On Your Left

January 17, 2014

I hesitatingly venture here into provincial territory as it’s not really my thing. dipmytoeinWhich is odd because, regardless of what goes on at City Hall, what degree of self-import we attach to the place, it don’t amount to a hill of beans in the face of the ultimate power wielded by Queen’s Park. The municipal will of the people always bends to that of the provincial government. End stop.

So here goes…

It all started yesterday. Actually, it was the day before. Wednesday.

Mayor Ford foot stomps and waa-waas, demanding a face-to-face meeting with the premier to talk about financial help from the province for the city’s clean-up efforts after last month’s ice storm. A meeting the premier is under absolutely no obligation to have since the mayor’s been stripped of all his powers to be of any importance in the running of the city. tempertantrum3A meeting the premier is under absolutely no obligation to have since city council has already officially asked the province for assistance in paying for the clean-up.

A meeting that is only about one thing and one thing only.

Mayor Ford’s re-election campaign. Mayor Ford’s attempt to look like he’s still the mayor in anything but name only. Mayor Ford’s publicity stunt.

Just ignore him. He’ll get distracted soon. NFL playoffs this weekend!

But for whatever reason, the provincial NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, decides to wade in.

Let me restate that.

For purely political reasons, the provincial NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, decides to wade in. Ms. Horwath sees an opportunity to get a dig in at the premier. Why not? That’s what democracy is all about, right? Getting your shots in?

“I think common courtesy in response to a mayor’s request for a meeting is pretty easy to fulfil,” the NDP leader told reporters benice(and quoted here in a Toronto Sun article by Christina Blizzard. More on that in a moment.)

Come on, Premier Wynne! Why you gotta be so mean to guy when he’s down on his luck? What’s the mayor ever done to earn this kinda discourtesy from you?

I don’t really need to run down that list for you, do I? By the choices he’s made and actions he’s taken, Mayor Ford has made himself irrelevant to the operations and functioning of the city he was elected to lead. City council made it official. This goes beyond the mushy notion of courtesy.

So what’s to be gained for the NDP leader, out there, all sympathetic to Toronto’s disgraced mayor?

Here’s my guess, and it goes back to the Toronto Sun, Christina Blizzard and this seemingly bit of oddity from Trish Hennessy in the fall of 2011, after the last provincial election.

When they talked about Rob Ford, they often spoke in appreciative, glowing terms – in the same way they spoke about another well-loved politician, Jack Layton. In the focus group discussions, they saw little ideological divide between Jack Layton and Rob Ford. Rather, they felt the two men had in common a sincere drive to take on the struggle of the people despite great odds.

Rob Ford-Jack Layton? Wait? We’re NDP like Jack Layton. We’re like Jack Layton. ivegotitWhy not Rob Ford-provincial NDP?

From a left of centre perspective? Aside from the colour orange, I see very little resemblance between Jack Layton and the provincial NDP party. But hey. Have at it, if that’s how you see the way forward.

What I find particularly frustrating is that there’s another strategy possibly working to the NDP’s advantage here.

I see Premier Wynne as something of a throwback, a Pearson-Trudeau sort of Liberal at heart. With the Ontario economy in a serious rut, unemployment discouragingly high, disturbingly high for youth and young adults, the premier’s instinct must be to go all Keynesian on our asses. Damn the deficit! Open up the spigot and get spending. Seriously start addressing our staggering infrastructure deficit, especially in transit.

Screw talk of tax increases at this point of time. Those will come later. antikeynesianKick start the draggy economic engine because waiting for the private sector to step up has proven to be a mug’s game to this point.

The premier’s held back from taking such a bold step on two fronts. Old blue Tory McGuinty Libs remain in place, tutting and fretting about the deficit and debt. If we just buckle down a little more, tighten the belt a little further, things will start to come around. Conservatives assure us of this fact.

Secondly, previous financial spending gaffes (made by those very same blue Tory McGuinty Libs) have reduced the public’s trust in the Liberals’ ability to spend wisely to almost zero. With no credibility, no goodwill from voters, and still in a minority position, it’s tough to pull the trigger on any sort of increased spending. holeontheleftThis time, it’ll be different. Cross our hearts.

All of which opens a gaping hole on the left flank for the NDP to run up through. Government intervention to inject life into an otherwise anemic economy? It should be the party’s bread-and-butter. It’s what the NDP are all about, yes?

Not this current provincial NDP, it seems. This isn’t the party of Jack Layton. Or Stephen Lewis. Or, for that matter, Bob Rae even.

This is a party more concerned with what somebody like Rob Ford would do.

Political calculation, trumping principles and basic economic common sense.

duplicity

Good luck courting new voters with that. You’re going to need it.

disappointingly submitted by Cityslikr


Christmas Every Day

December 30, 2013

My goal was to have a City Hall-free holiday. A politics purge. Turn a blind eye. Ignore the show for a bit. Recalibrate. Regain my balance. 2014 was going to be a big year.oblivious

All things considered, I did a pretty good job.

The ice storm and its continuing fall out made it difficult to entirely look away. Serious questions arose about the city and region’s preparedness for what we should now assume will be more regular occurrences of freakish and destructive turns in the weather. Equally as serious are questions of governance. Who’s actually in charge of what? Can ‘politics’ ever be divorced completely from decision making?

Despite the importance of such matters, I remained largely disengaged and above the fray. Easy to do, of course, when you never lost power and were able to concentrate exclusively on your own personal circle of friends and acquaintances. Complaints? None from me. Aside from some slight modifications to travel plans, things remained pretty much as they were. For some of us, it’s almost as if the storm didn’t happen.

michaelstipeSummoning my best Michael Stipe, and I feel fine.

Not paying much attention to how the city gets run is remarkably relaxing. You only really notice anything when it doesn’t happen or happens badly. The default position for civic disengagement is seething boredom. 90% of the time it’s nothing more than a quick shrug at the nuts and bolts details of municipal issues and policies. The rest? Why didn’t my garbage get picked up? Where is that stupid bus? Why are my taxes so high?

Is it any wonder why so many of our local elected representatives choose to keep their heads low and shy away from any sort of decision that might cause a fuss? Don’t draw attention to what we’re doing. Don’t get people riled up. Unless you can get them riled up at someone else. Deflect don’t decide.

Having done my level best to tune out for the past couple weeks or so, I really see the easy appeal of not paying much attention. overthefenceIt’s only ever a problem when it’s your problem. Anything other than that is just added responsibility, one more thing to be concerned about, to have to put some thought into.

It’s a great approach to have in order to keep your own sanity and anger in check. It doesn’t do a thing, however, for the well being of the city you live in. We all need to shift the balance, I think, a little more toward the direction of the greater public good. Everybody will be better for it in the long run.

serenely submitted by Cityslikr