The Emptiness of Empty Protests

April 26, 2013

Those must have been heady political days in the late-60s, early-70s, here in Toronto. stopthespadinaA citizens group forms to stop the move to pave neighbourhoods and put up an expressway. It coalesces into a bunch of reform-minded politicians who take control of City Hall and run it for the next decade or so.

The dream of grassroots activists everywhere!

Faint echoes of such a movement occurred in 2003, with David Miller’s broom representative of sweeping out the cronyism and incompetence that had consumed the Mel Lastman administration. But truthfully, that really only resonated at the mayoral level. The make up of council did not change that much. Thirty incumbents were re-elected. Only four defeated. And of the two new faces entering City Hall, Mike Del Grande and Karen Stintz, would hardly be considered Millerites.

No. The real descendant of the David Crombie-John Sewell municipal populist movement would have to be – gulp! – fordnationRob Ford. Yes, Rob Ford, dammit. In 2010, not only did he handily win the office of mayor, thumping the outgoing Deputy Mayor in the process, but five incumbents are tossed including the speaker, Sandra Bussin, a couple more are scared into submission with squeaker victories in their respective wards and a majority of the nine other rookie councillors initially falling in line to support the new mayor’s mandate.

Ford Nation, folks. Brimming full of respect for the taxpayers and come to stop the gravy train at City Hall. It’s what a grassroots insurgency looks like in the 21st-century.

But it seems in the intervening 40 years or so between the Crombie-Ford eras the protest portion of populism’s DNA has subsumed the reformist urge. noWhile David Crombie’s CivicAction Party began as a protest against the proposal to bring the Spadina Expressway downtown, it grew into something that actually governed the city.

Now into its third year in power, the Ford Administration shows no similar ability or inclination even. Governing is what professional politicians do. One-note outraged howls of protest are for the self-proclaimed amateurs.

Take a gander at Councillor Doug (Imma Businessman Not A Politician Folks) Ford’s op-ed on proposed transit funding today here and here and here. Or just read one. It’s the same thing spread over three of the city’s four dailies. Go figure.

Or let me summarize for you if you’re pressed for time.

No. No, no, no. No, no, no, no. NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo. No. Uh-uh. Nope. No, no, no. Not on my watch. Over my dead body. NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo.

Not a word about alternatives. No other options offered up. johnnystrablerYou’d think with all that free press at his disposal, the councillor might use the opportunity to lay out a transit plan that has been lacking for the three years since his brother announced his intentions to run for mayor. A plan?! We don’t need no stinkin’ plan!!

We just say no.

Name an initiative Team Ford has put forth that hasn’t been about cutting or dismantling.

It’s never about building. Theirs is a protest of destruction not construction. The anti-tax foundation on which Ford Nation is built extends to anti-everything. They took the ‘pro’ out of protest. Let’s call it the antitest.

I thought about labelling this movement the Johnny Strablers after Marlon Brando’s character in The Wild One. “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” Mildred asks. “Whaddya got?” Johnny answers.

But there’s too much retro-cool in that. stubbornThe Ford brothers might take it as a compliment.

So I’ll go further back, into the 19th-century, and the nativist Know-Nothing political party. Ford Nation shares quite a bit in common with them but it’s not a perfect fit. So let’s dub them the No-Nothing party. You want new transit? No. Need to open additional shelter beds? No. Hey, Mayor Ford. You going to march in this year’s Pride Parade? No.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re all for brand new shiny stuff if you convince them it won’t cost the city a dime. A casino? You betcha. Jets flying into the island airport? Okey-dokey. But any talk of reaching into our pockets and contributing to the broader public commons? No.

This is the inevitable outcome of protest built on pure negativity. We voted for someone with a long list of what’s wrong but an empty column of how to fix it. Opposition with no solutions is just opposition. Nothing gets done. Everything grinds to a halt.

strutsandfretsIt’s a situation any parent will immediately recognize. We are living through a two year old’s temper tantrum.

feet stampingly submitted by Cityslikr


John Sewell: Yesterday’s Man

December 10, 2012

Maybe it’s the holiday spirit slowly seeping into this empty, cold soul of mine but I gotta say, goofybastardsI love this big sprawling mess of a megacity and each and every one of its goofy bastard inhabitants. Except maybe one right now. John Sewell. In fact, I’m going to say something that very few people outside of maybe the Toronto Police Services have said before.

Fuck John Sewell. Fuck him and his rethinking the Toronto megacity article last week in the Globe and Mail. He couldn’t be more wrong-headed, and his attitude reflects the worst of our elitist downtown-ccentric thinking. As if everything was fine and dandy before the Mike Harris government unceremoniously ignored our collective municipal wishes and lumped us together with our suburban bumpkin cousins.

Here’s a fact that Mr. Sewell seems to conveniently overlook.

In a few weeks’ at the end of this year, amalgamation will be fifteen years old. During that time, we will have had a mayor from the former inner suburbs eight years and a mayor from the old downtown city seven. David Miller, at least until the outside workers strike in 2009, proved that issues could resonate beyond the 416 core. Mel Lastman was not without a base in downtown Toronto. megacityWhile perhaps representing the most extreme of the supposed divide, Rob Ford voters weren’t scarce in some old Toronto wards.

As easy as it is to write up the narrative of Rob Ford’s rise to power as nothing more than the face of inchoate suburban rage, looking to extract some sort of populist revenge upon the highfalutin elites, the truth is much more complicated. Rob Ford was a phenomenon of 2010, surfing a wave that broke perfectly for him

An unnerved population still reeling from a global economic freefall and looking for someone to blame for their uncertainty. Palpable anger in the air at municipal workers who were portrayed as lazy, shiftless fat cats always demanding a bigger chunk of the public purse. Outgoing politicians giving themselves a gold plated send off. Terrible candidates who either ran similar but much less effective anti-incumbent campaigns or who just couldn’t convey the good the Miller administration had undertaken or connect viscerally with voters.

Lightning in a bottle in other words. Something that will be much more difficult to pull off a second time. Recent polls certainly indicate as much.

There’s no question there are different attitudes between former municipalities that linger on. “Everyone recognizes that human behaviour is very much influenced by built form,” Sewell writes, “and that’s where the two cultures come in.” headinsandYes, Etobicoke, Scarborough, North York and York are still more car dependent, say, than parts of Toronto and East York. At least the areas that remain under-serviced by public transit are. But that would be less to do with built form than adaptation to new realities, wouldn’t it?

Mr. Sewell seems to believe that the die is cast. Something built sixty-years ago cannot ever change. Let’s just all accept that and stop pretending otherwise.

You know who else thinks along those lines? Mayor Rob Ford. Somehow he’s the backward thinking, knuckle-dragging stick in the mud but John Sewell’s the enlightened voice of downtowners everywhere who just doesn’t want to get his hands dirty making this shit work.

Look, amalgamation was poorly implemented, perhaps deliberately so. But the concept isn’t inherently bad. A few specifics were.

For starters, the savings from efficiencies that Queen’s Park promised would happen just didn’t materialize. Creating one big institute of some 2.5 million people from six smaller ones detonated a critical mass instead of generating economies of scale that would heap savings upon us. squarepeg1Streamlining never proved to be as easy as all that as we now know a decade and a half on.

And I seem to remember something about amalgamation being revenue neutral. The province would download some services and programs and upload others, specifically our educational system. We wouldn’t notice a thing.

That too didn’t quite turn out to be true. As Matt Elliott points out in his 2013 budget analysis, the megacity is still waiting for the province to reclaim some $400 million in costs the Harris government placed on Toronto’s ledger. This year we’re being relieved of about $14 million of that. A rate which, if continued as is, should eliminate the imbalance in just another 30 years. Combine that with the fact two successive provincial governments have shirked their duty to pay half of the TTC’s annual operating costs and you might conclude that this whole amalgamation could’ve gone a whole smoother if the city hadn’t been left fighting over the crumbs left on the table by Queen’s Park.

I will, however, agree with John Sewell that the yoinking of the Metro level of government in the amalgamation process also has contributed mightily to our currents woes. Having only one elected official representing the entire city can lead to some sort of binary dynamic. If a mayor doesn’t possess something of a broader view of things, then it’s simply about pitting councillors’ interests against each other and herding until you get 22 of them on side. It’s not about reaching a consensus as much as it is pounding square pegs into round holes until they sort of fit.

A wider, broader and longer perspective is needed. That’s not going to be accomplished by de-amalgamating. turtleinshellThe city needs to recreate a metro like body with more councillors elected on a city-wide basis, free from simply ward-by-ward interests. Exactly what that make-up would be is for another post entirely. Suffice to say, there are better ways to build bridges in this city then re-fracturing in a vain attempt to recapture past magic.

The reality we need to accept right now is that amalgamation signalled the province no longer wanted to work as anything resembling equal partners with this city. They wanted a pliable entity that would fight amongst itself, fight with the wider region and not cause too much trouble politically. How else to explain Ontario Liberal leadership hopeful Sandra Pupatello’s ‘too Toronto’ Canadian Club comment?

In one fell swoop, she took a pot shot at the entire GTA and threw Niagra into the mix. I mean, who else aside from Sandra Pupatello sees PC leader Tim Hudak as ‘too Toronto’? “… there’s a whole big province out there,” she said, almost as if it were a threat.

Such obstreperousness from the province will not effectively be countered by reverting back to smaller, pre-amalgamated entities. onecityIn fact, we need to be looking much broader in order to defend our interests. This is no longer simply about East York versus North York. No, no, no, no. It’s not even urban versus suburban now.

This is about city building on a regional level. That can’t be done by popping our heads back into our shells, hoping this has all been some horrible fifteen year nightmare, a socio-political experiment gone wrong. It’s the future, baby. Let’s embrace it and figure out a way to make it work to our collective advantage.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Toeing The Line

January 17, 2011

It has been eye-opening over the course of the past week, just how much difficulty I’ve encountered attempting to write something, anything about the circumstances surrounding the death of Toronto Police Sargeant, Ryan Russell. What’s that nagging voice, tub-thumbing from the depths of my frontal cortex? No, no, no, no! Don’t say that! You can’t say that! Is that… could it be… self-censorship? Really?

Where I seem to possess precious little hesitancy in hammering away at our politicians, when it comes to the police, I have proven to be a veritable pussycat. A sign of respect? Maybe. Worse, fear? I would hope not, after all, we’re not living in Russia. This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia? This isn’t Russia. (A quiet shout-out to all you Caddyshack fans in the audience.)

Surely I don’t think that if I speak out in less than glowing terms about the police, their conduct, their budget demands, I will somehow be targeted. My name added to a list, my movements monitored, mysterious break-ins at the office. That’s ridiculous. I mean, look at former mayor John Sewell. A much more visible target, standing on a higher platform, making far more contentious comments. Yet, he continues to freely cycle around town, subject only to printed personal attacks (links h/t to Orwell’s Bastard) and not any unsolved hit-and-runs attempts. We don’t live in that kind of country.

No, my hesitancy in writing about police issues is much more internalized, bred into the bone with a steady diet of reverence and dutiful observance to the service performed by our men and women in blue. Selflessly putting their lives on the line each and every day, providing that Thin Blue Line between order and chaos. I’ve accepted the narrative and on most days even believe it. During the course of a lifetime, I’ve met a number of cops who, to a person, have been genuinely decent people.

I do not begrudge them their outpouring of grief for their fallen compatriot and the public spectacle that will be Sgt. Russell’s funeral tomorrow. A word will not be peeped about the traffic congestion created as police numbering in the thousands march down University Avenue in downtown Toronto. So it should be. (Here’s that self-censoring gnome, hammering away again.) Society must maintain a heightened shock at the death of a police officer in the line of duty. The graveness of such an act needs to be underscored. We cannot simply shrug off the murder of one who has sworn to protect citizens and uphold the laws of the land.

But… but… at the same time we seem to have become blithe in the face of the pain and suffering occurring amongst the weakest members of our society. No, Sgt. Russell’s accused killer, Richard Kachkar, did not die in the course of his arrest. He was just wounded. But over the last two decades, some 10 individuals suffering from mental illness have been killed at the hands of Toronto police.

While I’m certainly not blaming the police directly for such killings (or at least, my self-censoring self doesn’t), neither do I think we should simply shrug our shoulders and brush it off as just another crazy fuck snapping. It can hardly be a coincidence that over the course of those same last two decades, senior levels of government have cut deeply into mental health funding in their rush toward fiscal responsibility, opening wide the doors of psychiatric institutions and leaving the vulnerable to the vagaries of the streets, the kindness of strangers and the stretched-to-snapping resources of municipalities. We’ve delegated the police to be the last line of defense in our handling of those afflicted with mental illness, resulting in all too regular tragic turns of events like the death of Sgt. Russell.

It is not my intention to politicize all this but it can hardly be avoided, I guess. Witness Councillor Ford’s outburst at the budget committee meeting last week. However, it is worth noting and repeating that the Toronto Police Services budget, already comparable to what the city spends on all its social services, is not in line to be cut. Its requested increase decreased somewhat but not cut. In order to balance the city’s budget (while maintaining sacrosanct tax cuts and freezes), ‘inefficiencies’ and ‘re-allocations’ will have to be found elsewhere. With such a zero sum, dog-eat-dog scenario, it’s tough to believe that more confrontations between our police and already neglected sufferers of mental illness won’t be in the offing.

All this is not to say we shouldn’t mourn the death of Sgt. Ryan Russell. But perhaps afterwards, when all the solemn pageantry has finished, we can take a moment to consider those we’ve marginalized and left to their own devices. Initiate a discussion about this systemic neglect we’ve allowed to happen and whether there are more sensible and humane methods of dealing with those who’ve so sadly fallen through society’s cracks.

Nothing can be easier than celebrating and venerating our most powerful institutions especially when they suffer a loss. Our measure, though, should be taken by how we regard and tend to those left abandoned and neglected, with little voice to speak for their cause. Those who should be cared for not policed.

reluctantly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayoral Endorsement III

October 24, 2010

My Endorsement For Mayor: HiMY SYeD.

He calls himself The Peoples’ Mayor. It is not empty campaign rhetoric. As Mr. SYeD correctly points out, this race has been all about things. Tax cuts, subways and gravy trains. Where are the people?

Semantics, you say? A little, perhaps. But our front running candidates have all been talking about what they are going to do for people, to people. HiMY SYeD talks about what he’ll do with people. Civic engagement sits at the very core of his campaign. While Mr. Smitherman has attempted to buttress his left flank by rolling out the likes of John Sewell and David Crombie as his emissaries on the local democracy front, HiMY SYeD represents the very essence of it. Inclusion isn’t something he’ll seek to do as mayor, a single plank in his policy platform. Inclusion is the engine that drives his candidacy.

The sad irony of that is just how excluded Mr. SYeD has been during the course of this campaign. No bigger travesty manifested itself over the last 10 months than how independent voices – not just HiMY SYeD – were so summarily and systematically shut out. Well into the proceedings, with a majority of Torontonians expressing immense discontent with the gang of 6, then 5, then 4, then 3 candidates on offer to them, no one with the power to do so thought to address those concerns. Not anyone in the mainstream media who could’ve simply said (after a quick look at Mr. SYeD’s campaign material), what the hell, let’s try this one on for size. Instead they held onto the term ‘fringe’ right to the bitter end. Not any of the front running candidates who could’ve flashed a sign of selflessness to the electorate by demanding a seat at their debate table for HiMY SYeD. Choosing their self-interest above the interests of the general public, and letting us know in a not very subtle manner exactly the kind of mayor they will be.

Mario Cuomo, a leading candidate of ours in the Best President of the United States Who Never Was race, said “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” Well, HiMY SYeD was our bard in campaign 2010. In a wave of turgid, uninspiring, squalid, vacuous words, he spoke to us, no… dare I say it? Fan by brow. I do declare we find ourselves becoming a little flushed… sang to us in beautiful, elevated language, with his vision of empowerment and hope.

Because of HiMY SYeD I now know about a place called Curitiba, Brazil and its former mayor, Jaime Lerner. Curitiba was a city facing much more dire problems than Toronto is (or will even come close to having to face regardless of Monday’s election outcome) with much fewer resources to deal with them. But with the guiding hand of Jaime Lerner the city transformed itself into a modern urban centre, brimming with innovative ideas on public transit and sustainability.

Because of HiMY SYeD I now know about a man named Jeb Brugmann and his book, Welcome to the Urban Revolution. I now know how little I really do know about how cities function, develop and grow (and somewhat depressingly, I realize just how little many of our candidates running for municipal government know about new urban ideas as well). But I also now know that there are many smart and original thinkers and activists, contributing mightily to the public discourse. HiMY SYeD is one of those people.

Most importantly, because of HiMY SYeD I have not grown disenchanted or disillusioned about the political process or prospects here in Toronto despite overwhelming proof and evidence that I have every right to be one or both of those things. Witnessing his resilient spirit and indefatigable sense of civic duty in the face of shameful inattention and even hostile disregard on the part of serious opinion makers, buoys me with hope and resolve. In this campaign, the battle for the heart, soul and mind of Toronto has been rancorous, divisive and not a little disheartening. Unless the unexpected happens on election day, it certainly doesn’t promise to be any less so as we settle back down into trying to build a better city.

I want to be part of that because I know HiMY SYeD will continue to soldier on and contribute to the ever evolving urban fabric of Toronto regardless of the outcome on Monday.

The lunatic ravings of a cock-eyed optimist, blind to the realities on the ground? Nope. I’ve thought long and hard about this and am fully cognizant of the repercussions of my decision. While I always vote in the hopes of casting my ballot for the winning candidate, that urge must be tempered with the fundamental reason we participate in the democratic process in the first place. To publicly declare what kind of city (province, country) we want to live in. Let it to be known here and now that the kind of Toronto I want to be part of is one where HiMY SYeD is mayor.

My heart tells me it’s a vote for 2010 but my head says 2014 and the future. But the future will actually come much sooner than that. October 26th, to be precise. When we wake up to see what we’ve created and a majority of us won’t be at all pleased. The work to make it right will begin immediately. HiMY SYeD will be there, on the frontlines to battle back those forces who will be bent upon, will believe they have a mandate to pull apart everything that has been accomplished over the last 7 years.

That’s a fight I want to be a part of and which is why I, Cityslikr, am endorsing HiMY SYeD for mayor of Toronto.

endorsingly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayoral Endorsement II

October 23, 2010

My Endorsement For Mayor: Joe Pantalone.

Although I may still vote for George Smitherman. I mean, David Crombie just endorsed him. Come on!

But I’m still endorsing Joe Pantalone.

I am that living, breathing, mushy middlist voting cliché everyone has been on about for the past week or so. The Smitherman team wants me. The Anybody But Ford coalition hounds me. We few, we unhappy few, we band of political brothers (and sisters) apparently hold the key to the outcome of Monday’s election. In our hands, lies the future fate of our city. Oh, the weight of such responsibility.

I, for one, know that George Smitherman will make a more capable mayor than Rob Ford. What I’m not as convinced about is if the city will be any better for that. Yes, Smitherman’s decked out his outerwear finery with the bow of John Sewell and ribbon of David Crombie. Perhaps that’s the silent signal to me that Smitherman will not ignore my concerns if he’s elected to City Hall. Just cross my fingers and hope that all the other stuff he’s been far more vocal about throughout the campaign, the right of centre meat and potatoes of tax freezes/cuts and job elimination through attrition, is just political posturing, necessary in the negative atmosphere that’s polluted election 2010.

It’s a leap of faith I’m just not sure I’m prepared to take.

I like living in Toronto. The past 7 years have not struck me as the dysfunctional quagmire many pundits and electioneering candidates have tried to make it out to have been. I’m not alone in that assessment. Check out here, here and here if you don’t believe me. There have been hiccups, no question. Some self-inflicted, others far beyond our control (i.e. the economic meltdown and subsequent recession). All things considered, I feel better about living in Toronto than I did in 2003.

I bought a house and had to pay the then newly instituted municipal land transfer tax. Came with the territory, as the city tentatively tested new powers granted to it through the City of Toronto Act.  The Vehicle Registration Tax had no affect on me as I don’t own a car and if there’s one major difference I have with Joe Pantalone it’s his pledge to remove it if elected. People may not like it. It may be regressive. But I think we should use all the tools at our disposal to make owning a car in this city a grind.

My garbage and recycling is picked up as often as I need it to be. I don’t mind the exercise shoveling snow from my own walk. I can walk home at night through a back alley, slightly drunk, playing with my telephonic gadget with very little fear of having harm done to my person. I spend more money per month on my Rogers bill than I do on services the city provides to me and I am much more satisfied with what the city delivers.

As you’re probably thinking as you read this, yes, I am one of the fortunate people living in Toronto. Indeed, I may do even better under a fiscally conservative regime at City Hall, what with all those taxes being cut and frozen under either a Ford or Smitherman administration. Except that, what I see emerging from both these candidates is a city more desperate. They’ve said little to absolutely zero about combating poverty, about continuing to work on fixes for our high priority neighbourhoods. Their transit plans are woefully short of properly dealing with congestion. One term of either a Ford or Smitherman mayoralty will result in a city that’s less livable. So all of us will be the worse for it.

Since I am also convinced that out there in the bigger, wider world, we may not yet be through the economic shit storm that started blowing through back in ought-8, and senior levels of government seemed pumped to begin budgetary slicing and dicing at the behest of what should be discredited neo-liberal voices that they are still mysteriously listening to, I trust neither Rob Ford or George Smitherman when the inevitable calls for further cuts start to ring out. I can already here the post-election statement from Ford or Smitherman. It’s much worse than I thought it was but don’t worry, it’ll only hurt a little.

No, in what will inevitably be a rough next few years, I am much more comfortable with the idea of Joe Pantalone as our mayor than anyone else. He will not turn on us. He’s had 30 years fighting for a fairer, more equitable and livable city, through good times and bad. He has the city’s best interests at heart. That, I know, is not true of Rob Ford. George Smitherman has not convinced me he does, either.

Read these Pantalone endorsements at ChangeToronto and blogTO. They are much more eloquent and thorough in their endorsements of Joe Pantalone than I’m being. Then for fun, take a glimpse at NOW’s Alice Klein endorsement of George Smitherman.

If there’s anything that’s pushed me more firmly into the Joe Pantalone camp, it’s the hectoring self-righteousness coming from those who’ve decided strategically voting in order to stop Rob Ford from winning is our only recourse. Hey. Fair enough. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to tell you who you should or shouldn’t vote for. Yes, Rob Ford is a despicable man. Yes, he’ll make a despicable mayor. But spare me the hysteric he’ll be Sauron who actually gets hold of the ring and transforms Toronto into Mordor if he gets elected mayor narrative. It leaves me cold. We will live to fight if this grisly scenario comes to pass.

In answering for my self @arvelomcquaig‘s quandary, I can’t decide if a Ford mayoralty is more worse than a Smitherman mayoralty than a Smitherman mayoralty is worse than a Pantalone mayoralty, yes, yes I believe a Mayor Smitherman would be significantly worse than a Mayor Pantalone than a Mayor Ford be worse than a Mayor Smitherman. Or, to put it another way, a Mayor Ford and Mayor Smitherman are more closely related than are a Mayor Smitherman and Mayor Pantalone.

For that reason (as convoluted as it may be) I, Urban Sophisticat, am endorsing Joe Pantalone as Mayor of Toronto.

endorsingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Toss Us A Bone, George

October 19, 2010

So it seems George Smitherman has unveiled the final act of his storybook – no, wait – Grimm Brothers march to the mayoralty. Rather than an uplifting coda, singing to us all about his plans to make Toronto a better place, he goes subterranean, pointing out the monster waiting under the bed if we don’t vote for him, appealing to our basest trait, fear. The picture perfect, logical conclusion to the most cold-blooded, calculating campaign in recent memory.

The Smitherman ploy? To hammer at the lingering progressive voters who haven’t yet jumped ship over at the Joe Pantalone camp, not with incentives or positive reasons as to why they should switch allegiance to Team Smitherman but because if they don’t… if they don’t… Mayor Rob Ford! Oogliebooglie!! And if that scary, scary scenario comes to pass, well, it’ll be everybody’s fault who didn’t vote for George. George’ll just be some innocent bystander. He told us so.

The man is kicking sand in our faces, people. He’s taunting us, brazenly running on a resolutely right wing platform and telling us that we over here on the left side of the political spectrum have no choice but to vote for him. Why? Because he’s not Rob Ford. That is the very definition of a deal with the devil.

Take Smitherman’s latest poke to the eye of progressives when he dropped by for a quick cup of coffee at last night’s 519 Community Centre debate. When asked if he supported safe injection sites, he rejected them out of hand, suggesting that he “…wasn’t convinced of its merits.” The former Minister of Health for Ontario isn’t convinced of the merits of safe injection sites?! You know who else isn’t convinced of the merits of safe injections sites, George? Rob Ford. And he’s an idiot.

If this were just an aberration or odd tic in Smitherman’s otherwise moderate campaign (and at this point, I’m not looking for anything more radical than moderate), it could be overlooked. Harm reduction is contentious. But it simply further tilts his candidacy further right into Ford Country.

A Pantalone-prone exaggeration? Smitherman’s proposed a one year tax freeze if elected. A tax freeze in the middle of a supposed financial crunch? You know who else loved to freeze taxes? Mel Lastman. He’s proposed to cut about 1300 jobs from City Hall (while increasing police numbers by 50 which would be half the number Rob Ford promises) through attrition while increasing service to the city’s citizens through the magical neo-conservative way of defying common sense. Less workers = more service. His transit plans are fuzzy at best, both bashing Transit City while expropriating most of it with minor tweaks to call it his own. And mysteriously, he’ll pull in a cool $100 mil from the province to chip into the TTC’s operating costs although he’s been castigating Pantalone and the current administration for always going to the province, cap in hand. Oh yeah, and he’s pledged a “time out on construction of new bike lanes on arterial roadways.”

George Smitherman has shown very little progressive tendencies during this campaign but since Rob Ford has shown none that somehow justifies Smitherman asking, no, demanding, our vote. Well, you know what? Fuck you, George. It’s going to take a lot more than scare tactics to pry my vote away.

So instead of meekly handing over our franchise simply because we’re frightened (and call it ‘strategic’), how be we demand at least a little quid pro quo? We don’t have to ask for the complete capitulation from George that he’s asking from us. Just a morsel. A tidbit. Throw us a bone, George, because simply campaigning on being less bad than Rob Ford isn’t going to do it.

How about something like this?

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke vow to at least think about voting for George Smitherman if he pledges to adhere to the recommendations that emerge from the panel he promises to convene if elected, headed by John Sewell, to look into “restoring local decision-making and local democracy.” It ain’t much as we notice that he explicitly doesn’t mention ballot or voting reform and hems everything in by stating any recommendation cannot increase spending at City Hall. But, it’s something we could hold on to; to help rationalize and justify, even a little, to ourselves that by giving over our vote to such a despicable and disagreeable candidate, we weren’t completely selling our souls out of childish fear.

If every progressive voter who hadn’t yet gone over to the dark side demanded just one thing – a proper bike lane rethink, no increase to the police budget, a realistic transit plan – from George and all his minions out there, rustling up the scare, then at least we’d have something, an unwritten pact with the man. And if elected, he began to stray and ignore what he once promised to us, we would have a common cause, uniting us in dedication to chasing him from office in 2014. Progressives who’d sold out and bitter centrists, working together in a sweet sounding coalition called Anybody But George.

— defiantly submitted by Cityslikr


We Don’t Know Hockey But Know Somebody Who Does

September 9, 2010

(Just in case you’re getting tired of hearing the same old nat-nat-nattering from these quarters, we thought it’d be good to change it up a bit today. So, ladies and gentlemen, we bring you a guest commentator…)

*  *  *

This week in Eye Weekly, Shawn Micallef wrote a perspicacious open letter to George Smitherman, urging the Toronto mayoral candidate to be more like Wendel Clark than Tie Domi. Although I am not a Maple Leaf fan, I’ve watched the team for decades and inevitably started wondering what Leafs our former mayors most resemble:

* David Crombie = Ted Kennedy

Okay, I never saw Kennedy play—I’m not that old—but many hockey historians consider him the greatest Leaf ever. Captain for eight years, “Teeder” helped the team win the Stanley Cup five times and was the last Leaf to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Mayor from 1972 to 1978, Crombie led a reform council that left a legacy the city has coasted on for decades. We still remember him fondly as Toronto’s Tiny Perfect Mayor.

* John Sewell = Frank Mahovlich

A big, supremely talented player, the Big M helped the Leafs win the Stanley Cup four times. And yet, management mistreated him and fans booed him. Sewell had been a smart and scrappy activist alderman, but after he had the temerity to suggest Toronto cops were anything less than tops, he lasted just one term as a bike-riding, rights-defending mayor. Pearls before swine, I guess.

* Art Eggleton = Inge Hammerstrom

An ineffectual player, Hammerstrom could, according to owner Harold Ballard, “go into the corners with eggs in his pockets and not break one of them.” Eggleton was equally ineffectual. Unfortunately, he lasted longer as mayor than the Swedish winger lasted as a Leaf—and a lot of things broke in Toronto while he was in office.

The Other Swede

* June Rowlands = Tie Domi

A classic NHL goon, Domi served as Leaf enforcer. Rowlands ran for mayor on a law and order platform, but is best remembered for banning the Barenaked Ladies, an innocuous Scarborough pop group, from performing at Nathan Phillips Square. While both Domi and Rowlands were embarrassing, the big difference between the two was that Domi was, inexplicably, wildly popular in Toronto.

* Barbara Hall = Mats Sundin

The only Swedish player to score 500 NHL goals, the talented Sundin was a rare likable player on a team full of unlikable ones (Tie Domi, Darcy Tucker, Shayne Corson). Hall was mayor during Premier Mike Harris’s war on the city. Like Sundin, she served with class during a difficult era.

* Mel Lastman = Tiger Williams

A notorious bad boy, Williams remains the NHL’s all-time penalty leader. Some hockey fans thought he was a goof; others found him entertaining. Ditto for Lastman.

* David Miller = David Keon

When I was a kid, the hockey magazines I devoured regularly referred to the small, skillful Keon as “pound for pound the best player in the NHL.” Although he was one of the greatest players to ever don a Leaf sweater, his relationship with the team eventually soured and he split. As mayor, Miller had smarts, skill and vision—and was equally underappreciated. But many of the mayor’s supporters have a nagging suspicion that, like Keon, who won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player, the mayor would have been even more effective if he’d had Gordie Howe’s elbows.

skates strapped on-edly submitted by Tim Falconer, author of Drive: A Road Trip through Our Complicated Affair with the Automobile