Self-Inflicted Wounds

September 5, 2014

When a capital ‘L’ Liberal leaning newspapers pronounces on Toronto’s vanishing NDP act, it’s pretty much required reading. willywonka1Straight up, objective, no dog in the hunt opinionizing. A fair and balanced view, as they say.

That’s why.

“Rising support for Liberals in Toronto may doom Olivia Chow’s mayoral bid,” chirps the subheadline of Bob Hepburn’s piece.

Rising support for Liberals in Toronto? I get the logic from the last provincial election but should we draw a line from that to the recent uptick in support for John Tory in the mayoral race? If so, if Liberals are actually turning to John Tory as some sort of liberal alternative then, well, Hepburn’s article should really be about the disappearance of liberalism in Toronto’s Liberals.

Now look, you’re not going to hear from me any defence of Olivia Chow’s campaign to date. It most certainly has been listless. There’s been no one or two issues put forward that you can really sink your teeth into.wolfinsheepsclothing No red meat for the base.

I heard apprehensive rumblings as the mayoral race began taking shape, back late last year, questioning the strength of Chow’s campaign abilities. Could she sustain a city-wide drive throughout the entire race? Perhaps there was some truth to such misgivings.

I was a constituent of hers, when she was both a city councillor and MP. The few times I met her during campaigns, she was very engaging and full of energy. But, in truth, I’ve seen little of that outside of her official campaign launch. So, are we, once again, looking at another race where the standard bearer of the left is not up to the task? Like Joe Pantalone in 2010, in the end, will it come down to the fact Olivia Chow could not sell a progressive vision for the city? The messenger unable to sell the message?

We shall see.

But about that message…runsoutofgas

In the article, Hepburn points out that in putting together a campaign team, Chow “…recruited senior Liberals…including self-styled ‘progressives’ such as former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman…” Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister? You mean, former failed mayoral candidate, George Smitherman?

I mean, seriously. George Smitherman?! Who the fuck thought that was a good idea? What knowledge was he going to bring to the table for Olivia? How to blow an early lead? Done. Tell us again, George, how you helped run Barbara Hall’s 2003 mayoral campaign into the ground.

To the wider picture, why is an NDP candidate, as her opponent, John Tory, has brayingly labelled her, seeking Liberal help in her campaign? Because they win, you respond. badadviceNot always, I reply. George Smitherman, for instance. Federally, not so much lately.

Provincially, however.

Yes. And who did they beat? Exactly.

Now, you might argue that Liberals know where the NDP’s weak spots are, offer advice on how to patch up the electoral holes. Liberals provide a good sparring partner in the war room. Pop you one on the chin when you drop the left hand. See? That’s what you’re doing wrong.

But here’s what I think.

Liberals, more than anybody, have internalized the 30 year neoconservative drumbeat against the notion of tax-and-spending, interventionist government. That’s what the triangulation bullshit has all been about. It wins some elections, sure, but it only minimizes the damage rather than ends or reverses it.

What’s so frustrating at this point, with the Chow campaign and the provincial NDP one in June, is we’re living the result of three decades of neoconservative/neoliberal rule. imaproAn infrastructure deficit. A lack of affordable housing with the unsurprisingly accompanying spike in homelessness. Inequality. Grotesque and incapacitating inequality.

Look at Toronto’s To Do list.

Transit. Transit. And more transit. The horrendous TCHC backlog. Flooding and blackouts. Decreasing affordability for many people to live here.

The public good is wobbly under the weight of neglect, and there’s no finding efficiencies our way out of it. In aping Conservatives, Liberals have assisted in the piling on. totherampartsThe best the NDP can hope for, in copying the copy, is to, hopefully, make matters less worse.

Maybe it’s just me but what I was hoping for in the Olivia Chow campaign was a full on embrace of the tax-and-spender label. Yes, Mr. Tory. It’s time to start taxing and spending again. After years of pretending that this city is built on free swag, we now have to roll up our sleeves, pull out our wallets and start rebuilding.

She wouldn’t be out of line in saying such a thing. For the past couple years now, the city’s CEO, no raving lunatic leftie joe, Joe Pennachetti has told anyone prepared to listen that there’s not a whole lot more fat to be trimmed. “We don’t have all the revenues that probably are needed to ensure that we build and grow a city that we all want,” he said last month.

Hand the ball over to any progressive candidate who wants to run with it. Off you go! To the ramparts!ignored

But no such luck. It’s all been minor measures, tweaks here and there, avoid the big idea because it will demand a big solution. What’s passed for boldness is pretend maps paid for by pretend money, to paraphrase the only mayoral candidate talking to us as if we’re not drooling imbeciles, and he’s mired in the low single digits with regular backroom discussions about whether to continue on in the race.

Contrary to what the Toronto Star’s Bob Hepburn thinks, it’s not that NDP support in Toronto has vanished. There’s just nobody talking their language, speaking to their values. Maybe in hushed tones or in a code, over late night drinks. It’s just not enough to rally around, go to bat for or champion.

grumpily submitted by Cityslikr


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


An Unholy Alliance

September 26, 2010

Oh, what polls will do to some people.

With panic breaking out in the streets at the prospect of Rob Ford becoming Toronto’s next mayor, some arm twisting and politicking has begun in and around the campaign. The question is: Should Anyone But Ford (ABF) really be Everyone For Smitherman (EFS)? The Toronto Star is all over that idea with articles on both Thursday and Friday touting George Smitherman as our only saviour from the gruesome fate of a Ford victory on October 25th. This pissed off a Twitter-sphere of Rob Ford fanatics who called out bias on the Star which is funny coming from a group of people getting their news from the Toronto Sun. And each other.

But as much as it pains me to say, I have to agree with the Fordites on this one. Not so much on the bias angle although, I will admit, that the Star was front and centre in vilifying the Miller administration and hounding Adam Giambrone into political exile. No, this time I’m in agreement with people I seldom agree with on the idea of EFS. What’s your thinking on this, Toronto Star?

I know anywhere from 55-60% of us here can’t even begin to get our heads around the notion of His Worship Rob Ford. Everything that is within our legal, democratic power needs to be done to avert that inevitable train wreck. But what’s the idea of everyone else stepping aside for George Smitherman?

The man has run a shitty, shitty campaign. His numbers began to drop almost as soon as he officially declared himself a candidate and he’s done nothing to stem the flow. Instead of standing back aghast (like most of us) as the Ford campaign began to gather steam, and hold on tightly to the centre/centre-right vote (as big a presence as Rob Ford is, ideologically he occupies a small fraction of the small  ‘c’ conservative vote), Smitherman rushed to embrace him. This only served to legitimize Ford as a viable political entity.

Smitherman had profile, money and this election from the very beginning was his to lose. So far he’s proceeded to do just that. His campaign’s performance has been so bad that it stuns me to think the man ever won an election. Yet, the good people at the Toronto Star want to reward such incompetence by insisting that everyone else now pack it in and allow Smitherman to blunder on?

On top of which, there are those of us on the left side of the spectrum who might not cherish the prospect of a two candidate, far right-further right battle for mayor. At least not with over a month still to go before the election. This call to anti-Ford order under the EFS banner feels a little premature, and not half calculated to prop up a sagging campaign that has done little to warrant the kind of strategic consideration being asked of voters.

Take a deep breath, Mr. Hepburn, Ms. Doolittle and everyone else over at the Toronto Star. It’s not time to pull the ripcord on this yet, let alone start worrying about the reserve chute. Just because you’ve pushed the panic button and are demanding we fall in behind your candidate of choice, a few of us out here still think there’s a lot of game still to be played and George Smitherman hasn’t proven to anyone but you that he’s the go-to guy.

cucumber coolishly submitted by Cityslikr