The Reckoning

October 15, 2012

Cast yourself back, if you dare, to the late summer of 1939. Germany invades Poland and Great Britain declares war on the Nazis. Canada, pulled by its colonial, Commonwealth attachment to the U.K. is compelled to jump into the fray but something holds it back.

This war thing is going to cost a lot of money. Taxes will have to be raised to fund it. Rationing may become a thing. Oh yeah. And a lot of people are going to die.

Now, I am not comparing fighting the scourge of fascism to building public transit because that would be fucking stupid. Weighed against waging a war that ultimately ended up costing some 60 million deaths worldwide, figuring out a way to spend $100 billion to bring the region’s public transit up to 21st-century speed should be a piece of cake. A no-brainer, really.

But yet, here we are.

It’s embarrassing that we have become so stingy of pocketbook as well as imagination to be caught up in this decades’ long struggle to meet a growing, prospering city and region’s transit needs. Engulfed as we are in minimizing our obligations to living in Toronto, we’ve insisted on passing the buck and avoiding tough decisions. The Greatest Generation At Shirking Our Responsibilities.

“So granddad. What were you doing when everybody else was building transit?”

“Come here and sit on my lap, boy. See all that crumbling infrastructure out there? Those crowded buses on the gridlocked choked roads? That’s what I did for you, sonny jim. To keep your taxes unreasonably low.”

“Geez… thanks, granddad.”

John McGrath’s article on taxation and transit in this weekend’s National Post is a conversation we needed to be having 30 years ago. Maybe we did and it just didn’t gain much traction. One thing is for certain, if we’d put at least some money where our mouths were back then, it would’ve cost a lot less than we’re going to have to pay now. A lot, lot less then it will if we push things off another 20 years or so.

“The question we’re left with is,” TTC Chair Karen Stintz tells McGrath, “What transit does Toronto want, and what are we willing to pay for?”

We want it all, councillor. Subways without density. Free roads and parking for our cars. A jetpack too, maybe, if you can swing it.

All for the low, low price of no new taxes or increases. Those P3s have us covered, right? Who says you can’t have something for nothing?

By standing pat, we not only do a disservice to those needing better transit now, we bury future residents that much further. We’re also giving the middle finger to earlier generations who delivered all the elements of a livable city for us to benefit from. There’ll never be enough tax savings to pay everyone what we owe.

enlistingly submitted by Cityslikr


Is This A David Simon Project?

October 4, 2012

The Rob Ford Story was starting to play out like a classic Hollywood narrative.

Underdog outsider, derided by all the cool kids, defies the odds and becomes student council president mayor of Toronto. The heady heights go straight to his ego, hubris rising, he nearly throws it all away, forgetting where it was he came from and alienating all those who believed in him when nobody else did. He wallows in self-pity, mistakes piling on mistakes, looking very much like he’ll fall back into the little man obscurity he’d just escaped.

That part where Rocky, having achieved international fame after the heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, has tapped him to be his next an opponent, slacks off, distracted by adoring fans and all the temptations of celebrity. Burgess Meredith is always yelling at him and makes him chase a chicken. I think that’s in Rocky, right? Maybe Rocky II. I just know it’s not the one with the Russian robot.

Redemption awaits.

Or as former campaign director and chief of staff, now unofficial Fordian gadfly, Nick Kouvalis exclaimed: Rob 2.0 He gets his shit together, bounds up the set of stairs and dances/shadow boxes triumphantly. Flying high now! Flying high now!

At the fall city council meeting, the first after his summer of deep discontent, Mayor Ford promises and delivers to beat back those angling to keep the Jarvis bike lanes, one of his early shows of power in Act One. “It’s what the people want,” the mayor pronounced, embracing the populism that got him elected. The foul weather now behind him, it was playing out like a blockbuster storybook tale. Eye of the Tiger and all that.

Except that there seemed to be some genre busting going on. It wasn’t really the mayor who trumped his adversaries on the bike lane issue but, instead, his diabolical evil henchman, Public Works and Infrastructure chair, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. He seemed to do all the heavy lifting while Mayor Ford basked in the accolades.

And then there was the addition of a mystery element.

Three middle of the road councillors inexplicably flip-flopped and swung the vote in the mayor’s favour. Why? As Matt Elliott pointed out yesterday, councillors Ana Bailão, Michelle Berardinetti and Josh Colle had all expressed their intention to keep the Jarvis bike lanes and had they all voted that way the result wouldn’t have been a 24-19 win for the mayor but a 22-21 loss. What happened?

Probably some horse trading. One of the amendments was to pay for the removal of the bike lanes not from the biking infrastructure budget as has been floated earlier. Some good ol’ tit for tat. But there was little other glaringly obvious swapping in evidence.

Surely none of these shifty three were still intimidated by the mayor or the power he didn’t really yield. Maybe back in the day when his power was absolute and they were greenhorn rookies. Not now. They were in control, the decision in their hands. Such capitulation seemed more than a bit baffling.

We had now entered Sidney Lumet territory.

Everybody but Mayor Ford, that is.

He continued on his rag-to-riches-to rags-to riches arc. With victory secured, redemption was now at hand. Reaching out to his enemies as represented by the downtown elitists at CBC, the mayor would admit to his own failings, how he’d learned from them and would now rise above the fray to secure his rightful place as the mayor of all people. Everyone hugs (or in the Bollywood DVD only version for increased global sales, dance and sing together), credits roll, The End.

But again, Mayor Ford went off script.

As John McGrath beautifully detailed at the Torontoist this feel good ending did not come to pass. The mayor blustered, made up facts and figures, disputed staff numbers, spouted platitudes and empty rhetoric. Basically reverted back to his desultory Act Two behaviour.

This is what happens when your script is written by committee.

Mayor Ford returned to council to slay the dragon of the much hated plastic bag ban but there was no deus ex machine in sight, the cavalry did not ride in over the hill. The mayor did not have the 30 votes needed to re-open the ban debate. It ended just like that. A whimper. Wait, what? It’s over? Where’s the twist? The surprise plan B that snatches victory from the jaws of defeat?

Worse still for Mayor Ford, he faded into the background, became a bit player. Yesterday’s news was not about him, not about his ignominious defeat but about the Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti-Gord Perks face off. City Hall Brawl, the Toronto Sun screamed.

Earlier in the day, before the plastic bag ban showdown, Councillor Mammoliti rose in chambers and harrumphed something about the Ombudsman’s Report that was to be debated later in the meeting being ‘politically motivated’. Chastised by council and told by Speaker Frances Nunziata to retract his statement and apologize. He refused, stomping from the council floor before being forced out, and up to the media gallery, the councillor continued his tirade in front of the cameras.

Enter our shaggy anti-hero, Councillor Perks. He gets all up in his colleagues face, demanding he apologize or leave the chambers. Back off, out my face. Get out. Stand back. Get out.

Conflict. The key ingredient of any good drama.

In what then appears as a reversal of fortune, Councillor Perks is forced to apologize for his outburst at council while Councillor Mammoliti issues a typical non-apology apology. The mayor’s foes have over-stepped and succeeded only in embarrassing themselves. They hand him the public opinion victory he could not secure himself.

Except the story’s not done yet.

It could be seen that our seemingly reckless anti-hero, Councillor Perks, tactically fell on his sword. In making his confrontation today’s headline, it left people wondering what the two councillors fighting about. What indeed? The Ombudsman’s Report damning the mayor’s office’s involvement in the civic appointments process.

As I sit writing this, I’m listening to city council’s debate over the report. No good can come of this for the mayor. It’s bad news about bad conduct and that’s what everyone’s going to be talking about. This council meeting, the first of what was supposed to be his comeback, will be remembered only for a report highlighting his failure of governance as mayor.

Hardly the Hollywood ending he needed. In fact, this isn’t a movie at all with its interminable requisite sequels. It’s a sprawling miniseries saga that continues to defy expectations. A cautionary tale where the hero does not triumph.

cinematically submitted by Cityslikr


TTC Capo

June 30, 2012

I often imagine what it was like behind the scenes back in the heady days of the fall of `10, just after Rob Ford’s surprise mayoral victory. Transitioning into power, drawing up their enemies candidates list for positions in the administration. The only absolute condition was a shared visceral antipathy toward the mayor-elect’s predecessor. Also, being yes men toadies a must.

“So, Stintzie wants to run the TTC. What do you think?”

“Ummm… Don’t know. Did she hate Miller as much as I did?”

“Nobody hated Miller as much as you, Robbie.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I fucking hated that guy. But you think she respects the taxpayers enough? Remember those voice lessons she paid for out of her office expenses?”

“As long as she votes with us to cut those expenses, we can let bygones be bygones. But I’ll tell you what. If she’s still thinking about ever running for mayor—”

“I will crush her. Ford Nation will tear her apart. Like LT snapping Theismann’s leg, Crrrr-acckkk!”

“That’s the thing, Robbie. You won’t have to. The shit we’re going to do to the TTC. Cuts… cuts… cuts–”

“You know who else I fucking hate, Dougie? Jerry Webster. Can we so fire that guy?”

“Why not. You’re the mayor now. You can do anything.”

“Yeah… sweet. Can we go home now?”

“It’s like 11 a.m. There’s still stuff to do.”

“Fine.”

“Stop pouting.”

“I’m not. You’re pouting.”

“The thing about being the TTC boss is that we’re going to so mess it up but it’ll be their face attached, you see what I’m saying?”

“… no… not really.”

“Doesn’t matter. Just trust me on this, OK? It’s a good move. We’re going to vote for Stintzie to be TTC Chair.”

“Hey. Whatever you say. You’re the boss.”

“And it’s also good, she’s a girl.”

“Is it?”

“… I think so, yeah. Why wouldn’t it be good?”

“Dunno. Why would it be?”

“… Yo, Adrienne! It’d be good to have a chick run the TTC, right?”

With that scene (or some reasonable facsimile thereof), Councillor Karen Stintz became TTC Chair Karen Stintz and dutifully fulfilled her role as a loyal Team Ford member, standing silently by as the mayor killed Transit City and obediently overseeing a 10% cut to the department’s budget when asked. She pretty much did what the mayor and almost everyone expected her to do.

And then, then she went rogue. No, check that. She went Michael Corleone on Team Ford’s asses.

I’m unprepared to attach motives to the about face. The better angel of my nature, that blackened, wizened, flightless better angel, likes to think she simply grew into her position. Listening to staff and other knowledgeable voices around her, she slowly realized Mayor Ford’s transit plan, such as it was, was unworkable. Way back last October, she raised a red flag of concern about how they were going to tunnel the Eglinton LRT across the Don Valley.

When then TTC General Manager Gary Webster backed her view that LRTs might be the smartest way forward, the mayor and his TTC commissioner boys iced him at the proverbial toll booth. If their goal was to intimidate the TTC Chair back into line, it failed spectacularly. In retaliation, she offs the mayor’s men on the TTC commission, emerging from the fracas in The Limey style.

Tell them I’m coming! I’m fucking coming.

(Yes, municipal politics came be this cinematic.)

It was all downhill for the mayor from that point. In short order, he was pushed, kicking and screaming Subways! Subways! Subways, to the sidelines. Transit City revived in all but name. And then this week, the TTC Chair and her Vice-Chair unveiled a much grander, 30 year transit plan called One City that lit up the switchboards for about 2 days before the province went out of its way to throw cold water on it. (That’s for another post entirely. Suffice to say, the premier and Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation might be well served noting how our TTC Chair dealt with the mayor when he crossed her.)

How One City grew to even see the light of day is, if nothing else, instructive as to how Toronto can actually govern itself in the absence of mayoral leadership. Take a moment to read John McGrath’s account of it at Open File, Don Peat’s in the Toronto Sun and David Rider’s in the Star. It is a microcosm of how council can and should be working together on vital initiatives for the city. A centre-right, centrist and two left wing councillors setting aside ideological differences in order to put forth a discussion paper on how to move forward on building a transit system Toronto so desperately needs. A discussion neither the mayor is capable of conducting and our dark overlords at Queen’s Park are unwilling to consider.

If nothing else, this latest transit saga has shown what is possible in a leadership vacuum when a politician sees that normal operating procedures don’t apply and decides to fill in the void constructively. Karen Stintz, arguably a councillor of little consequence during her first two terms in office, has seized the “opportunity” given her under this malignantly negligent administration and made a mark in a file not usually known for its generosity toward those toiling within its parameters. It’s a lesson others granted positions of power under Mayor Ford could well learn from and act upon.

auteurly submitted by Cityslikr


Marvelling At The Committee Of Adjustment

June 1, 2012

For City Hall watchers, it’s easy to get caught up in the big show. Our larger than life mayor (no, put down your complaint pens, people, that wasn’t a reference to Mayor Ford’s weight), the ideological schism at council and this kind of stuff. It practically writes itself.

So it’s understandable if indefensible that small but vital matters go largely unnoticed. Like, for example, the regular doings at the Committee of Adjustment meetings. Until this week, I’d never attended one and only did so because a development application in my neck of the woods. You might’ve heard about it? A proposed RioCan retail proposal incorporating the Kromer electronics store on Bathurst between College and Dundas streets.

As these things go, this one was a biggie with much community opposition to the 8 ‘minor’ variances RioCan was requesting. But many of the other 14 items before the committee in the same block where unopposed applicants wanting to build a deck or extend basement foundations. Routine matters to everyone but those involved. Yet, the very building blocks of how our city grows and evolves.

The Committee of Adjustment is made up of civilian members, and Toronto has 4 panels, representing 4 areas of the city, Etobicoke-York, North York, Toronto-East York and Scarborough. Members sit for 4 year terms and bring varying degrees of expertise to the job: a working knowledge of law, planning, architecture, government, economic development, community development, land development or citizen advocacy. In other words, a background in engaged citizenry.

A couple things struck me as I watched the proceedings on Wednesday. One was the civility in the room despite a dynamic that could pit neighbour against neighbour or corporate black heartedness against residential entitlement. There was none of the barking and sniping that occurs at council or other committee meeting. Before taking contested applications to the committee, interested parties were requested to conduct a meeting outside the room to see if their issues could be resolved. How often this works, I don’t know. The RioCan representative pointed out to committee members that none of the opponents to their plan chose to talk with them beforehand. Still, there was the sense the committee desired an amicable resolution before they were forced to arbitrate on applications.

The other interesting observation for me was just how thoroughly prepared all committee members were on every application. Those who presented items and spoke against them were frequently but gently nudged along by the committee chair, Gillian Burton, assured that the committee was well versed with the particular application and were looking for any new information. Questions from the committee were informed and concise. It didn’t strike me as some trial by fire or inquisition. Of course, I was simply observing from the audience not up pleading my case.

As for the RioCan application?

First, let me say that I wasn’t simply observing that one. I have a vested interested since I live not too far from their proposed development and took part in one of the residents’ meetings that talked strategy in opposing it. While not impacted directly by the plan, I was concerned greatly about the traffic impact of it on the surrounding neighbourhoods. What?! More cars!?! Well, that just won’t do…

The opposition was fantastically organized with just 4 people taking 5 minutes each to explain their positions but covering concerns from the Kensington Market Business Improvement and a couple of resident associations’ perspectives as well as one who questioned the very legitimacy of the development in terms of the city’s own Official Plan. Was it really adhering to the Avenues idea of proper planning? All retail including a massive box store that took little of its surroundings into consideration.

That seemed to be the Committee of Adjustment take on the matter as well. Beginning with member John Tassiopoulos’s questioning of why this application had even come before them. These weren’t ‘minor’ variances RioCan requested, he suggested, wondering if it wasn’t more a matter for zoning to deal with. The consensus was that the variances amounted to a cumulative overdevelopment of the site and the committee rejected the application outright. So adamant was the decision that committee members searched for strong enough language in their motion to bolster their judgment in case of an appeal to the OMB.

Oh yes, the OMB.

But before I go down that road, I want to express my amazement at just how transparent the Committee of Adjustment process is. They actually have to discuss their decisions in public. No hearing an application and any opponents to it and then retreating to privately arrive at a verdict. It’s right there in front of everyone in the room. Undoubtedly, each member must have inclinations going in based on the written proposals but they still have to air out their views publicly and, at times I’m sure, in the face of those who may ultimately be plenty displeased by the outcome.

If only it all ended so openly.

Looming largely over any Committee of Adjustment decision, of course, is the Ontario Municipal Board. Where the democratic process ends and money and attrition begins. That’s for another post and written by somebody much more well versed in the matter than I am. I will only say that I am concerned that our budget chief is submitting a notice of motion to council next week to study the benefits of ‘sending the City Solicitor to the Ontario Municipal Board on appeals of Committee of Adjustment decisions.’ Nothing wrong with wanting to ensure a bang for our buck but coming from where it does, I worry about nickel and diming the city’s ability to defend itself and its residents in what oftentimes turns out to be a costly process. If we signal our unwillingness to go to the mat purely for monetary reasons, why wouldn’t every applicant with deep pockets automatically appeal to the OMB?

That’s for another day, however.

For now we simply take pleasure in the fact that sometimes it’s not about successfully fighting City Hall but working with it in trying to develop Toronto in a fair and judicious manner.

happily submitted by Cityslikr


Who Wouldn’t Want A Casino?

April 17, 2012

I joked about this on the Twitter last week. Probably wasn’t the first one. Definitely not the last.

But now it seems to deserve more than the 140 character treatment as, zombie-like, it’s an idea, a dumb idea, a highly unoriginal idea that just won’t die. A waterfront casino cash cow. Ching-ching!

It reminds me of one of my favourite movie lines from one of my favourite 80s movie, Prizzi’s Honor. “If Marxie Heller’s so fucking smart, how come he’s so fucking dead?”

If a casino’s so fucking smart, how come suburban councillors are so fucking dead set against having one in their ward? Never does a council or committee meeting go by when we don’t hear the whine from the likes of councillor Mammoliti or Nunziata or Ford about how downtown gets everything and the suburbs get stiffed. Hey, folks. Here’s your chance. Step right up and claim your casino.

Remember The Great Sheppard Subway Struggle of 2012? Sure you do. Scarborough councillors Ainslie, Berardinetti, Crawford, Del Grande, Kelly and Thompson all demanded that Scarborough residents get what downtown had, subways not no stinkin’ streetcars. They weren’t second class citizens. They deserved first class transit.

Well, where  are they all now? You want something downtown doesn’t have? Here, take the casino. Please. There’s some waterfront out there in your neck of the woods, isn’t there? Stick the casino there, why don’t you.

That's NIMBY not GUMBY

I heard Budget Chief Del Grande on the news this morning, suggesting that the old city of Toronto’s inability to say no is a source of the city’s money woes. Well, here you go, Mr. Budget Chief. Downtown’s finally saying no to a casino. Maybe Ward 39 would like to take it off our hands.

For the casinos biggest supporters, it’s a really good idea in someone else’s ward.

Just like transit planning. As John McGrath wrote about the commissioner of Los Angeles transit, Richard Katz’s seminar yesterday, “…everyone wants a transit solution that other people use.” Or development planning. John tweeted from today’s Toronto-East York Community Council meeting (he’s everywhere, that John McGrath): Councillor [Pam] McConnell, speaking for every deputant against height ever: “This is a beautiful design, for somewhere else.”

Everybody wants the upside — Yeah, whatever. That’s for another post — of a casino, the benefits but none of the headaches. Parking and congestion. Down-and-out gamblers. A Jeff Foxworthy crowd streaming out into the streets, looking for a post-show nosh at a Cracker Barrel.

If I wanted a fucking casino in my neighbourhood, I’d move fucking downtown!

It’s almost as if these councillors all know a casino is little more than a dog and pony show, it’s not really going to contribute much to city’s bottom line but it’s a great way to stick to downtowners. Ohhh, they’re gonna hate this! Like they did tearing up the Jarvis bike lanes, de-fancifying the Fort York bridge and making threatening noises about the Portlands.

In his Metro article today, Matt Elliott pointed out that one of the mayoral campaign platforms of Rob Ford was to give “…more power to local community councils to make neighbourhood decisions.” Instead, we’ve seen a whole lot of imposing their will upon others by Team Ford. Might I suggest that for some of the more vocal, pushy ones, they take a little more time to tend to their own garden, gussy up their own respective wards. That way, perhaps, in the future we won’t have to listen to their bellyaching, complaining how they never get anything.

How about starting with a casino?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

generously submitted by Cityslikr


Should Politics Trump Everything?

March 12, 2012

Emerging from a 3 day battle with some godless microbe and 72 hours of highly potent neocitran-boozie concoction to kill it into submission, I’m scanning the #TOpoli with a mixture of disbelief and.. something else that is beyond my vocabulary at the moment. Like, I’m really groggy and quite possibly drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to fully judge if I’m asleep or awake.

Is this how the more casual observers of the municipal political scene here in Toronto feel when reading through the news? An out-of-body experience, this can’t really be happening kind of sensation? This is all a joke, right? This is not how a major metropolitan city conducts itself, is it?

On their regular Sunday afternoon radio slot, the mayor and his councillor brother brag about the restraint shown when the councillor was verbally accosted by a bike courier. “He (courier) was cursing and swearing with some nasty words,” Councillor Ford said. “I told him that if I wasn’t an elected official I would kick his ass.” He so would’ve too! He really would’ve! “The mayor said there would have been ‘one less courier to worry about’ if there was an incident. “Doug took kick-boxing for six years and has quick feet,” Mayor Ford said.

No, no, no, no, no. Our mayor did not just say that out loud, over the wireless, as some sort of populist bromide. My big brother’s tough as nails! Ford tough! You know how I know that’s all just a figment of my imagination? Later on in the show when talking about bullying in schools with a newly elected TDSB trustee, Councillor Ford claimed: “We never had bullies in our school. We’d always take care of them if there was.”

No semi-sentient adult being could be that self-unaware to not check themselves before blurting out such revelatory personality traits. I’d punch somebody for bad-mouthing me if there weren’t any repercussions. We didn’t have a bully problem because we ‘took care’ of anybody we thought were bullies…

It’s the virus in my bloodstream making me hear that, right? Some sort of auditory hallucination brought on by my mistakenly having mixed 151 proof rum with my cold medication. My mind’s just fucking with me at this point surely.

But then I wake up this morning to read that there’s a court motion afoot to oust Mayor Ford from office. Good god! Is the fever back? This can’t be—it’s Monday of March break. Nothing’s supposed to happen at City Hall. Will I never be free of this damned contagion that’s playing with my mind?!

For a full account of what’s allegedly happening, read Hamutal Dotan at the Torontoist and John McGrath at Open File TO but in short, way back in 2010, then Councillor Rob Ford used City Hall stationery to solicit donations including from some known lobbyists for his football charity. Integrity Commissioner ruled it a no-no, orders the councillor to pay back whatever donations he received. He claims he can’t because it’s already been spent on football equipment and the like. Integrity Commissioner then insists it has to come out of his pocket. In August 2010, city council agrees.

Some 18 months later and now mayor, Rob Ford still hadn’t complied with the ruling. At last month’s council meeting, a motion is presented and passed that overturns the previous council’s ruling, freeing the mayor of the obligation of paying back the $3150.00. Fine. Whatever. A little greasy but, hey, politics is never cut and dry.

Except today, in an application to the Ontario Superior Court, it’s alleged that the mayor violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. How? Not only did he vote on the item that waived his obligation to reimburse donors $3150 out of his own pocket but he spoke up in defence of his actions before doing so.

The mind boggles…And I don’t think it’s just the pharmaceuticals coursing through my brain.

I mean, last week I watched the mayor recuse himself from a debate and vote on something to do with the Boardwalk Café because he’s involved in some sort of litigation with the restaurant. But somehow this didn’t cross his mind as a possible conflict of interest? Someone on his staff? One of his political allies?

You’ve been ordered to repay $3150 out of your own pocket and it doesn’t strike you as a little iffy to be part of the debate and vote? There’s absolutely nothing that smacks of a conflict of interest about participating in and voting on an item that will save you personally $3150? Does that not seem simply incomprehensible to everyone else aside from just me and my medication?

I am equally as perplexed by the reaction to all this by some of the mayor’s most vocal critics. Whether, if found in violation, the mayor should be removed from office and barred 7 years from seeking office is a bit extreme, we can chat about but to shy away from this as politically bad optics or playing right into the hands of the persecution complex right wing politicians so love to wallow in, seems to be, well, a dereliction of duty frankly. (Hee, hee. Hee, hee. He said ‘doody’.)

Of course, the mayor and his supporters are going to run with this, citing it as proof the left wing is simply intent on driving the mayor from office and denying them their democratic rights, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Witch hunt! Dirty politics! Sore losers! That’s what they do. Conservatives gotta embrace victimhood.

But to shrug this off as bad politics or risky strategy? If this is pursued, it might play right into the hands of the mayor’s underdog status? That’s almost as cynical as how the right’s determined to play this.

To view this as some sort of ‘technicality’ is to accept questionable behaviour on the part of our elected officials as just part of doing business. Rob Ford repeatedly shrugged off requests to repay money the Integrity Commissioner ordered him to pay and then, as mayor, took part in the debate and vote to overturn the city councils move to uphold the Integrity Commissioner’s ruling. Something’s not quite right about that and ignoring it for fear of playing to his base come 2014 renders our democratic system somewhat ethically malleable.

Or am I missing something here, my logic and reasoning floating in a sea of medically enhanced fluid?

medicatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Democracy? M’eh.

March 7, 2012

The modern conservative species (genus: WTF?!) has often been a subject of consideration for us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Our overriding impression is one of a political philosophy that has, ironically, strayed far from its traditional path. In short, theirs is not their grandfathers’ conservatism.

There remains a strain of belief, however, that has survived the centuries relatively intact. It’s that unease with the messy aspects of democracy we can trace back to, arguably, one of the movement’s founding voices, Edmund Burke, although it does him a great, great disservice to lump him in with today’s crowd even on that score. His reaction to the excesses of the French Revolution is what I’m referring to on this point. One, I’m sure, our friend Sol Chrom will take the time to straighten me out on.

Conservatives tolerate democracy, I’m saying. Barely. They boil it down to the basic element of elections. The governance that goes on in between is little more than a nuisance, the vagaries inherent in a system that endeavours to accommodate more than one voice, one point of view is vilified, discounted and suppressed.

For example, the pre-stable majority Conservatives in Ottawa. Twice as a minority government they were faced with parliamentary non-confidence, they sought extraordinary measures to wiggle free from out under it and shut down democracy. Any notion of a coalition replacing them as the governing party was couched in terms of being illegitimate, anti-democratic, a nefarious coup d’etat.

As the Robocalls outrage shows, even their successful bid to form a majority is tinted with an anti-democratic impulse. Rather than endeavour to expand their appeal by persuasive arguments and reaching out for a broader consensus, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives sought to misinform voters and to disenfranchise them. Dirty tricks instead of bright ideas. It’s all in the game, yo.

Here in Toronto, conservative supporters are aghast at a mayor losing control of city council, utilizing similar terminology to their federal counterparts. A coup. Illigetimacy. Back stabbing. Treacherous betrayal.

In recent days there has been some very fine pieces written about the current entanglement at City Hall. Open File’s John McGrath got it started last weekend with his post, Rob Ford, the TTC, and the crisis of legitimacy at Toronto City Hall. Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler responded with a spirited rebuttal, An Informed Dissent on City Hall. After the TTC debate and vote on Monday, the Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan weighed in beautifully, City Council is Supreme. The Grid’s Edward Keenan added his voice on the topic, So who’s running this city, anyway?, earlier today.

It is not my purpose to jump into that particular fray now aside from saying I don’t believe we’re witnessing any sort of crisis of legitimacy more than a crisis of leadership. Yes, there are probably some adjustments that could be considered to reduce the fractiousness that arises between the single so-called mayoral mandate and those of 44 councillors. Electing more citywide representatives might be a step in that direction but that’s for another post.

No, my concern here is the reaction of conservative voices to Mayor Ford’s diminishing position on council. The inchoate screeds from the Toronto Sun’s Sue Ann Levy are to be expected. Any reversal of fortune the mayor encounters will always be the devious, underhanded work of pampered left wing, kooky socialists to her mind, such as it is. It only begs for schoolyard nicknames.

But such baseless outpouring of drivel from Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail is far more troubling. Messy political infighting plunges City Hall into chaos screams the headline of his article on Tuesday. ‘Low rent borgias’, ‘a power-drunk left-wing opposition’, he labelled those who took control of the TTC from the mayor on Monday. He states: The mayor is badly hobbled, but who runs the show in his place? before concluding As fascinating as it is to watch all this ad hocery, it leaves Toronto with a drifting, leaderless government at a time when it needs firm direction more than ever.

I’ve never met Mr. Gee but, from a distance, he seems like an amiable enough chap. While I think it safe to call him conservative leaning, he hardly comes across in his writing as some sort promoter of authoritarianism. Yet, here he is predicating the successful, smooth running of a city with the powerful leadership of one person, the mayor. Without that, well, we’re plunging into the darkness of chaos. Oh my god, the PTA is disbanding!

Such a sentiment is not only highly anti-democratic but it also suggests a very blinkered view of the workings of our municipal government. And to promote the notion that the 29 councillors voting to assume control of the TTC from the mayor who has badly fumbled the transit file are driven by nothing more than left-wing ideology is, well, pure fabrication. Since when did Councillor Karen Stintz become left wing? Or councillors Gary, Crawford, Peter Milczyn, Cesar Palacio, John Parker, James Pasternak, Jaye Robinson, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Chin Lee, Josh Colle? By making such a claim, Mr. Gee is simply propagating the left-right storyline that the mayor regularly spouts.

Aside from the increasingly potent opposition to Mayor Ford not being ideologically cohesive, it spans the entirety of the city, further exploding the divisive urban-suburban myth the mayor so heavily relies on. There is not a former pre-amalgamation municipality not represented in the 29 councillors who stood up against the mayor on the TTC vote. Right of centre Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby joined forces with leftie Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker as part of the team with North York centrist Councillor Jaye Robinson and champagne sipping, downtown socialist Councillor Gord Perks.

We should be celebrating this move toward a city wide conciliation instead of shrieking about the collapse of local democracy. Why do we think that one person steamrolling over 22 others to fulfill a mandate or agenda is how a city best runs? While it might fit nicely into a lazy narrative, it is profoundly autocratic loving. Sadly, it also passes as rigid conservative orthodoxy these days.

happily submitted by Cityslikr