Bridge The Gap

August 23, 2013

Sixteen years into amalgamation, Toronto is still struggling with a strong sense of unified place. siblingrivalrySix separate entities officially smushed into one but remaining defiantly, petulantly, antagonistically individual. That urban-suburban divide. The downtown gets everything. [Fill in your former municipality surrounding it here] gets nothing.

Don’t even think about introducing the 905 into that warring equation. An entirely different beast altogether. Their own local governments, transit systems, civic culture. Distant relatives in an already estranged family.

Yet you can take a 15 minute jaunt along Bloor Street West west west (although not a particularly pleasant one, what with the 4 lanes of speeding traffic shooting by you), siblingrivalry3from the Markland Wood shopping plaza in Etobicoke, past some apartment towers of mid-teen stories in height at most, past a park with a baseball diamond, more apartments, past the parking lot and clubhouse of the Markland Wood Golf Club, its fairways rolling westward to Etobicoke Creek, where you cross a bridge to find yourself in Mississauga. The blue sign on the roadside says as much. From the 416 to the 905 in a few hundred steps.

Not so distant after all.

In fact, continuing on a few blocks, this slight slice of Mississauga doesn’t feel that far flung at all. The strip of apartments continue, a little older, shabbier around the edges. By the time you reach Fieldgate Plaza, east of Dixie Road, there’s a diversity of residents going about their business that equals many places you’ll find throughout the city of Toronto. siblingrivalry2Certainly this ward 3 of Mississauga feels much more urban than the leafy neighbourhoods a few traffic lights back to the east in Etobicoke’s ward 3.

Funny thing, the Fieldgate Plaza and surrounding area has more than a passing resemblance to the downtown Toronto high rise, traffic filled, green space deficient existence of a certain Li’l Ginnie deplored by Doug Holyday earlier this year when he was at council, representing Etobicoke Centre.

In his own backyard, just beyond past the ol’ creek there, life was being conducted in a manner completely foreign to our former Deputy Mayor. Where folks didn’t need their leaves hoovered and windrows cleared. Within an easy evening stroll.

Having yet to move past our own myopic parochialism in Toronto, it seems a waste of time to call for a wider, more regional cohesion but we cannot continue battling one another, treating every other surrounding municipality as some competing interest and a threatening, mysterious entity, looking to steal our jobs and children. siblingrivalry1Our civic and political differences have been used by politicians at every level to undermine our best interests. Suburban voters pandered to by vilifying urbanites. Suburbanites viewed as an occupying force, laying siege to the core of the city with their cars and loud leaf blowers.

And the result? Every municipality within the GTHA is left to fend for itself, begging and scratching for the crumbs tossed our way by upper levels of government that seem only interested in the region when it comes to collecting votes. The feds shrug off cities as a provincial matter. Queen’s Park is forever looking over its shoulder not wanting to be seen as too Toronto-centric.

siblingrivalry4This calculated indifference can only happen when we stand around, pointing our fingers at one another and speaking out with separate voices. In a region as interconnected as this, no one city should hope to prosper at the expense of others. That would be counterproductive to the whole. As hoary a cliché as it may be, the GTHA’s commonalities are much more prevalent than the differences. One place is simply not just this while another is just that.

If you think that’s little more than hyperbolic boosterism, try taking a stroll sometime across what are nothing more than boundaries on a map.

brotherly submitted by Cityslikr


Ford Nation Decimation

October 7, 2011

A fitting end to an uninspiring provincial election campaign. The best one could say is, at least the worst possible outcome did not come to pass. Or as the Toronto Sun put it: Welcome to Hell. OK. Maybe that’s the best thing to emerge from last night. The mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are totally in a tizzy.

Actually, that’s completely untrue for two reasons. 1) I assume the mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are always totally in a tizzy for some reason or another. 2) The best thing to emerge from yesterday’s provincial election is the absolute repudiation of any notion of a Ford Nation. As Councillor Adam Vaughan predicted a few weeks back, “Ford Nation is a notion. It’s just a notion. It’s not a factor, it’s not going to be a factor. It does not translate to the province, it won’t translate beyond the last election. Some people voted for Rob Ford, based on some promises of tax cuts with no service cuts. They found out that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to build subways, that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to get rid of the gravy down here, and he’s found no gravy.” Or as Sol Chrom more succinctly put it last night: “Can we officially retire the phrase Ford Nation now? There’s no such fucking thing.”

The complete shut out of the provincial PCs in the 416 area code would point in that direction no matter how much the mayor tries to distance himself from the result. What’s that he said on Metro Morning today? (Yes, Mayor Ford actually stepped into enemy territory at the CBC. All by himself.) “My name wasn’t on the ballot.” He didn’t endorse anyone.

Yeah, but how about this from March, Mr. Mayor? “If he [Premier McGuinty] says no [to the mayor’s request for additional money], obviously there’s a provincial election coming up on October 6 and I want to work with him, not against him, but obviously if he’s not helping out the city I’ll have no choice to work against him.. I’ll have no other choice but to call Ford Nation, and make sure they’re not reelected in the next election. But I do not want to do that.”

So maybe it was a case of the mayor not wanting to unleash Ford Nation as opposed to being unable to.

Either way, Mayor Ford is today facing a somewhat different scenario at the provincial level than he was yesterday. The Liberals are still in power and no longer entirely in election mode although with a minority government, you never can tell. Toronto and much of the GTA, if no less Blue, the Red and Orange are shimmering a little brighter. His own home turf of Etobicoke remained a Liberal stronghold as did neighbouring Mississauga. And, horrors of horrors, right on the doorstep to the north, an NDPer was elected in Bramalea-Gore-Malton!

The political ground beneath his feet may not have shifted drastically but it sure got a whole lot rockier. Will it force him to start playing nice, or as nice as he is capable of, with those he so despises politically? The left wing kooks. The bike riding pinkos.

The answer to that may lie in how the premier chooses to play his cards. Having survived, albeit not unscathed, what was supposed to be another Blue wave here in Ontario will he stop pandering to a more vulnerable mayor here in Fortress Liberal/NDP Toronto? Incoming newcomer, Jonah Schien was a big proponent of Transit City. Will he and the other downtown NDP MPPs use their minority government leverage to put the plan back on the table? I’d be happy just to see the mayor forced to bring it to council for debate. That seems like a very minor demand to make. More importantly, perhaps the timeline for the province resuming their obligation to pay for half the operating costs of the TTC can be pushed up. That’s something the mayor can get on board with.

At council, it’ll be interesting to see if the game’s changed a little bit too. Two fairly solid supporters of Mayor Ford may now be able to stop helplessly toeing the line now that the election’s over and their respective relatives were easily re-elected on the Liberal ticket. Executive Committee member Michelle Berardinetti’s husband, Lorenzo, retained his seat in Scarborough as did Josh Colle’s dad, Mike, in Eglinton Lawrence in what was supposed to be a hotly contested race against former mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi. It wasn’t. So are these two councillors now more free to display an independence of thinking from the mayor?

And what about Ana Bailão? Her ward has been consumed both federally and provincially by the NDP. Looking down the road to her own re-election fortunes, will that change in colour force her to distance herself a little more often from the mayor?

For all the lifelessness of the provincial campaign, a lifelessness that helped contribute to the worst voter turnout in history in Ontario, it has certainly detonated some reverberations here in Toronto. Very, very noticeable cracks in Mayor Ford’s once seemingly bulletproof veneer have been fully exposed. Having endeavoured to make no friends with anyone not possessing similar political stripes, he’s now at the mercy of those he bullied, berated and otherwise alienated while in his briefest of ascendancies. He left himself no wiggle room.

It’s going to be fun to watch him squirm.

not unhappily submitted by Cityslikr


His Honour’s Sour Grapes

December 8, 2010

So the Mayor Rob Ford era has officially begun, and for all those who picked ‘Decorously’ or ‘Graciously’ in the How Will Rob Ford Respond To Having The Chain Of Office Hung Around His Neck office pool, pay up, motherfuckers.

The mayor used the solemn occasion of his investiture to invite one of his heroes, noted Mississaugan urbanist and sartorial flamboyer, Don Cherry, to chain him and kick off the proceedings. Mr. Cherry, in turn, used his invite, as writer Jonathan Goldsbie noted, as “…mostly just an attack on the Globe’s TV critic.” John Doyle, that is, and his article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. The mayor then followed with an utterly uninspiring speech, full of references to taxpayers and customer service, more befitting (as we have noted numerous times previously) a Walmart manager’s pep talk to his employees just before the grand opening than a new mayor addressing the inaugural council meeting of the country’s largest city. Then some quick business was done like voting in the mayor’s all-male, all-right wing executive committee before the gavel came down to adjourn the proceedings until the real fireworks being tomorrow.

We’re now through the looking-glass here, people. Our new mayor, well-to-do through an inherited family business, speaks for ‘the little guy’. Mr. Cherry, a well-to-do sports commentator, lashes out and ‘artsy, left wing kooks’ and thinks “It’s time for some lunch pail, blue-collar people.” All pronounced while wearing an embroidered pink blazer that would make a geisha blush and his dapper Tom Wolfe high collar. Both men preach the neo-conservative gospel of small government (except for police and military, natch), and both have done alright for themselves, pocketing their fair share of government largesse.

And somehow, pinkos are the bad guys. We left leaning, bike riding, oh-so-privileged, downtown elites, bereft of the common touch and without our finger on the pulse of real Torontonians. We don’t understand the plight of the working people. The mayor does because he employs 350 of them in Toronto, New Jersey and Chicago. Don Cherry talks to millions of them directly through the camera, for a whole 8 minutes every Saturday night. Regular Joes, the two of them. Full fledged members of the lumpen proletariat, they is.

You know what? I say, fuck that. Much discussion has gone on since the new mayor’s been sworn in about how those standing in opposition to him should react. Take the high road. Don’t take the bait. Take a pill and chill-ax. The world’s not coming to an end because the likes of Don Cherry brought his schtick live to City Hall chambers.

All true but we’ve seen this movie before and it never, ever turns out well.

Every time a right wing populist is elected, they claim a ‘mandate’ (sometimes even from as on high as heaven itself) and immediately take the offensive, declaring a state of unilateralism. It’s My Way Or The Highway. You’re Either With Us Or A’gin Us. All Hail And Bow Down Before Me, Minions.

We’ve watched it for the past 4 years or so in Ottawa. A minority (A Minority!) Conservative government has browbeaten the opposition into simpering obsequiousness, giving way on almost every important issue that has emerged. Even the stands they’ve managed to take like on the long gun registry have tied them into paroxysms of soul-wrenching angst, leaving them to look defeated in the face of victory.

It’s a tactical strike adopted from right wingers in the States. George W. pulled it off masterfully throughout his term in office. The Tea Party led Republican congress is following suit. Not even sworn in yet and they have a Democratic President turning on his base. To seek bipartisanship where none is on offer doesn’t make you look evenhanded, open-minded or apolitically above the fray. It makes you look weak, unprincipled and unfit to hold public office.

Now comes Rob Ford who has not made one conciliatory gesture to his opponents since being elect mayor. His executive committee is exclusively right-wing, inner suburban (or from wards that Ford won) and male. He’s been blowing smoke about his power to end Transit City, going as far to say that council never voted about Transit City (it did), so it doesn’t have to be consulted to terminate it. The voters gave him a mandate, you see. Normal democratic principles no longer apply.

Bringing in Don Cherry to introduce him was just another aggressively defiant gesture by Ford. To all those who disdainfully dismiss the outrage that greeted Grapes’ council speech as unimportant, much ado about nothing, an overblown sticks and stones scenario, not worth the media attention, well, you’re diminishing the symbolism of it. “You never know what he’s going to say,” shrugged our mayor about Cherry’s speech. Not the exact words maybe but the intent was going to surprise no one. It was a big ol’ fuck you to anyone and everyone who doesn’t think exactly like the mayor and Don Cherry, pinkos or not.

Imagine if David Miller, re-elected with a larger percentage of the popular vote for his 2nd term, had proclaimed a ‘mandate’ and brought in, say, Naomi Klein to introduce him. She proceeds to say something to the effect of: Eat it, corporate right wing shills. Not political? Unimportant and beside the point? I don’t think so.

Mayor Rob Ford has come out of the gate with no intention of making nice, seeking compromise or trying to find the middle ground with his opponents. Why is the onus on them to reach out? It’s not obstructionist to stand up for your principles and beliefs. It’s called democracy. In a democracy, winning an election is just the 1st step. It doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want and everyone else has to go along, no matter how much right wingers would like to believe that.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XXII

July 23, 2010

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

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

Up today: David Vallance!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

patriotically civically submitted by Urban Sophisticat


From The Sublimation To The Ridiculous

June 5, 2010

Filtering through the news reports of the “hazing” at Mississauga’s Transportation and Works Department, I wonder if we’re approaching its meaning and repercussions from the proper angle. Yes, many of the ‘Who Knew What and When’ questions absolutely need to be investigated and answered. There appears to have been a serious culture of fear and intimidation at work, forcing many of those involved to keep quiet out concern for job loss or becoming the next victim. That old Nazi foot soldier rationalization about participating or being added to the list.

Still, the city of Mississauga shouldn’t overlook bringing in some sort of sexual orientation counseling. The nature of the ‘pranks’ and ‘practical jokes’ now on display screams “Help me! I’m gay and can’t bring myself to admit it!’ That’s not to suggest that gay men who are comfortable in their skin are in the habit of spanking others, tying them up or smacking them in the privates, not that there’s anything wrong with that (you know I couldn’t pass up that homage if the opportunity arose) as long as it’s consensual and all that.

It’s just that in an all male environment when someone institutes an unofficial policy of bondage, spanking even when birthdays aren’t involved and sacking, well, I just have to wonder where the impulse is coming from. We can label it simple bullying and being drunk with power but, I can think of other, less sexual methods in which to employ such urges. Social ostracization. A steady diet of dirty and demeaning jobs. Cutting remarks across the lunchroom table.

I mean, for god’s sake, these guys spent much of their time, traveling around Mississauga shoving poles into holes! While there’s nothing exclusively ‘gay’ about that, it seems the whole environment at the city’s Transportation and Works Department was sexually charged. And how did it manifest itself? Man-on-man horseplay and hijinx. How long will it be before we hear about the use of the Atomic Sit Up?

So let’s not rush to judgment on this just yet. Bad behaviour must certainly be properly dealt with but I think there’s also a need for some understanding and outreach. Maybe if those responsible for overseeing these acts were given the opportunity to deal openly with their repressed personal issues this could be looked upon as an unfortunately hurtful and destructive learning experience. Put the pain behind them and get on living their lives with the freedom that comes from stepping out of the closet.

It's not an orgy, Chuck. It's college hijinx!

I’m not saying. I’m just saying.

suggestively submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Crazy, Crazy, Crazy

May 31, 2010

Crazy Hazel McCallion, McHellion I’ll call her, as I’m sure no one ever has before, she’s at it again, spouting off nonsensical blatherings. Won’t this woman ever retire? Talk about your career politicians.

At a pre-meeting of big city mayors before this weekend’s gathering at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Mississauga mayor McCallion pooh-poohed a call for a new, more equal partnership between all three levels of governments. According to last Thursday’s Toronto Sun, “…McCallion said a new partnership is not enough — it’s time to open the “can of worms” that is the constitution to give recognition to the important role of cities, enshrining powers and revenue sources needed to keep municipalities viable.” Has grandma finally lost her marbles? Surely she can’t mean opening up the always divisive constitutional process just for the sake of such a trifling matter like municipal powers?

“It really means a look at the constitution, there’s no question about it,” McCallion said.

Now I know there are some who would say that perhaps we should cede a little ground on this issue to someone of McCallion’s… errr… experience. I mean, the woman just might be old enough to actually know the intention of the makers’ of our constitution, going all the way back to the original British North American Act of 1867? Maybe old Hazel has some insider information.

But if there really is “no question” about looking at the constitution why hasn’t anyone else suggested it?

Where's Hazel?

In order to give cities the powers they need to sustain and upgrade infrastructure and build stronger communities, wouldn’t our elected officials in Ottawa and Queen’s Park utilize every means at their disposal to make sure that happens, including looking at the constitution? Surely to god our Prime Minister and Premier, M.P.s and M.P.P.s aren’t so petty and rigid that they would blindly adhere to some document written back during the middle years of Queen Victoria’s reign simply in order to keep power (and revenue) in their grubby little hands while municipalities heave and convulse under the weight of increasing fiscal and human responsibility. That can’t be what McCallion’s suggesting.

And if there really was “no question” about looking at the constitution wouldn’t this be a major topic of debate during our current municipal election campaign? With all the tough talking hombres we’ve got running for mayor in 2010, you’d think at least one of them would be pushing the idea of increasing Toronto’s share of power and revenue through constitutional reform instead of nattering ineffectually at each other and casting highly dubious aspersions upon the present council and the mayor. If Hazel McCallion — who has been mayor of the 6th largest city in Canada for longer than most of Toronto’s mayoral candidates have been old enough to vote — has decided that the only way for cities in this country to continue to grow sustainably and prosper is for a constitutional rejigging, and none of our candidates seem to agree on that or even deign to bring the subject up on the campaign trail, well obviously, Hazel McCallion is talking through her hat on the issue.

Perhaps McCallion needs to take a little time out (nap maybe? Don’t old people need naps in order to keep themselves functioning properly?) and then read Carol Goar’s take on the matter in the Toronto Star. “…local taxpayers have lost their appetite for mayors and councillors who see Canada as a dynamic urban nation,” Goar informs us. “… the debate about building strong, sustainable city-regions has almost petered out,” she continues. You see, Hazel? If the Toronto Star has decided that we should just shut up, sit back and let senior levels of government ignore the needs of the some 80% of Canadians who live in cities, that’s the end of the discussion. We don’t want to hear talk of provincial status for Toronto or the GTA. Or pie-in-the-sky, pipedream calls for constitutional reform in order to put power and actual decision making in the hands of, you know, citizens.

It’s off the table, old lady. Municipalities are the playthings and pawns of our higher ups, regardless of how negligent and detrimental the policies of senior levels of government may be to our lives. You’d think after more than 30 years of being mayor, you’dve cottoned on to that fact.

insanely submitted by Cityslikr