Suck It Up, Losers

February 22, 2013

spite

During Wednesday’s city council debate over the Striking Committee’s appointment recommendations to the Executive and Budget Committees, Matt Elliott asked, “What would this administration do if they didn’t have so much spite to fuel them?”

Spite? That sounds absolutely benign compared to what some raging right wingers hurled around council chambers over the course of the past few days. Witness Councillor Mike Del Grande vituperative outburst. The sound a black hole makes when it’s collapsing into itself. (Video clips courtesy of Matt  Elliott).

To the victors go the spoils. Just like Jesus Christ himself said. To which the Romans replied, Hey, guy. You’re a carpenter, right? How be you build us a cross. We’ll bring some extra nails.

While the tone of the councillor’s screed was astounding, the really telling aspect of it was the claim he made early on in his speaking time. “… and we were denied getting on certain committees [during the Miller administration]. And the reason was, the mayor at the time decided who he wanted on and who he didn’t want on, and one of the early criteria was the bridge to the airport. Bridge to the airport. If you weren’t onside with the bridge on the airport, you were automatically discounted. So that was the key. And I remember going to talk to Deputy Mayor Pantalone at the time, and he made it very clear. That vote was important to the mayor, and that’s what differentiated whether you got positions or not.”

In other words, every mayor has an agenda and if you’re not on board, you’re on the outside looking in. So suck it up, lefties. That’s how things have always been done at City Hall.

Except for the fact, well, I’ll let Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby explain.

“Mayor Miller had an Executive Committee after the City of Toronto Act. I sat on that committee. He knew that I did not support – I mean, I did support the bridge to the city airport. He knew that. But he still asked me to sit on that Executive Committee, even though knowing that I am a conservative and that I would not support him on every vote, and I certainly did not.”

Oops.holdonsec

Now hey, who’s to say that Mayor Miller and his deputy mayor didn’t tell Councillor Del Grande and Speaker Frances Nunziata or Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday — who have both also endlessly complained about how they were sidelined during the previous administration (although, as noted by Councillor Paula Fletcher after Mr. Holyday’s similar themed left out in the cold rant this week that he was, in fact, chair of the Audit Committee under David Miller, just like he is currently) — that there was an anti-bridge litmus test for anyone wanting to get key positions? Maybe it was just a more diplomatic way of going about it. After watching their respective performances while in power over the course of the last couple years, isn’t it quite possible nobody in their right mind would choose to spend any more time than they had to in the company of such flinty, carping, divisive people?

That fact of the matter is, even the most cursory search through the archives of amalgamated Toronto will quickly show that the Ford Administration is by far the most exclusionary administration this city’s ever had. Neither Mel Lastman nor David Miller demanded such blind loyalty based solely along strict ideological lines as Rob Ford has. To argue otherwise is nothing less than to embrace revisionist history. It is perpetuating a basic untruth.

wipeclean

Which brings us to an even more problematic point. The appropriation of rightful anger, resentment and a feeling of exclusion purely for political purposes.

There should be no doubt that far too many residents in this city, entire under-served neighbourhoods and communities, have been excluded, neglected and sidelined in terms of economic development, transit, planning and representation. They have every right to be pissed off and resentful. That tune sung by many of their councillors, none louder and prouder than Rob Ford, hit the right chord for them. It sounded like fellow travellers.

The big difference, however, is that the isolation and bitterness spewed by the likes of Rob Ford, Doug Holyday, Frances Nunziata, Mike Del Grande was entirely self-imposed. Each of them chose to varying degrees not to play along with the previous administration because they did not agree with the agenda. And now they try to propagate a mythology of exclusion that does not hold up even to the slightest push against it. Councillor Del Grande’s is demolished within a minute by Councillor Lindsay Luby.upyours

These hardcore right wing ideologues were angry but not for the same reason many of those voting for them were angry. They frothed the anger in much of the electorate and used it to gain power. Achieving that, it’s all become about settling political scores and getting even while doing absolutely nothing to address the roots of the discontent and isolation that swept them into office.

In no way do any of them reflect the true outsider status many of their constituents actually experience. Taking their cue from Mayor Ford, they merely exploit it. To build walls and divisions that having nothing to do with good governance or positive public service. It’s all about laying waste to their opponents and playing the politics of destruction.

Thinks I’m exaggerating? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “The Burning Rage of a 1000 Nunziatas”. (phraseology h/t @ManuvSteele).

ragedly submitted by Cityslikr


The Caretaker

November 29, 2012

Through the window of the cafe in City Hall I spotted Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday standing out in the lunchtime chill in Nathan Phillips Square, patiently being interviewed by a television crew. Since the announcement of Judge Charles Hackland’s ruling in the mayor’s conflict of interest case, the deputy mayor has become the de facto face of the administration, issuing stay calm and proceed alerts as the city deals with an official leadership vacuum for the next couple months or so.  Not Winston Churchill in the face of the blitz but still, strangely assuring.

I have an oddly dichotomous opinion of the councillor from and last mayor of Etobicoke. In person whenever we cross paths, he is extremely courteous and gracious, always nods and exchanges greetings with me. I’m fairly certain he has no idea who I am, what I do or why I’m always hanging around his place of work. But I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t matter if he did. Colleagues of mine who have regular dealings with him and share more of my politics than his tell me the deputy mayor always makes himself available and is gentlemanly and cordial.

But then there is the Grandpa Simpson side of Doug Holyday that makes regular appearances on council floor or in a committee room during heated exchanges. Little Ginny. Remember her? That poor neglected child raised by negligent parents in a downtown high rise, destined to die an early death when she’s relegated to playing in the traffic or shoots off the slide on her roof top playground and plunges 95 stories to a bloodied splat on the ground below.

Why, just this week, under pointed questioning from Councillor Janet Davis about the uniformly male, uniformly suburban make up of the members of the mayor’s two most powerful committees, Executive and Budget, going forward in the terms second half. Look, the deputy mayor responded, he’d welcome more downtown councillors, would love to have more women on the team, if only they could get with the program and set aside any independent thinking.  When asked what his problem with entertaining more diverse opinions and views, he seemed nonplussed. Because… because DAVID MILLER! because BRIAN ASHTON! BRIAN ASHTON!!

In no way, shape or form could the deputy mayor be mistaken as anything other than a hardcore, fiscal conservative. No Red Tory is he. But it does seem that he is a more realistic assessor of the political situation in front of him. You don’t spend 125 years in politics, even politics in Etobicoke, and not know how to adapt to a change in the winds.

This is why I put forward the proposal that if Mayor Ford is really and truly put out to pasture, if his appeal in January to overturn Judge Hackland’s ruling falls upon deaf ears, that instead of plunging into a distracting and noisy by-election, city council designate the deputy mayor the actual mayor for the remainder of the current turn.

Believe me, this goes against every retributive instinct in my body. That scorched earth inclination to raze everything and anything reminiscent of Rob Ford’s time in office. A Northerner demands the South’s destruction not reconstruction.

Deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Allow cooler heads to prevail.

Hear me out (and forgive me if any or all of the following suggestions contravene any statute of the City Of Toronto Act. I have not read it in its entirety. You see, back in the 1990s, my daddy was…)

There would be some serious stipulations in appointing Doug Holyday mayor. First, he could not run for re-election in 2014, using this appointment as a high profile platform. He might even consider this his municipal politics swan song.

Second, no coaching football or any equivalent activity to occupy his afternoons. Keep those crazy Kiwanis meetings to non-council meeting evenings, sir.

Third, a Mayor Holyday would remove Councillor Frances Nunziata from the Speaker’s chair, replacing her with the current deputy speaker, John Parker. Going forward, it’s important to restore a tone of civility and decorum during council meetings. Councillor Nunziata has proven herself incapable of providing such an environment during her tenure in the chair.

Next, a Mayor Holyday must share the job with council of completely overhauling the Striking Committee, appointing new members not because of their ideological loyalty but to reflect the diversity of council makeup.  In turn, such a Striking Committee would consider other committee appointments based on the same principle of diversity and inclusion. To try and lessen the whole us-versus-them mentality that has laid siege to City Hall.

On many of the committees, I don’t think there’d be the need for major renovations. A tweak here and there. Maybe flip a vice-chair to chair to bring a more bipartisan look to the Executive Committee. Say, a Councillor Chin Lee or Gloria Lindsay Luby replacing Councillor Cesar Palacio as Chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon takes over for Councillor Norm Kelly as Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee.

There would be two deal-breaking change of appointments before Doug Holyday could take over as mayor. Both Councillor Mike Del Grande and Denzil Minnan-Wong must be relieved of duty from their respective committees. Along with Speaker Frances Nunziata, they are the most non-Ford divisive and destructive forces at council right now. To go forward with any hope of a constructive 2nd half of the term, these two – the Stadler and Waldorf of Toronto politics – must be relegated to where they belong. The backbenches of braying opposition where they’re only allowed to make noise and not a mess.

The final stipulation for a Mayor Holyday would the necessity of appointing a deputy mayor that was his polar opposite in political view, geography, gender and/or ethnicity. While I love the idea of a Deputy Mayor Janet Davis in a Mayor Doug Holyday regime, I think it would be ultimately unworkable, a sitcom in and of itself. So, how about a Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell? Yes, occasionally a Mayor Holyday’s head would explode in righteous indignation but, let’s be honest here. That’s going to happen regardless.

While the idea of such an unorthodox arrangement might run contrary to everything the straight-laced Holyday stands for, I think he could look upon this as his final and finest contribution to a long if not entirely distinguished career in public service. He could be the one who rose above partisan rancour to help heal the rift of a city divided. A grandfatherly figure dampening the heightened emotions of his unruly brood. Wisdom besting acrimony. Good will trumping ill.

And by reaching out this way, appointing the deputy mayor mayor, those currently in opposition in council would accomplish two things. The administration of a Mayor Holyday would be a tough one for Rob Ford or his brother to rail against during  their 2 years in exile. The inevitable campaign to recapture the mayoralty would lack satisfying target to shoot at.

The move would also acknowledge that the voters’ will from 2010 is not being denied. Doug Holyday was Rob Ford’s choice for deputy Mayor. By making him Ford’s replacement, there is some continuity, a peace offering.

If nothing else, what Toronto needs at this point is a little peace.

honest brokerly submitted by Cityslikr


Relationship Woes

October 24, 2012

Look, none of us wanted to be in this arrangement. We all were more or less happy, living side by side, tossing the occasional gentle barbs at each other, sharing a police force, a perfectly adequate transit system and some other infrastructure. It wasn’t paradise but it functioned properly.

But that was then and this is now. We are stuck with each other, by god, and nothing, it seems, can rend us asunder. (Is that even possible? A rendering asunder?) Our shotgun marriage has stuck, so let’s just make the best of a bad situation and at least try to get along.

In the affluent Humber Valley Village neighbourhood, density is a dirty word.

A proposed development at the site of the Humbertown Shopping Centre has met with furious opposition from local residents, who have staked their lawns with “Save Humbertown” signs and flooded two community consultation meetings. On Thursday evening, area residents spent more than two hours in an Etobicoke high-school auditorium grilling the plaza’s owners, First Capital Realty, over what they see as an assault on their suburban lifestyle.

**sigh**

Humber Valley Village. Enjoy all the amenities of a big city while living in a small town feel. No apartment complexes. No green spaces you can’t call your own. No poor people. (I’ll get to that in a minute).

According to the Humber Valley Village Residents’ Association president, Niels Christensen, the ‘suburban lifestyle’ as exemplified by Humber Valley Village consists of “…single-family homes, quiet streets and low-rise buildings.” Anything else constitutes a threat. All hands on deck! The urbanists are coming! The urbanists are coming!

You know, where exactly is that contract the city signs when you buy a house and settle into a neighbourhood guaranteeing nothing’s going to change forever and ever? You bought it as is. It’s going to stay as is. Come hell or high water.

Now I get I chose to live in an area of town that was already dense. I adapted my lifestyle to accommodate to that environment. Getting around by car is a pain. So I do as little of that as possible. The streets aren’t always quiet. I can sometimes hear my neighbour’s TV through the wall of the house we share. That backyard is, what do you call it, postage stamp small.

But the area continues to get denser, bringing in more people. I can’t expect to stop that 40 story tower going up 8 blocks to the east, nor would I want to. As Joe Strummer once sang, It’s just the beat of time/the beat that must go on/If you’ve been trying for years/we ‘ready heard your song

Post-war, automobile 1st city planning and living is dead or, at least, on life support. It’s too expensive to maintain. No longer a luxury municipalities, the province or the country, ultimately, can afford. As much as some suburbanites are convinced that they pay for all the ‘nice to haves’ downtowners enjoy – subways, community centres, free swim lessons, poor people cleaning our windshields – the ugly truth is the exact opposite. We are all subsidizing the suburban, low density lifestyle.

“The population of this area, of this census tract, has declined 2 per cent in the last census, it has declined 2 per cent in the census before,” a local resident, Robert Ruggerio, told the crowd gathered at the October community consultation meeting. “And unless we have change, and unless we have new life in the neighbourhood, our neighbourhood will suffer.”

Food for thought, right?

Indigestible it seems. According to the Globe and Mail article, Mr. Ruggerio’s comments drew heckling. When he went on to say that new apartments might be the only way he could continue to afford to live in the neighbourhood, someone in the mob crowd told him to get a job. Apparently, low income earners aren’t really welcome in Humber Valley Village.

“That’s never been the demographic for that area,” the local councillor, Gloria Lindsay Luby, said.

I guess, along with increased density, traffic and noise, poor people are also an assault on the suburban lifestyle of Humber Valley Village.

Apparently, the harassment of those speaking in favour of the proposed development continued after the meeting. Ruggerio tweeted yesterday that he received a phone call and was told he should move downtown. You want density, diversity and apartment living? Move downtown. Humber Valley Village. Love It (as is) or Leave It.

But I have a better idea. If you want to live the bucolic small town life with your wide open spaces and drives to the corner store for your bags of milk, move to a bucolic small town. Take the small fortune your single family house is now worth because of the increased property values due to the growth of this city and buy your piece of mind out on a leafy lane in the countryside. This ain’t your granddaddy’s Etobicoke anymore. The rest of us are tired paying to maintain your lifestyle.

That’s what being in a relationship is all about, give and take, compromise. A decade and a half into this thing we call the megacity and I’m not quite sure what anti-development suburbanites are bringing to the table except a destructive resistance to necessary change.

scoldingly submitted by Cityslikr


Why One City’s Flaws Are OK

June 28, 2012

(Our 2nd favourite City Hall watcher — come on, seriously, who can top the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy? — David Hains deigns to grace our pages with his thoughts on the new proposed transit plan, One City. Every now and then we do like to offer up some actual clear-headed analysis. Thanks, David.)

* * *

When it came time to discuss how to fund the Sheppard subway plan, Doug Ford knew how he felt. As is his talent, he put it simply, “All taxes are evil, as far as I’m concerned.”

With this statement, the councillor for Ward Two made it clear that there was no discussion to be had. His was an absolutist belief, and it is one which says nothing is worth having unless it is free.

Of course, that is not the world most of us live in, the one called ‘reality’.

The reality of the situation is Toronto needs massive investment in transportation to be economically competitive and make the city more livable. With an average commute found to be the worst in North America, the current ‘Big Move’ strategy is projected to only maintain current levels of congestion, and focusing on a cars-only strategy won’t deliver the progress that’s needed.

Which brings us to One City, the supposed antidote for Toronto’s transit ills. It’s massive in every dimension: investment, scope, and ambition. And for a city that is preternaturally risk-averse and provincial when it comes to realizing its stated visions, this actually seems to have political support.

Council’s newfound pluralism, as left-leaning councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) put it, is the direct result of the necessity of leadership created by a mayor lacking vision, moral authority or a solid attendance record at city hall.

Into that void steps Stintz, fulfilling her role as TTC chair with a plan and some staggering numbers. $30 billion. Six subway lines. 10 LRT lines. 5 bus and streetcar lines. $180 per year in property taxes for the average household over the next 26 years (phased in over four years).

Naturally, there are flaws and this process will have immense obstacles.

It needs equal investment from the federal and provincial governments, hardly sure things when their word of the year is ‘austerity’.

The map, already a very political document (of course) will have councillors try to graft on further squiggles that will lead to further squabbles.

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby (Etobicoke Centre, Ward 4) will insist on the Eglinton Crosstown to be underground from Scarlett Rd. to Martingrove. Councillor Peter Milczyn (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ward 5) asked today where the western leg of the downtown relief line and western Bloor-Danforth extension were, adding that he prefers to wait until October to hear from staff.

Councillors Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) and Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre) will wonder whether too much of this is an expensive sop to suburban councillors.

Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) will use the occasion to advocate for a sales tax, and Norm Kelly (Scarborough-Agincourt, Ward 40) might even join her.

People will worry about all sorts of things: paying for the unfunded operating costs, the most effective funding methods (like parking taxes), the wisdom of building a subway between Yonge and Spadina along Sheppard when geologists say that’s not possible and how Toronto can pull all this off without the mayor’s support.

While these concerns are well placed, One City is not meant to be immutable. Like a constitution, it speaks more to a framework of aspirations than a detailed model going forward. In this case dissent to that plan is the entropy of progress; the healthy and messy part that demonstrates why the process is worthwhile.

Despite all this, the key is Toronto has something to talk and get excited about. It finally has a holistic vision for the TTC that has an attached funding model (albeit just for capital). And it got to this point in spite of the mayor, not because of him (Yesterday the mayor toured a beer factory, looked at a caterpillar, and didn’t go to Pride’s police reception.)

So here we are, at the start of a transit journey and not entirely sure what the destination will be. And that’s OK, because unlike Doug Ford’s earlier statement, we finally have a conversation on how to get there.

guestily submitted by David Hains


Advised: Radio Silence

June 12, 2012

So when does any publicity become bad publicity?

The thought came to me while listening to Sunday’s The City radio show with Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford. “Well, you’re married to the Pollack,” brother Dougie said to Rob during their conversation about the Euro Cup. “A term of affection,” the mayor said later, responding to his brother’s apology for using the term which he claimed not to know was derogatory. All would be forgiven in Fordland later over polish sausages and pierogies watching some soccer at the mayor’s house.

Would that be the case, however, outside the family circle?

With The City, Mayor Ford has been given an even bigger bully pulpit than the already impressive one the mayor of Canada’s biggest city inherently possesses. Every week he gets to expound on his political views, his council pet peeves and his one true passion, sports. Except for the last topic, he goes largely unchallenged, tolerating little dissent from any callers who have the temerity to chime in with opposing opinions and filling the guest list with like-minded councillor colleagues.

Why, for example, after last week’s bizarre plastic bag debate at council, didn’t the mayor invite the culprit behind the ban motion, Councillor David Shiner, on to the show to have a further debate on the issue? Maybe he did and the councillor declined. Who knows? But surely one of the 24 councillors the mayor named who voted in favour of the ban was willing to come on the show to discuss the matter.

Instead we got plastic bag loving and part time Ford foe, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby phoning it in. This, despite the fact, as my colleague Cityslikr pointed out to me, Councillor Lindsay Luby was the real impetus behind the ban when she brought up Seattle as a city that does not charge anything for plastic bags, having been there recently, shopping. You’re right, councillor. Seattle no longer charges for plastic bags, its bid to do so overturned on an election proposition. So as of July 1st, the city will ban plastic bags outright. Councillor Shiner saw that memo passed around council chambers during the debate and ran with it.

Ooops. No matter. The councillor and brothers Ford prattled on, talking up all the benefits of plastic bags and fielding calls from listeners who felt the same.

In the show’s previous iteration, originally helmed by Councillor Josh Matlow, there was an actual attempt to discuss municipal matters from the basic left-right dynamic with the host in the role as the moderate centre. Sure, the set-up was a little cutesy but it brought a substantive dialogue to City Hall proceedings in a much more inclusive way than its bastard offspring. The City versus The City as seen through the Ford brothers’ eyes.

And it is a very narrow, skewed perspective, one that includes ethnic slurs as family nicknames, it seems. If the idea behind getting the Fords a wider audience through a 2 hour, weekly radio show was to circumvent the other, less friendly forms of media in town and get their message out there, unfiltered, the negative repercussions to such increased exposure were probably never fully considered. In the hands of a truly media savvy public figure, there might not be much of a downside but to the gaffe prone, like our mayor and his even gaffier happy brother?

Maybe the constant reminder of just how ill-informed the mayor is on almost every subject outside of sports serves to shore up the basest of his base. He’s just one of us! Maybe the regular placing of a foot in the mouth endears them to those who don’t care for the slick, knowledge based type of politician. As a then councillor, Rob Ford’s regular appearances on AM640’s The John Oakley Show show established his brand and helped develop an audience that followed him to the polls on his quest to be mayor. Maybe Team Ford hopes to keep that loyalty alive and kicking through to 2014.

But is it possible to have too much of a bad thing? While little quirks of character might be endearing in small doses, serving them up in weekly helpings could eventually get tiresome even to the most devoted of fans. “Did he really just say that?” is the response radio shock jocks aim for but is it the sort of result a mayor of Toronto seeks? Despite the emphasis during Sunday’s show on the plastic bag ban and subways, subways, subways, what lingers is The Polock, and brother Doug’s search for an appropriately WASPy soccer team to root for.

Yep folks, them thar’s our mayors, warts and all.

It’s hard to believe that such a continued assault on common sense and common decency can be parlayed into a winning re-election formula. These personality tics often do work when a candidate campaigns as an outsider but after 4 years of being the most powerful elected official in Toronto? It suggests a failure to grow into your role and can only remind voters that they may have miscalculated when they cast a ballot for you the first time around.

wonderingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Keep Your Seatbelts Fastened

May 28, 2012

Politics in Toronto right now is how I imagine it feels to be on an airplane when the engines shut down in midflight. It’s not yet a catastrophic failure. Nothing’s on fire. You can’t smell smoke. You are, in fact, gliding, maintaining enough altitude to convince yourself and the hysterical man sitting beside you that everything’s fine, just a glitch. No need to shit your pants at the moment.

You keep repeating Captain Sully Sullenberger’s name over and over again in your head, and remember Air Transat Flight 236, that fuelless Airbus that landed in one piece in the Azores. Besides, what are the chances of your actually dying in an airplane crash? Infinitesimally low. Don’t panic. Everything’s going to be A-OK.

As everybody’s pointed out by now — the latest observation coming from Matt Elliott — Team Ford has moved beyond autopilot at this juncture, and simply switched the engines off, it would seem. Sitting back to enjoy the view, they appear confident that they can re-engage the system in about 18 months and coast smoothly into re-election mode. In the meantime, it’s all, Look, ma! No hands!!

But I have to say, watching the mayor in inaction lately makes me wonder why on earth he’d want to win again in 2014. He really doesn’t appear to be enjoying the job. Why would he inflict another 4 years on himself?

I know the working theory.

The mayor and his councillor-brother are already hard at it, kicking into campaign mode, and preparing to back a slate of pro-Ford candidates that, once installed, will make governing much easier for Mayor Ford. A simple clapping of the hands and His Worship’s will will be done. Just a few more Vincent Crisantis and a few fewer Gloria Lindsay Lubys and we will be truly a Ford Nation Toronto, united under fealty to the Emperor of Etobicoke.

It’s this kind of magical thinking, I believe, that has suspended the mayor in animation at this point. It was all going to be so easy. City Hall didn’t have a revenue problem, it had a spending problem. Stop the spending. Stop taxing. Everything would be gravy(less). Only some sort of career politician not looking out for the little guy would make it more complicated than that.

“You can’t run a government if you hate government,” John Moore wrote in the National Post a couple months ago. Or, in riff on the old H.L. Mencken nugget, you provide clear, simple and wrong answers to complex problems. This isn’t rocket science, folks. This isn’t the private sector. It’s government. How hard could it possibly be?

As the mayor is discovering, yeah, it’s pretty hard. So he’s retreated back into his own little cocoon, hoping for a more favourable roll of the dice, councillor-wise, in a couple years. Then, you’ll see, it’ll be a snap.

Leaving us to do what?

While Mayor Ford and his brother air their views and policy initiatives on their weekly radio show, their once surprisingly formidable team has dwindled to a few unreliable courtiers. Those who still believe do so in a way that is seldom helpful to the cause. I mean, if your movement depends on the likes of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong to provide the voice of reason and sound judgement, clearly there’s some sort of engine problems.

For others, it’s now blatantly just a marriage of convenience. No pressing the ejector seat, pulling the ripcord and parachuting to safety because you’re either too lazy, too unsure how this is all still going to play out or too in love with your committee chair position to risk losing it due to mayoral ire. So you quietly go about your business working matters out with councillors Mayor Ford isn’t in the habit of dealing with, hoping that whatever it is you’re working on has long since disappeared down the mayor’s disinterest hole.

The fact is, getting past ‘the mandate’ the mayor got in his ‘landslide’ election in 2010, he was among very few politicians elected municipally to have much of that Tea Party sensibility. The Fords. The Deputy Mayor. The Budget Chief. The Speaker. The afore-mentioned councillors Minnan-Wong and Crisanti.

After that?

As angry as 47% of voters in Toronto were in 2010, few of them hated government as much as they hated the government Rob Ford successfully convinced them had been in control down at City Hall during his time there. Now that the curtain’s been pulled back, revealing nothing more to it than a dyspeptic, dystopian view of government in general that’s fetidly percolated in the psyche of our mayor, his has become a lonely vigil. How exactly do you maintain anti-government momentum toward a government you ostensibly lead? It defies the laws of physics, even electoral physics. (Yes, such a thing exists.)

The best thing councillors could be doing right now, especially those who Team Ford will be targeting in 2014 (and you know who you are), is to govern well. Show your constituents and the city that government is not inherently evil, unhelpful or whatever other term of derision the mayor and his brother will throw at it. Government can only be bad when it governs badly which this administration is doing currently. The surest way to help the mayor now would be to continue to enable him, expending energy propping him up and pretending he’s become anything but political dead weight.

Time to remove the mayor and his brother from the cockpit and switch from auto-pilot over to co-pilot.

flight attendantly submitted by Cityslikr


No Girls Allowed

May 24, 2012

Can I tell you something?

Sitting in the audience at last night’s decidedly un-sausagefest panel discussion, The Comments Section, brought to fruition by the relatively new to the scene Women in Toronto Politics group (#WiTOpoli), I found myself feeling very much the bystander… bysitter? My Blackberry deliberately stuffed into my back pocket, it wasn’t a discussion for me to participate in. I came to listen.

Not owing to any sense of condescending chivalry or politeness but, frankly, it mostly had to do with my surprise this conversation even needed to be aired. The talk wasn’t directly about the obstinately immoveable low numbers of women actively pursuing a career in politics although that problem certainly bubbled below the surface of much of what was being said. The evening’s main topic was the low percentage of women finding space to have their views on  municipal politics heard, clogged up as it is by those of us possessing penises. (No, that word didn’t come up. I just used it because I don’t get to very often especially in its plural form.)

Come on, I thought to myself. We’re talking about the wide open world of social media here, the Twitter and Facebook, the blog-o-sphere. Why, even I, an outsider to the world of local Toronto politics, just sat down and started to read, watch and write about it, and two and a half years later, here I am, having reached, well, not dizzying heights but I’ve made a name for myself. I mean, Councillor Josh Matlow knows who I am and, apparently, he doesn’t care for my work.

This is as democratic as it gets, ladies. Meritocracy rules. If you can’t make it here, you won’t make it anywhere.

Of course, in the microcosm that is Toronto politics, we now have a mayor, the scion of wealth and privilege casting himself as the underdog during his successful campaign run, the down-to-earth feller who just wanted to be mayor so he could look out for the little guy. (No, not that one. The actual little guy. I mean, I think that’s what he meant.)

If a rich and, arguably, the whitest of white guys can winningly embrace the mantel of the triumphant outsider, what room does that leave for those who are actually on the outside? Guy claiming to be powerless railing against a guy in power. Sort of a variation on cock blocking. Keep it down a bit, girls. Can’t you see we’re fighting amongst ourselves here?

The hyper-testosterone driven aggressiveness of the current administration probably also contributes greatly to the boys’ clubbiness of the political atmosphere. From the get-go, the language and attitude has been confrontational, regularly descending into little more than a pissing match between supporters and opponents. With a War always going on about something or other, it’s hard not to see a men’s game at play.

Now I’m not crazy for the… a-hem… a-hem… broad gender generalizations. I know as many outspoken and feisty women who like a good knock `em down and drag `em out debate as I do soft-spoken and reticent men. So I wouldn’t say that the tenor of the political discourse in Toronto has kept some women on the sidelines. But perhaps the tone has.

I’ve been referred to nastily in various ways over the course of my time at TOpoli. Never, however, has my gender been attacked. You fucking guy doesn’t quite have the same personal sting as you fucking bitch. Too many times have I seen gender become an issue in the heated debates that flame up on social media sites. Gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity.

All problems with which Mayor Ford has stumbled over during his 12 years in public office. So it’s not taking a big leap to suggest his attitude has fostered an antagonistic straight white male mindset into our politics. More malignantly, an aggrieved antagonistic straight white male mindset that lashes out at any demand to think more inclusively.

And his female troubles are especially pronounced. His Executive Committee is heavily male dominated. One of the two females on it, Councillor Jaye Robinson, has announced she’s stepping down at the end of the year and, if she’s not replaced by another women – it’s difficult to see who’d willing step into her spot at this point of time – there will be one woman on the committee.

Not only that, but in the last election the Ford campaign targeted a number of sitting councillors for defeat, three of whom were women. Councillors Maria Augimeri, Gloria Lindsay Luby and former councillor Suzan Hall who they did help unseat and replace with a Ford friendly face Vincent Crisanti. That would be Mister Vincent Crisanti.

I think it’s safe to say that Ford Nation is not terribly female friendly. While that hopefully will inspire some pushback activism, it also creates, I would imagine, something of a hostile work environment for those women willing to step into the fray. It’s one thing to dedicate time and effort into a cause with the expectations of a spirited and vigorous debate but another thing altogether to find ugliness lurking under every bridge you cross.

It would be foolish, however, for me to lay the blame solely at the feet of the Ford administration for the barriers women are feeling in getting heard around these parts. By not recognizing them myself, I help keep the obstacles in place. Even this post I write hesitatingly for fear of appropriating their terrain and horning in on the action Women in Toronto Politics are attempting to generate.

But I do believe there’s plenty of space at the table for new players, lots of ground still to be tilled. Regardless of who’s in the mayor’s office, Toronto is facing problems and opportunities that cannot be solved or taken advantage of using old methods of thinking or ways of seeing things. Putting new wine into new wineskins and all that.

So if you’re out there, reading this, wondering if it’s worth the effort. From my protected harbour of white maleness, let me assure you it is. And I offer you space here if you want to test the waters, see how it feels or just simply want to get something off your chest and have nowhere else to do so at the moment. It is a humble offer, no remuneration and not tons of eyeballs but it is a friendly place. It is a start in the right direction.

manly submitted by Cityslikr