Missing In Action

Tomorrow, August 19, is the deadline for candidates to file nomination papers in order to run in the October 24th municipal election race. On Monday the 22nd, the city clerk will certify the nominations, making everything official. After the Labour Day weekend, the campaign will begin in earnest.

Barring any last minute, out-of-the-blue entries, I think it’s safe to say, Toronto is staring down at the most desultory civic election since, perhaps, 2000 when Mayor Mel Lastman rolled to re-election in the 2nd post-amalgamation campaign, handily defeating environmental activist Tooker Gomberg with nearly 80% of the popular vote. Continue reading

Toronto Sun-shiny Ways

No place reflects the petty, small-minded, tight-fisted, stadlerandwaldorfpublic ill-will slice of Toronto thinking more than the editorial and commentary pages of the Toronto Sun. And I’m not even going to be talking about the newspaper’s hypocritical Pride and Black Lives Matter coverage here! If you want to see the birthplace of Ford Nation, this is ground zero, the temple mount, the gravy crèche.

Last weekend, before falling into its lip-smacking Pride tizzy, we were gifted with a blasé editorial about City Hall money matters. Trimming city budget by 2.6% should be routine, the Sun “informed” its readers. Because, well, that just goes without saying.

It’s pretty much standard right wing, a priori reasoning based on the simple assumption that all government spending is too much spending, so the less of it, the better. There’s some straw man arguments thrown into the mix, quoting opponents, ‘the left’, with words no one has said, arguments no one’s made in order to sound reasonable or, at least, less stridently ideological. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t even have read the tired mess except for a subsequent tweet that came across my time line.texaschainsawmassacre

An earlier Sun article by Daniel McKenzie reported that 20-25% of the subway cars on the Bloor-Danforth line would be without working air-conditioning this summer. The paper’s “Editor Emeritus”, whatever that is, an old horse unwilling to be put out to pasture? (surely you mean the glue factory – ed.), Lorrie Goldstein, was  presented with the consequences of the unrelenting demand for low taxes. Making do without those nice-to-haves like subway car air-conditioning. Mr. Goldstein’s retort? As classy and gracious as one might expect from the “Editor Emeritus” of the Toronto Sun.

Sorry, this is too stupid to even respond to. They have the money to fix them. They just haven’t been fixing them.

“Sorry, this is too stupid to even respond to,” yet Mr. Goldstein proceeds to respond, firmly establishing the Sun’s style page, as it were, for its stable of editorial and commentary writers. Two successive thoughts need not be connected. tinfoilhatJust type out words as they spring into your head. The angrier and more irrational the better.

As for the actual response?

On the level of quackery equal to those who tell us doctors and scientists have the cure to cancer but they’re keeping it to themselves because they don’t want to lose their jobs.

Mr. Goldstein is suggesting that the TTC has the money to fix the air-conditioning in its subway cars but is simply choosing not to. Why? He only had 140 characters to work with, so deeper conspiracy theories are more difficult to fully flesh out on the Twitter platform. Besides, he didn’t really want to respond at all in the first place. Such rank stupidity only deserves so much inane rambling.

(Here’s a better explanation for the lack of subway air-conditioning from Ben Spurr in the Toronto Star. IT’S STARVED FOR CASH! Uncomfortable commuters are down the list of TTC priorities right now.)

bloodfromastoneThat the “Editor Emeritus” of the Toronto Sun, a newspaper that’s part of a bigger media conglomeration mired in as dire financial straits as Postmedia is, still has a platform from which to pronounce on anything to do with fiscal fitness seems somehow apropos, I guess. A tired, disproven economic orthodoxy, clinging desperately to relevance as the ship slowly sinks. Unfortunately, you can still here echoes of the exhausted arguments in the words of some of our local decision makers.

That debate [new revenue tools] is coming and our position will be that any new taxes imposed by the city must be earmarked for specific projects, not just sent down the black hole of general revenues.

By the “black hole of general revenue”, the Sun must mean the operating budget. The one that paves our streets, pays for our emergency services, subsidizes public transit, maintains our public library and public health, etc., etc. That black hole. beancounterSo, the editors of the Sun can be persuaded to consider new taxes as long as they’re dedicated to building things but not actually running them.

Mayor John Tory has expressed similar sentiments. He’s made it perfectly clear this week to both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star that he’s ready and willing to talk turkey about new revenue tools but they must be dedicated to infrastructure needs. As for the day-to-day operations of the city? They can do perfectly well with less. (See: Tales from the TTC, above).

Of course, for the Toronto Sun, the mayor and the mayor’s council allies, any serious talk of additional revenues can be had only under one condition:

… the idea council would consider imposing any new taxes, levies and fees beyond its existing revenue streams, without first insuring the city budget is being run as efficiently as possible, is fiscally irresponsible and reckless.

Who measures that, ‘as efficiently as possible’? Back in 2012, the audit firm KPMG concluded that, all things considered, the city was pretty tightly run. isaacnewtonTwo successive city managers, neither considered to be part of the lunatic left the Sun loves to lash out at, have said similar things. Yes, there are ways to continue containing costs, even decreasing them in some cases. But nowhere near enough to build and pay for the things a growing city needs.

That’s the argument, not some concocted fairy tale of self-serving left wingers making claims about absolute efficiency at City Hall. It’s just that the Sun and Mayor Tory and every other penny-pinching fiscal “conservative” member of council wants you to believe that if there’s any example of waste they can find, then there’s no need for any new revenue. And, in an organization as big and complex as the city of Toronto, there will always examples of inefficiency. The notion of a perfectly running system died with Isaac Newton.

Too bad for us equally as dated ideas and beliefs haven’t been similarly discarded. But I guess the Toronto Sun isn’t in the business of discarding dated ideas and beliefs. In fact, since 1971, it’s been championing them, tub thumping for them, stubborn1bearing the standard for them. Because too many of us have been listening to their anti-government screeds for too long, we find ourselves in the state we’re currently in. Loudly demanding easy answers to complicated problems, and feeling put upon to fully contribute to the public good, convinced we’re getting less from it than we’re giving.

A constantly outraged sense of grievance, our strength. The Toronto Sun way.

brightly submitted by Cityslikr

Michael Ford, Lord Of The Ward 2 Manor

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Toronto District School Board Trustee and Nephew, Michael Ford, resigned from the board and announced he was in the running for the late mayor and Ward 2 councillor, Rob Ford’s seat, multiplicity2seemingly moments after city council declared it vacant and voted to hold a July by-election to elect a new councillor. Almost as if they were already prepared to go. Almost as if that was the plan all along, which it was, back in the 2014 municipal election, until Rob Ford stepped out of the mayoral campaign for health reasons, and settled back into the Ward 2 council race. The TDSB trustee position was something of a consolation prize for Nephew Ford.

I had initial reactions to this week’s completely expected turn of events but then, it dawned on me. Here in Ward 20, in 2010, there was a similar if not exact scenario. After long time councillor Joe Pantalone decided to run for mayor, leaving the ward open, a young Mike Layton stepped forward to replace him. You might recognize the surname, not to mention that his famous dad was partnered up with the local sitting Member of Parliament, herself something of a City Hall institution, having represented the ward just one over for 15 years or so.

Truth be told, I did not take to Mike Layton. I resented the political carpetbagging aspect of it, the dynastic sensibility, the passing of the torch. multiplicity1Besides, to my mind, there was a much more qualified candidate, someone who seemed to have spent much more of her time working in the public realm, let’s call it. I did not vote for Mike Layton in 2010.

I did in 2014. Turns outs, he’s an exceptionally good city councillor. So… you know. Michael Ford. It could happen.

People are certainly saying nice things about him. He doesn’t seem to possess the bombastic side of both his uncles. He comes across as soft-spoken, gentle even, legitimately open-minded on some social issues.

Then, there’s his campaign website. “Customer Service”. “Keeping Taxes Low”. Even his “Sustainable Community Investment” is couched in Fordian terms careful spending and within a tight budget framework.

Still.

No rabid dog Subways! Subways! Subways! Light on the Respect For Taxpayers. But not without some coat tailing. “I will continue the benchmark set by my family”.

I guess the idea that Nephew could be a better city councillor than either of his uncles is a step forward. multiplicityA pretty low threshold, for sure, almost imperceptible on the progress scale. It is, however, the way we measure things in a Mayor John Tory’s Toronto. Oh well, better than X Ford.

Electing Michael Ford as councillor for Ward 2 is not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing that could happen is some sort of uncontested coronation. Michael Ford cannot be acclaimed as the new councillor. This should never happen at any electoral level, ever, anywhere.

Look, even Rob Ford, who’d served as Ward 2 councillor for 10 years before becoming mayor, only garnered 58% of the popular vote in 2014 when he ran again for the council seat. Yes, no one else came close. Yes, by almost every measure, you could call it a laugher. And yes, the absolutely unqualified Nephew had something of a cakewalk in his trustee race, pulling in about 46% of the votes.

But this is a city council election, the only city council campaign that will be taking place in July, not one of 44, not as part of a mayoral campaign. The summertime spotlight will shine exclusively on the Ward 2 by-election, on Nephew Ford. He must be challenged. littlelordfauntelroyThe idea that Ward 2 is some sort of family fiefdom needs to be challenged.

In 2014, 42% of Ward 2 voters expressed dissatisfaction with the Ford family brand, and that was with Rob – arguably the brand – flying the colours. Is the Nephew new and improved or is this just a case of Multiplicity, a watered down, reasonable facsimile of a knockoff?

Voters in Ward 2 need to be able to kick the product tires to start to figure that out. That can’t happen if the doors to City Hall are held open for him to just walk through, proclaimed, acclaimed, unchallenged, uncontested. Nephew Ford needs to campaign for the position not simply have it handed to him as some sort of birthright or family heirloom.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr