Challenger Endorsements I

October 1, 2014

So, let me begin this, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s first non-incumbent city councillor endorsement post, as a plea for ranked ballots by the time the next municipal campaign rolls around. (Looking good! Fingers still crossed.) rabitVoting should not be a tactical game, a compromise that rarely amounts to anything inspiring. Settling because, well, it could be a whole lot worse.

Take Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina, for instance. Of some 19 candidates or so, 5 are very interesting or, at least, palatable (says hello to Joe Cressy). It would be easy to list off your favourite 3 and be quite content with whatever the outcome instead of pitting them against one another in the hopes of one of them not winning. Or, whatever the mindset is in a first past the post mindset. It isn’t particularly positive.

That said. Here we are. In an imperfect system, we begin our imperfect endorsements.

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Ward 2 Etobicoke North

Back in early June, before any sort of Ford entered this race, we talked to Luke LaRoque. We liked Luke LaRoque. We still like Luke LaRoque. He’s chock full of good ideas about how to re-engage with residents of the ward. He’s got a real grasp of municipal politics. Luke LaRoque is an ideal candidate for city council.

There’s just one hitch.

The air’s been sucked out of the race by the Fords, in particular the outgoing mayor and former ward councillor, the ailing Rob Ford. What little space is left over has been occupied by Andray Domise. He’s got the media’s attention. He is articulate and passionate about the ward. He presents the perfect foil to the Fords’ dynastic pretensions.

Having not talked in detail with Mr. Domise, I can only assess his campaign based on reading through his website and his entries on WiTOpoli’s Position Primer. I was happy to see things being fleshed out yesterday, starting with his transit platform because until then I wasn’t seeing many robust ideas. There were good, positive initiatives framed in vague generalities and rhetorical platitudes. That seems to be changing.

Andray Domise does, however, speak up for those who haven’t had much of a voice at City Hall under the Ford regime, those they claim to have done more for than anybody else in the world.

In an ideal world, one where we have ranked ballots, at this point, Andray Domise would be my second choice for Ward 2 city councillor. That’s not 2014, unfortunately. We have to deal with the situation at hand.

Andray Domise looks like the sort of positive change that could actually defeat Rob Ford at the polls. For the city to turn the page on this turbulent past 4 years, Rob Ford needs to be defeated at the polls. For that reason alone, we endorse Andray Domise for Ward 2 Etobicoke North city councillor.

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Ward 17 Davenport

This one’s another toss up for me. It was in May when we sat down with Saeed Selvam and while he is a very impressive candidate by almost every other measure, he would still be our second choice in Ward 17. We endorse Alejandra Bravo.

Why?

Electability, in a word. She is well positioned to defeat a terrible incumbent. The stars finally seem aligned for her.

Ms. Bravo is seasoned and ready to assume her role as city councillor. She’s taken a run at this office a couple times before, in 2003 and 2006, and has a long history of community activism, most recently working on the Board of Health and with the Maytree Foundation. Mr. Selvam is a very, very worthy contender with a detailed platform that puts most other candidates to shame. Unfortunately, this just isn’t his time.

It sucks that this is how such important decisions get made. It feels cheap and shallow. But there it is. Politics in Toronto in 2014.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch III

June 6, 2014

I sure don’t envy any candidate running for city council in Etobicoke, especially Ward 2 where the Ford spectre must loom large. fordcountryNot just because of the family’s dynastic pretensions there but the way their hands-on representation (more Rob than Doug) has surely disfigured residents’ view of how a city functions properly. Got a problem? Call your councillor directly, any time of day, 24/7. He’ll sort it out for you. Who needs more than a one man local government? The rest is, obviously, gravy.

I posed this question to Luke LaRocque, one of the nine council candidates running in Ward 2 this time around. He shrugged. The Ford factor is just a thing in these parts. Something not so much to be confronted as handled.

It’s about gently trying to change the perception of the dynamics of local governance. Where the Fords have built a reputation of what they can do for their residents, fromscratchMr. LaRocque wants to inculcate a sense of how can we do this together. He sees the role of city councillor more as a community leader rather than the local handyman.

In fact, for LaRocque, a born and bred north Etobian, there’s more to public service than just customer service. After receiving his Master’s degree in urban and international development, he worked for a relief organization in Malawi and has served as a volunteer both before and after that here in Canada. Currently he’s working with Matthew House, a group that provides temporary housing for refugees upon their arrival here.

There’s a natural progression to his desire to enter municipal politics. It’s the level of politics where you can most directly affect people’s lives. The nuts and bolts of daily life. Housing. Transit. Safe streets and public spaces.

The community.

Out on the campaign trail, LaRoque feels a little bit like he’s starting from scratch, communityengagementgoing right back to the basics of local governance. What do we have? What do we value as a resident and as a community? What do we want? How do we set out achieving that together?

At the risk of sounding all consultant-y, it comes down to community based consulting. Consulting, engaging and actively encouraging participation in how and what decisions get made. LaRocque points out that the nearest constituency office for either Ward 1 and 2 is the Etobicoke Civic Centre, a fair drive or an even longer transit ride away.

(An interesting side note: during the Griffin Centre kerfuffle a couple weeks back, it should be noted that there seemed to be a definite lack of communication between the current Ward 2 councillor and the residents of neighbourhood where the house was. Some of the pushback might’ve been alleviated had everyone known what was going on. That appeared not to be the case here.)

Unsurprisingly, “better resident communication” is one of LaRocque’s goals as city councillor. parochial1It has to be a two-way form of communication, however, beyond simply giving out your personal cell phone number, only to be used when something’s not working. That’s a very limited scope and doesn’t do much to build any investment in the larger community.

It’s not a question of ignoring the day-to-day matters a city councillor has to deal with. Pot holes have to get filled and fences fixed. Those are the things you hear about when you’re out canvassing door-to-door. But a city councillor should serve in the role of last resort not first. There are other, more efficient, less expensive mechanisms in place to deal with those kinds of things. Only when they don’t get the job done, should the local councillor be called in to deal with it.

It’s this delicate balancing act a successful city councillor needs to pull off. torontocityhallSatisfying the hyper-local needs of your residents while contributing on a city-wide scale to ensuring ease of access and equality of opportunity for everyone. Ward 2 Etobicoke North has had a preponderance of the former to the detriment of the latter from its local representatives lately.

Luke LaRocque is part of a new wave of young office seekers for the suburbs whose formative political years have happened post-amalgamation. While he still catches himself referring to Up Here versus Down There, he’s part of a group who see themselves more as Torontonians than from Etobicoke or North York or Scarborough. They drive and they take transit which may seem like a trite observation but I think it points a much larger trend.

The new aspirants to political office in Toronto don’t tend to see City Hall, being located downtown as it is, as some beast to be tamed or reined in. HQ for some foreign occupiers. digthenewbreedFor the likes of Luke LaRocque, City Hall is a place of opportunity to make the lives of not only residents of Ward 2 better but the lives of everybody across the entire city. In the end, you can’t really have one without the other.

If we finally want to get past this whole urban-suburban divide that continues to plague the forward motion of Toronto, we have to start rejecting the politics and politicians who exploit it to their advantage. Luke LaRocque represents a break with that way of thinking. Both Ward 2 and City Hall would be better off with him in place as city councillor.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr