Nearly 6 months into the 4 year second term of Doug Ford’s conservative provincial government, residents of Ontario are faced with one glaring, inconvertible fact: if not overtly corrupt (and I don’t know what qualifies as the legally binding definition of that word), there can be no denying it is ethically bankrupt and wholly compromised. Continue reading →
I had hoped to begin the new year on a peppy, upbeat note of resolve, to scan the horizon and spot evidence of a better 2015 than 2014. Look, guys. We actually did hit bottom. There is nowhere to go but up.
But somewhere during the search for signs of hope and civic sunshine, it dawned on me that yesterday, January 4th, was the fifth anniversary of the very first post here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. (Don’t ask how those two things intersected. It’s hardly an organized and linear organization we’ve got going on.) Tory! Tory! Tory! was the title. A plea at the outset of the 2010 municipal campaign for a certain John Tory to remain on the sidelines in the mayoral race. “Stick with radio, John,” we advised, “where we can continue to ignore you.”
SMASH CUT TO: (or maybe a slow dissolve, if I actually knew what that was) January 5th, 2015.
It occurs to me, nearly half a decade into this enterprise, that maybe it’s just not in this city’s DNA to come to grips with the grind down stuff that currently ails us. Congestion, under-performing public transit, aging and crumbling infrastructure, not to mention matters of housing, poverty and income inequality, summon up a whole bunch of let’s do more of the same and hope for better results. Some time, back in the foggy mists of the past, a workable, functional if not exactly exciting city was built. It worked. People came. The place thrived.
What Toronto hasn’t done is adapt. Arguably, for the past three decades, we have sat on our hands, looked the other way and hoped for the best. Staring up at all the towers carving out our skyline, we collectively sighed a self-satisfied sigh. World class!
In reaction to easily the most destructive and derelict administration the city had ever foisted onto itself, we settled for some throwback to an earlier era of dysfunction. Our new mayor was very well acquainted with the Mel Lastman years at City Hall. Sure, he’d gussied up his resume with right proper public service works like Civic Action yet put all that behind him in his second quest to be Toronto’s mayor. A moderate progressive, he sold himself as, or something similarly banal.
He won’t embarrass us! A rallying cry to mollify rather than actually rally us. Inspirational? I don’t know. Do you find the repeated use of the word ‘bold’ inspirational?
Not that there was much inspiration on display from any of our leading mayoral candidates in 2014 which, coming in the wake of the unmitigated Ford fiasco, says something of our civic constitution, I fear. Can we just have a little peace and quiet for a bit? Competence is what we crave. The big issues can wait while we catch our collective breath.
As we press pause, the wheels of dubious governance keep on turning.
Over the weekend, a Toronto Star opinion piece laid out in gory, gory detail the ongoing mess of a debacle that is shaping up to be the Scarborough subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line. ‘Another ‘billion-dollar boondoggle’ author R. Michael Warren asks, pushed forward for nothing other than political reasons by our new mayor, the premier of the province, dutiful Scarborough government MPPs, opportunistic and resentful city councilors. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Everything will work out just fine.
It’s not actually going to fix much from a transit prospective, probably make some things worse in fact, but aren’t we all just tuckered out from all the bickering? We’re done here. Let’s move on. No good can come from reopening old arguments. I mean, that’s how we ended up with this Scarborough subway, am I right?
Look. It could be worse. Rob Ford could still be mayor.
Yes, it could be worse. It could be worse should become our new city motto. It Could Be Worse, Our Strength.
It Could Be Worse is a lot easier to maintain than It Could Be Better, takes a lot less effort. I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch to say that, with only a couple exceptions, It Could Be Worse has pretty much been Toronto’s approach to running things for 30 years or so now. It’s not great. It’s not innovative or ground breaking. But, it could be worse. Can I get a recorded vote? It could be worse. All in favour?
So we muddle into 2015. It can’t possibly be worse than 2014 or the couple years before that. While some think about tackling the big issues we face like poverty, Mayor Tory makes a spectacle of chasing down illegal parkers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it could be worse, right? The mayor could not be dealing with illegal parking.
Buck up. Granted, it’s not much to hang your cape of hope on, thin gruel with which to build an optimistic, hopeful New Year’s message. Still. It could be worse.
So maybe we all should stop the tsk, tsk, tsking of disapproval toward Ward 7 York West residents and grant them a well-earned cynicism in regard to a certain long serving city councillor of theirs, one Giorgio Mammoliti.
Pleading guilty to 4 charges of campaign overspending and ‘filing false paperwork’ during the 2010 election, the councillor was subject to a fine of $17, 500 which includes paying back the $10-12,000 he ‘inadvertently’ overspent. But don’t feel too badly for Mr. Mammoliti. He’s still got the $80,000 he pocketed from an illegal fundraiser last year minus 3 months salary the Integrity Commissioner dinged him for as a result of that illegal fundraiser minus the legal fees he’s racked up taking the city to court to fight that ruling plus $20,000 the city council just yesterday agreed to contribute to those legal fees.
“The court is of the opinion that you did act in good faith at all times — and there may have been an error in judgment in appointing who you did as your financial assistant. And while the responsibility still is yours, the court is of the opinion that, taking everything into consideration, what has been presented to the court today is a very fair position on all these matters.”
Keep in mind here that Councillor Mammoliti has been an elected official for the better part of 25 years now, starting as a one-term M.P.P. from 1990-95 and then a city councillor since 1995. 2010 was his 6th municipal campaign (once in North York, the rest in amalgamated Toronto). The only difference 4 years ago was Mammoliti started out running for mayor before hightailing it back to his ward race when the run for the top job became an obvious lost cause.
The Justice of the Peace could have tossed the councillor from office but chose instead a financial shrug. So it’s difficult to view the ruling as Mammoliti taking any sort of lumps. More to the point, the idea that the councillor possesses the ability to act in good faith, never mind ‘at all times’, simply strains any attempts to attach a meaningful definition to that term.
I’m no legal scholar but I imagine the councillor’s most recent legal woes including being under police investigation had no bearing on today’s judgment. Priors may figure into a court ruling. Can currents?
It’s just hard for me to get my head around the fact that a veteran politician like Giorgio Mammoliti could be treated with such kid gloves. “Things went off the rail.” Mistakes were made. Mix ups happen. What are you going to do?
So why shouldn’t residents in Ward 7 be cynical? If the institutions meant to keep our politicians honest fail to do so, if they simply shrug and grant offenders political mulligans, how can we possibly chastise voters for figuring what’s it matter, it’s not going to make a difference who’s in office, they’re all the same? Since there are obviously no repercussions to bad behaviour, why should the public believe any politician will play by the rules?
Exposed to regular lapses of ethical conduct over the past 4 years from the likes of Councillor Mammoliti, the previous mayor, his ex-councillor brother, the new chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee, and with apparently no recourse to hand out appropriate punishment, we leave it up to voters to chase the offenders from office. But if they have no faith in the system to keep the players playing fairly, why wouldn’t they conclude the next one’s going to be as bad? They’re all crooks and liars, right? All politicians are only in it for themselves and their deep-pocketed friends.
With the whole thing so broad strokingly tarnished, when it comes around to casting a ballot, many voters simply won’t bother. It only encourages the bastards. If they can summon up a sense of civic duty, why not just go with the devil you know? We know how bad he is. The other guy could be worse.
Until we decide to act forcefully and justly with politicians who abuse the system and the public’s trust in it, we should hardly blame one tiny segment of voters for not making an example of one particularly egregious offender. The whole thing’s broken. There’s no reason for Ward 7 residents to think otherwise. There’s no reason for the likes of Giorgio Mammoliti not to realize it too and continue to push the limits because there doesn’t seem to be any serious downside not to.