Self-Inflicted Wounds

When a capital ‘L’ Liberal leaning newspapers pronounces on Toronto’s vanishing NDP act, it’s pretty much required reading. willywonka1Straight up, objective, no dog in the hunt opinionizing. A fair and balanced view, as they say.

That’s why.

“Rising support for Liberals in Toronto may doom Olivia Chow’s mayoral bid,” chirps the subheadline of Bob Hepburn’s piece.

Rising support for Liberals in Toronto? I get the logic from the last provincial election but should we draw a line from that to the recent uptick in support for John Tory in the mayoral race? If so, if Liberals are actually turning to John Tory as some sort of liberal alternative then, well, Hepburn’s article should really be about the disappearance of liberalism in Toronto’s Liberals.

Now look, you’re not going to hear from me any defence of Olivia Chow’s campaign to date. It most certainly has been listless. There’s been no one or two issues put forward that you can really sink your teeth into.wolfinsheepsclothing No red meat for the base.

I heard apprehensive rumblings as the mayoral race began taking shape, back late last year, questioning the strength of Chow’s campaign abilities. Could she sustain a city-wide drive throughout the entire race? Perhaps there was some truth to such misgivings.

I was a constituent of hers, when she was both a city councillor and MP. The few times I met her during campaigns, she was very engaging and full of energy. But, in truth, I’ve seen little of that outside of her official campaign launch. So, are we, once again, looking at another race where the standard bearer of the left is not up to the task? Like Joe Pantalone in 2010, in the end, will it come down to the fact Olivia Chow could not sell a progressive vision for the city? The messenger unable to sell the message?

We shall see.

But about that message…runsoutofgas

In the article, Hepburn points out that in putting together a campaign team, Chow “…recruited senior Liberals…including self-styled ‘progressives’ such as former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman…” Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister? You mean, former failed mayoral candidate, George Smitherman?

I mean, seriously. George Smitherman?! Who the fuck thought that was a good idea? What knowledge was he going to bring to the table for Olivia? How to blow an early lead? Done. Tell us again, George, how you helped run Barbara Hall’s 2003 mayoral campaign into the ground.

To the wider picture, why is an NDP candidate, as her opponent, John Tory, has brayingly labelled her, seeking Liberal help in her campaign? Because they win, you respond. badadviceNot always, I reply. George Smitherman, for instance. Federally, not so much lately.

Provincially, however.

Yes. And who did they beat? Exactly.

Now, you might argue that Liberals know where the NDP’s weak spots are, offer advice on how to patch up the electoral holes. Liberals provide a good sparring partner in the war room. Pop you one on the chin when you drop the left hand. See? That’s what you’re doing wrong.

But here’s what I think.

Liberals, more than anybody, have internalized the 30 year neoconservative drumbeat against the notion of tax-and-spending, interventionist government. That’s what the triangulation bullshit has all been about. It wins some elections, sure, but it only minimizes the damage rather than ends or reverses it.

What’s so frustrating at this point, with the Chow campaign and the provincial NDP one in June, is we’re living the result of three decades of neoconservative/neoliberal rule. imaproAn infrastructure deficit. A lack of affordable housing with the unsurprisingly accompanying spike in homelessness. Inequality. Grotesque and incapacitating inequality.

Look at Toronto’s To Do list.

Transit. Transit. And more transit. The horrendous TCHC backlog. Flooding and blackouts. Decreasing affordability for many people to live here.

The public good is wobbly under the weight of neglect, and there’s no finding efficiencies our way out of it. In aping Conservatives, Liberals have assisted in the piling on. totherampartsThe best the NDP can hope for, in copying the copy, is to, hopefully, make matters less worse.

Maybe it’s just me but what I was hoping for in the Olivia Chow campaign was a full on embrace of the tax-and-spender label. Yes, Mr. Tory. It’s time to start taxing and spending again. After years of pretending that this city is built on free swag, we now have to roll up our sleeves, pull out our wallets and start rebuilding.

She wouldn’t be out of line in saying such a thing. For the past couple years now, the city’s CEO, no raving lunatic leftie joe, Joe Pennachetti has told anyone prepared to listen that there’s not a whole lot more fat to be trimmed. “We don’t have all the revenues that probably are needed to ensure that we build and grow a city that we all want,” he said last month.

Hand the ball over to any progressive candidate who wants to run with it. Off you go! To the ramparts!ignored

But no such luck. It’s all been minor measures, tweaks here and there, avoid the big idea because it will demand a big solution. What’s passed for boldness is pretend maps paid for by pretend money, to paraphrase the only mayoral candidate talking to us as if we’re not drooling imbeciles, and he’s mired in the low single digits with regular backroom discussions about whether to continue on in the race.

Contrary to what the Toronto Star’s Bob Hepburn thinks, it’s not that NDP support in Toronto has vanished. There’s just nobody talking their language, speaking to their values. Maybe in hushed tones or in a code, over late night drinks. It’s just not enough to rally around, go to bat for or champion.

grumpily submitted by Cityslikr

That Time In The Election Cycle Already?

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

The Recumbent Incumbent

Gawd! These infernal pre-campaign polls. Story generators produced by those without caller ID on their phones, onthephonewilling to engage with anyone who dials their number. Idle speculation meant to fill in the gap between actual stories.

The only folks these polls are intended to help out are those mulling over a mayoral run. An informal testing of the waters. Polls establish front runners, differentiating them from those without a hope in hell of becoming the city’s next mayor. Hey. Possible candidate X was seen having lunch with John Laschinger at Spadina Garden. How would they do in next year’s election matched up against candidate Y?

The funny thing is, if the history of amalgamated Toronto is anything to go by, such polls conducted so many, many months before the actual election are pretty much meaningless aside from confirming the name (or names) of the candidates to beat. In 2003, John Tory and Barbara Hall. wiltsIn 2010, George Smitherman. All lost the subsequent elections to candidates few had on their radar when the campaign actually commenced.

So beware everyone currently placing their bets and hopes on the likes of John Tory (again), Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz. Our recent electoral history has not treated early front runners well.

I think the one certainty we can take from the likes of Forum Research’s most recent poll for next year’s municipal election in Toronto is that the incumbent, unlike his predecessors, is going to find himself in the midst of a bruising battle to keep his job. In 2000, Mel Lastman was as good as acclaimed for a second term, facing no politically established opponent in the campaign. In 2006, Councillor Jane Pitfield stood as little more than a sacrificial lamb in her attempt to deny David Miller another go-around at the job.

It ain’t going to be so easy for Rob Ford. The one caveat is that both Lastman and Miller went into re-election mode after only two years (of a 3 year term)donnybrook in office, perhaps seeming a little more fresh-faced than our current mayor who’s had an additional year of public scrutiny in office before his re-election campaign begins. Perhaps this will be the new norm with 4 year council terms now. A one term mayor facing an uphill battle in a bid for re-election.

For many incumbents that might seem a little daunting but may be this is nothing but good news for Mayor Ford. He loves playing the underdog, the outsider. The little engine that nobody said could and nobody better think of writing off as an impossible long shot again. Every indication suggests that 2014 is the mayor’s election to win. Just like 2010.

deweydefeatstruman

If you didn’t know any better, you’d almost think that’s the exact spot he’s positioned himself to be in at this juncture. Failing miserably toward a second term

cassandraly submitted by Cityslikr