Friends, living in Ward 11 York South-Weston, asked the other day what on earth they should do when it comes to voting for their local councillor. As many of you probably know, Ward 11 is the domain of long time city councillor, Frances Nunziata. Frances Nunziata is easily one of the 5 worst city councillors at City Hall. She’s been ill-representing residents of the area for over a quarter of a century.
You might think with such an abysmal record and tradition, there’d be a long list of challengers out there, knocking on doors, talking to residents in the hopes of defeating Ms. Nunziata. You might think. But my friends’ dilemma was real. There is no viable candidate running to unseat her in Ward 11 York South-Weston. I checked. I watched.
Voting against Frances Nunziata in 2014 essentially comes down to, Well, candidate X couldn’t do any worse, right? And in the case of Dory Chaloub, I’m not sure I could say that with a whole lot of confidence.
How is that possible?
This takes me back to a theme that’s emerged most glaringly during this campaign. In amidst talk of infrastructure deficits, transit deficits, what’s lost in the shuffle is our democratic deficit. In places throughout the city, like Ward 11, residents have been so poorly served for so long by those they’ve elected to City Hall that they’ve simply given up hope for anything different. There’s no reason to hope for change because change never comes, and when and if it does, it rarely is change for the better.
One of the first questions council challengers hear at the door when they’re out canvassing is, How are you going to be any different? That’s a tough one to answer because “they” haven’t been any different for years, decades, a generation.
So who on earth is going to put their neck out there and risk what is almost certain defeat?
What is remarkable is how many people have actually done that this election year. There are a lot of eminently electable candidates running in areas of the city where good candidates are not the norm. Despite an uphill battle convincing constituents that it can be different, they’re out there, convincing them.
Not in Ward 11 this time out, unfortunately.
There is no good choice to be made for city councillor in Ward 11. If I lived there, I’d probably leave my council vote blank, decline it as best you could, as a form of protest.
I was surprised a little bit then when yesterday in the Toronto Star’s city council endorsement list, they gave a thumbs up to Dory Chaloub, reasoning, pretty much, that anyone would be better than Frances Nunziata. “A dose of vitality.” Obviously, they saw something in him that escaped our notice or (and I’m thinking this is much more likely) they weren’t paying that close of attention.
I base this assertion on some of the other endorsements the Star made including perhaps the most jaw-dropping. Denzil Minnan-Wong in Ward 34 Don Valley East. “A thinking conservative,” the Star called him. “An asset on council.”
It’s hard to believe the person who wrote those words watched the same last 4 years of city council as I did. Minnan-Wong was every bit as destructive, divisive and partisan as Frances Nunziata, arguably more so as he held much more policy sway than she did. (Think of him as last term’s John Tory to Nunziata’s Rob Ford.)
The big difference between them is Minnan-Wong’s actually got a viable, interesting challenger running against him in Mary Hynes. Yet he gets an endorsement and Frances Nunziata doesn’t. How?
This happened elsewhere throughout the city in the Star’s endorsements. They give a ‘lukewarm’ endorsement to Michelle Berardinetti in Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest even though she’s got a very good challenger in Paul Bocking. In Ward 7 York West, they overlook Keegan Henry-Mathieu for the non-entity but last election’s runner-up Nick Di Nizio to replace Giorgio Mammoliti. With a series of open wards in Etobicoke, the Star just as often went with names as they did interesting choices. Andray Domise for sure. But Stephen Holyday and Justin Di Ciano?
And aside from showing up, it’s hard to see how Diane Hall will be a better representative for Ward 44 than Ron Moeser especially when there were at least a couple other strong candidates running there.
Look, we agreed with the Star more often than not in its endorsements. (They did pick Franco Ng over Jim Karygianis to replace Mike Del Grande in Ward 39). We certainly didn’t expect to agree across the board with them.
But I look at their endorsements and I’m not sure what kind of city council the editorial board of the Toronto Star wants. Cynically, my first guess is familiar faces. Aside from the worst of the worst of incumbents – your Nunziatas, your Mammolitis, your Crisantis, Fords Crawfords and Grimes – I’d argue the Star went with name recognition even in many of the races where they wanted the incumbents defeated, they picked 2nd place finishers in previous elections or other candidates who had some traction already.
“We’re not big fans of political dynasties but…” Stephen Holyday? Why?
It’s not that we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke ran an exhaustive survey of the council races. We did our diligence in many of them and where we didn’t feel we did? We didn’t endorse. It seemed unfair, uninformed and arbitrary. We wanted our choices to reflect our values of what we expected from city councillors not be little more than, I don’t know, lottery picks.
Trotting out a list of endorsements heavy with name recognition does little to battle the power of incumbency. It further beefs up the status quo and gives the impression of immutability. Change comes slowly if it comes at all.
It helps feed into the sense of hopelessness in places like Ward 11 where someone like Frances Nunziata reigns supreme.
— disconcertingly submitted by Cityslikr