. Look…

It also struck me as funny that someone would be so ardently pursuing his birthright to be known as a Diefenbaker. Perhaps it has more of a monetary significance, wrapped up as part of a battle over some uncle’s will. I didn’t read the article that closely. But here is a guy wanting to start living his life as “… as John Diefenbaker II.” A sentiment I never expected to see during my lifetime.

Again, for those of us old enough to remember Dief the Chief, he was the grouchy old man of Canadian politics. A 19th-century lion, hopelessly out of date in the swinging 1960s. It wouldn’t be a line of paternity I’d personally pursue. Lester Pearson, maybe. Not John Diefenbaker.

Which might have more to do with my political leanings than anything and maybe this has nothing to do with politics. Perhaps John George Dryden is simply reacting to the family squabble and a sense of betrayal at being raised by someone who wasn’t his biological father, a one-time prominent Liberal. Screw you, pretend dad. My real father was a Conservative! And not only a Conservative. One of the big daddies of Canadian conservatism.

Of course, it could much more gruesome. Flash forward some 40 years and put yourself in Mr. Dryden’s position. Searching for a father amongst today’s conservative contingent. Who’d you be looking at? Our prime minister? Mike Harris? Ralph Klein? George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? Any of the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls?


Viewed through that lens, I realize a major source of my disenchantment with this new model of the conservative brand comes in comparison to the one I grew up surrounded by. Robert Stanfield. Joe Clarke. Bill Davis. John Robarts. Decent men, driven not by hyper-partisan brinksmanship and a dedication to obliterate any and all opposition but by a commitment to the office they were elected to uphold. Possessing no belief that they had the only answers to the problems of the day, they were consensus seekers that sought the best solutions. It made them kind of bland compared to those that followed them down the right of centre path. A path leading deep into the radical fringes that were once treated as such, not embraced as the values Canadians believed in.

The new conservatism has morphed so drastically and so quickly that even 1990s conservatives, themselves very likely unrecognizable to conservatives 20 years earlier, are now sniping at them. Witness Ernie Eves’ harsh words about their treatment of Norm Sterling. “… those few individuals who decided that the Tea Party version of Ontario politics would be good in that particular riding.” He was being generous about it being just a ‘few individuals’. This is a fundamentally different conservative party than the one Ernie Eves was part of.

I did not cut my ties with conservatism. Conservatism left me behind, still hugging an imaginary middle that’s now considered pinko, socialist, communist and, most of all, hopelessly out of touch.

These are not our father’s conservatives. They are all the bastard children of a once honourable tradition and a wild beast unhinged of reason, compassion and the belief in a just society. It`s tough to imagine anyone in the mid-21st century looking back to embrace them as their own.

Conservatives ♥ Smitherman

Conservatives For Smitherman!

Strike you as odd? Really? Like how odd? Jews For Jesus odd? Red Sox For Yankees odd?

When some prominent local conservatives signed a letter in support of George Smitherman’s mayoral candidacy yesterday, the interwebs concerned with such matters lit up. The Rob Ford/Rocco Rossi right wing base (or, in the case of Mr. Rossi, let’s call it Sue Ann Levy) were all up in arms, defining themselves as true or real conservatives as opposed to those who’d signed the Smitherman pledge who were.. how’d Sue Ann put it ..? “the fah-fah Rosedale crowd”. The same “fah-fah Rosedale crowd” Ms. Levy sought to represent when she ran in last year’s provincial by-election under the Progressive Conservative banner, proving once again that the new conservative mind has no institutional memory whatsoever; replaced entirely by a simple binary yes, no, yes, no, thought that can’t recall the events of the previous day let alone year.

For their part, supporters of Joe Pantalone waved the letter about as proof that Smitherman was, to use their candidate’s own nifty campaign catch-phrase, just another mini Mike Harris. An easy leap to make since the letter was signed by some former members of the Harris government. This was the smoking gun to show that Smitherman was a Liberal in name only.

The surprise of all this was that there was any surprise about this in the first place. Anyone who’s followed Smitherman’s political career at the provincial level must know that to succeed as he did in climbing the ladder of the Dalton McGuinty government, he had to be a dyed in the wool red Tory. (I’ve hyperlinked the term for all you youngsters out there unfamiliar with it.) In my day, Progressive Conservatives like John Robarts, Bill Davis, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clarke were what you’d call red Tories. Conservatives not viscerally anti-government and pathologically opposed to the notion of taxation. They were closer in spirit to one of the original conservatives, Edmund Burke, who thought society should conserve those aspects that were working while gradually changing those that weren’t.

When the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario successfully lurched radically right, the Liberal party tip-toed in that direction with them, ending up occupying the centre, centre-right. Thus becoming Red Tories. As a very high-powered member of that government, it should hardly be surprising then that Smitherman has attracted the support of socially liberal, fiscally conservative types like Isabel Bassett.

What we should know by now is that, at his most fundamental, George Smitherman is a political animal. He will be whatever he needs to be to get the number of votes needed to win office; listening to him earlier today being interview by Matt Galloway on Metro Morning proved that point again. The topic was governance and reform. As Smitherman showed last night at the urban issues debate, he comes prepared with appropriate talking points for the event at hand and will dispose of them as soon as he needs to.

Lifting an idea straight out of Paul Bedford’s talk on Tuesday, Rethinking Toronto’s Governance (which we talked about here yesterday), Smitherman floated the notion of keeping all 44 councillors but having 22 of them elected in expanded wards and the other 22 voted in on an at-large, city wide level. What about expanding the numbers of councillors, Galloway asked, as another solution to helping citizens reconnect with the local representatives. Less constituents/councillor. Scoffing, Smitherman responded — and I’m paraphrasing here — With the prevailing, anti-government winds out there? Proposing more politicians?!

You mean, actually lead, Matt?! Come on! That’s crazy talk. Even if more politicians might be good for the city, you don’t think I’m going to possibly suggest that now? In this anti-incumbent, anti-City Hall environment that I helped stir up? I could lose votes if I suggested that!

Red Tory. Blue Liberal. Centrist. George Smitherman can be all these things if he needs to be. As we have written previously here, he possesses an empty core that is constantly refilled with the fluid of the moment. An automaton, programmed to do nothing other than to win elections. No reason to think it’s not going to happen again.

unsurprisedly submitted by Cityslikr