What’s the deal with midsummer anyway? Midsummer festivals always happen in June! June’s not even summer until right near the end! June’s like three-quarters spring! How can it be mid anything?!
I’m sure there’s some olde Norse pagan language reason for the word ‘mid’ here meaning, I don’t know, ‘to be on the brink of’, but to these fairly modern ears, mid’s in the middle, in the midst of. By that reasoning, midsummer and all its attendant festivities should start to happen around about now, some six weeks into a twelve-week season. The end of July, early August. Continue reading →
Now regular readers of this column will know that all of us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke think of ourselves as pretty smart cookies. Acaphlegmic is the book smart one. Urban Sophisticat has street savvy. And me? I know my Ps and Qs, if you know what I’m saying.
We’re like the Charlie’s Angels of the Toronto municipal political blog scene.
But every so often (and I’m sure this happens to you out there much more than it does us here) you encounter someone who is just so smart, so intellectually towering that it’s intimidating to the point of pant wetting. You can’t speak in their presence, tongue-tied for fear of saying something utterly and hopelessly inane and stupid. If such a big-brained being so much as looks in your direction, all you’re capable of doing is dropping to the ground, rolling over onto your back in the hopes that The Smart One deigns to reach down and scratch your belly.
Mayoral candidate Selwyn Firth may be that kind of super-intelligent being. So much so, I’m feeling a little hesitant even attempting to outline his platform. He may just be out of my league.
A chemical engineer by trade, Mr. Firth has some very strong environmental views that don’t align with today’s conventional wisdom. He is a big proponent of clean incineration of not only garbage but much of what we are presently recycling. According to the science behind his Clean Incineration, we could save money and produce electricity at the same time. In his capacity as a chemical engineer, Mr. Firth would oversee this program if elected mayor.
Mr. Firth also believes that we aren’t in the grips of a greenhouse effect but rather a direct heat effect. Again, this is uncertain terrain for me but in a letter he sent to Premier McGuinty last month, it seems Mr. Firth is just as concerned about the latter as much of the world is with the former. Uninformed, non-scientific opinion holds that it’s the gases we emit that are causing climate change. Instead, according to Mr. Firth, the problem comes from the heat we generate and he goes into much calculating detail to explain his theory. Still, Mr. Firth admits that ours is an “insatiable energy use” and if we are not prepared to reign that in we will have to start learning how to “geo-engineer[ing] cloud formation[s] to reflect more sunlight” using ballistic missiles and warming the ocean surfaces in order to cool the atmosphere.
With no scientific background outside of the occasional Nova episode, I can hardly attempt to dispute Mr. Firth’s claims but I do find it curious that despite his alarm at the heating of our environment he seems abjectly unconcerned with tempering car use in the city. As mayor he would “evaluate better access routes into and out of the downtown core” including.. including.. I can barely bring myself to say it.. completing the Spadina Expressway!! “Expressway’s are like arteries for the down town heart. Without good ones the down town will suffer and people will stay away,” Mr. Firth wrote.
Not even the pro-car mayoral candidate, Rocco Rossi, has suggested reviving that long dead debate. And like Rossi, Mr. Firth would banish bikes from arterial roadways, believing that too many cyclists disregard the rules of the road. While no one would argue with that fact, if we’re banishing every vehicle from the main streets because they don’t adhere to the law, they would be empty, lonely strips of pavement. Not something I’d be against but let’s apply it equally to car and bike alike.
But again, perhaps I’m missing the thrust of Mr. Firth’s reasoning.
He wants to lessen the TTC’s dependence on streetcars which he feels are a 19th-century mode of transportation in the 21st-century. They snarl traffic when they breakdown, their weight causes unnecessary road damage and are less accessible than something like kneeling buses. None of which I would try to refute other than to state that I’m a sucker for the illogical magic of the red rocket and irrationally back the LRTs and right-of-way roads to accommodate them.
But that ultimately puts me at odds with candidate Selwyn Firth. “Science should trump emotions” the main page of his website states. He’s right, of course. We would be better served if our governance was driven more by reason rather than ideology and gut instincts. I would like to hear more debate about his clean incineration plans. His website is full of other environmentally friendly ideas.
Yet I feel that Mr. Firth’s emphasis on simple cold calculation exposes a certain lack of heart necessary for public service. His response to our incredibly frivolous question, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Selwyn Firth like to see his legacy written?, was: “I would like my legacy to be that of a holistic mayor who understood the needs of the city as a whole.” A laudable ambition, certainly, but as a less rational being than Selwyn Firth I feel that I may not be part of his whole. I’d like to think a candidate for public office seeks to reach out for my understanding not reach down.
Of course, that may just be me, being densely irrational. But as Jonathan Swift suggested in Gulliver’s Travels, a society that runs on reason alone cannot function fully any more than one that operates purely on passion.
In the political trenches, the battle of ideas is almost always won by those who are best able to explain their position(s) clearly, succinctly and without the slightest hint of subtlety. “Keeping it simple keeps it real, yo,” I am told by a local political strategist and overnight/weekend infomercial host who asked to be quoted anonymously pending the outcome of legal proceedings. “That way, voters don’t have to think too much about it.” He goes on to say that ideally politicians should try to get their point across in one breath. “So Joe Q. Public will remember it easily and regurgitate it without having to forgo a mouthful of nachos.”
It is a strategy that conservatives — both big and little ‘C’s – have mastered. Ever since Ronald Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ back in 1980, the political left has been, well, left stammering, hopelessly yammering on with awkward, tongue-tying slogans that have seldom resonated with voters. For every one “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” or “Change We Can Believe In!” there’s been countless numbers of clunkers that ultimately fell on deaf ears. Who can remember the rallying cry “Climate Change Is A Complex Dynamic of Inter-related, Multilevel Systems Susceptible To Even The Slightest Variation But Overall The Science Is Solid.”? Or how about even this pithy but obscure proto-Keynesian economic challenge, “Countercyclical Fiscal Policies Now!!”? Me neither, which has been the progressives problems for decades now.
Yes, governing is not simple. It demands complicated and multifaceted approaches that don’t always operate on easy-to-understand, intuitive gut levels. But that doesn’t mean explaining how you’re going to do it has to get bogged down with detail heavy insights, thoughtful deliberations or big, multi-syllabic words. If you want a crack at power, it’s all about “The Axis of Evil”, being “The Decider” and “You’re Either With Us Or You’re Against Us”.
Here at the local level, we can see this discipline already at work in the early days of this year’s municipal election. Toronto Sun columnist and Hater-Of-Everything-To-Do-With-David-Miller, Sue-Ann Levy, came hard out of the gate last week after Councilor Joe Pantalone announced his intention to run for the mayor’s office. Not even waiting until the first sentence, Levy brings the pain right there in the title: Mayor Pantalooney? No Way!
Ha Ha! Joe Pantalone? Joe Pantalooney!! He can’t be mayor. He’s crazy! Crazy as a loon, that Joe Pantalooney!!!
How will the man ever dig himself out from the hole Levy’s tossed him in? His twenty-nine years of civic duty which Levy dismisses as merely a “career” only serves to prove that Pantalone is categorically unfit to be mayor because he’s crazy. Who’d dedicated nearly 30 years of his life to public service? You’d have to be crazy. Probably couldn’t get a “real” job, that Joe Pantalooney.
Since Sue-Ann Levy doesn’t agree with anything Joe Pantalone stands for, ipso facto, the councilor must be crazy because certainly Sue-Ann Levy isn’t crazy. Would such an august operation like the Toronto Sun hire crazy people to fill its pages?
It’s a hardball approach that Levy seems to relish and that must save her heaps of time to not do reporterly stuff like investigative researching. Why, just a few days ago, she turned her sights on those “whining airport wingnuts” who were stamping their little feet over the possible expansion of flight numbers by the good folks at Porter Air. How dare a gaggle of “self-centred, ridiculous bunch of whiners” (Sue-Ann does love her quotation marks) treat the waterfront as their very own “fiefdom on the lake”! Haven’t these people cottoned on to the fact that the “fiefdom on the lake” is the personal playground for the likes of federal political patronage appointees, Robert Deluca and downtown business bigwigs who have neither the time nor the inclination to make their way out to Pearson when duty calls? The airport is here to stay, dammit, and anybody who continues to fight the inevitable is simply crazy. And probably a hippie.
So, to all you left wingers out there and island airport opponents who see its continued presence and Porter’s possible expansion as the ongoing extension of a politically underhanded and democratically dubious land and money grab of the Toronto Harbor Commission by the federal Liberal party over a decade ago… you see, there you go again, talk, talk, talking, like you’re being heard by rational, relatively sentient beings. Just blurt it out. From the gut to the tongue, bypassing the brain entirely. It’s worked for the right wing for decades now. It might even get you a job writing for the Toronto Sun.