What’s In A Name?

You know, for a bunch of bona fide name-callers, the radical conservatives marching under the banner of Mayor Rob Ford sure are thin-skinned when it comes to taking what they love to dish out. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I hurt your feelings? Offend your delicate sensibilities? Yeah well, put that in your pipes and smoke it, you right wing zealots, ya.

As the hardest of the hardcore Team Ford members on the budget committee pushed through further proposed cuts to libraries, closed pools, daycares, homeless shelters and TTC service, they managed to find time to take umbrage at the clearly orchestrated use by their councillor opponents of various iterations of the term ‘radical conservative’ thrown in their collective direction. (‘Umbrage’, you say? The dumber of you budget committee lot can ask the more bookish to explain it for you. Councillors Peter Milczyn and John Parker will know… and speaking of Parker. How rich was it, how fucking rich to listen to him mewl defensively about being referred to as a ‘radical conservative’? The very same John Parker who, as a member of the very right wing Mike Harris government, helped impose amalgamation on an unwilling 6 municipalities in Toronto along with an asymmetrical downloading of services, both of which remain root causes of the fiscal squeeze this city is currently experiencing. ‘Radical conservative’? Moi? Nonsense. Oh yes, amidst all the slashing and burning that Councillor Parker referred to as ‘reasonable’, he managed to secure city funding to build a 2nd ice rink in the Leaside neighbourhood of his ward.)

It’s as if they all felt that name calling and labelling those with different political views was their sole domain. Proprietarily they voiced indignation at having the tables turned on them. We’re the ones who take intellectual shortcuts and brand those we disagree with in bumper sticker slogans not you, you teat-sucking, trough swilling silly socialists.

Remember Stop the Gravy Train?

Now, I don’t know where I sit with the ‘radical conservative’ moniker. We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have certainly played with variations of it at least since then Councillor Rob Ford announced his candidacy for mayor back in March of 2010. Far right wing. Radical right wing. Neoconservative Ideologue.

The problem is, their actions don’t seem particularly radical for conservatives these days. They are simply doing what conservatives have been doing for over 30 years. Transferring wealth upwards. Using the guise of fiscal responsibility to shrink government in size and efficacy. Privatizing everything not nailed down. Check, check and double check. It’s just what conservatives do. We shouldn’t expect otherwise regardless of what they tell us while campaigning.

Our good friend, Sol Chrom, has argued that what passes as conservative now has nothing in common with the ideals of traditional conservatism as espoused by Edmund Burke back in the days of yore. To attach any version of ‘conservative’ to the likes of Rob Ford and his enablers is to render the word meaningless. From that point of view, a ‘radical conservative’ is actually a radical non-conservative.

But honestly, we haven’t really seen much of traditional conservatives for some time now unless they’re calling themselves Liberals. At the federal level, the last real ‘progressive’ conservative was Joe Clarke. Provincially, the concept died in the wreckage of the Big Blue Machine. In fairness, Toronto has maintained a short supply of these radical non-conservatives and, usually kept them far from the reins of power. And I don’t think it out of line to say the city’s been the better for it.

The one shred of traditional conservatism this gang retains, the one all neo-conservatives in the country and continent maintain in their political DNA, is a distrust and dislike of anything to do with cities and urbanism. They prize individual ease over community comfort. How else to explain their axe wielding at public transit, libraries, daycares, community centres? One of the mayor’s favourite mantras goes something along the lines of ‘The city shouldn’t be in the business of…”, and if it isn’t anything to do with immediate personal safety or clean and wide open streets to drive on, the city shouldn’t be engaged in it.

What the mayor is, and everyone who helps further his agenda as well, is radically anti-urban. Let’s remove the political ideology from the equation. Team Ford is only conservative as far as it has declared a war on a liveable, equitable city. That’s the extent of their traditional conservatism. So, let’s start calling it what it actually is.

Radical anti-urbanism.

Let them try to defend themselves against that label.

elitely submitted by Cityslikr

Who’s Your Daddy?

A friend sent me this link the other day, Man who claims he’s Diefenbaker’s son closer to discovering true paternity. We laughed. For those of us who remember the former Prime Minister, even vaguely, the idea that he might’ve sired a child out of wedlock at the ripe old age of 70 with a woman in her 30s, Trudeau style, seems (yes, I’m going to say it) inconceivable. I mean, really. Look…

It also struck me as funny that someone would be so ardently pursuing his birthright to be known as a Diefenbaker. Perhaps it has more of a monetary significance, wrapped up as part of a battle over some uncle’s will. I didn’t read the article that closely. But here is a guy wanting to start living his life as “… as John Diefenbaker II.” A sentiment I never expected to see during my lifetime.

Again, for those of us old enough to remember Dief the Chief, he was the grouchy old man of Canadian politics. A 19th-century lion, hopelessly out of date in the swinging 1960s. It wouldn’t be a line of paternity I’d personally pursue. Lester Pearson, maybe. Not John Diefenbaker.

Which might have more to do with my political leanings than anything and maybe this has nothing to do with politics. Perhaps John George Dryden is simply reacting to the family squabble and a sense of betrayal at being raised by someone who wasn’t his biological father, a one-time prominent Liberal. Screw you, pretend dad. My real father was a Conservative! And not only a Conservative. One of the big daddies of Canadian conservatism.

Of course, it could much more gruesome. Flash forward some 40 years and put yourself in Mr. Dryden’s position. Searching for a father amongst today’s conservative contingent. Who’d you be looking at? Our prime minister? Mike Harris? Ralph Klein? George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? Any of the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls?


Viewed through that lens, I realize a major source of my disenchantment with this new model of the conservative brand comes in comparison to the one I grew up surrounded by. Robert Stanfield. Joe Clarke. Bill Davis. John Robarts. Decent men, driven not by hyper-partisan brinksmanship and a dedication to obliterate any and all opposition but by a commitment to the office they were elected to uphold. Possessing no belief that they had the only answers to the problems of the day, they were consensus seekers that sought the best solutions. It made them kind of bland compared to those that followed them down the right of centre path. A path leading deep into the radical fringes that were once treated as such, not embraced as the values Canadians believed in.

The new conservatism has morphed so drastically and so quickly that even 1990s conservatives, themselves very likely unrecognizable to conservatives 20 years earlier, are now sniping at them. Witness Ernie Eves’ harsh words about their treatment of Norm Sterling. “… those few individuals who decided that the Tea Party version of Ontario politics would be good in that particular riding.” He was being generous about it being just a ‘few individuals’. This is a fundamentally different conservative party than the one Ernie Eves was part of.

I did not cut my ties with conservatism. Conservatism left me behind, still hugging an imaginary middle that’s now considered pinko, socialist, communist and, most of all, hopelessly out of touch.

These are not our father’s conservatives. They are all the bastard children of a once honourable tradition and a wild beast unhinged of reason, compassion and the belief in a just society. It`s tough to imagine anyone in the mid-21st century looking back to embrace them as their own.

Conservatives ♥ Smitherman

Conservatives For Smitherman!

Strike you as odd? Really? Like how odd? Jews For Jesus odd? Red Sox For Yankees odd?

When some prominent local conservatives signed a letter in support of George Smitherman’s mayoral candidacy yesterday, the interwebs concerned with such matters lit up. The Rob Ford/Rocco Rossi right wing base (or, in the case of Mr. Rossi, let’s call it Sue Ann Levy) were all up in arms, defining themselves as true or real conservatives as opposed to those who’d signed the Smitherman pledge who were.. how’d Sue Ann put it ..? “the fah-fah Rosedale crowd”. The same “fah-fah Rosedale crowd” Ms. Levy sought to represent when she ran in last year’s provincial by-election under the Progressive Conservative banner, proving once again that the new conservative mind has no institutional memory whatsoever; replaced entirely by a simple binary yes, no, yes, no, thought that can’t recall the events of the previous day let alone year.

For their part, supporters of Joe Pantalone waved the letter about as proof that Smitherman was, to use their candidate’s own nifty campaign catch-phrase, just another mini Mike Harris. An easy leap to make since the letter was signed by some former members of the Harris government. This was the smoking gun to show that Smitherman was a Liberal in name only.

The surprise of all this was that there was any surprise about this in the first place. Anyone who’s followed Smitherman’s political career at the provincial level must know that to succeed as he did in climbing the ladder of the Dalton McGuinty government, he had to be a dyed in the wool red Tory. (I’ve hyperlinked the term for all you youngsters out there unfamiliar with it.) In my day, Progressive Conservatives like John Robarts, Bill Davis, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clarke were what you’d call red Tories. Conservatives not viscerally anti-government and pathologically opposed to the notion of taxation. They were closer in spirit to one of the original conservatives, Edmund Burke, who thought society should conserve those aspects that were working while gradually changing those that weren’t.

When the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario successfully lurched radically right, the Liberal party tip-toed in that direction with them, ending up occupying the centre, centre-right. Thus becoming Red Tories. As a very high-powered member of that government, it should hardly be surprising then that Smitherman has attracted the support of socially liberal, fiscally conservative types like Isabel Bassett.

What we should know by now is that, at his most fundamental, George Smitherman is a political animal. He will be whatever he needs to be to get the number of votes needed to win office; listening to him earlier today being interview by Matt Galloway on Metro Morning proved that point again. The topic was governance and reform. As Smitherman showed last night at the urban issues debate, he comes prepared with appropriate talking points for the event at hand and will dispose of them as soon as he needs to.

Lifting an idea straight out of Paul Bedford’s talk on Tuesday, Rethinking Toronto’s Governance (which we talked about here yesterday), Smitherman floated the notion of keeping all 44 councillors but having 22 of them elected in expanded wards and the other 22 voted in on an at-large, city wide level. What about expanding the numbers of councillors, Galloway asked, as another solution to helping citizens reconnect with the local representatives. Less constituents/councillor. Scoffing, Smitherman responded — and I’m paraphrasing here — With the prevailing, anti-government winds out there? Proposing more politicians?!

You mean, actually lead, Matt?! Come on! That’s crazy talk. Even if more politicians might be good for the city, you don’t think I’m going to possibly suggest that now? In this anti-incumbent, anti-City Hall environment that I helped stir up? I could lose votes if I suggested that!

Red Tory. Blue Liberal. Centrist. George Smitherman can be all these things if he needs to be. As we have written previously here, he possesses an empty core that is constantly refilled with the fluid of the moment. An automaton, programmed to do nothing other than to win elections. No reason to think it’s not going to happen again.

unsurprisedly submitted by Cityslikr