Mr. Fantino Goes To Ottawa

November 30, 2010

On the plus side, Toronto, at least we won’t have to worry about incoming mayor Rob Ford bringing back Julian Fantino as police chief.

Besides, by-elections are meaningless, right? We shouldn’t use them to take an accurate political pulse of the nation especially with less than 1 in 3 eligible voters bothering to cast a ballot. Let’s just view this as an entertaining, engaging and diversionary blip on the radar until the real deal comes around.

Otherwise, Julian Fantino’s election victory as Conservative M.P. for the federal riding of Vaughan is grim, grim electoral news. Like we need anymore of that in these parts right now.

Because if we were to read too much into it, it would suggest that the scaly, life-draining tentacles of the Stephen Harper led Conservative government are slowly gaining traction in areas of this country that’ve been, up to now, unyielding to their oily clutches. By running a successful peek-a-boo campaign that has largely kept their candidate from a wider public view shielding both him and the party itself from any significant scrutiny, they’ve set the stage for a policy-free, personality first general election. Issues? What issues? “Give me an issue, I’ll give you a tissue, you can wipe my ass with it.”  (h/t Lou Reed, Take No Prisoners.)

How could the voters of Vaughan, or at least the 16% or so of them that voted for Julian Fantino… and boy, if that number doesn’t send shivers down your spine, 16% of voters sending an M.P. to Ottawa, even in a by-election, then the notion of democracy is truly dead to you… not have been offended by the treatment they received during in this campaign? Fantino sat out almost every candidates’ debate. His campaign videos were shockingly hackneyed, devoid of substance and lifelessly delivered as if the man had never been in front of a camera before. He was a “star” candidate who seemed almost put out that he actually had to publicly campaign for the position. Shouldn’t I just be appointed? That’s how things are usually done in the circles I run.

The fact that someone like Julian Fantino could actually be considered a “star” candidate is the other bitter morning after pill to swallow. Being a “star” should involve something other than name recognition. Possessing political views and opinions that rise above bumper sticker sloganeering is too much to ask? ‘Law And Order’ and ‘Tough On Crime’ make great TV series titles but spouted mindlessly by a “star” candidate suggests a thin veneer painted over a warm body that masks a total lack of understanding about what’s going on out there in the wider world. But, I guess, in this day and reality age that may be expecting a bit much from our politicians and says more about my complete and utter incomprehension of how the world actually works.

A quick look at Fantino’s resumé shows a man who has gracelessly bulldozed his way up the food chain and into being a “star” political candidate. For almost 20 years now, the man has been dogged by controversy as he trampled over civil rights and fuzzy lines of legality at almost every post he served throughout his career. There was the illegal wiretapping of Susan Eng, then chair of the TPSB in 1991. As police chief in London in the mid-90s, he arrested and charged a couple dozen gay men as part of a child pornography ring that turned out to be non-existent. His tenure as Toronto’s chief of police was pockmarked by more ill-advised confrontations with the gay community and corruption scandals within the force itself that Fantino was accused of not rooting out vigorously enough. Then, as OPP commissioner there came further accusations of unauthorized wiretapping, more dubious child pornography rings busted, along with a charge of ‘attempting to influence an elected official’ thrown in that was subsequently dismissed by the Crown due to the always reassuring ‘no reasonable prospect of conviction’ grounds. His involvement in this past summer’s G20 fiasco, both on the ground and the money spent has yet to be fully disclosed but early signs suggest another less than stellar performance review.

All it takes, it seems, to be a “star” candidate is a high profile regardless of how that came to be. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” Brendan Behan said, “except your own obituary.”

Essentially Julian Fantino is an admirable, “star” candidate only to those who pine for the days of hard-nosed cops in B-movies (take a bow, Don Cherry), many of whom apparently occupy senior positions in our political establishment. Rumour has it, Fantino was hotly pursued by both federal and provincial Liberals before he anointed the Conservatives in Ottawa as his party of choice, revealing the paucity of ideas and absence of democratic ideals in our two leading parties. What was promised him in exchange for his fidelity – Fantino does know that’s there’s no King position in a parliamentary system, I hope — time will tell but in the cold, dark morning reality, just a few hours after his win, I do feel a certain bit of relief mixed in with the disbelief, bewilderment and dollop of despair. At least, off in Ottawa and as an M.P. in the 905 region, he will be that much more removed from us here, ever so slightly out of our hair, buried deep in the smothering anonymity of the Conservative caucus, never to be heard from again. (Fingers crossed!) I mean, the man couldn’t possibly bluster and blunder his way into any further, more influential positions of power, could he?

curiously submitted by Cityslikr


Oath Of Allegiance

March 31, 2010

Reading where councillor Adam Vaughan may’ve fallen afoul of the code of conduct demanded from members of the Police Services Board when he issued a newsletter to his constituents briefing them with some details about the security and anti-terrorism plans for the upcoming G20 summit this summer. He received a reprimand for breeching the board’s oath of confidentiality but seemed less than contrite in the face of it. His response was quite telling.

“There is no higher calling at city hall than to be an elected representative in a city ward, Vaughan said. “The residents of my ward will get my full and undivided loyalty.”

Here lies the beating heart of the dysfunction that passes for the democratic process at Toronto’s City Hall.

Council consists of 44 councillors and one mayor. Only the mayor is elected city wide and, therefore, only the mayor speaks for all of Toronto. That must compete with 44 individual voices, like Adam Vaughan’s who are concerned first and foremost with their respective wards. It’s like medieval Europe with one king surrounded by rival and feuding duchies. Gridlock prevails and nothing short of all out war will bring about any meaningful solutions.

This is why single tier municipal governments are ultimately ineffective and detrimental to the smooth running of a city especially one the size of Toronto. Outside of the mayor and that one single vote, there is no one unified vision for matters that involve the entire city like transit or new development density. NIMBYism will often rear up and bite well intentioned projects in the ass. Like the construction of the St. Clair LRT, for example, that was disrupted and derided by orchestrated community groups that deemed their convenience to be paramount to a highly functioning transit line.

As much as it pains this true believer in streamlined forms of government to say, another administrative level is needed in Toronto as an advocate for long term planning on a city wide scale. Much like we had back in the pre-amalgamation days with the Metro Council. It was not perfect, no, but it was a voice for the whole of Toronto and wasn’t driven purely by local interests. Right now, the city lurches and convulses to discordant parochial rhythms.

And maybe if the loyalty of councillors like Adam Vaughan is fully and undividedly given to the residents of his ward, he should think about not sitting on the Police Services Board or the Planning and Growth Committee. These duties require a wider overview beyond the interests of just one ward, Vaughan’s ward in this case. His divided sense of loyalty smacks of a conflict of interest to those of us outside his ward and causes us to wonder just how effective his contributions are for the entire city of Toronto.

And shouldn’t a better, stronger city be the ultimate goal of all our elected municipal officials?

admonishingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat