Can We Talk?

April 27, 2015

Reading Alan Redway’s Governing Toronto, I’m struck by just how much the provincial government of Ontario spent time tinkering on the governance of Toronto and the GTA. governingtorontoStarting near the end of the Second World War, with a regional planning act, Queen’s Park exhibited little shyness in regularly rethinking how its biggest city and region should run. As the 1953 Cumming Report served up Bill 80 that established Metro Council, within 3 years, there would be a Commission of Inquiry to sort through the growing power of the suburban municipalities within Metro. Then came a Royal Commission in 1964. And another one in 1974.

The Mike Harris government had 3 reports and task forces (one of those coming from 4 mayors of 4 Metro municipalities) in front of it as it decided how to proceed with amalgamation. It largely ignored all 3, opting instead in favour of its own commissioned report from KPMG on the financial implications of creating one local government from six. From that point on, however, all examination and reviews of local governance in Toronto has ceased. Once our 44 ward boundaries were mandated in 2000, it’s been pretty much, Bob’s yer uncle.

Isn’t it time we sat down and had an in-depth conversation about things are functioning here?

We’re currently undergoing a ward boundary review that has to be in place for the next election in 2018. That, however, will do nothing to address the political structure, aside from changing the number of wards. tinkerIt’s long past due that we have a meatier discussion about what’s working and what isn’t with how we’ve governed ourselves since 1998.

The megacity’ll be two decades old when we next vote for our local representative, and I don’t think I’d be too far off the mark saying we have more than a few wrinkles we need to iron out. How come we’ve all gone radio silence and continued business as usual like everything’s hunky dory? Why did our provincial government stop being interested in trying to adapt our form of governance to the changes underway with both the city and region?

A cynic might suggest it’s because things are working out nicely for the province with the arrangement we have. By serving as the de facto regional level of government, the ultimate hands-on authority, Queen’s Park faces no serious challenge from a divided and weak set of municipalities. Toronto, the core of the region, is much, much too busy fighting with itself to provide much pushback against the province. Fiefdoms within fiefdoms, squabbling, leaving the monarch unrivalled.

But shouldn’t the provincial government really be concentrating more of its efforts on being, well, a provincial government? puppetmasterIt has the last word on how the cities under its rule do things. Can it really be effective micromanaging at a local level a region of some 6 million people?

I’d argue they can’t, and they haven’t been for some time now. Queen’s Park has proven to be an absentee-landlord, only to be seen when demanding money and/or votes. For too long now, their approach has been self-interest first, and everything else secondary to that.

No actual regional oversight body would’ve stood aside and meekly allowed one elected official, even one of mayoral stature, to try and torpedo much needed transit plans that had been in the works for three years. Worse than that, get involved in the melee, sacrificing fact-based decision making in order to better position itself politically. No, we’re the subway champions.

Last week’s provincial budget further proved Queen’s Park’s regional vision may come at a cost to certain municipalities that fall off the provincial radar. Oddly enough, Toronto seems to be one of those municipalities. Of the $16 billion being spent by the provincial government on public transit, $13.5 billion of that will be dedicated to its regional rail system. Not that that’s a terrible thing. It isn’t. There’s just not much left over for other necessary projects in the pipeline. Let alone helping to rebuild the biggest, arguably most vital component of the regional transit system, the TTC.

For over 20 years now, the provincial government has shirked its obligation to pay half of the TTC’s annual operating budget, billions and billions of dollars it’s pocketed over the last couple decades directly from Toronto’s property tax base. givewithonehandThis has regional implications as a shoddy TTC does little to encourage commuters to use it, bringing more cars into and around the city. A truly regionally inspired government would recognize that fact and work to fix it.

Exerting such pressure on the city’s budget leads to shortfalls elsewhere like, for example, social housing which the provincial government, acknowledging the regional implications of the file, used to help pay for. No more. Once again the budget made no mention of it despite the ‘moral and business case’ Mayor Tory pitched a couple weeks ago.

Raise your property taxes appropriately, critics say. Utilize the other taxing powers granted to Toronto back in 2006 with the City of Toronto Act. A vehicle registration tax, for example.

While not wrong, I believe those enhanced taxing powers should’ve been accompanied by new governance arrangements or, at the very least, discussion about regional government. It’s all well and good to say Toronto should start paying for what was traditionally thought of as regional or even provincial areas of oversight but shouldn’t that come with some bigger say in the matter? takemymoneyRight now, it’s awfully one-sided, more often than not falling in favour of the provincial government.

The case might be made that with such vested interest, Queen’s Park is not the ideal body to be solely in charge of regional governance for the GTA. It’s kind of conflicted, really. What with watching its own bottom line, and playing municipalities in the region off against each other, even encouraging a city to fight with itself, there’s a valid question of leadership here. We as a region are long overdue to have a conversation about how we should be governing ourselves in the 21st-century.

chattily submitted by Cityslikr


This Toronto Thing

January 29, 2013

I am not a party person. Although I am a big fan of 24 Hour Party People. But politically speaking, in order to less messily gets things done, I reluctantly and grudgingly 24hourpartypeopleaccept that parties are a necessary evil in a parliamentary system while still maintaining they are also the bastion of highly destructive, poo-flinging partisanship.

So I don’t get all caught up with leadership conventions and the like, choosing instead to maintain a safe distance to watch the parade. An interested observer. A conscientious objector. I’ll examine the entrails when the voting’s done and results announced.

And as a Monday morning quarterback reviewing the outcome of this past weekend’s provincial Liberal leadership race, I will tell you I’m pleasantly surprised. For the first time in about 30 years (nearly my entire voting life), I feel that I’m being offered something to consider from the Liberals. So all you party canvassers out there on vigilant minority government election watch, consider this cowboy in play for a change.

Incoming premier Kathleen Wynne strikes me as frank, funny, down-to-earth, smart as a whip. Obviously, to climb such treacherous career heights, she must possess some political chops but, unlike her predecessor, she does not wear her calculating on her sleeve. courtingcoupleWhat I’ve heard from her so far, I like, and I’m willing to listen to more.

“Can we just get this Toronto thing out of the way…” Kathleen Wynne said during her victory speech on Saturday [at about the 6’40” mark].

This Toronto ‘thing’.

Almost as big an obstacle to winning for Wynne as her sexual orientation.

The provincial Liberals seem to have a thing against electing leaders who call the GTA home. When the only non-GTAer in the field, Sandra Pupatello, raised that warning specter during the campaign, I went back to see when it was a Toronto area based politician led the party. Andy Thompson, way back in the 60s — 1964-66 to be exact — if Wikipedia is to be believed.

That’s a whole lot of non-love toward an area that has provided a strong and vital base of support certainly during the McGuinty era. I mean, what don’t they get about this being the centre of the universe? chocolatetownIt’s almost as if they want to hook up with us every 4 years or so and then pretend like they don’t even know us the rest of the time.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the Liberals are using us for our good looks and money.

To be fair, I’d argue that all the provincial political parties over the course of the last 20 years or so have wished Toronto and environs would just be quiet or go away. Leave your votes and tax dollars on the table. Here’s your hat and coat. There’s the door.

Because it seems to be political advantageous to cater to the long held belief outside of the GTA that we’re simply a drain on the well-being of the province, a suck of money and attention. We demand too much and return very little. The generous residents of Not Toronto, Ontario build our subways and feed our homeless.

That’s ‘this Toronto thing’.

A myth based entirely on perception rather than reality.

Unfortunately, a myth eagerly used to exploit divisions. Rural-urban. Suburban-urban. North-south.

Once premier, Kathleen Wynne will be watched closely for any sort of home team advantage. dominoesWhen she speaks of building transit to meet the growing needs of the GTA, she will need to speak of the transit needs of all Ontario municipalities. She won’t be wrong to do so but it would be nice to hear her push the discussion further. That this region’s needs in things like transit are more pressing than those places less dependent on it to function fully. A Toronto bogged down in congestion, bogs down the GTA, bogs down the GTHA. It then reverberates negatively throughout the province as a whole.

By all means, our premier needs to represent and speak for all of Ontario. But it’s time to start speaking truthfully and not out of fear of some parochial regionalism. If you don’t fix what’s ailing Toronto and the GTA, you can’t fix the problems the rest of the province faces. That’s the conversation we’ve been avoiding for a couple decades now. Hopefully, it’s one our incoming premier is up to having and going to an election battle with if need be.

homerly submitted by Cityslikr


Finding The Better Way

November 10, 2011

A political case could probably be made for Premier Dalton McGuinty, his Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne, and Transportation, Bob Chiarelli, to seize the moment and reframe the transit debate in Toronto. Our mayor has been staggered by a series of largely self-induced setbacks. He no longer commands a vaunted political force (if he ever did) under the banner of Ford Nation. His Transportation City plan is fraying around its already fuzzy edges. While not needing to shore up support in Toronto or the GTA, the Liberal government could lock it down for the foreseeable future by being seen to elevate the transit issue in importance here.

But really, should a political case have to be made stepping up for transit? Look around, listen. It’s not just car-hating, bike riding, downtown pinko elites demanding action. Carol Wilding and the Toronto Board of Trade have been beating the drum for a while now. Transit planning and funding have not kept up pace with the growth of this city and region. It is a situation now past the point of deleteriousness. Not just for Toronto or the GTA but for the province and the country. (Uh oh. Is that an example of the self-importance the rest of Canada hates us for? Ah, fuck `em. Oops. Too smug?)

If a politician wants to leave a positive mark, a legacy if you will, at some point of time they have to step forward and do the right thing and not just the expedient or most popular. Take a stand on an issue that may not curry them favour with a wider swath of the electorate but says, this needs to be done. Fifty years ago, for no discernible reason aside from Cold War fuelled hyper patriotism, President Kennedy exhorted his country to send a man to the moon. Less than a decade later, mission accomplished. Surely to christ we’re capable of building a viable transit system or, at least, a working portion of one in that kind of time.

It’s hard to see how, however, as our functionaries continue to play footsie instead of getting down to serious business. Witness yesterday’s ceremonial breaking of ground for the Eglinton crosstown LRT and the insipid press release it inspired. Jobs! Secure future! Jobs! New global economy! Jobs! Did we mention Jobs!

Unwritten went the fact that under the rejigged plan for the Eglinton LRT that now sees it buried underground for most of its 25 kilometres or so, sinking funds for the previously planned LRTs along Finch and Sheppard along with it, there’s uncertainty about how exactly to cross the Don Valley. Can you say cost overruns and delays? The $650 million in ‘leftover funds’ from building the Eglinton LRT has already dwindled to about $200 million before construction has barely begun, none of which is being fronted by the province to the mayor in order for him to help jump start development of an extension for the Sheppard subway which he promised could be built entirely with private funding. It has now been downgraded to a station by station concept, pay as you go kind of thing that will only succeed in keeping Toronto further and further behind the necessary transit curve.

A brewing monumental clusterfuck is what we’re facing and it’s time for the province to forcefully step in and get this thing back on track. It should be clear by now that Mayor Ford and his team is not up to the task. In fact, a convincing argument could be made the he is now nothing more than an obstacle to transit planning in this city.

At least make the case that before we proceed much further this has to go back to city council for a more serious debate and vote. We’re no longer talking about a simple rearranging of funds that had already been allocated to build transit. There’s going to have to be additional money provided by someone. It’s hard to see how another environmental assessment can be avoided whatever way they come up with as a plan to cross the Don Valley along Eglinton. This is now beyond the scope of simply the mayor and the TTC. The entire city council, and the city itself needs to have a say in how we go forward.

Now I thought that was the case right from the beginning when the mayor declared Transit City dead. I didn’t see how he could do that single-handedly and most of those who sprang to his defence did so with greyish technicalities. I was surprised the Premier played along. In hindsight, I’m glad he did. Mayor Ford’s popularity was higher than it is now, his clout more substantial. He just might’ve been able to bury Transit City for good and we’d be right back to scratch as we seem to find ourselves regularly on the transit portfolio.

Forced to sell his plan to council now, the outcome is nowhere near as foregone. With the bad news keep on a-coming, what councillor in their right mind would stand up to be counted as backing the mayor’s Transportation City plan? It’s going to cost more and deliver less transit to the city. Yes, if we go with Transit City, there’ll be ‘streetcars’ back on the street but that’s his millstone to bear. How many councillors went out on the hustings touting that to voters?

No, Transit City is not perfect. The province made it a little less so when it blinked in the face of a darkening economy a couple years ago and pulled some funding back off the table. But it still delivers reliable transit to parts of the city that will continue to be woefully underserved without it. Let’s call it a reasonable start to an increasingly daunting problem facing us.

An argument could be made to let the mayor dangle further, bluster ahead with his plan and watch it disintegrate further with each successive misstep. That will only squander valuable time and money both of which are at a premium presently with very little prospect of any increased rosiness in the near future. It’s time to stop playing political football with this, push aside the mayor and get on with building proper transit with the serious intent he’s shown no inclination in having.

adultly submitted by Cityslikr


Ford Nation Decimation

October 7, 2011

A fitting end to an uninspiring provincial election campaign. The best one could say is, at least the worst possible outcome did not come to pass. Or as the Toronto Sun put it: Welcome to Hell. OK. Maybe that’s the best thing to emerge from last night. The mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are totally in a tizzy.

Actually, that’s completely untrue for two reasons. 1) I assume the mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are always totally in a tizzy for some reason or another. 2) The best thing to emerge from yesterday’s provincial election is the absolute repudiation of any notion of a Ford Nation. As Councillor Adam Vaughan predicted a few weeks back, “Ford Nation is a notion. It’s just a notion. It’s not a factor, it’s not going to be a factor. It does not translate to the province, it won’t translate beyond the last election. Some people voted for Rob Ford, based on some promises of tax cuts with no service cuts. They found out that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to build subways, that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to get rid of the gravy down here, and he’s found no gravy.” Or as Sol Chrom more succinctly put it last night: “Can we officially retire the phrase Ford Nation now? There’s no such fucking thing.”

The complete shut out of the provincial PCs in the 416 area code would point in that direction no matter how much the mayor tries to distance himself from the result. What’s that he said on Metro Morning today? (Yes, Mayor Ford actually stepped into enemy territory at the CBC. All by himself.) “My name wasn’t on the ballot.” He didn’t endorse anyone.

Yeah, but how about this from March, Mr. Mayor? “If he [Premier McGuinty] says no [to the mayor’s request for additional money], obviously there’s a provincial election coming up on October 6 and I want to work with him, not against him, but obviously if he’s not helping out the city I’ll have no choice to work against him.. I’ll have no other choice but to call Ford Nation, and make sure they’re not reelected in the next election. But I do not want to do that.”

So maybe it was a case of the mayor not wanting to unleash Ford Nation as opposed to being unable to.

Either way, Mayor Ford is today facing a somewhat different scenario at the provincial level than he was yesterday. The Liberals are still in power and no longer entirely in election mode although with a minority government, you never can tell. Toronto and much of the GTA, if no less Blue, the Red and Orange are shimmering a little brighter. His own home turf of Etobicoke remained a Liberal stronghold as did neighbouring Mississauga. And, horrors of horrors, right on the doorstep to the north, an NDPer was elected in Bramalea-Gore-Malton!

The political ground beneath his feet may not have shifted drastically but it sure got a whole lot rockier. Will it force him to start playing nice, or as nice as he is capable of, with those he so despises politically? The left wing kooks. The bike riding pinkos.

The answer to that may lie in how the premier chooses to play his cards. Having survived, albeit not unscathed, what was supposed to be another Blue wave here in Ontario will he stop pandering to a more vulnerable mayor here in Fortress Liberal/NDP Toronto? Incoming newcomer, Jonah Schien was a big proponent of Transit City. Will he and the other downtown NDP MPPs use their minority government leverage to put the plan back on the table? I’d be happy just to see the mayor forced to bring it to council for debate. That seems like a very minor demand to make. More importantly, perhaps the timeline for the province resuming their obligation to pay for half the operating costs of the TTC can be pushed up. That’s something the mayor can get on board with.

At council, it’ll be interesting to see if the game’s changed a little bit too. Two fairly solid supporters of Mayor Ford may now be able to stop helplessly toeing the line now that the election’s over and their respective relatives were easily re-elected on the Liberal ticket. Executive Committee member Michelle Berardinetti’s husband, Lorenzo, retained his seat in Scarborough as did Josh Colle’s dad, Mike, in Eglinton Lawrence in what was supposed to be a hotly contested race against former mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi. It wasn’t. So are these two councillors now more free to display an independence of thinking from the mayor?

And what about Ana Bailão? Her ward has been consumed both federally and provincially by the NDP. Looking down the road to her own re-election fortunes, will that change in colour force her to distance herself a little more often from the mayor?

For all the lifelessness of the provincial campaign, a lifelessness that helped contribute to the worst voter turnout in history in Ontario, it has certainly detonated some reverberations here in Toronto. Very, very noticeable cracks in Mayor Ford’s once seemingly bulletproof veneer have been fully exposed. Having endeavoured to make no friends with anyone not possessing similar political stripes, he’s now at the mercy of those he bullied, berated and otherwise alienated while in his briefest of ascendancies. He left himself no wiggle room.

It’s going to be fun to watch him squirm.

not unhappily submitted by Cityslikr


Unreason To Believe

May 5, 2011

We’re trying a new approach here in an attempt to fall in line with a wider swath of our fellow electorate. Clearly we are out of step. So very, very out of step.

Our goal is to stop over-analyzing things. Maybe stop analyzing everything altogether. It only leads to despondency and heavy drinking. Let’s just start pretending to take what our politicians tell us at face value. We know they’re all lying to us, so let’s go with the lies we find most agreeable and beneficial to us. That way, when they fail to deliver, it justifies our anger and disillusionment with the entire system. The politicians are the problem not us.

Cut taxes without cutting services? We like it. Stability and non-accountability above compromise and cooperation? Hells yeah! Putting a majority government in place enables us not to have to think about federal politics again for another 4 years or so. That’s what politics is all about, isn’t it? Divesting ourselves of any and all responsibility.

We’ll also try our best to pay attention to what politicians who pander to our worst instincts have to say about their opponents and we’ll poo-poo what these duly smeared politicians say about any sort of ‘hidden agenda’. That’s just conspiracy minded, we’ll tell them. Besides, what do you know? You once lived outside of the country, didn’t you? Let’s set aside policy and platforms for personality. I’m only going to vote for someone I’d like to have a beer with. It’s a whole lot easier that way.

So we’re going to begin by sharing the joy our mayor and his brother have expressed with the outcome of Monday’s federal election. Finally. After nearly 25 years in exile, we have Conservatives MPs in 416 Toronto. The Liberal Fortress GTA has been breached and this can only mean good things for the city and region.

After years of being neglected and taken for granted by successive Liberal governments in Ottawa, left to our own devices to build transit, affordable housing and upgrade infrastructure, we have elected a party that will listen to our needs and set those things right. It’s true. Technically speaking, the Conservatives have been in power for 5 years now and haven’t really ever talked about any of that except for stimulus spending that the dreaded near-coalition forced them into when the world’s economy was heading off the cliff in 2008.

But you see, their hands were tied in a minority situation. Now freed from those merciless bonds, not with a little help from Toronto and the GTA, they can finally be themselves which, I think, if you didn’t look too closely at how they’ve operated as a government, could be seen as magnanimous. Caring, accommodating, law-abiding and magnanimous.

And since our mayor and his brain trust helped push them over the top, we should expect a little payback in return. Only Liberals ignore those who vote for them. While Conservatives focus mostly on their enemies, they do know who their friends are and reward them accordingly.

What from the mayor’s wish list should we look to be granted first? And by ‘wish list’, I mean not an actual list of priorities that Mayor Ford set down early on in the campaign for the federal politicians to agree or disagree with. That would be getting involved, politically speaking. The mayor didn’t want to get involved. At least, until he publicly endorsed the Conservatives and started sending out robo-calls to voters in various 416 ridings. But now that he’s rolled the dice and come up 7s, what would he wish for if he had any wishes?

There’s money for subways through P3s. So the mayor can finally administer the death blow to Transit City. Check that one off the list. Then there’s… there’s…

For this to work, we’re going to have to ignore the fact that all throughout last year’s municipal campaign, then candidate Rob Ford told us that the city didn’t have a revenue problem. It was all about over-spending and profligate waste. So it makes it a little awkward to go to the federal government now, cap in hand as the mayor referred to it when someone else was doing it, and ask for money that the mayor claims we don’t need.

The difference is, we’re coming at this from a position of strength now. Not only did we help give the Conservatives a majority government, so they owe us, but we don’t really need the money in the first place. If we did, the mayor and his people at City Hall wouldn’t have cut and frozen taxes. So let’s look at it more as a Demand rather than Wish List. We are in the driver’s seat. All it took was electing government MPs. Conservative government MPs. Conservative majority government MPs.

Who knew life could be this simple and easy? Aside from the 40% of voters who cast Conservative ballots on Monday. They’re clearly on to something. Set aside reason and logic and things become very clear, very straight-forward. It’s what we’re all looking for in the long run, isn’t it?

new me-ly submitted by Cityslikr


A Bitter Victory

May 3, 2011

He was not answering his phone. Rain or shine, day or night, while sitting on the toilet conducting his daily constitutional, he answered his phone. So this was unusual.

It’s not like the evening had been a total failure. Yes, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives seized the majority that had hung so tantalizingly close before their eyes just out of reach for the past 5 years. If you have any attachment to the notion of the positive role government plays in our lives, no good can come from last night’s results.

And being what my friend Donald calls an ‘unreconstructed Pierre Trudeau Liberal’, the party of my youth is not even the official opposition any longer. It is just officially in tatters. No one’s going to be talking about the ‘Liberal brand’ anymore without giggling mournfully.

Yet the NDP had scaled historic heights. A second place finish seemed to be merely empty boasting as recently as two weeks ago. By the end of last evening, however, the NDP were les rois du Quebec, nearly obliterating the Bloc in one fell swoop. For that, federalists of whatever stripe should be grateful. The party also managed to hold seats elsewhere and mounted their own assault on Fortress Liberal in downtown Toronto, taking out a few Liberal incumbents in the process.

So for that alone, I expected at least a modicum of ebullience from my colleague, the NDPisty of all of us. But he wouldn’t even pick up his phone. From past experience, I knew this to be a bad sign.

When I arrived at the office, the door was slightly ajar. I knocked. No answer. Popping my head into the darkened room except for the glow coming of the computer screen, I spotted the silhouette of Cityslikr, sitting at the desk. With a “yoo-hoo!” I made my presence known but still received no response. My rational side told me he was just lost in deep thought but part of me wondered, well, I’d seen too many movies with scenes just like this. A corpse still sitting upright, waiting to fall over at the slightest touch. It wasn’t like the man didn’t have a short list of people who’d vowed to kill him at some point of time or other.

I slowly but noisily approached him, still eliciting no reaction. The first thing I noticed was the half full (yes, I remain the optimist even in the darkest of times) bottle of Woodford Reserve. OK. So maybe he’d drunk himself into a joyful stupor. I mean, the Orange Wave had taken 100 seats after all. Conservative majority be damned. It was still an impressive feat.

Then I spotted the opened pill bottle. Picking it up from the desk with still no acknowledgement from Cityslikr, I checked out the label. Lorazepam. Oh oh. I leaned in for a closer look. His eyes were open but just staring ahead at the computer screen. Giving him a gentle nudge, I asked how many of the pills he’d had.

It wasn’t clear if he’d heard me as the question seemed to make no impression. The only sign of life Cityslikr exhibited was the slow blinking of his eyes, randomly and not always in unision. I began wondering if a call to 9-1-1 might not be in order. And then he spoke.

“Not nearly enough,” he said. “I was thinking of trying to sleep for the next 4 and a half years.” He continued to look at the computer screen. I followed his glance to see what, if anything, had so focused his attention. Sentences blinked on the screen in front of him.

In the end, we send our words and ideas into the void, Mafingo.

(Mafingo?)

 Into the fucking void to die a neglected death. Nothing to be done. Nothing to be done.

Yep. Our fearless leader had slipped into the dark recesses of a Beckettian induced coma. Clearly this was not the time for upbeat words and thoughts. He was nowhere near ready for that. Now we simply mourn. And how better to do that than a slug of some silky smooth bourbon to wash down the warm, pillowy embrace of a benzodiazepine? Warning: Do not drink alcohol while taking benzodiazepine. This medication can increase the effects of alcohol. Exactly.You know, it’s not the majority government that’s so hard to swallow although, it is a big, big, bitter, bitter pill for sure. Nor is it the collapse of Liberal support that’s dismaying. While much will be made of the vote splitting that gave the Conservatives many unintentional seats especially in Toronto and the GTA, I curiously await the numbers to see how many of those were caused by natural occurring left of centre, NDP-Liberal splits and those caused by rightist Liberals jumping aboard the good ship Conservative to try and stem the Orange Wave. Perhaps Liberals needed to purge their party of those types anyway. It’s just an ugly way to do it for the rest of us.

No, for me the really disheartening aspect of Monday’s election is the total lack of imagination and nerve on the part of voters who cast their ballot with the Conservatives out of fear and desire for stability. They bought into the dubious notion that parliamentary democracies can only function properly with one party in a majority position to make all the decisions. Here you go. Do your worst. And we’ll tune in again in 4 years time, see how you’re doing.

We had a golden opportunity by electing a third straight minority government (in whatever makeup) to truly change the political landscape of this country. To make it known to all the parties that this is what we wanted. We wanted compromise. We wanted consensus. So instead of working to undermine a minority parliament, all parties would have to properly deal with that new reality and perhaps put their own interests aside for those of the country.

Instead, we rewarded those who did everything in their power to discredit the idea of a workable minority government with unfettered access to the levers of federal power. Actually, fewer than two in five voters rewarded the Conservatives for their parliamentary treachery, somehow feeling that they’ve restored the natural order of things where one party garnering less than 40% of the popular vote gets to play with all the marbles. A skewed stability that disenfranchises 60% of the electorate. But no matter. We won’t have to bother to vote again for over 4 years!

This type of Conservative victory has set back voting reform at the federal level for another 5 years at least. Why would a majority government want to reform a system that benefited them greatly? While seat numbers weren’t far off their popular vote, the NDP may be likewise loathe to bring up the subject with the majority of their seats now in Quebec, a province that could see their political influence dwindle somewhat under a more proportionally representative system. Only the Liberals and the Green Party are left to carry that banner but their impact on the next parliament will be minimal.

In its place, the talk will be of uniting the centre left at least between the NDP and Liberals, and disfiguring our political landscape even further into an entirely contrived two party, left v. right, scenario. It’s just simpler that way, I guess. Because if there’s one take away lesson from the election campaign this time around it’s that voters are uncomfortable with complexity. It’s too difficult to follow and takes up too much of their time. Politics, as in any game, needs a clear-cut winner and a bunch of losers.I won’t always feel this way. Nor will my colleague, Cityslikr. We will bounce back. But for a few days anyway we seek to dull the pain of our ever growing misanthropy in a pleasant, totally legal, narcotic haze, telling our woes to our new best friend, Mafingo.

ativanly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


The Short Drive From Etobicoke To Brampton

April 30, 2011

Fealty to ideology above all else.

What other explanation is there for Mayor Rob Ford finally wading into the federal campaign to endorse Stephen Harper?

“Folks, so many people said: ‘Rob, why are you getting involved, you’re supposed to be non-political,’” said Ford at a Tory rally in Brampton last night. Umm, what? Who ever told the mayor he should be non-political during the federal campaign? In fact, there was an early push to get him to speak up for urban issues like the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, was doing. I think what Mayor Ford is mixing up is political with partisan. But that’s pretty well par for the course.

The bigger question though is what the fuck the mayor was doing endorsing Harper in Brampton? I know that in his part of Etobicoke area codes may be 416 but hearts and minds pine for the 905. As Matt Elliott pointed yesterday in Ford For Toronto, Conservatives in 905 “… seem crazy for Rob Ford and the “stop the gravy train” stuff…”. (Think the line in Sweet Home Alabama, ‘In Birmingham they love the guv-ner’ and sing ‘In 905 they love the may-yore’. Kind of creepily fits, doesn’t it?) And federal Conservative hopes are pinned in ridings in that part of the GTA, so it makes sense from their end to have Mayor Ford pimping for them. What exactly does the mayor get in return, though?

So the Conservatives snag some suburban seats, enough even to secure a majority government, and if Mayor Ford is seen to have assisted in it, how is that going to help the city of Toronto? Newly installed 905 MPs, working for a government that has no urban agenda, are going to expend political capital fighting to help an NDP orange/Liberal red Toronto? I see a whole world of animosity not co-operation.

Maybe the mayor does too and that’s part of the motivation on his part to get involved. More anti-government crusading conservatives at the levers of power help create a wave of anti-tax and spending. Hey. If the federal government isn’t going to help out with social housing or immigration settlement costs, there’s nothing we can do. My heart bleeds for you but my hands are tied, folks.

Ideological thinking 1, city issues 0.

And if the mayor’s magic doesn’t work in the 905 like it did last fall in 416, and Ford Nation fails to sweep through the greater GTA? Well, no harm, no foul. I’m mean, he’s the mayor of Toronto after all not Brampton or Mississauga. He pitched in to help, even in the face of giving his own city the finger. So you can’t say he didn’t try.

Which may explain why the mayor didn’t insist on the Conservative leader coming right into town, at least once during the campaign. (A sidebar, yer honour? Wouldn’t you be a little offended if, as a mayor of a city, either offering up help or being asked for help during an election, and you didn’t even get the courtesy of a visit to your city? Might you not take that as a slight?) With apparently a couple seats in play here in Toronto, including Eglinton-Lawrence and right on the mayor’s turf of Etobicoke Centre, you’d think Mayor Ford would rally the troops there, in the alleged heart of Ford Nation. Imagine the coup of handing even one 416 seat to the Conservatives. How could that not count as a solid with expectations for an I Owe You One?

That’s the best case scenario for the mayor however, although perhaps not for the citizens of Toronto. Imagine the possible horror that might be inflicted upon us with a newly elected Stephen Harper owing Mayor Ford a favour. But what if the mayor threw his support for Harper at a gathering in his own backyard and didn’t deliver the goods on election day? The vaunted Ford Nation was powerless to turn the town Conservative blue. Might that be a sign that the Nation is no longer so vaunted? That maybe the mayor’s victory last fall wasn’t so much a trend as it was a one-off; a fluke of timing and circumstance rather than a country embracing its far-right, conservative roots.

Publicly backing the Conservatives right here in Toronto and having voters in the city ignore him might take a little swagger out of the mayor’s step and the mayor is nothing without his swagger. He couldn’t risk losing that but somehow still couldn’t refrain from stepping from the sidelines and wading into the federal fray despite there being no discernible upside for the city he purports to lead. The important takeaway message from that is to realize exactly where Mayor Ford’s interests lay. It’s all about self not about city.

Alabambaly submitted by Cityslikr