We Can Get Angry Too

August 30, 2010

This is composed as a dare.

After yesterday’s post there was an exchange of heated words tossed around the office here. While my colleague, Cityslikr, was quite content with his evisceration of the Rob Ford/reactionary phenomena now running amok on the campaign trail, I suggested it wasn’t nearly as belligerent or uncompromising as he might think. In fact, I may’ve called it a ‘cop out’ if memory serves. A mere reactive piece cast in the terms of the debate that they’ve established.

“I’m the angry one here,” I was informed, haughtily. “All Fired Up’s John Lennon.” Refusing to bestow the McCartney label upon me, Cityslikr reluctantly granted me George Harrison status, saying it was impossible that I could match him, taunt for taunt, mockery for mockery, in putting together a cogent argument against the rising tide of Fordism. So here I am doing just that.

Since the very beginning of this campaign, an inchoate anger has driven the political discourse. While sometimes veering of onto bike lanes and the nebulous ‘War on Car’, its focus has been largely on numbers. Big, absolute numbers devoid of much context and certainly no explanation. $9.2 billion. $3 billion. Wow! That’s a lot of money. Clearly something’s wrong at City Hall.

With Rob Ford’s cannonball entry into the race, words were put to numbers but with no additional clarity. We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. The gravy train ends now. Nice, easy-to-remember T-shirt slogans, full of emotive power with negligible substance. The campaign became awash in indignant, empty rhetoric.

Of which, much of the mainstream press has lapped up. Witness last Wednesday’s piece from the Globe’s Christie Blatchford who is clearly vying to become Election 2010’s Queen of the Dumb-Down. Nothing more than a litany of councillor salaries and expenses, it reads like a Team Rob Ford press release. Did you know that a Toronto city councillor makes more than 3 times the median income of Joe Average Torontonian, and has a hefty expense account to boot? (Where’s the wage comparison between a councillor and, say, a columnist for the Globe and Mail, we wonder. Know the newspaper industry has taken a hit lately but surely someone like Christie Blatchford still has an expense account.) The insinuation in all this is that those working at City Hall are not worth the money we spend on them.

No, no, no, you’re saying. That’s not the point at all. Comparing the public and private sectors is apples and oranges. What happens in the private sector is none of our business and beyond our control. The public sector spends our money.

Alright, let’s disabuse you of that notion. It is not our money. It’s tax money. The agreed upon amount that each of us contributes to various levels of government in order that our society functions properly. I know this quote’s been bandied about almost to the point of irrelevancy through repetition but I think it worth another go-round so that it might begin to penetrate the thick skulls of the Christie Blatchfords of the world.

“I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.” So said Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Now we can argue about if our tax money is being spent wisely and what to do if it’s not. Or, we can debate about how much tax money is too much or too little. That’s a matter of ideology and can be hashed out over reasoned, rational discussion.

The thing is, there’s none of that happening. When confronted with opposing views that call into question some of their claims, the Anger-stons have taken to turtling, and wrapping themselves in a cloak of Just Ol’ Down Home Plain Folks. (Witness Blatchford’s recent offerings.) Well, I may not be much of what you city types call a ‘Big Thinker’ with all yer university edu-macations and $19 coffees and uncooked fish but I do claim to knows what I knows and I knows we taxpayers are bein’ fleeced.

No. You know what? Fuck you.

Grow up and stop trying to mask your obstinate ignorance as some kind of homespun wisdom. It isn’t. It’s just obstinate ignorance.

We’re tired of having to talk down to your level. Being uninformed cannot be proudly called ‘populist’. It isn’t. It’s just being uninformed.

Does that make me an elitist? Only if it means that I feel a sense of entitlement to a thoughtful, cogent and logical debate about the future of this city and not some boiling brew of unharnessed and misplaced ire that spouts speculative, spurious nonsense with the demand of being taken seriously. Blind rage is not a reputable campaign platform. Thinking it is, is just your own sense of misplaced entitlement.

So all your Rob Ford types out there (and the Smithermans and Rossis trying hard to tap into that bitterness and bile base), you’re not the only ones capable of being angry. There is a growing contingent of us out here who feel that you are misrepresenting the wider swath of Toronto voters and are threatening much that has been accomplished in this city over the last 7 years. The difference is that ours is a positive outrage at your increasingly outlandish claims and childish behaviour. Ours is the anger that builds not destroys things.

And calling that patronizing and condescending doesn’t make it any less true.

— angrily (even lividly) submitted by Urban Sophisticat


The Blatch Keys On Rob Ford’s Success

August 24, 2010

Dear Miss Christie Blatchford,

I am writing to you with a rather forward, possibly unseemly, request.

The next time you hold a gathering for your “downtown friends” would it be out of the question to extend an invitation my way? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy like a black tie dinner party although I can still cut a swath in my tails and top hat. It could simply be cocktails and canapés or a few brewskis over some ribs and slaw as those of you in possession of a mess of “blue-collar, working-class, anti-intellectual” bones might partake in.

We are neighbours after all. I do see you from time-to-time, out walking your dog while I’m window shopping at our local Home Hardware. It seems surprising to me that our paths haven’t crossed more concretely sooner. So let’s stop making strange and break some bread together.

Lest you immediately conclude that this is some appeal for a handout, let me be crystal clear that nothing could be further from the truth. It is for your benefit that I offer to foist myself upon you. Having just read your weekend newspaper column (Rob Ford: The Gadfly That Toronto Needs), it strikes me that you are being done a huge and mighty disservice by your so-called “smart friends”. Not to mention that they seem to be dangerously combustible and must be making a mess of your household interior with all the Cronenbergesque head exploding you claim they are prone to.

Allow me the opportunity, Miss Blatchford, as a long time downtowner with an “intellectual stripe”, to respond to your party trick of claiming “to be the tiniest bit on the fence” about Rob Ford’s candidacy for the mayoralty of Toronto. I can assure you that my head will not explode. My knickers will never bunch into “a complete knot” (and not just for the obvious reason of me rarely sporting any).

No, I will simply take the information, calmly and coolly, and respond by telling you why I think you are wrong on almost every level about Rob Ford and about many of us who oppose him. Dispassionately and as courteously as possible, I will endeavour to point out to you the errors of your thinking and why it is, I feel, that any flirtation with candidate Rob Ford reveals both a cold heart and empty head. After all, that’s what real friends do, isn’t it? Tell you the unvarnished truth in order to set you straight and to stop you from making a damn fool of yourself.

Maybe some of your so-called friends are those “gentle arty” types, “aghast at Mr. Ford at least in part because he seems so low rent”. But I am here to tell you, Miss Blatchford, that not all of us stand opposed to Rob Ford based on his appearance or his boorish, sometimes illegal, behaviour. To borrow your devilishly fine turn of phrase, we “don’t give a flying fig” about his physical stature or loutish public outbursts or his seemingly constant run-ins with the law on both sides of the 49th parallel. (Allow me a sidebar if you will: can we ascribe Mr. Ford’s promise to hire 100 new police officers once he’s elected mayor despite a wall of statistics pointing out a decade’s long decrease in the city’s crime rate as an attempt on his part to help reign in his personal excesses? With more cops on the street, there’s a better chance of Rob Ford getting caught before he can get himself into serious trouble. Very noble of him if true.)

No, Miss Blatchford. There are many of us anti-Ford urbanites who aren’t the elitist prigs you make us out to be. Who very happily sit down over beers with irascible folks, unperturbed when they “say something stupid, or do something stupid” even if it is something like getting behind the wheel of a car, legally impaired, and driving off. Damn the bunk mainstream media try shoving down our throats! Sometimes friends do let friends drive drunk.

Rather, Miss Blatchford, we cannot abide the notion of Rob Ford becoming mayor of this city because during his 10 years on council, he fought against many of the very things that might’ve helped those Average Joes he now claims to be defending. Like, for example, the extension of public transit into traditionally under-serviced areas. In fact he stands before us at the head of the polls still lacking any sort of comprehensive transportation plan whatsoever. A plan needed if we ever hope to finally be in good enough shape to start inviting in those 1 million newcomers Mr. Ford presently wants to keep out. As councillor, Rob Ford voted — almost alone – against the planned redevelopment of the Lawrence Heights housing project, siding with – again, virtually alone – the more affluent next door neighbourhood.

It is this faux populism Mr. Ford has unfurled as his banner (and that you help propagate) which elicits much of the enmity toward him from many of us who don’t dwell in the suburbs, Miss Blatchford. Where you see a “pink and porky” businessman, we see a scion of privilege; an inheritor of wealth whose entire political career has been devoted to nothing more than the furthering of his own interests. Low taxes. Low wages. Deregulation. A big wet kiss to the business community of which he constantly brays about being part of. His only nod to the notion of noblesse oblige or giving back, as you more down to earth people might say, is his devotion to high school football. A commendable impulse, to be sure, but a minor repair of the damage he inflicts on society as whole with the heavy-handed neo-conservative, anti-government stance he takes.

See, Miss Blatchford? I said all that without my head coming so much as close to exploding. Maybe it is you who needs to get out more and stop mingling “primarily with others of the same ilk”. Find yourself some new friends.

Or at least, find some friends who aren’t made entirely of straw. You know the sort. Those ingratiatingly spineless types who let you walk all over them in the hopes that you’ll still want to hang out. A one-sided relationship that’s all give and no take, ultimately amounting to little more than a preening illusion of having actually taken part in something of substance.

Surely, Miss Blatchford, you want more from a friendship than that.

So let’s do lunch. Have your people call my people.

Yours in truth,

Acaphlegmic


The S(T)ory That Just Won’t Die

August 3, 2010

Being away from this computer even for just a few days always seems and feels much, much longer. Your rhythm gets messed up. The flow of information is interrupted. Thought and idea processing becomes sluggish and non-responsive.

It’s political ennui and being caught out of the loop rolled up into one big Egg McMuffin of disorientation. (Which reminds me. I’m hungry. Why is there never anything in the fridge?)

Scrolling back through unread emails and Tweets, following what may be pertinent links to stories that might’ve been of interest last week. The process is more laborious than usual as these are now the official dog days of summer and campaigns have pulled back on the throttle a bit, taking a breather before the final push begins after Labour Day. Not much is happening and deeper digging may not reveal much for the effort.

Let’s see, there’s the ongoing call for a full inquiry into the G20 debacle. (Neal Jennings does a great job here gathering mayoral candidates’ responses or non-responses as the cases may be to how they would deal with the fallout from the G20 if elected to office). Apparently the weather was excellent for Caribana festivities. Will John Tory run for mayor or won’t—OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!! ARE YOU PEOPLE STILL ON ABOUT THIS?! I KNOW IT’S SLIM PICKIN’S OUT THERE, NEWS WISE, BUT DO YOU HAVE TO CONTINUALLY BEAT THIS DEAD HORSE WHEN THERE’S NOTHING ELSE TO WRITE AND/OR TALK ABOUT?

This is John Tory here not Mario Cuomo painfully mulling over a run for the U.S. presidency in the 1980s. John Tory. We’ve been through this before, remember? He’s not bringing anything new to the table except the notion of being the least uninspiring of a wholly uninspiring field of front running mayoral candidates. Hardly newsworthy, folks. Yet, there they all were from the Toronto Sun through to the National Post and Globe and Mail, once more, weighing the pros and cons, ups and downs, pluses and minuses of a John Tory candidacy. How many ways and how much ink must be spilled to spell out one word? Indifferent.

The most interesting aspect of this latest Will He Or Won’t He is that it stems from an email exchange between Tory and candidate Sarah Thomson whose campaign team already includes one Mr. John Tory Jr. as a senior adviser and is poised to hire George Tory (brother and son of) as campaign manager. It seems that to Ms. Thomson’s way of thinking Tory Sr.’s waffling has bogged her candidacy down in the mud of uncertainty. Her need for clarity is understandable, Ours? Not so much.

But the dreary saga does reveal just how incestuously inbred our local political scene is. Torys everywhere. Doesn’t anyone find that at all disturbing? No wonder the pond of discourse is so shallow and oxygen deprived.

Now, I’m sure the journalists covering Toronto’s municipal beat are all very nice people except for maybe Sue-Ann Levy over at the Toronto Sun. No one can write that partisanly crazy and be considered nice. If let off their respective leashes they would, in all likelihood, take the time to more fully explore other mayoral options given the apathetic response in the general public to what has been offered up so far. Surely they must be as bored as we are about the John Tory speculation story. Rehashing rehash over and over again. They weren’t the ones to arbitrarily winnow down the race from the get-go to 6 or 7 acceptable candidates, were they?

That dubious distinction must lie at the feet of the higher ups in the journalistic food chain who aren’t responsible for reporting the news so much as they are for creating it. Which brings us back to the real storyline behind all this front runner business and apparent Tory – gulp… I can barely bring myself to say it – mania. Who decided any of these candidates including John Tory should be considered our only viable alternatives? I know it makes me sound naïve just asking that question but it really needs to be asked and explored and talked about.

This is our democracy. Just because those making up the headlines and attempting to generate buzz can’t or won’t see past their office doors or windows and gaze upon the wider list of candidates beyond sitting councillors, former M.P.P.s and backroom dilettantes, doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t. Maybe the collective yawn a solid majority of the electorate has given to the list of “acceptable” candidates handed down from on high is because they are little more than sitting councillors, former M.P.P.s and backroom dilettantes and not very attractive prospects for mayor of this city.

How’s that for a story angle, media? So far, chalk us down as unimpressed. What else do you have for us or are we going to have to start looking elsewhere for the information we need to make the informed decision that are integral to our democratic process?

desperately submitted by Cityslikr


Another Debate, Same Old Tune

July 21, 2010

With another televised mayoral debate under our collective belts, I do not think it hyperbolic (in the non-mathematical sense) to say that this city is now facing a crisis of confidence, leadership confidence. What seemed funny back in March became mirthlessly laughable by May. Now, more than mid-way through July and it’s simply just sad. And a little bit worrisome.

Yeah, it’s that bad, folks.

At moments like these, I try to settle my rattled nerves by knocking back a few stiff belts of Woodford Reserve over an a.m. bowl of honey coated Shreddies and convince myself that if we made it through the Mel Lastman years, hell, we can make it through anything. We are that strong. We are that resilient.

But this feels a little different, and not in a ticklish, I kind of like it way. It’s more ominous and disheartening. Thirteen years into this experiment we call the amalgamated city and it seems like we’ve learned nothing, processed no information, become none the wiser through the experience of past accomplishments and mistakes. Those endeavouring to assume Toronto’s top office have surveyed the landscape, examined the books and come to the exhaustive conclusion that what ails us most is a… spending problem.

It’s all about out of control, unaccountable, retirement party spending. End of discussion. Full stop. Enjoy the rest of your evening everyone. Vote For Me!

To give Councillor/Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone his due, he did try offering up a variation on the theme. (No, not his charts.) He raised the spectre of tax revenue inequality among the various levels of government, pointing out that for every tax dollar a Toronto resident spends, 92 cents of it leaves the city on its way to either Ottawa or Queen’s Park but it was a conversation the others didn’t want to have. Pantalone was summarily shouted down by all 4 of the others, braying in unison: We have a spending problem!

That’s it. The full extent of the conversation. The alpha and omega of the debate. A paucity of thoughtful, provocative ideas and views, best exemplified by Rocco Rossi. I know you thought I was going to say Rob Ford but what would be the point? He’s a Johnny One-Note that only surprises by his extraordinary ability to bring every issue, regardless of how irrelevant and beside the point back to Kyle Rae’s $12,000 retirement party. I’m pretty sure that’s how he plans on cutting 22 council seats. Anyone who attended the party is gone.

Yet in his own way, Rossi’s no better. He might not turn as beet red as Ford but he manages to spout similarly inane nonsense. Near the end of last night’s debate, he looked into the camera and bludgeoned us with the power of absolute numbers, saying that the present mayor inherited a 6 point something billion dollar operating budget and this year? (Stare deep into my eyes those out there in TV land and listen to the gravity I summon in my baritone voice.) 9 point 2 billion dollars.

Wow. That’s a lot of money. We really do have a spending prob—Wait a second. Might there be any explanation for such a significant rise in expenditure? Let’s see, for the past 18 months, 2 years, there’s been that little recession thing. The biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression with government expenditures at all levels exploding in order to head off an even bigger calamity. So there was that. Plus Transit City, the largest expansion of public transportation in Toronto for decades, making up for previous regimes’ neglect and building those bridges Mr. Rossi talks so movingly about to underserved areas of the city. A little cash outlay was needed for that.

The spendthrift argument Rossi et al put forward de-contextualizes the situation, pulling Toronto out of the reality it operates in for purely political purposes. No real viable solutions are put up on offer. Just hot button topics to raise the hackles of outrage among the electorate.

So whatever audience there is for the debate tunes in, turns off and drops out. We’ve been hearing the same drivel for 6 months now and we’re not biting. Sure, Ford’s made a splash upon entry but he basically siphoned support away from the others. The largest number still remains in the undecided column. The prix fixe doesn’t do it for me. Can I order a la carte, s’il vous plais?

Unfortunately the media maitre d’ remains firm. This is the slate of candidates we gave you, dammit, pick one of these! Given the opportunity of Giorgio Mammoliti’s exit from the mayoral race to open up the field of choice, CP24 declined last night. Brushing off calls to include Mammoliti’s pick to replace him, Rocco Achampong, they said winnowing the debate down to 5 would help simplify things as if they weren’t already doing that with Ben Mulroney MCing the proceedings.

This led to accusations of racism since Achampong is black and every one of the front runners is white. Let’s try and, if not represent the diversity of the city here, at least make a passing nod to it. While not ignoring that point, I do think that it’s part of a bigger problem at work here.

We are a small organization and yet over the course of the last few months have uncovered 5 or 6 other candidates running for mayor who are at least worth a first look at. Some aren’t white, some are. None are saying anything crazier than Rob Ford; all are talking a lot more sense. If we can find them certainly big news gathering conglomerates like CP24 or CTV or CBC or the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and Toronto Sun can too. Talk to them. Interview them. Introduce them to the public. That is your job after all, is it not?

Here, let me give you a list of names to get you started: there’s Rocco Achampong. (Check the spelling though.) HiMY SYeD. (Ditto.) Sonny Yeung. (Pronounced just like our main north-south street.) Keith Cole. (He’s gay just like George Smitherman.) George Babula. Andrew Barton. Wendell Brereton. Colin Magee.

These candidates are only fringe because you guys declared them so. Well, given those who you said weren’t and who were on display on CP24 again last night, I’m not sure we should trust your judgment on this. We’re not liking what we’re seeing and suggest it’s time to turn the channel. Or at least, give us more to choice to choose from. What we are seeing here is the deliberate muffling of democracy and the handcuffing of voters. A prospect even more frightening than a Mayor Rob Ford.

End of discussion. Full stop.

ire drawingly submitted by Cityslikr


Stifling Debate

May 6, 2010

With little fanfare, Toronto’s municipal election heated up yesterday with 3 – count `em – 3 mayoral candidate debates. Now alas, 2 weren’t open to the wider public, with one being at a school in Scarborough and another for the Toronto Real Estate Board where, surprise, surprise, according to a poll conducted by the host group, the second most important issue to voters after public transit is the repeal of the Land Transfer Tax. We’d love to see how that question was posed to end up with such a fortuitous stat.

What’s equally interesting to note from the Day of Debates©®™ is that regardless of the venue, only 6 candidates received invitations to participate. Whether it was the TREB, the Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute or the good people of the Bloor West Residents Association, they all have accepted the given narrative that there are six, and only six, candidates to be listened to and considered as legitimate hopefuls to be mayor. What’s going on here?

Do only those sporting a high media profile or with impeccable connections make the cut? What has Sarah Thomson done that has merited her a spot on the debate podium? Does being a sitting councillor automatically qualify you for contender status even though most of the shit coming out of your mouth is no less crazy or unworkable than that coming from those sidelined as ‘fringe’ candidates? Rocco Rossi is purely a backroom one trick pony and yet there he is, being treated like serious mayoral material.

At last count there are 20 other candidates who have paid their $200 and have every right to be heard but are clearly being marginalized. How does this help our democracy or open up the debate to wider, more diverse voices by excluding people who have expressed a clear interest in our local politics and registered to run for office? Yes, there are undoubtedly cranks standing out on the fringe. That’s what happens when everyone is free to vote and free to seek public office. The alternative is far more frightening.

Throughout our weekly Meet A Mayoral Candidate profiles, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have encountered some very intriguing prospects. Sonny Yeung. Wendell Brereton. Keith Cole. George Babula and his Parkdale Party. They all bring certain political ticks and quirks to the table that limits their reach at the moment. But which of the leading candidates don’t?

Four months into the campaign and let’s take a moment to look at what we’re being given. Aside from curfews and tax breaks for senior citizens, who knows why Giorgio Mammoliti wants to be mayor or what he might do if elected. The man’s been a councillor in North York and Toronto for nearly 15 years and I have no idea what he stands for. Then there’s Rob Ford. A clown (a mean, nasty one at that) by any other measure who has plugged into the anti-incumbent, unfocussed anger out there and is riding it into contention on a platform of idiotic and detrimental policy proposals. Ditto Rocco Rossi only with a slightly smoother presentation. Sarah Thomson introduced the idea of road tolls and subways into the debate and then seems to have taken a powder.

Leaving us with two other candidates. The first, the perceived front runner, is an undistinguished former Toronto MPP and cabinet minister in an undistinguished government who sometime last year got it into his head that he wanted to be mayor. Why? Who knows. It’s tough to get any sort of answer from a candidate who doesn’t want to engage fully for fear of making a mistake and finding himself in a horse race. So we get essentially a counter-punching offensive, attacking whatever his opponents say and then uttering mealy-mouthed platitudes like ‘an integrated transportation plan’ or ‘Services First Approach’.

Then there’s Joe Pantalone, the lone ‘viable’ candidate running from the progressive-left. That alone should make this his election to lose, what with him having been on council for 30 years and being the Deputy Mayor for the last 6. Yet Joe seems so petrified of being linked with David Miller that it seems his strategy is just to lay low, keep quiet and wait for all the lefties to eventually find their way to him.

Although to be fair to Joe, he’s not being treated with much respect from the press. Following last night’s debate from Runnymede United Church via the Twitter, when the candidates were asked what green initiatives of Mayor Miller’s they would keep if elected, Kelly Grant from the Globe and Mail tweeted Pantalone’s answer like this: Pants… reminds us of his tree hugging… Uhhh, Ms. Grant? Environmental issues aren’t just for dirty hippies anymore.

No, people. Time is of the essence. We are being sold a bill of goods here. Contenders have been unjustifiably anointed. Issues corralled and packaged for easy digestion. We need to open things up, bring in fresh perspectives. With another 6 months to go in the campaign, the process has already started to simply spin its wheels. Everyone is running in place.

Let’s ignore the prix fixe we’ve been given and demand to order from the a la carte menu. Twenty-six candidates have registered to run for mayor and twenty of them have been shut out of the process. That is not democracy. That is not a free and open debate. It’s a façade. A charade. A façade of a charade and no one save the chosen few are being well served by it.

It’s time to find ourselves a barn and put on our own show.

Judy Garlandly submitted by Cityslikr


Father Knows Best

February 28, 2010

Premier Dalton McGuinty is starting to get on my tits in a big way.

A week ago or so, the Globe and Mail reported that provincial government insiders were musing almost out loud that if the province were to get back into long term co-funding of the TTC in the way they used to in the olden days, there would be strings attached. More money equaled more control of and more say in the operations.

Then this week the premier decides to wade into the city’s election campaign, saying that there needs to be a debate about whether or not the TTC should be made an essential service and barred from striking. What’s that then, Dalton? Is there anything else you’d like us to do? How be you just tell us who to vote for? Fuck that. Why don’t you just install the new mayor and save us all that money, fuss and bother having an election.

We really, really need to reframe the terms of this relationship.

As it stands, the premier of Ontario acts like a disapproving father dealing with a profligate child. Finally forced to put his foot down, he is now insisting on putting his 2 cents in about how the kid spends his allowance and who he’s going to date. There, there, that’s a good boy now. Daddy knows best.

Someone needs to remind Dalton where the money that he is being so sanctimonious with comes from. Us. Here in the cities. PST soon to be HST. Provincial income tax. Etcetera, etcetera. It’s not actually his money to bestow upon us with instructions how to use it.

Or at least, it shouldn’t be. Only an outdated, 19th century constitutional glitch allows the premier of Ontario to pontificate upon and wield unworthy authority over powerless municipalities. It’s a sad state of affairs that is becoming more and more untenable and ultimately detrimental to the well being of cities. Drastic action needs to be seriously contemplated.

Who would’ve thought that here in 2010, we would be wistfully looking back to the enlightened leadership of Bill Davis?

increasingly angrily submitted by Cityslikr


Back Room Brouhaha

February 8, 2010

What I would’ve given to be a fly on the wall in the room where John Laschinger decided to join the Adam Giambrone campaign team. One of the architects of David Miller’s two election victories, Laschinger seems to have embraced another hopeless cause in chairing Giambrone’s run this time around. The face of everything that’s wrong with Toronto these days, Giambrone sports the wrong kind of name recognition and to say his path to the mayor’s chair will be an entirely uphill one is to display a firm grasp of the obvious.

So is Laschinger simply attracted to the underdogs? Miller in `03. Belinda Stronach’s bid for the then Progressive Conservative leadership in 2004. John Tory in 2007 and his tilt at the windmills to become premier of Ontario. Laschinger seems to have made a profession of attempting to snatch victory from the gaping jaws of defeat. Now add Adam to the list.

Or maybe there’s a little something more at work on this one? Is it too much to hope that there’s a back room battle royale brewing? In the murky political shadows, dueling operatives have thrown down. Feathers have been ruffled. The dander is up. Yes, this time it’s personal.

I muddy my hands in the besotted dirt of conjecture and speculation after re-reading the National Post article from last September where jowly bagman and Bay Street big shot, Ralph Lean QC publicly split with Mayor David Miller and referred to Laschinger as “… the hired help” on Miller’s campaign team. Oh no, he di’int!! This coming from the guy who was lying low when Miller was a nobody back in 2003 and then jumped on the bandwagon when Miller was a shoo-in to win re-election in ’06, citing “It would be better if we had a voice at the table to represent our views.” Who exactly is this we and our that Ralph Lean QC is talking about?

It’s hard not to see how someone couldn’t take the “hired help” retort as a short, smart slap across the cheek with a white glove. In my mind John Laschinger read it, sat back, biding his time and waited to see what candidate Ralph Lean QC would get his hooks into. With that set – Come on down, George Smitherman! You’re now a contestant on the Price Is Right!! – Laschinger saddles up with Giambrone and prepares to slay the dragon.

The move seems almost noble in that light which is not a sentiment one normally associates with management consultants and political strategists of John Laschinger’s stripe. But compared to the dismissive arrogance and doughy sense of entitlement projected by Ralph Lean QC, chairman of Cassels Brock law firm and eerie but fitting Fox News honcho Roger Ailes look-a-like, backing Giambrone comes across as nothing short of selfless on the part of Laschinger. If you don’t count the whole personal insult angle that I’ve completely manufactured.

Roger Ailes or Ralph Lean?

And it’s a no-brainer to side with Laschinger in the made up war in my mind. Whatever else you may think about the merits of professional consultants and paid political operatives, there is clearly a skill to delivering up a viable campaign plan especially one of this duration which is pure marathon, second only to the U.S. Presidential slog. You might even call it an art form.

How difficult is it to do what Ralph Lean QC does? He’s a guy who wants to cut government spending, freeze councilors’ wages and — follow the line on this – examine the outsourcing of some city functions. That’s gobblie-gook for privatization, folks, and Lean is nothing if not a spokesman for privatization, lobbying for a number of U.S. firms looking to get in on the outsourcing action.

Lean or Ailes?

A typical campaign fundraising pitch by Ralph Lean QC? “So my candidate is thinking of outsourcing some of the city’s functions.. I don’t know, garbage or tax collection, part of the TTC.. whatever. If you want on the ground floor of that, maybe you and a few of your friends might want to cut me a cheque.. ?”

The ironically surnamed Lean doesn’t even have to leave his desk to do that. The money comes to him. And oh yeah, the man’s a “… big supporter of Porter [Airlines].” So it’s not hard to imagine another round of voting to bring back a bridge or push for a tunnel to the island, errr, the Billy Bishop Airport if the new city council comes together in the shape of which someone like Ralph Lean QC approves.

It’s enough to make you want straight up, publicly funded elections. No money from anyone, individuals, unions, corporations. Financing doled out solely from the public purse. Candidates would still need the likes of John Laschinger to run for office but Ralph Lean QC and his ilk would be shit out of luck. And the commonweal would be all the better for that.

imaginatively submitted by Urban Sophisticat