Floating Like A Moth

March 3, 2011

I am trying my damnedest to stop underestimating Mayor Rob Ford. The guy did transform himself from a joke of a city councillor to mayor after all. He built a nation in his image, apparently. It should be easy peasy not to underestimate him.

But he makes it so difficult not to. So, so difficult.

Maybe his erratic antics are the key to his success. It’s impossible to nail him because you just don’t know where he’s going. Like the chaotic flight of a moth that confounds even the stealthiest of hunters, the common housecat. A political whack-a-mole popping up unpredictably right in front of you and you just can’t catch him with a good one.

The mayor’s latest gambit? Picking a fight with Premier Dalton McGuinty, our dark overlord and somewhere between benevolent and malevolent benefactor. Give us the money we want, Dalton, the mayor threatened, or I will unleash the hounds on you come election time in October. I’m sorry, Tony Danza. Who’s the boss?

Such a gesture would be much more impressive if it wasn’t so abjectly hypocritical. As a councillor, Mayor Ford brayed constantly about the then mayor, David Miller, begging for handouts from the province, telling him to get his own fiscal house in order. On the campaign trail, it was all about city council having a spending not a revenue problem.

Now? Not so much. As was reported earlier this week, Mayor Ford fired off a letter to the premier in late January asking for a $150 million or so to plug up holes in the budget, some of which had sprung open due to the mayor’s own sharp stick of tax cuts and freezes. Oh yeah, and if the province wouldn’t mind kicking in its share of the TTC operating budget, that’d be great too. The request was rebuffed and the mayor upped the ante. That this request on the mayor’s part was a startling about-face seems not to have made much of an impression on him.

Another crazy aspect to this move on this mayor’s part? Who’s he going to support in the election fight against McGuinty’s Liberals? The Conservatives, naturally, but how is that supposed to help the city exactly? (And the mayor does want to help the city, I’m assuming.) Conservative leader Tim Hudak was a certified member of Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution that killed the Eglinton subway, spending money to actually fill in the hole that had already been dug. On top of which there was that little thing of enforced amalgamation that nobody wanted and everybody remains unhappy with nearly 15 years after the fact.

We’re now to believe that if Mayor Ford delivers and a blue tide sweeps over the 416, rippling out into the 905 and environs, that a new, city friendly Conservative government will suddenly fall in love with Toronto? They’ll seek to undo all the damage they did when they were last in power? I’ll need to be seeing some evidence of that way of thinking before I’m prepared to hop aboard the Ford Nation Express.

And what if this little roll of the dice on the mayor’s part turns up craps? (That’s bad, right? I don’t play Craps, so I’m not sure. It sounds bad. Let’s go with it being bad.) What if the Ford Nation ain’t the force the mayor reckons it is and the Liberals are re-elected? Awwwww-kwarrrrrrrd! That’ll guarantee a 3 year frosty-to-frigid relationship, with the city getting very little love from Queen’s Park as long as Mayor Ford’s at the helm.

But the craziest, craziest aspect of all this is that we should be fully backing the mayor. The province does need to be confronted. Despite election promises to be better partners, the Liberals have only succeeded in being less worse than the Harris/Eves Tories. We’ve been waiting 8 years now for them to fulfill their promise of paying their half of the TTC annual operating budget like they used to before the Harris Conservative government pulled out of the agreement. They’ve been slow in uploading services the Harris Conservative government had downloaded onto us. Metrolinx and the whole regional transit system has felt scattershot and as if no one’s heart at the provincial level is really in it. Their whole approach to municipalities has been crassly and calculatingly political.

The irony is, from Dalton McGuinty’s standpoint, had he been a little more accommodating with David Miller, been quicker to right the Conservative wrongs, he might not have Mayor Rob Ford and his vaunted Nation to contend with. Now we’re looking at a game of chicken. Who veers first?  It’d be fun to watch if there wasn’t so much at stake and if it felt like a win-win situation for Toronto. Right now, it’s looking more like heads, they win, tails, we lose.

tornly submitted by Cityslikr

Our Cancerous Campaign

August 12, 2010

I write today in soothing tones like those of the 1970s FM DJs, all smoky and silk, in hopes of ratcheting the shrill tone of the mayoral campaign down a notch or two. It has been all vitriol, spouting nothing but contempt and vilification. Yes, some of it is unfriendly fire between candidates as one might expect especially from an uninspiring brood of candidates who lack anything close to resembling a forward thinking vision for the city.

But much of the ugly, mean-spirited rhetoric has been directed at the very body the mayoral hopefuls are vying to lead: the municipal government itself and all those who Tend to the Garden of Its Upkeep (the title of a never released ELP album from the late `70s). The bureaucracy, in other words. The allegedly ‘corrupt’ council. City workers who have the temerity to inconvenience us and go out on strike. Oh sure, Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, the standard bearer of incumbency, does chime in with the occasional dissenting peep, peep, peep of ‘This isn’t Cleveland. This isn’t Detroit’ but it’s usually lost in the indignant jeering of his rivals calling for a jihad against those making our lives miserable. Entrenched and self-serving civil servants and career politicians.

Vote for me because I hate the institution of democratic governance as much as you do!

Never mind the bent, twisted logic of that sentiment and please ignore the results of electing the practitioners of such political thinking (the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, the diminution of Ontario under the Harris-Eves-McGuinty rule, Stephen Harper’s full frontal assault on the state currently underway), when we’re angry we have a tendency to favour politicians who mirror our distrust and dislike of politicians. And nothing eggs on our ire toward politicians more than hearing about the kind of salaries they enjoy and the perks they wallow in. They make how much?! That’s unbelievable, outrageous, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph…

It’s a funny dichotomy. We extol those in the private sector raking in much larger sums of money per annum and enjoying far more luxurious perks. They are the titans of industry, we say. Creators of jobs (although not so much lately) and floaters of boats everywhere (again, not so much lately). Making a success of yourself in business is the height of accomplishment. Toiling away in the bowels of government, well, clearly you’ve settled and should consider your life wasted.

It is an odd case of self-hatred. Shouldn’t we encourage our best and brightest to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the business of government? Wouldn’t that make for a better society? Instead, we shower praise and riches on those who package our middle class aspirations overseas and make monstrous returns for their investors. When business is paramount, government is seen as nothing more than an irrelevant impediment.

So here we are, cheering on millionaires and the well-to-do, telling us that they’ll improve our lives by dismantling the very apparatus that paves our roads, brings us water, maintains peace and order (on most days). Not only that, but they’ll happily do it for cut rate prices! Rocco Rossi pledged to slash the mayor’s salary by 10%. Rob Ford, George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson have promised to freeze their pay if elected in October. Hell, Ford could probably seal the deal and become this city’s next mayor if he promised to do the job for free.

All this in the face of a recent report suggesting that, in fact, the position of mayor in Toronto was under-valued, remuneratively speaking. No matter. A politician should not be concerned with niggling things like pay, pension or their financial future. At least, according to Rocco Rossi.

“Politics is a high calling, but it should be a time of service, it’s not a career, and the moment you start looking at it as a career, that’s when people start worrying about the salary, the pension and the benefits, as opposed to serving the people,” Rossi said.

So, only the selfless and those that can afford a life in politics need apply. Or, to steal a phrase from business parlance, you get what you pay for.

sedately submitted by Urban Sophisticat

Manifesto Of Independence

March 30, 2010

If it wasn’t abundantly clear to everyone before the McGuinty Liberals handed down their latest budget last week, it certainly should be now. Their interest in the future welfare of Toronto is fleeting and politically mercurial. They do what is expedient not what is right. Continuing to hope and depend on the good graces of the province to look out for our best interests should now be considered pathologically negligent.

So… So… To paraphrase the words of some olde scribes:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume…the powers… entitle[d] them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

It has become increasingly apparent that since 1995, successive provincial governments have proven themselves incapable of properly governing this we call Ontario, as it has evolved since its conception some one hundred and forty-three years ago. Now over 13 million people strong with nearly half of those living in what is known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and more than 2.5 million in the city of Toronto itself, this is no longer the Upper Canada of Confederation. We are now a territory of two solitudes; predominantly urban where once we were rural. Ancient rules of rule cannot stand.

As Jesus was quoted saying in Luke 5:37-39: And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’

Even battered and bruised as it has been with the economic turmoil of the last 18 months, Toronto and the GTA remains the economic engine that drives the province. More money is extracted from it then is returned in goods or services, and while equity throughout the province is a laudable goal, it cannot be achieved to Toronto’s detriment. This has been the situation for the past 15 years but now has become untenable.

When the Liberals swept to power in 2003, they did so with the promise of undoing the fiscal damage inflicted on this city by the Harris-Eves Tories. Over the course of their 7 year reign, they have been slow to imperceptible in doing so. The latest example came with the budget declaration of deferring $4-billion of previously announced support for transit construction. This was the biggest budget cut in what was a lower than expected deficit and amounted to nothing more than one big Fuck You to Toronto and environs.

An already starved transit system is now being further deprived. Despite all sensible advice and opinion, the Liberals are displaying a shameful neglect of a much needed necessity if this region is to continue to grow in a manner that benefits all and compete successfully at an international level. By reneging on their previous commitment to build a better transit system in this city, the provincial government has once more abdicated their authority to govern us.

And what did the major contenders for Toronto’s top job say about this matter when they gathered together last night for the first official mayoral debate? Rob Ford wants to save the city a few thousand dollars by eliminating free rides on the TTC for councillors. George Smitherman demanded the resignation of TTC chair, Adam Giambrone.

These people are campaigning to be nothing more than mere window dressers. Errand boys and girl Friday bidding to do the dirty work of cutting, burning and slashing as demanded by their provincial evil overlords. Rather than pushing back, they are meekly bending over.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are now looking for candidates who recognize the lay of the land and know what needs to be done. The process of separation must now begin. Pure and simply Toronto, and any of the contiguous region that wants to be a part of it, should demand provincial status. Those who now occupy Queen’s Park on a part time basis, representing an electorate outside of the 416/905 area codes are to be rejected and replaced by a legislative body who’s primary concern is Toronto. There is no other way to properly ensure our interests.

While it may be too late for this campaign, a caucus of candidates (not a party, you understand, because that’s forbidden at a municipal level by the provincial government) needs to begin to coalesce around the idea of an independent Toronto province. A Block Toronto, if you will, to push the agenda into the public consciousness. To argue persuasively about its viability. Toronto First, Toronto United!!™©®

When our elected officials refuse to listen and willfully ignore our requests, what alternative do we have? Sitting on our hands and only speaking when spoken to is no longer an option.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the a united States of America Toronto…do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these this Colonies city, solemnly publish and declare, That these this United Colonies are city is, and of Right ought to be Free and an Independent States province; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown Ontario government, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain province of Ontario, is and ought to be totally dissolved… blah, blah, blah.

Toronto First, Toronto United!!©™®

patriotically submitted by Cityslikr

The Ghosts of John Tory Haunt Us Still

January 20, 2010

Call me naïve. Call me simple-minded. Call me Pollyanna Pureheart with Starz in Her Eyez but I got to tell you when I see a headline like this:

Tory bigwig Capobianco joins Rossi camp

my blood runs cold, cold, cold.

Officially, no political party colours hang over our municipal politics but the truth of the matter is that the backrooms are awash in them. So far in the early days of campaign 2K10™®© the walls are running Tory blue. And yes, I do mean that as a political double entendre.

Since John Tory’s announcement that he would take a pass on vying for Toronto’s top job, the money chasers (or bagmen, in the common parlance) and strategists have been scrambling to find a candidate to get their hooks into. Self-proclaimed political neophyte and red Tory Liberal #2, Rocco Rossi, has been the beneficiary of much of this backroom booty. Aside from the above mentioned John Capobianco, Rossi has landed the nods of approval from other cloak-and-dagger, Tory-leaners like John Matheson, Vic Gupta, Rod Phillips and Andy Pringle.

For his part, January frontrunner and red Tory Liberal #1, George Smitherman, has bagged the big buck, Bay Street lawyer and all-round mucky muck, Ralph Lean. Lean is a major league kingmaker and it was his very public break with Mayor David Miller in mid-September last year that appears to have struck the fatal blow to any thought Miller may have had about running for a third term. Reading the National Post article in which Lean ticks off the ways in which Mayor Miller had failed him is a little spooky in the paper’s deference to such a shadowy, unelected figure. The fact that Miller announced that he was not running for re-election a mere 10 days after the article was published has to be seen as something more than a mere coincidence and suggests that Lean swings some mighty big pipe.

What Lean, Capobianco and all these other guys (and yes, the majority of these high placed operatives are indeed men) have in common is that they bleed deep Conservative blue and/or were well connected into the insanely dysfunctional Mel Lastman regime. Some also pulled the strings behind the scenes of the Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves. All of which should make Torontonians more than a little nervous as these administrations contributed mightily to bringing the city to its knees.

So when the likes of George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi start waxing on about fiscal housekeeping, selling off Toronto’s assets, privatizing public services and all the other neo-liberal drivel that’s been passed off as “common sense”, know that the words they speak are not their own. It is the voice of the men behind the curtain. Men who, as recent history has shown us, do not have the best interests of the people of Toronto at heart.

admonitorily submitted by Cityslikr