The Wrong Fight For The Wrong Reason

August 2, 2013

So the 5 Ontario summer by-elections are over, and the ruling Liberal party has been humbled vindicated ignored tickertapeand nothing has changed everything has changed oh, I’m sorry, there were by-elections at Queen’s Park.

The Liberals remain in power and voters are now demanding an immediate general election praying to god we don’t have to go through such a depressing experience again for at least a few months couldn’t care a less.

What we do know, here in this city is that Mayor Ford and his councillor-brother Doug campaigned hard did as much work as they normally do for the winning losing Progressive Conservative party candidate in Etobicoke-Lakeshore Doug Holyday in particular, and the provincial PCs in general. The Tories remain in opposition, emboldened deflated by the results of the by-election, in no more control of the situation in the legislature than they were before the campaigns began. The fate of the government is still in the hands of rewritingthe NDP Green Party who stunned everyone by winning all five by-elections yesterday.

As the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat pointed out, the mayor really made no friends with the Liberals over the course of the last month or so, despite having a mutual love of subways. He took shots at them at every opportunity and made awkward kissy noises with the NDP in a naked attempt to promote vote splitting in the non-Tory vote. You see, Mayor Ford is a dyed-in-the-wool Progressive Conservative. That’s his team. The original blue, folks.

Party Family comes first for politicians like Rob Ford. The job he was elected to do merely an outcome, a result of his politics. Besides, as we’ve learned over the course of the last 3 and a half years, the mayor much prefers campaigning to actually governing. There are no responsibilities like keeping your promises, no consequences to not doing so. It’s just about winning or losing. All so simple. Just like football. Or hockey.

But in this particular game, there are implications to the mayor so blatantly taking sides.

What now of the extra $400 million he’s looking to the province for to build his Scarborough subway? bloodsportWhat possible reason would they have to play nice with him? If they took it on the chin yesterday especially to the PCs benefit, I’m pretty sure the post-mortem isn’t going to be they were not Rob Ford-friendly enough. They lost because their own supporters failed to show up, unimpressed with many things but certainly none of them had to do with being too unfriendly to our mayor.

And if the Liberals weren’t knocked back on their heels? If Tim Hudak’s PC party didn’t step up and assume its predicted rightful position as government in waiting? If our mayor was capable of any sort of self-awareness, well, oops.

Not only did he get all in the face of the government at Queen’s Park to no particular end aside from them being Liberal, it’s not far-fetched to think the mayor’s also further entrenched divisions at City Hall. What self-respecting Liberal sitting on council could now honestly believe that it’s anything other than the mayor’s way or the highway in terms of working with him? This isn’t news but it certainly should be a reality by now.disloyal

Card carrying Liberal party member Peter Milczyn has voted along with Mayor Ford more than 32 other councillors. On almost 9 out of every 10 big ticket issues as tracked by Matt Elliott, Councillor Milczyn backed the mayor, and for what? He’s a great guy, been a great chair of the… Planning and Transportation Planning and Growth Management Committee but, the mayor still very, very visibly campaigns against him.

Frankly, had Councillor Milczyn previously shown any evidence of possessing a backbone, I’d fully expect him to tender his resignation tomorrow morning today as chair of the…. Planning and Transportation Committee and member of the mayor’s Executive Committee. Mayor Ford and his brother showed the councillor absolutely no respect, refusing to simply stand this one out to allow two strong allies to battle with no outside intervention from the Ford family. losingticketBut with the 2014 municipal election just around the corner and Ford Nation lurking somewhere in the weeds out there…

Toronto should feel as equally betrayed by Mayor Ford who put party allegiance before his duty to represent the best interests of the city he was elected to lead. He’s declared himself an enemy of the provincial government who doesn’t appear now to be going away anytime soon. Wrong horse backed, we’re now all going to be paying for our mayor’s losing bet.

to showly submitted by Cityslikr


The Mayor’s True Colours

December 9, 2010

If you’re one of those people who think our city councillors are underworked and overpaid, I highly recommend that you attend a council meeting or two to disabuse you of such inaccurate notions. While just the tip of the iceberg of what their job description, meetings are grinds with as much, if not more, going on behind the scenes as what we see performed out in the open. Yes, you can point to the laggards, those not actively engaged and who would receive failing grades for class participation. I’d be willing to bet that for many of those, the parry and thrust of debate simply is not their forte. They excel in the multitude of other duties councillors are responsible for. And then there’s Cesar Palacio. I kid. I kid. I’m sure every council needs an invisible non-entity taking up space.

Council meetings can also be extraordinarily engrossing to witness. They’re like visual variations on the Pixies song structure. slowslowFASTFASTslowslowFASTslowFASTslowslow. Nothing happens. Nothing happens. Languor and stultifying boredom. Interminable talk about meal breaks. And then, the proposed schedule comes up for a vote and the seemingly innocuous ‘expedited budget process’ lying there within, suddenly mayhem breaks loose. Amendments start flying. Staff is summoned. Councillors scramble to and fro. Points of order demanded. Points of privilege taken. Rhubarb-rhubarb-rhuarb. Rhubarb-rhubarb-rhuarb. And then… calm. Repeat as many times as necessary. Vote. Adjourn.

Now it’s entirely possible that yesterday’s meeting was something of an anomaly. Uncharacteristically fraught with political machinations, the first skirmishes of a new council that has undergone a radical shift from centre-left to far right. Like a couple boxers in the early rounds of a fight, feeling each other out with jabs and some fancy footwork to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their opponents.

Opponents? you say. The election is over. City council should be a place where there is a coming together. A meeting of minds to hash out and seek to solve the problems of the city. Leave your partisanship at the door, buckos. Time to roll up your sleeves and get down to the business of building a better Toronto.

Well, no. While City Hall has never been free of politics (especially since amalgamation), this session is shaping up to take the discord to a whole new level. Starting with the executive committee and working down, senior posts in the Ford Administration are exclusively occupied by right wing councillors. More importantly, they are also almost entirely from the suburbs, meaning that on vital, big ticket matters like the police service and budget, there are no voices from downtown at the committee level. No geographic input for voters who didn’t hop aboard the anti-gravy train train.

And no, before you even try blurting it out, David Miller did not do the same thing (exhibit A: his 1st budget chief was a Scarborough councillor from the right of centre who supported Miller’s rival, John Tory in the 2003 election.) Neither did Mel Lastman so nakedly and insecurely pack his committees with such slavish loyalty for that matter.

On day 1, it worked for Mayor Ford. As he crowed to the Globe’s Kelly Grant, “We got everything we wanted.” Yep. Everything came up Ford on Thursday but not without some surprisingly strong pushback from a group of councillors led by Adam Vaughan, Gord Perks and Janet Davis over the ‘expedited budget process’ that the mayor is pushing, hidden within the council schedule proposal. When amendments were offered to give more time for council to sort through budget matters between scheduled meetings and to hear from the public, Team Ford scrambled hard to get just enough votes to send the amendments to the Executive Committee where they will in all likelihood die an ignominious death. A couple squeakers should give pause to the mayor’s machine that it just might not be as invincible as it thinks it is. Although, judging by the 5 hours or so I sat in council chambers, the mayor hasn’t surrounded himself with many of the reflective types.

No, the mayor’s team in council seems to consist of bitter ideologues more interested in exacting revenge for their exclusion from power during the Miller years than they are dealing with the problems of the city. In fact, a noticeable waft of anti-democracy hangs about them. During the debate over public input on the city budget, the Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, opined that deputations were largely for those wanting to get their face on cable television. Giorgio Mammoliti chided those councillors fighting for proper and extended public input for representing wards where their constituents were little more than public organizers. “The trouble with processes with lots of time in them, is that they allow people to organize,” the councillor griped. What?! The people organized! Well, that just won’t do.

All of which flies in the face of Mayor Ford’s open and transparent City Hall promise on the campaign trail. His ‘expedited budget process’ seems dodgy and unnecessary. Their claim of merely seeking to eventually shift it to a January 1st-December 31st timeline has as many minuses as it does pluses. The haste in wanting to get the budget wrapped up by the end of February (rather than the usual April) appears to be driven more by stealth than any sort of respect for the taxpayers.

Of course, that seems absolutely preposterous. Rob Ford campaigned on a platform of looking out for the little guy. Surely, his objective now that he’s in office wouldn’t be to exclude them from such an important civic matter as the budget. Because that would mean that within less than one council meeting, he’s already broken one of his main election platforms. Clearly, I must be jumping the gun.

stealthily submitted by Cityslikr


Despite Its Best Intentions CP24 Delivers The Debate Goods

August 18, 2010

In spite of its continued attempts to broadcast yet another substance-free televised debate last night, CP24 might just have inadvertently delivered one of those turning point moments that can define a campaign. Let’s not overlook the fact that it happened in Ben Mulroney’s absence. While not actually hard enough proof of cause and effect, I do think it’s worth conducting the experiment again with the next debate for further evidence. Do Toronto a favour, Ben, and stay home with the kids!

Although to be fair, it was apparently his grade school idea of picking names from a hat that delivered the seminal moment for me. If you haven’t been following along throughout the summer, each candidate picks another candidate’s name from a hat and asks them a question. Yeah, yeah. It is usually as lame as it sounds but last night Rocco Rossi had the great fortune of picking Rob Ford’s name and, surprisingly, he offered up a softball question that Ford, if he possessed an iota of sense amidst all the rage and indignation, could’ve/should’ve taken yard.

Rossi asked Ford to comment on a recent Toronto Sun article that suggested Ford didn’t single-handedly shepherd the Woodbine Live deal through council as he’s been spouting as an example of how he can work well with his colleagues and get votes passed. According to the rabidly pro-Ford rag, fellow Etobicoke councillor, Suzan Hall also had a hand in getting council unanimously on side. Here, Ford was handed the opportunity to reach out, seem collegial and show the city that he can play with others.

Instead, Rob Ford replied: “She had nothing to do with it. I was the one doing all the leg work.”

Yep. For the second time in a week, Ford’s gone out of his way to diminish, dismiss and generally kick in the slats everyone he works with. First, another councillor from Etobicoke and fiscal conservative soulmate, Doug Holyday, was paraded out to dejectedly state that maybe, just maybe, Ford shouldn’t call city council ‘corrupt’, at least not without some proof. And now this big fuck you to Suzan Hall.

So to you fanboys out there, trumpeting the ascension of Rob Ford and crowing about all the ass he’s going to kick and unions he’s going to bash and cyclists he’s going to run over, if your man gets elected, he’s going to be a mayor of one. All red faced and blustery, he’ll spend his time in office, stomping his feet and bellowing how he can’t get anything done, blaming everyone else but himself when the fact is, while pathological assholes who can’t work with others may be an asset when running an inherited business, it simply doesn’t fly at a non-political party municipal government level.

Oh, yeah. And there was that whole keeping newcomers out of Toronto thing that sprung up last night as well.

Now, I’m not going to call the racist card on Ford with this. I won’t even label him xenophobic because none of his followers will understand what the word means. What I will say is that his remarks in response to questions about the Tamil “migrants” on the west coast reveal a level of ignorance about urban demographic flow that no non-illiterate adult should possess. Like it or not, the world is becoming more and more ‘citified’, to use some hillbilly talk that seems highly appropriate, and we can’t or shouldn’t want to call a timeout so that we can make sure the house is all pur-dy for our guests’ arrival.

Spin all you want, Fordites, but it can’t mask the fact that you’re backing a talking horse who spouts Tea Party sentiments and everyone who signs on to the movement are simply porch sitting, AM radio listening, backwards looking Know-Nothings. What’s next? Building a fence around the city?

Despite that, there’s no reason to think that Rob Ford won’t be our next mayor. None of the other front running candidates are rising to match his simple-minded clarion call.

George Smitherman seems to be sharping his elbows and is starting to smother the talk of eHealth scandal and other provincial government nefariousness under his watch with a blanket of facts, figures and examples of positive things he oversaw. Now if somebody would just tell him that he doesn’t always need to use up every second of his allotted time. The more he talks, the more it becomes apparent that he’s not saying anything.

Sarah Thomson is no longer the doe-eyed valedictorian. She now just seems torn between two warring impulses. The more socially progressive Sarah which is the result of having two artist parents and the fiscally conservative Sarah who built a million dollar business by the time she was 30. What emerges is an utterly meaningless ‘Toronto has a management problem’ message. So I guess we should just fire all the managers then?

While being far more eloquent and sounding much more reasonable than, say, Rob Ford, Rocco Rossi is similarly one-note. “Value for Money” may mean something to business school types but to me it just sounds like Rossi’s talking to, well, business school types. We would all like value for money, Mr. Rossi. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way especially in government which is not nor should it be a for-profit enterprise.

Leaving us with the most perplexing campaign among the front runners, Joe Pantalone. I do not get what he’s doing at all. With the left side of the spectrum wide open to him, he insists on snuggling up to the cushy but crowded centre along with Smitherman, Thomson and Rossi. I understand with no ideological threat from that angle, he feels free to ignore voters positioned there because where else do they have to go? Still, he’s defining himself as indistinguishable from the other three and getting lost in the shuffle. Their “freshness” makes him seem stale.

Pantalone should just step back and vigorously defend the administration he’s been an integral part of. Despite what his opponents scream and yell, I don’t think there’s nearly the rampant anti-incumbency among voters that the other candidates are counting on. That’s something they have to believe is out there (and stir up) because they’re not offering anything else. Joe just needs to stop giving over to the reality his rivals are trying to create and show us that, despite being in the throes of a nasty economic downturn and the pains that we’re undergoing as we move into a post-manufacturing centre, Toronto remains a vibrant and healthy place to live.

That’s why people will risk their lives to endure an arduous ocean passage to make their way here. For a better life. We have it despite what all the nay-saying contenders for the mayor’s office are trying to tell us.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


The Neverending Summer Silly Season

August 14, 2010

Is it just us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke or has this mayoral campaign convulsed into a pitiful freak show? An exercise in futility where no one really capable or with even a modicum of imagination appears to want this city’s top political job. What does it say about the trials and tribulations of running this city or, for that matter, what does it say about the city itself?

In the past week a dubious poll put Rob Ford – yes, that Rob Ford – 9 points ahead of his nearest rival, George Smitherman – yes, that George Smitherman. Why ‘dubious’? Well, no one’s really ever heard of the firm that conducted the poll. No one knows who commissioned the poll. And, most importantly, no one’s telling what the question or questions were that the 420-something pollees were asked. For us, that’s the important one.

The question could’ve been something like, If all the other registered candidates other than Rob Ford suddenly died, who would you vote for in the upcoming election for the office of mayor? You see how that could be important for deciphering voter intention? While Ford supporters crow about his 1st place standing with some 37% support, others might look at the nearly 2/3s of the folks who said they would vote for a dead candidate over Rob Ford. Context matters.

Still, media outlets ran with the results and trumpeted Ford as the official presumptive front runner, gaining momentum and threatening to break the race wide open. That is, until the murky polling details began to surface and then they just did a wipe-clean, removing any references to the Pollstra Poll or calling the poll’s integrity into question. But that did not stop them from referring to Mr. Ford’s growing lead in a poll that may lack any validity whatsoever.

And why would they? If they can arbitrarily determine the 5 or so candidates that voters get to choose from, why can’t they arbitrarily pick who’s in the lead and who’s falling behind? Democracy according to media whim.

Embracing his newly anointed mantle of The Man To Beat, Ford proceeded to act the part of Mayor-in-waiting by calling all his council colleagues ‘corrupt’. That’ll build him some bridges down at City Hall if he does indeed become the next mayor (and I can now write that without wetting myself). Somehow Ford’s True Believers think that once they get him into office he’ll change everything. Their taxes will go down. Their services will increase. It will become legal to run down bicyclists on purpose.

By managing to alienate even the very few councillors who share some of his radical ideological views — like Doug Holyday — Ford will be powerless to do a thing as mayor. (Ooops. Peed my pants just a little on that one. It’s OK.) No, Rob Ford supporters, your guy can’t wrestle 22 councillors into toeing his line. No taxes repealed or cuts enacted just because your guy can stuff more hot dogs into his face than anyone else on council.

As for the former front runner and now possible also ran, George Smitherman? Well, he may be just where he wants to be. Now no longer in the lead according to some discredited poll, no one’s asking him pesky questions anymore about what he as mayor would do about public transit or how he’d balance a 9.2 billion dollar operating budget. You know, all that vision thing stuff.

Instead, he gets to just sit back and help direct peoples’ attention to the glaring grotesqueries of Rob Ford the Candidate. To whit, fordonford.com (which is nowhere near as sexy as it sounds), a website set up by the Smitherman campaign, highlighting all the lowlights of Ford’s various contributions to public discourse over the past 10 years. Look at this guy, eh? What a joke? No one in the right mind could possibly vote for him. So vote for me because I’m not that guy.

Next up, may I suggest Hizzonners.com? A montage of the gaffes and guffaws from both Rob Ford and former mayor Mel Lastman, stitched together to show people the horrifying results of electing an incapable boob to the office of mayor. Clearly the Smitherman campaign has nothing else on offer.

You might think that into this gaping leadership void, someone might take the opportunity to step up and present themselves as more suitable mayoral material. You would think. But it’s hard to truly differentiate yourself from the others when you’re essentially singing from the same fiscally conservative songbook à la Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi. Cut. Sell off. Privatize.

As for Joe Pantalone, the sole left-of-centre representative? He should be having a field day, yet he insists on laying low, waiting to spring into action after Labour Day. Come September — watch out Toronto — Joe’s going to pounce hard! Here’s hoping but as of right now, you can colour us increasingly skeptical.

It offends our sensibilities to look at all this and wind up saying something trite, like we get the candidates we deserve. But, well, we get the candidates we deserve, right? More disturbing, however, is that in times of crisis, and it’s not too melodramatic to dub the present as one of those, what with serious fiscal pressures, stop gap measures to deal with aging infrastructure, a shitty transportation system, we seem to encourage leaders to pander to our worst instincts. Narrow-mindedness. Short-sightedness. Miserly tribalism.

Just like we did back in 1997 when we were reeling from the enforced amalgamation. Who did we turn to calm our jangled nerves? A dimwit, for no other reason besides his pledge not to raise our taxes, and then who panicked in the face of a blizzard and continued to embarrass this city, time and time again on both national and international stages. It did not reflect well on us then and it will not reflect well on us now if we insist on traveling down that road once again.

If we want our leaders to be bold and undaunted by future challenges, we first have to exhibit a little of those qualities ourselves.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate — Part VIII

April 9, 2010

Don’t know about you people but here it’s Friday, and here Friday means: Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

Up this week, Keith Cole for Mayor. So just Get Over It!

If ever a mayoralty campaign in Toronto needed the panache and zazz that Keith Cole brings to the table, it is this one in 2K10™®©. To date it has been a largely dreary affair, damp and musty with pessimism and hostility. Everything, it seems, is negative and out of control at City Hall and without severe measures, our future will be bleak.

With most of the frontrunners adhering to this narrative and vying to prove themselves the meanest, toughest, cuttiest and slashiest som’bitch out there, Cole is all about the positive. He is the can-do to the others’ can’t. We can’t think big in terms of public transit, they say. We can’t provide secure, well-paying jobs to our public employees. We can’t stand up to the egregious neglect shown us from the provincial and federal governments.

Well, colour candidate Keith Cole unconvinced and unimpressed to such unconstructive sentiments.

A performance artist, Cole is naturally passionate about the arts and what they contribute to the well-being of the city. “Toronto is more than TIFF, LUMINATO and Harbourfront Centre,” Cole told us. “Our city has more events (often free) in one week than anyone could ever attend. We have to foster, care and support the arts in our city. We are so lucky to have this vibrant artistic culture in this city but we have to care for it or it could disappear.” A timely thought, what with the battle now waging over how to use the revenue from the new billboard tax. Lead by the organization CityBeautiful.ca , there is a call for all the money to be directed towards the arts, a notion championed at City Hall by Budget Chief Shelley Carroll and mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone. That’s not going to happen this year but we have a pretty good sense which way a Mayor Keith Cole would vote on the matter.

But it’s not all about the arts for Cole. The overlying theme of his candidacy is civic engagement. Imagine JFK in a wig, dress and pumps, invoking his fellow citizens to ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country, and then tap dancing to Michael Sembello’s Maniac. That’s candidate Cole.

“Think of what Toronto could be if more people just got involved,” he said. “Educate yourself. Figure it out for yourself. Get involved with politics and your politicians, your community and your city.”

And pick up your own fucking garbage, we might add, agreeing whole-heartedly with Cole’s assessment of the city looking dirty, inundated as it seems to be with litter. True civic engagement means not thinking others are going to clean up after you. Or assuming someone else has called about that burnt out streetlight in the back lane or the huge pothole in the middle of the road. Engaging means participating and Keith Cole sees that as the first step toward living in a healthy, exciting and fair society.

Like many of the candidates running for the mayor’s office, Cole’s campaign is full of ideas and short on matters of implementation. How does one demand and get increased civic engagement from the population? In a city allegedly strapped for cash, how would a Mayor Keith Cole ensure that funding for the arts is maintained, even increased, in the face of competing demands from other sectors and the philistinism of a council filled with Rob Fords, Giorgio Mammolitis and Doug Holydays?

Granted, the task of building and strengthening is much more complex than the simple wielding of an axe to hack and diminish as many of Cole’s mayoral rivals advocate. Even though the theory goes that it requires more energy to frown than smile, the opposite is true when it comes to governing. Keith Cole stands for optimism, engagement and a heaping help of civic pride in Toronto. That’s an uphill, rockier road to travel compared to the easy and smooth sailing of political destruction and reactionary malevolence that has been the main theme of the campaign so far. This race needs to hear more from Keith Cole and the little ray of sunshine he would bring to the proceedings.

When asked to answer our feeble question, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Cole like to see his legacy written?, Cole initially expressed surprise. “Is that what David Miller wants?” Thus, he became the first profiled candidate to call us out on the issue. We… think so, would be our response. Pretty sure we read that somewhere. Let us get back to you.

Having not had that cleared up for him, Cole gamely proceeded. Keith Cole Art Mayor, he told us but also wouldn’t rule out being The Bicycle Mayor before finally settling on a legacy. Art. Bikes. Green.

Now if we can only get the other candidates espousing such positive, constructive and proactive ideas.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr