In Praise Of Paul

April 2, 2015

We spend a lot of time railing here at all Fired Up in the Big Smoke, bitching, if you will, agonizingly over the state of affairs of our local politics. notallbadWith good reason, I think it fair to add. Things are terrible, from the state of our public transit, public housing to the repute (illin’, in the vernacular of the kids today) of our local governance, and many points in between.

Grim, dark days indeed.

From all that glum, occasionally the positives appear, brightly alight on the dreary canvas of civic/political life of this city like the spring flowers we should expect to see sometime soon if this cold, heartless winter ever ends. We’re told it will. Honest. It has to.

So I’d like to send a shout out today to one of those positives, one of the proofs that Toronto isn’t necessarily going to hell in a hand basket. It is the Easter holiday season, after all. If the dead can rise again, why not the near dead? (Too much?)

Councillor Paul Ainslie.applaud

At yesterday’s council meeting, he entered the fray of the accountability officers’ debate, putting forth an amendment to a motion that should put the issue to rest at least for a bit, seemingly satisfying a solid majority of the two factions. It was an adept bipartisan move that deflated the hyper-partisanship which had needlessly infected the issue. Such diplomacy, let’s call it, was a far cry from the Paul Ainslie I remember when I first started closely watching City Hall back in the early days of the Ford era.

It struck me then (and I believe with justification) Councillor Ainslie was simply a robotic ‘yes’ vote for whatever crazy idea the Mayor Ford demanded. In fact, I will confess publicly here for the very first time, I had a hand in an obscure Twitter parody account mocking the councillor, mostly for his refusal to get up and defend some of the positions he took. We can all disagree politically, I think it’s safe to say. caterpillarI just want to hear why you’re doing what you’re doing.

To give Councillor Ainslie his due, at the same time, he was plugging away quietly in his position as chair of the low visibility Government Management Committee. Yeah, I know, right? What the hell is the Government Management Committee and how does it impact my life?

Well, OK. I’m not going into the details here but let me say this. If ranked ballots arrive at City Hall for our next municipal election (currently nestled away somewhere in Queen’s Park awaiting provincial approval), Councillor Ainslie should be credited as one of the prime adoptees of the initiative at City Hall in his role as chair of the Government Management Committee. In a time of regressive, backwards thinking embraced by many in the Ford administration, it is a testament to the councillor’s doggedness to the cause that ranked ballots made it through such a mess.

Then came 2013.

Hopefully when a definitive history is written about Toronto’s city politics from 2010-14, Paul Ainslie’s role in pulling one of the many loose threads of Rob Ford’s ratty, tawdry behaviour will be acknowledged. standupA full month before the crack story broke, it was Councillor Ainslie going public about Ford’s drunken, loutish appearance at the Garrison Ball that really teed the ball up for the messy, ugly fall that followed. Few of the mayor’s supporters had broken ranks with him yet. This was big news at the time that got lost in the ensuing crack story.

The Fords, of course, denied it. They wrote the claim off as just bitterness on the part of Councillor Ainslie for not getting the nod as the budget chief to succeed Mike Del Grande. A few months later, they booted Ainslie from his post as chair of Government Management in a display of what spite was really about.

Let me just say here that while there is no need to point out the Ford’s unfamiliarity with the truth, the notion Ainslie, I don’t know, used the incident to get back at them is sort of laughable. Having chatted with the councillor on a few occasions, I have to say, the man comes across as lacking as little guile as I have seen in any other adult I know. You have to have a little bit of the sharp elbows in you to be successful in politics and Ainslie’s city councillor origin story is not without controversy but if there is a more genuine politician at City Hall right now, I haven’t spoken to them.drunkdriving

The feud between Ainslie and the Fords escalated especially when the councillor reversed course on the Scarborough subway extension. Initially supporting the move, he said after looking at all the information that the numbers simply didn’t add up. He was the lone Scarborough councillor to speak out and vote against scrapping the LRT which led to a series of robocalls being placed by the mayor to residents of Ainslie’s Ward 43, a subsequent complaint to the Integrity Commissioner by Ainslie and yet another apology from Rob Ford.

Compare and contrast the principled stand on the issue made by Paul Ainslie with the complete and utter cowering capitulation and 180 made by Glenn De Baeremaeker.

What was really interesting about yesterday’s accountability office motion by Councillor Ainslie wasn’t so much that he made it, and made it stick. There’s every reason to believe that the original motion of Councillor Stephen Holyday’s wasn’t going to pass, so ill-thought out and deliberately divisive as it was. steakthroughtheheartIt was Councillor Ainslie’s response in defending it to some critics who thought the original motion should just be killed outright.

“I’m not trying to salvage it [Holyday’s motion],” the councillor tweeted. “If we defeat it outright it will only leave too much on the table with an axe to grind.”

Ainslie wasn’t aiming at the motion. He was going after those behind it who had ‘an axe to grind’ with the accountability officers and, for their own mysterious reasons, were determined to reduce oversight of city council despite any protestations they made to the contrary. A more thorough review of the offices (as opposed to the very narrow, amalgamation-orientated one asked by Councillor Holyday) would better arm accountability proponents for future attacks.

I understand why councillors like Shelley Carroll opposed any sort of review. It is unnecessary and floats the idea that there’s something amiss with the accountability offices when the reality is, the only thing wrong is they are all chronically underfunded. easterbunnyYet the pipsqueaks on the council, the Stephen Holydays, Michelle Berardinettis, James Pasternaks, Justin Di Cianos and John Campbells were relentless in their fight against the offices. Councillor Paul Ainslie attempted to put an end to their pursuit once and for all, or, maybe even better, expose them for the regressive, anti-democratic types that they are.

For that, and the general all-round geniality and amenability, good natured can-do-ness, we salute Councillor Paul Ainslie. May you find all the easter eggs you search for in the easter egg hunt you will undoubtedly participate in.

positively submitted by Cityslikr


Deluded

May 1, 2014

staringatacomputer

I was sitting in the office, staring at the computer monitor, the live stream muted. It seemed to be stuck in some kind of loop. The same news reports delivered over and over.

And who should that be walking through the door, without a knock, I might add. Our old friend and one time All Fired Up in the Big Smoke contributor, Urban Sophisticat. I seemed to have caught him by surprise, like he wasn’t expecting to find me there.

“What? Did you come to steal the electronics?

“No. No, I just thought… it’d be more of a party atmosphere in here.”

If you’re reading this now, I don’t really have to explain what he was referring to, do I? Dagos, the gays, fucking jamming, fucking knocking teeth out. More crack in his sister’s basement. Drunken, coked up confrontation with Justin Bieber. Yes, you read that correctly.

As Urban Sophisticat sat down in front of me, I slid the bottle across the desk to him. He picked it up, checked out the label. I believe he turned up his nose just a little. It might not even been consciously.

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“You got anything lighter,” he asked. “Not so good with the sulphites these days.”

Sending a glass his way, I did my best to summon up a look of disdain before turning back to see if anything changed on the news need. It hadn’t. Evidently Urban Sophisticat was going to risk a sulphite encounter as he poured himself a glass.

“I’m fucking sick of politics, dude.”

Urban Sophisticat raised his glass in agreement to my sentiment. What he thought was my sentiment.

“Welcome to the club,” he said. “Chin, chin.” He took a sip, and a little bit of time deciding if he approved of my choice of wines. “I was struck down by that very same illness October 27th, 2010. A day that will go down in infamy.”

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My friend hadn’t lost his grasp of hyperbole, I saw.

“I wasn’t talking about me, dude,” I informed him. “That’s what the mayor said in his drunken stupor on Monday night. ‘I’m fucking sick of politics.’”

“He’s sick of politics? P-lease! He’s sickened politics, that’s what he’s done. Sickened politics.”

Urban Sophisticat seemed quite delighted with his little witty self and had another slug of wine he obviously still hadn’t come to terms with. He wasn’t wrong but that wasn’t the point I had tried to make.

“No. He’s sick of politics and then goes on to say, ‘Look at my record.’ Look at his record. The fucking guy actually believes everything he says. $1.1 billion saved? He believes it. Doesn’t matter what anybody tells him, what numbers or facts and figures they throw around, he’s saved taxpayers $1.1 billion. He’s cut our taxes. Reduced spending. He’s looking out for the little guy. That’s not a catchphrase for him. The mayor really and truly believes he is. That’s why he’s fucking sick of politics. He’s trying and trying and trying, respecting the taxpayers, and for what? Nobody gives him credit for looking out for the little guy.”
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Urban Sophisticat seemed surprised by my surprise. He shrugged. Tell him something he doesn’t already know. And pop the cork on another bottle of wine while I’m at it. Maybe a Merlot. Or a Pinot Noir if I had it.

But I wasn’t done playing amateur psychologist just yet.

“Look at his attack on Karen Stintz. Violent, predatory. I’d like to fucking jam her. Nothing sexual about that. Why? Because she represents everything he hates. Ivy League, north Toronto, la-di-da, white, white teeth. The establishment. Yeah. Fucking jam that, right?”

“On the other hand,” I continued, taking the bottle from Urban Sophisticat and pouring out some more dark, peppery, sulphite-ridden wine, “if the mayor was going to lose this election who did he want to lose it to? This self-proclaimed conservative, left wing hating, loather of government. Who’d he want to succeed him as mayor? Olivia Chow. What’s up with that, right?”

I paused to let all this sink in. The two of us drank our wine. One of us enjoying it more than the other.

“It could be as simple as him thinking that she’ll cock it all up like David Miller did,” Urban Sophisticat suggested. “The city will rise up in righteous anger in 4 years hence and call, no plead, for the return of Rob Ford once more to rid the city of the leftist, unionist pestilence.”

delusional

That certainly could be a possibility, although I’m always loathe to give Rob Ford credit for such long term strategizing. But I could see the idea popping up in a conversation with his brother or drug buddies when his electoral future wasn’t looking particularly bright. Elect another dipper. Go ahead. See what happens. Then they’ll be begging me to come back.

“Or how about this,” I countered, not yet prepared to let go of my line of reasoning. “Rob Ford sees a lot of himself in Olivia Chow?” I immediately caught the look on Urban Sophisticat’s face and nipped it right in the bud. “No. No. Just no.”

“He might detest her politics, her way with going about things—“

“All that tax and spending,” Urban Sophisticat said.

“All that tax and spending, yes. But her politics are about the exact same thing as his. Looking out for the little guy. Just like Jack. We know Rob liked Jack. He felt a kindred spirit with him. disagreed with his methods, sure. But they wanted the same thing in Rob Ford’s mind. Olivia’s like Jack. She’s like Rob Ford.”

unconvinced

Urban Sophisticat was having none of it. Either that or he just couldn’t handle any more of the wine.

“That’s nuts. Crazy. Always go for the easier explanation first.”

“But that’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it? Delusion. The man’s clearly deluded.”

Turns out Urban Sophisticat wasn’t done with the wine. He poured another drink. Sulphites be damned!

“Fine. But it doesn’t matter anymore, does it. The man’s done. Finished. He’s not coming back from this avalanche of shit.”

I wasn’t so sure. With this guy, all bets were off. Normal rules don’t apply. Never forget that.

“Oh, come on!” Urban Sophisticat yelled, sensing my scepticism and doubt. “Just… Just… Come on.” He was not going to dignify my uncertainty with any further discussion.

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The problem now, as I saw it, was for many, they took the mayor’s ardent if deluded belief in the rightness of his cause as factually as the mayor did. He didn’t sell them a lie. He convinced them it was the truth. Absolutely, he saved taxpayers $1.1 billion. Absolutely, the city’s fiscal foundations were crumbling before he took office. Absolutely, he was looking out for the little guy.

Rob Ford came across as authentic because he believed in what he was saying. People believed he believed in what he was saying. People believed in what he was saying.

“Look,” I said to Urban Sophisticat. “I’m not saying there’s enough support out there to re-elect him.”

“I should hope not.”

“I’m not saying there isn’t either. What I am worried about, though, is that his core belief remains strong with a surprising number of voters. The message was right. The messenger, unfortunately, had issues. That’s essentially John Tory and Karen Stintz’s campaigns. I’m pretty sure that weasel Minnan-Wong has said those exact words.”

twoguysdrinkingwine

Urban Sophisticat seemed less concerned about that then with the idea there could possibly be a comeback in Rob Ford’s future.

“Nothing could be as bad as the past 3 years.”

I wasn’t so sure. The Rob Ford message needed to be confronted. As deplorable as all his personal problems are, his political views are equally so. If they aren’t chased down and clubbed to death, Rob Ford will still be with us, in spirit if not body.

We sat in silence, Urban Sophisticat and I, he thinking the job was nearly done and me thinking it had only started. I looked at my monitor to see if there was any new news. There wasn’t. I had another slug of my wine.

tippily submitted by Cityslikr


Damaged Goods

November 24, 2013

Cast your minds back to earlier this year, this spring to be specific. runamokJust after the crack allegations first broke and after former chief of staff Mark Towhey took leave of his employ to Mayor Rob Ford.

Trace that line forward to today, through all the stunning events over the past 6 months especially the last, I don’t know, three weeks or so. Package that sequence up, the crack smoking admission, the “2nd” video, the pussy eating comment, all the unacknowledged business coming out of the police surveillance ITO, the whole shit show clusterfuck that’s been comedy gold for late night TV.

And plunk it down into the 2010 campaign for mayor. Imagine it happening then, while knucklehead Rob Ford was still only a dissenting councillor from Etobicoke trying to muscle his way into the mayor’s office. setthehouseonfireThat’s the guy George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone ran against.

You honestly think that we’d still be talking about all the problems we’re having with our Mayor Rob Ford?

I ask because this is pretty much the scenario we’re facing as we head into the 2014 municipal election. Rob Ford left to his own devices, watched over only by his brother Doug who’s proven to be equally as maladroit at managing his impulse control and outbursts than his little brother, the mayor. There’s no telling what either of them might do at any particular public appearance.

In 2010, Rob Ford was kept on a very tight leash by a team of professionals including Nick Kouvalis (his first chief of staff), Adrienne Batra (his former press something something) and Towhey. onashortleashEven then, his behaviour — both past and current – regularly burst forth and threatened to sink his candidacy. But overall, his campaign team managed to keep him on message, disciplined and under control long enough to elect him mayor.

All three remained on board throughout the early part of his administration, when his council successes piled up. But then, one by one, they jumped ship. First Kouvalis. Then Batra. Towhey hung on but was shown the door when the crack scandal erupted.

What we’re seeing now is pretty much what we should expect going forward. The brains of the operation have left the building. It’s now just Rob and his demons egged on by Doug and their weird family dynamics. It’s not going to be a campaign as much as some demolition derby. Just one car wreck after another.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where anyone with actual campaign skills and knowledge of how to manage an almost unmanageable candidate would be willing to sign on with the Ford re-election team. hazmatsuitThe mayor’s become toxic. Even the most mercenary of political operatives would have to weigh the money against the yuck factor that would surely attach itself to them for trying to secure another go at public office by such a disgraced politician.

I guess there might be the thrill of the challenge of getting such damaged goods re-elected. If I can win this one, there’s no candidate I can’t get elected! I’ll be a legend!!

But that’s assuming the mayor has flamed out as much as he can, as any human can, flame out. It wouldn’t be an assumption I’d be willing to make at this point. Witness the latest news that dribbled out about Mayor Ford’s antics on Friday. You think that’s the last head shaker we’re going to hear about? (It wasn’t even the last one we heard on Friday). The risks just seem to outweigh any benefits to attaching yourself to the rightfully dubbed Ford crazy train.

Besides, Rob Ford and his brother probably don’t think they need anybody else now. They must look at the favourable numbers that haven’t seemed to have budged through all this mess and ridicule and figure, hey, we can ride it out. If admitting to smoking crack doesn’t put a dent in his support, what will? Full steam ahead!

If that happens, I’m predicting the Rob Ford Unhinged Tour in 2014. No one to keep him tied to political realities. No one to keep him on message. On message? No one to keep him on time. Huh? Oh, the debate started at  7?! caveatemptor1My watch must be running late…

This isn’t to get all smug and self-assured about Rob Ford going down to defeat next year. As we witnessed to our horror four years ago anything can happen during an election campaign. But it’s hard to see how he just doesn’t simply implode without the assured, if diabolical, hand of the likes of Nick Kouvalis, Adrienne Batra and Mark Towhey. (Why diabolical? There’s no way they didn’t know they were pawning off a defective product on the Toronto electorate, an electorate equally as diabolical, I guess, since there’s no way they didn’t know they were buying into a defective product)

And many will continue to look past those defects, embracing the positives they see as being more important. toxicsinkholeIt’s not easy giving up on a brand you bought into. No one likes to admit to buyer’s remorse.

It just seems possible that a Rob Ford running amok during a campaign with no one around to reel him will make it very easy for those who voted for him the first time around to convince themselves that wasn’t the guy they voted for. He’s not the brand they bought into. They’re not changing their minds. Rob Ford’s just not who he claimed to be.

Cue the support crater.

realistically submitted by Cityslikr


Des Cracked Bürgermeister

November 1, 2013

Well, we didn’t really expect a graceful response from Mayor Rob Ford to all the mounting evidence pointing to the reprobate lifestyle he leads,bullinachinashop did we?

Set aside for the moment the alleged drug use. As it stands right now, we haven’t seen any direct proof of him using illegal narcotics and, even if we had, well, those of us in glass houses and such. Drug use is not my main concern here.

And, having not seen the video Police Chief Bill Blair yesterday confirmed exists, I’m even going to ignore the racist and homophobic blathering from the mayor that’s allegedly on it. That’s for another day.

At this point, it’s the seedy aspect of it all that is so eye-popping. A shock and disappointment, to paraphrase Blair’s reaction. The amount of time the mayor of this country’s largest city spent on drug transactions degenerate(or “constituency meetings” as he and his staff might refer to them) is astounding. In gas stations. At kids’ soccer games. On residential streets. Dark, secluded public spaces.

These weren’t just simply in passing hand-offs of money for product either. There’s His Worship, sitting in his SUV, swilling vodka and tossing his empties out into a school parking lot. Or him stepping out for a public piss. Last month when Sandro Lisi was first arrested, a neighbour, Carol Peck, said she spotted the mayor in his truck outside Lisi’s house brushing his teeth and spitting his oral bilge out onto the street. “And I thought,” she later said, “I can’t believe I’m seeing what I’m seeing.”

I can’t believe I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

Mayor Rob Ford’s behaviour goes beyond seedy.

The man is a monumental fucking liar, to boot.

“I cannot comment on a video that I have not seen or does not exist,” the mayor claimed last May when news of it first surfaced. liarWell, now we know for certain the video exists unless, of course, you’ve holed up behind the barricades of all reasonable thought and think somehow the police chief is playing politics and has joined in with the media conspiracy that’s just making this shit up. Based on the evidence released yesterday, Mayor Ford knew it existed from the get-go, with all the frantic phone calls logged between him and Lisi immediately following the Star’s initial story about it. That’s why Lisi was in court again today. On extortion charges stemming from his alleged attempts to get his hands on the video Mayor Ford assured us did not exist.

The woeful remnants of Team Ford is going to do what it has to do to fight this to whatever bitter end lies ahead, and I’m pretty confident now it’s going to be a bitter end for them. Going out on a limb of speculation here, I’m guessing Chief Blair offered the mayor a quiet exit yesterday. To think that the remaining redacted portion of the surveillance evidence doesn’t contain the mayor’s name and, in all likelihood, in a much more damaging light, is to put wishful thinking ahead of just plain common sense.

The cross your fingers and hope the worst is over portion of this end game is finished despite what the Fords may want to believe. Fighting for your political survival does not leave much room for actual leadership. custerslaststandWe’re done pretending it’s business as usual at City Hall.

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby summed it up in response to the controversy, saying Mayor Ford “has lost moral authority”. I’ll do her one better. Mayor Rob Ford never had any moral authority because clearly he has no moral compass. He and his dwindling band of rag tag defenders don’t know right from wrong and simply refuse to step up and accept responsibility for their actions.

This isn’t a leadership vacuum. This is a leadership black hole from which no light has any hope of ever escaping. When the mayor’s staff has to contact the mayor’s drug dealer to find out the whereabouts of the mayor, well, I don’t know how to possibly end that sentence except to say if Mayor Ford was really looking for a reason why he should resign…

Any of the mayor’s 44 council colleagues still harbouring the notion that he’s capable of effectively running this city are both enabling his negligent behaviour and putting the city’s best interests behind those of Mayor Ford’s and/or their own political careers. hediditWhen the budget chief, Ward 12 councillor Frank Di Giorgio, reacted to the evidence released yesterday by telling CP24’s Katie Simpson that “maybe he [the mayor] doesn’t do it [smoke crack] everyday”, he got the stench of corruption all over him. Continuing to pretend that everything’s fine is nothing less than a dereliction of duty on city council’s part.

Even if Mayor Ford thinks he can survive this and still play mayor, councillors must start working over and around him. There are few tools at their disposal to do this officially but they can start acting as if he’s not there which, given how much of his time and energy will be spent defending himself, won’t be too far from the truth. Toronto is now without a mayor in every way but name. Any councillor conducting business contrary to that stark reality will be complicit in perpetuating a fraud on the city they were elected to represent.

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demandingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Little Things

October 3, 2013

It’s funny how sometimes even the grandest narratives end not so much with a whimper but the quietest of whispers. bangA slight puff of breath blows over once towering edifices. You expect fireworks. Everything leading up to the inexorable end screams fireworks. Instead, there’s just a shocked, stunned silence.

Huh. I did not see that coming.

The movies give us a gangster’s demise like White Heat’s Cody Jarrett blowing himself up atop a petroleum container. Tony Montana dies in a hail of bullets in the remake of Scarface. Tony Soprano… what the hell happened to Tony Soprano? Can anyone tell me?

In real life, Al Capone gets nailed evading income taxes and dies in jail of a venereal disease.

Sampson was done in by a haircut. Peter Rose kills a certain Hall of Fame career gambling. Eliot Spitzer goes from being the New York Governor and possible presidential candidate to a cable network quasi-nobody because of socks and prostitutes. whiteheatAnthony Weiner tweets out pictures of his junk and greases the skids of his ride to obscurity.

It’s the little things that get you.

Now, far be it from me to pronounce the Mayor Rob Ford era over. His ability to withstand missteps and scandals are legendary, super-human even. It’s perfectly reasonable to now accept the counter-intuitive conventional wisdom that says he gets more popular the more dirt that’s uncovered on him.

But Jesus Christ. Carol Peck.

She seems to be the type of neighbour you keep your curtains drawn for if you’re prone to wandering around the house wearing only your unmentionables. neighbourhoodwatchShe’s also that neighbour you love to have around since you’ll never have your house broken into. She sees everything that goes on around the block.

That senior citizen who essentially goes about her business, walking her dog, largely unobserved if you’re not the neighbourly type. Maybe a passing nod of acquaintance. A quick stop to pat the dog while making some quick small talk.

Now she sits in the middle of yet another drug related shit storm involving the mayor, almost crossly describing what can only be described as dubious interactions between our chief magistrate and his ‘good friend’, occasional driver and now arrested for drug related offences, Alexander Lisi, just a couple houses down from the Peck household.

“I have talked to people walking their dogs,” Mrs. Peck told the Toronto Star, “and I would say, ‘You know what, there’s something going on.’ “

publicbath“But if you and I were good friends and you were coming to call on me, visit me, would you not pull into my driveway, knock on my door?”

“So I said to a neighbour: ‘Is there a problem in this neighbourhood? Because I see Rob here all the time.’ ”

And then there’s the tooth brushing incident she tells about the mayor, sitting in his SUV in front of Lisi’s house, spitting his oral effluent out the window, down the side of his car.

Words can’t really describe the sloppy, trashy picture that paints or the glaring lack of character it suggests.

Forget it being bad behaviour for an elected official to engage in. It’s deplorable on the part of any reasonable, considerate adult.notwhatitlookslike I’m just gonna sit here in my vehicle and brush my teeth (for whatever reason it seemed important to do at that time) and spit out the window onto this street. Who could possibly have a problem with that?

Carol Peck, it seems. The proverbial ‘little guy’ Mayor Ford always claims to be looking out for. Except this particular time when she apparently went unnoticed by him, out walking her dog on her quiet suburban street.

Yep.

It’s always the little things that get you.

head-shakingly submitted by Cityslikr