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


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XXII

July 23, 2010

It’s Friday. Time for another Meet A—Oh, pick me! Pick me! Can I do it?! Can I?? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Oh, I’ve been waiting for this one. It has my name written all over it. (Urban Sophisticat in case you can’t read the fine print.) This is the post I was born to write.

Up today: David Vallance!

But first, a history lesson, crudely told. (No, don’t worry, mother. There won’t be any curse words. Probably.) When Quebec voters want their voices to be heard and their views known in Ottawa and throughout the country, who do they turn to? The Bloc Quebecois and their provincial counterparts, the Parti Quebecois, non? On nous entendra, oui? Otherwise, we will pull up stakes from this thing we call confederation and go it alone, buckos. (How’s that for distilling over 400 years of history in a single paragraph?)

Now, that’s not to diminish the integrity of the separatist movement in la belle province as little more than political posturing. But for all its fidelity to the cause of an independent country, it also swings some mighty effective pipe in the corridors of power.

And couldn’t we here in Toronto use a little bit of that around about now?

We’re told, not asked, that we’ll be hosting the G20 meeting in the downtown core of the city. We’re told, not asked, to fund a slew of provincially mandated programs, without receiving adequate funding from the province. We’re told to expect x-billions of dollars for expanded transit funding only to have a serious chunk of it arbitrarily pulled from the table because someone else has run their coffers dry (having stocked it in the first place with much of our money). Sorry, chums. A bit strapped right now. I’ll get you next time.

The front running candidates for mayor belt out a familiar refrain about the city needing to get its fiscal house in order, and cease going to senior levels of government with cap in hand. Candidate David Vallance has another, more intriguing idea. A province of Toronto. Try that on for size. Walk around in it for a bit. See how it fits your curvy sensibilities.

The Province of Toronto?! What the hell are you talking about? That’s just crazy talk. Who is this insane David Vallance? Maybe he should take that tinfoil hat of his off.

Actually, Mr. Vallance is a former life insurance agent who, since 1979 has been part of a wide array of resident and ratepayers associations. He formed the Bloor-Annex Business Improvement Area (BIA) in 1996 and served on the board member of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA). In 1997, Mr. Vallance chaired Taxpayers Against Megacity.

Versed as he is in business, he puts forward a business argument for why the city of Toronto should be a province. While Mr. Vallance has combed through the GTA’s FIRs (Financial Information Returns) to arrive at his conclusion, let me offer up the simplest reason: more money is extracted from Toronto by the senior levels of government then is returned in services by them. It was a point Joe Pantalone tried to make at this week’s CP24 mayoral debate but was shouted down by the other contenders who clearly didn’t want to talk about it. Why not? Well, it goes against the prevailing, anti-incumbent narrative that they’re trying to spin. Spending is out of control at City Hall. We have to rein it in. Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut!!

David Vallance doesn’t buy it. “Our spending problem is beyond our control,” he says. “For municipal services we are not out of line with most other municipalities and much of the spending reflects Toronto’s demographics.” i.e. a larger influx of immigrants and the related costs of settling them. In other words, the mayoral campaign of 2010 is being fought under false premises, driven by misdirection, lies and outright bullshit. (Sorry ma.)

Mr. Vallance sees a province of Toronto taking “… the boundaries of the former Metropolitan Toronto, an area of 630 square kilometres. The province would consist of the six municipalities that made up Metropolitan Toronto prior to amalgamation: the borough of East York and the cities of Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, Toronto and York.” We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke might take it one step further, inviting any of the GTA region that wanted to join forces. While much enmity can be summoned up toward Toronto from its exburb neighbours, I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say that, ultimately, places like Mississauga, Pickering and Vaughan (you’re welcome, btw, for that subway stop that’s coming your way) share much more in common with the central core than they do with, say, Kapuskasing. Vallance wouldn’t go down that road but, hey, we’re not going to agree on everything. Even just encompassing 416 would make a province of Toronto the fifth most populous in the country.

A province of Toronto would elect a provincial government just like we do currently in Ontario, with a similar party system. The megacity would then be broken down back into more workable pieces, not necessarily a bad thing as all those benefits of size have failed to materialize. If in place now, Mayor David Miller would probably be running for a third term while Etobicoke would have that ‘crazy’ mayor Rob Ford. Instead of negotiating with a Queen’s Park full of outsiders, there’d be a province who understands the unique needs of the city because they actually live here. On matters of federal jurisdiction, Toronto would deal directly with Ottawa without having to go through and be dictated by an entity called Ontario.

Certainly there are those like retiring PC MPP Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) who would not only hold the door open for Toronto to leave but would help pack our bags, so he and his people would be free to cull all the animals they wanted without any interference from us. If he can imagine an Ontario without Toronto, why can’t we picture a Toronto outside of Ontario? It’s easy if you try. Let’s at least have that debate. It’s time to welcome David Vallance to the table in order for his views to be heard.

patriotically civically submitted by Urban Sophisticat