Still Undecided

March 13, 2014

I know what you’re thinking.

Olivia Chow’s in the race to be mayor of Toronto. She’s got his vote.notsofast

It’s true.

She was my city councillor until 2006. She was my MP until yesterday. I voted for her every time there was an opportunity.

But my vote on October 27th is not a given.

Here’s what Olivia Chow in her campaign to be mayor of Toronto has to do to ensure my vote.

She has to embrace every aspect of her progressivism and repudiate everything that the current mayor, Rob Ford, stands for. There is nothing, nothing, of this mayor’s record that should be embraced or applauded. His 3+ years in office have been an unmitigated disaster for this city. listofmydemandsMs. Chow must not miss any opportunity to point that out.

I do not want to hear hedged talk or cautious goals. I want a full, warm embrace of real city building, an acknowledgment of the responsibilities we have to make Toronto a healthier, more sustainable, more equitable place to live. I don’t want to see any ducking away from the inevitable epithets thrown in her direction, that have already been trotted out in expectation of her entrance into the race. Tax-and-spender. Yeah? What of it? That’s what people elect politicians to do. Tax fairly. Spend wisely.

While I recognize Ms. Chow was only around for a part of David Miller’s tenure in office and she could try and keep her distance from his record, I’ll become suspicious if she does so. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially in light of what’s come later. In fact, now is the time to set that record straight. That we were never on the precipice of fiscal ruin. That we weren’t being nickel-and-dimed to death by overly onerous taxation. whatareyougoingtodo1That the gravy train was nothing more than an effective campaign concoction.

Olivia Chow also needs to come right out of the gate with a realistic transit plan that is not designed to mollify parochial concerns. As the federal transportation critic for the NDP, she was conspicuously silent during the last Scarborough subway debate. Perhaps she felt it wasn’t her fight to fight. Now it is. How she proceeds on this issue will go a long way to how I wind up casting my ballot.

As a left of centre voter my support should not be taken for granted or assumed to have nowhere else to go.

With only one declared major candidate on the left right now, the other contenders realize they have to chip away at that base if any of them have a hope to win this time around. They have to roll out their progressive cred, as it were. allearsWoo those voters who aren’t yet or never will be able to bring themselves to vote for an NDP labeled candidate.

I will be listening to their pitch too.

Truthfully, I’ve already ruled out Mayor Ford and Councillor Karen Stintz. Neither one of them has shown any progressive stripes while in office. John Tory makes a big stink of his red Tory politics but certainly coming out of the gate he’s shown off none of that, relying so far on flying monkey attacks on Chow’s fiscal record and alleged use of public resources to kick off her mayoral campaign. You can’t team up with the dark side and not expect to collect any of that dirt on you.

That leaves David Soknacki so far as the reasonable voice of the centre-right big name contenders. He’s certainly made meaningful announcements about the Scarborough subway and transit file. I’ll wait patiently to see what else he has to say and the policies he rolls out. (I’m even prepared to overlook his first serious gaffe, yesterday uttering some divisive suburban vs. urban nonsense to greet Ms. Chow’s entry into the campaign). It’s a long race. caucusraceThere’s no need to decide on anyone yet.

And don’t forget. I’m not afraid to cast a ballot on a long, long, long shot, doing so in 2010 on Himy Syed. While the stakes seem higher this election, we now know exactly what damage can be done and not what damage may be done, I will not be beholden to voting strategically and settling for a lesser of two evils. I’d really like to go out and vote without holding my nose and believing I was making a positive contribution to Toronto’s future.

That possibility exists currently. Let’s cross our fingers and hope it stays that way.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


On Your Right

February 25, 2014

Imagine this.ptahasdisbanded

Councillors Shelley Carroll, Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam all join Olivia Chow as candidates for mayor of Toronto in 2014.

OMG! would come the anguished cry from anyone and everybody on the centre-left of the political spectrum. They’re splitting the vote! This’ll guarantee [fill in your right of centre candidate of choice here] the mayor’s office. Catastrophe!

Yet here we are, two high profile conservative candidates, Councillor Karen Stintz and John Tory, entered the mayoral race yesterday in a bid against ultra-right wing Mayor Rob Ford, joining self-declared moderate right wing candidate David Soknacki in what has become a very, very crowded field on the right.

Where are the alarm bells from the respective conservative camps?

crowdedfieldI’m trying to run the numbers here and I just don’t get it.

In 2010, Rob Ford was the only credible (and I’m using that word very specifically in this situation) conservative candidate still operational at the finish line, and he garnered 47% of the vote. Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to say, few on the left were truly content with their options but yet, between the two of them, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone, they came in with over 46%. The slightest of cracks on the right and this thing’s wide open. What we’re looking at now is more like multiple fractures.

Not only does one of these candidates need to get a solid majority of conservative voters in under their tent but they have to do so while attracting at least a chunk of progressive voters. Moderate, will be the pose in the hopes that enough people are tired of the turmoil that’s come with the current administration. Crackless conservatism, let’s call it.

Still.

What’s the calculation for the percentage of crazy plus the power of incumbency Mayor Ford will have going for him? fordnationGiven the kind of name recognition the mayor possesses, not necessarily all favourable, what’s the number you write off as unassailably Ford? Just how potent is Ford Nation?

Disregard the 42% he’s regularly clocked in at Forum Research polls. Favourability does not equate into reliable voter intention. 30%? 25%? 20%?

Any of those types of numbers from Mayor Ford this time around dooms the conservative cause. Even at the low end, that would mean Soknacki, Stintz or Tory would have to take the rest of the right of centre vote and nearly all of Smitherman’s numbers from last time out in the hopes of winning it all. So a collapse of conservative votes into two uneven camps and scooping every centrist and soft left supporter to boot. Not undoable but certainly a tall order.

Traditionally, mayoral elections in Toronto have ultimately come down to two candidate races. Over the long haul of 10 months, the field gets winnowed down, attrition takes its toll. slicingupthepieIt wouldn’t be surprising to see something like the 2010 campaign pattern emerge again this year. The third place finisher, say Mayor Ford, holding on to his 10-20% rabid followers. The top two, one, a redder shade of blue, the other, deep, deep red, vying for the remaining, 75-85% of voters.

But this time around, we got some big names duking it out, much bigger names than four years ago. More money behind them. Better organizations. I’d argue that even the truly unknown candidate, David Soknacki, has a higher name recognition than 2010’s two fall by the waysiders, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thompson. Looking for an early knockout may not be a sound strategy.

So in the early stages of this campaign, every declared candidate needs to stake out their conservative ground and then paint their opponents who aren’t Rob Ford as further left than they are (and I’ll exclude David Soknacki from that assertion as he seems busy just defining who he is as a candidate). splitvoteSo Karen Stintz and John Tory immediately state their subway preferences (because true conservatives believe in only subways as a viable form of public transit) and their adherence to the low taxes that will magically pay to build them. Expressing otherwise is pretty much Bolshevism.

“Karen Stintz says she’s worried about pendulum swing back to NDP government,” CTV’s Natalie Johnson tweeted after the councillor had registered to run. “Says Toronto has had enough of that.”

“There is no such thing as right of centre,” Mayor Ford told the press later in the day. Only the mayor and everybody else who is two steps left of Stalin. Right is not right. Right is right, if you get what the mayor’s trying to get at.

Nothing to see here, folks. Just a bunch of mayoral candidates, touting conservative values. If we are all right of centre, then right of centre ceases to be a defined position. It simply is the place from which everyone campaigns from.

Of course, the possibility exists that once a truly progressive candidate emerges, and if only one emerges, the optics of everyone together on stage or in a television studio might be that they are the odd one out. badnumbers1Four right of centre candidates versus one from the left. The power of numbers, suggesting, giving more legitimacy to the majority view. The left of centre pushed out to the fringes, not to be taking seriously.

Even if that were to happen, the scenario still exists of four candidates vying for enough of the electoral slice of the pie to put one of them over the top. Vote splitting, in other words. There are only so many conservative votes to go around. The real battle this year might not be for the mayor’s office but for a workable slice of the 383,501 votes Rob Ford had all to himself in 2010.

You do the math.

by the numbersly submitted by Cityslikr


Behind Blue Eyes

October 29, 2013

You’d think that after nearly 4 years of watching Rob Ford full time, saywhat1I’d be immune to the charms, let’s call them, of his presentation, let’s call it. His inability to put together any sort of coherent thought that hasn’t been drilled into his consciousness by simple word messaging. His monumental awkwardness under the spotlight that he so obviously craves. His childlike wonder at childlike things.

“The haunted house is the best. It’s the best!”

Yet I am.

Or at least, I am captivated by the continued appeal the mayor has on what remains a rock solid base of voters in Toronto. What do they see and approve of when they watch Mayor Ford in action at yesterday’s press conference outside his haunted office? When I watch him verbally fumble and mumble, bouncing from one cliché to another, playing fast and loose with the truth, I see someone in way over his head, glistening in flop sweat. lookinthemirror4What do those who still think he’s there looking out for the little guy, uncomfortable speaking publicly because he’s not a professional politician although he’s been one for the past 13 years see?

Themselves reflected in him, all honourable intentions but with the rough edges that prove his lack of affectation?

If that’s the case, do they share the same point of view about politics and democracy as the mayor does? That it’s all nothing more than a game, a little rough and tumble, a blood sport that’s only about winners and losers. Keep your head up and my taxes low, yo.

Facing his first official, big name opponent (sorry David Soknacki, you’re not a big name yet) for next year’s election campaign, all the mayor could spout was sports vernacular, and not just sports but heavy duty contact sports. No thrust and parry of the foppy French for Mayor Ford, no siree. It was all about clearing the bench, dropping the puck and dropping the gloves and keeping your chin strap tight.

In fact, sports had very little to do with it. It was all about combat, pure and simple. Rock `em, sock `em politics. Keep your head up and elbows sharp, boys. There Will Be Blood.

It’s the triumph of brawn over brains. A battle of ideas?! Fuck that. That’s for eggheads. marquisofqueensburyMan up, grow a pair and get into the ring, motherfuckers.

I get the visceral appeal, I do. I was a 14 year old boy once too. Full of raging testosterone and a passionate desire (if limited ability) to pummel opponents and smite my perceived enemies. Lay waste to all who stood in my way.

Eventually, my teenage years behind me, I realized that I wasn’t ever going to be a professional athlete. Maintaining such a pugnacious approach might just be counter-productive in regular society. Seeing the world through such an us-versus-them, with me or against me, Manichean lens would be ultimately limiting.

Now, I’m not Pollyannish enough to believe that politics has ever been played by Marquis of Queensberry rules, wearing kids’ gloves. It is not for the faint of heart. I get it. The object is to win in order to be able to deliver up your ideas and platform in the service of bettering the lives of those you get elected to represent.lookinthemirror3

That’s different than simply winning for winning’s sake. It’s one thing to be competitive. An another thing entirely wanting nothing less than to obliterate your opponents – no, enemies – to destroy them, to slash their throats, steal their wallets and leave them bleeding in the gutter.

That’s not competitive. That’s sociopathic. Or psychopathic. I’m never sure what the difference is between those two. Either one is not good, not healthy for politics or democracy.

There’s nothing wrong with backing a winning candidate, in seeing your interests represented by them in office. It’s just a little dispiriting to think that a significant bloc of Torontonians are drawn into the process out of some sense of blood lust and a desire to inflict damage on those who don’t agree with them. Take No Prisoners may be a great motivating battle cry in a locker room during half time but it leaves civic life a little ragged, mean-spirited and unproductive.

the Wholly submitted by Cityslikr


That Time In The Election Cycle Already?

October 28, 2013

In yesterday’s news some yesterday’s news grabbed some Sunday headlines. Karen Stintz to run for Mayor.

You don’t say.theresasurprise

Nobody didn’t see that coming.

So a full year to the very day, the 2014 municipal mayoral campaign unofficially officially began for someone other than Mayor Ford who’s basically been campaigning since about 2012. I mean, for someone other than David Soknacki who publicly announced his probable intentions to run for the mayor’s office but isn’t actually being treated as a someone just yet. Of course, Olivia Chow’s in the mix too but humbly demurs at any mention of a possible bid next year despite, apparently, having lined up some big guns to run her nonexistent campaign team.

So the chattering has begun, playing out various scenarios about tactics, vote splits, blood sport, dirty pool. And, of course, the months and months and months of tiresome will he/won’t he speculation about the possibility of John Tory entering the race. crystalballNo Toronto mayoral campaign would be complete without it.

The thing is – and I say this with all due respect to those already knee deep in conjecture and theoretical electoral guesswork including yours truly – in the, I don’t know, 363 days or so between today and the election, there’s a very high probability the ground will have shifted dramatically. If history is anything to go by, the terrain will be nearly unrecognizable. Ask George Smitherman how much the fall of 2010 looked like it would back when he was organizing his run in 2009. Ditto John Tory in the lead up to the 2003 campaign.

And let’s face it, there’s never really been this degree of unknowns going into an election as there are right now especially with an incumbent in place and so raring to go. As much as we might despair/rejoice about the seeming Teflon nature of Mayor Ford, to think there aren’t more land mines just waiting to detonate around him before now and next October just seems implausible. A year out, rushing in with the view of Mayor Ford being your main opponent could be a huge waste of political capital and time.

Besides, it just plays right into the mayor’s wheelhouse of all campaigning, all the time. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s good at. downanddirtyWhy extend an already prolonged campaign period that Mayor Ford has been trying to stretch out for more than a year now?

Get down there in the muck and goo and start to mix it up so we can divert our attention from more important issues that constitute matters of good governance. That yucky policy stuff that the mayor and his staff so assiduously avoid dealing with. We’ve known since 2010, and the administration has missed no opportunity to remind us, that democracy is about nothing more than elections. Win it and the ball is yours for the next 4 years to play with however you see fit.

A mandate, folks. It’s never too early to start demanding a mandate.

As usual, such fireworks will hog the spotlight. Election dogfights are much easier to follow and analyse than, say, matters of policy. hohum2So, the sooner, the better, am I right? To use the mayor’s analogy, no time like the present to “… jump over the boards and drop the gloves to fight.”

So, you know what?

Let them go at it but let’s stop immediately jumping up in gleeful excitement at each big campaign 2014 announcement, every blow that’s landed and then trying to read the tea leaves about what it all means. Those gearing up for the grind have to be preparing already. Let them. It doesn’t mean we have to follow along with every twist and turn. There’s going to be a lot of twists and turns over the next 12 months.

In the meantime, there’s still a city to run.

 — disinterestedly submitted by Cityslikr


Only Sure Thing Is There’s Never A Sure Thing

September 27, 2013

The sounds of much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth could be heard this week in reaction to John Lorinc’s Spacing piece, noooooooSubway Nation rises again. “There’s little doubt,” Mr. Lorinc writes, “that this long-awaited federal contribution marks a check mate move for Mayor Rob Ford. Barring a criminal charge relating to Project Traveller, he will walk away with next year’s race…”

Hmmm.

I’m hoping Mr. Lorinc states that as some sort of heads-up warning shot, a little chin music to stiffen the resolve of those grown complacent, thinking the mayor’s political future will destruct under his own volition. Focus, people! This bad dream isn’t over yet.

He’s too astute an observer of the political scene here in Toronto to honestly believe that statement. That this particular moment in time, more than 13 months before the actual election, will prove to be the defining moment in securing the mayor his re-election. This transit situation has been too fluid to imagine a sudden hardening in place. chinmusicAnd Mayor Ford, well, he hasn’t shown himself to be the best in protecting leads.

Here’s a politician who took an electoral mandate in 2010 and trampled his way to surprise success for the first year of his term before squandering it with a potent mixture of hubris, over-reach and chest-beating triumphalism. Since that time, he’s established that he can take a punch like George Chuvalo, Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. He has a solid base that hasn’t abandoned him yet. But that’s about the extent of it. Now suddenly, he’s snatched the ring from Frodo and has an undefended line straight to Mordor?

I think already this week since the fed’s announcement of funding for the Scarborough subway and Lorinc’s Spacing article, some loose threads have shown along the hemline of Mayor Ford’s cloak of invincibility.

The $660 million in federal funding seemed to secure the certainty of the city’s Scarborough subway proposal to replace the LRT. It also immediately exposed city council’s need to come up with nearly a billion dollars of its own to put some skin in the game as many of the subway’s supporters like to say. georgchuvalo(For a crazy good analysis of the full costs of the Scarborough subway, David Hains’ post in the Torontoist is a must read. Click now. Go, read it. I’ll still be here when you get back.)

Back in July when council precipitated this whole transit fiasco, Mayor Ford would only agree to a .25% property tax increase to be dedicated to the Scarborough subway which, everybody else knew even in the best case scenario of funding from other levels of government, was woefully inadequate. It seems the mayor is holding tightly to that number despite the obvious shortfall.

So when city council meets next month to debate the issue, the mayor is either going to have to champion the subway but go on record as being not willing to pay for it or he is going to have to get behind a higher property tax increase. That one’s going to be tough because, while Mr. Lorinc suggests that subways were “the centre piece plank in his 2010 platform”, I don’t remember it quite that way.

Rob Ford’s centre piece plank in his 2010 campaign platform for mayor was about money. robfordsuperheroTransit was a hastily drawn up throw in when the campaign team realized his candidacy was actually being taken seriously. He was the numbers guy, stopping the gravy train, representing the little guy tired of being nickel and dimed to death with tax increases and money grab fees.

Now he’s going to hold the subway trophy above his head in 2014 and tell Ford Nation, oh yeah, about those additional property tax increases?

I get the concern that logic and reason don’t always apply to the supporters of Mayor Ford. Cognitive dissonance and magical thinking tend to be a way of life. But, come on, every house of cards eventually collapses.

On top of which, recent polls suggest that the subway preference in Scarborough isn’t nearly as maniacal as its most ardent supporters insist it is. shellgame1Already soft, what happens when the true costs, ridership numbers, coverage become a campaign issue? When voters are being inundated with what they’re getting versus what they’re giving up?

This goes right to the matter of the mayor’s slam dunk re-election. Much of that supposition rests on the belief with both the mayor’s supporters and biggest detractors that somehow 2014 will play out just like 2010. That the 47% of votes he collected in 2010 are somehow an unmoveable bloc. That the power of incumbency will only play a positive role. That Mayor Ford will face no serious opposition in a candidate a plurality of Torontonian can rally around.

While I’m uncomfortable making any sort of prediction about an elections that’s still more than a year away, I will confidently suggest 2010 will be nothing like 2014.

Take former Scarborough councillor David Soknacki’s open musings about running for mayor. dejavuA pro-LRT, right of centre suburban candidate with past experience but no office to have to give up to run full tilt right to the end. How rock solid is Mayor Ford’s support to withstand an attack from not one of the usual suspects who is constantly calling into question the mayor’s fiscal credibility?

More than that, let’s atomize next year’s race down to the council level. What happens when Scarborough councillors running for re-election outside of the immediate area where a subway might be beneficial get assailed by opponents pointing out that their constituents are getting none of the pluses while paying their share of the costs? The Norm Kellys. The Mike Del Grandes. The Michelle Berardinettis. Paul Ainslies and Gary Crawfords.

Beyond Scarborough, what do incumbents in York, North York and Etobicoke tell their voters about asking them to pay additional property taxes for a subway that in no way will help them. In fact, it’ll probably set their transit needs back decades. hediditAnswer me that, Councillor Vincent Crisanti in Rexdale. Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti, Frances Nunziata and Anthony Perruzza in York. Councillors Mark Grimes and Peter Milczyn in Mimico. Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio. Budget. Chief.

Campaigned on just the right way, the Scarborough subway could fracture this whole suburban as one myth that everyone seems to have accepted as fact based on just the past election.

From a transit perspective, the Scarborough subway is nothing but bad news. But I also fail to see how it’s all good news for Mayor Ford’s re-election chances. The electoral landscape may’ve changed, it’s just far too early to tell to whose advantage.

wobbly submitted by Cityslikr