Toronto The Deluded

August 6, 2015

Let me give you the ‘ethno-racial’ (to use Jan Doering’s phrase in his Martin Prosperity Institute paper, The Political Uses of Race and Ethnicity) makeup of the current Toronto city council (and I’ll throw in gender to further the point). dothemathOf its 45 members (1 mayor, 44 councillors), there are 5 visible minorities and 14 women. That’s what? 11% and 32%, respectively.

I bring this fact up not so much in response to Mr. Doering’s paper but in reaction to it. From my very un-scholarly perspective, it all seems solidly research-y. No aspersions cast in his direction. That’s just an admission I’m a fucking idiot.

My reaction to it is in the direction of the ethno-racial ‘reputation’ of this city as seen by Mr. Doering’s in his examination of campaign material and literature from Toronto’s municipal campaign last year in his comparison to the most recent local election in Chicago. “In Toronto,” Doering writes, “candidates of all backgrounds portrayed immigrant ethnicities as a valued source of culture and symbolically included these groups in the political process.” ‘Portrayed’. ‘Symbolically’. I have no idea if Doering intentionally used such layered language, let’s call it, but to anyone who watched Toronto’s 2014 municipal election unfold, such words certainly have more than one meaning.

Recently, a large study of municipal elections found that race is the single most important factor shaping electoral outcomes in the United States… Moreover, Chicago and Toronto represent starkly different ethno-racial contexts, which provides analytic contrast. Toronto is widely celebrated as a successful model of multiculturalism, while Chicago is known as a hotbed of ethno-racial contestation.

Hoo-rah! Am I right? Toronto ‘widely celebrated as a successful model of multiculturalism’, a haven from all that racist animosity we smugly view emanating from the States. We don’t see colour, to quote Stephen Colbert. Ours is a post-racial society.

And yet, a mere 11% of our city council members are made up of visible minorities. muniraabukarHow do we square that circle?

“In Toronto,” Doering states, “candidates never invoked race and ethnicity as a barrier to upward mobility or as a site of struggle.”

Maybe someone should tell that to Ward 2 Etobicoke North city council candidate Munira Abukar who had her campaign signs defaced, informing her to “Go Back Home”. Her campaign team had garbage thrown at them from a passing Purolator truck. “Terrorist!”

“I’m the most racist guy around,” former mayor Rob Ford reportedly said during a phone call back in the bad ol’ days. “Nobody sticks up for people like I do, every fucking kike, nigger, fucking wop, dago, whatever the race. Nobody does. I’m the most racist guy around. I’m the mayor of Toronto.”robford

Rob Ford was also caught on video, drunkenly (and presumably crack-inducingly) patois-ing while waiting for a late-night order at Steak Queen. As a city councillor a few years earlier he suggested that those “Oriental people work like dogs… The Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over…” and he couldn’t understand the outrage. It was a compliment! What’s wrong with you people?

Remember, despite all that, Ford remained a serious contender in his bid to be re-elected mayor until ill-health sidelined him from that race. Even then, he was easily elected in his old spot as city councillor. Racist?! Who, us?? Look what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri!!

“It appears that Toronto’s political culture tends to discourage potentially divisive invocations of race and ethnicity,” Doering writes.dontsaythatword

In one of the most telling examples of this trait of ours, Doering recounts the clutching of pearls and mock outrage episode in the mayoral campaign after candidate Olivia Chow’s advisor, Warren Kinsella, called rival candidate John Tory’s transit plans ‘segragationist’. Never mind that the statement was true. Tory’s plans left much of the already under-served inner suburban areas of the city, areas home to many of the city’s immigrant and visible minority communities, under-served. You just don’t use words like ‘segragationist’ here in the culture mosaic that is Toronto, Diversity, Our Strength.

Huffing and puffing, Tory, a firm disbeliever in the notion of white privilege, never really denied the core of Kinsella’s accusation, just the use of such an ugly, non-Torontonian word. “Ill-considered”, he told the press, “if you look at what’s going on in North America right now, especially in Missouri and so on.” And so forth. No, we’re good.

Finally, candidates overwhelmingly selected ethno-racial references that “fit” with narratives of ethno-racial politics in Chicago and Toronto. Making this point requires taking a step back. Comparing the patterns of how ethno-racial references were distributed across the two cities, politics in Chicago turned out to be much more divided than in Toronto. This is consistent with existing scholarship… Importantly, however, it is also consistent with voters’ perceptions. Candidates built on the perception of Chicago as an arena of zero-sum group competition and Toronto as a multicultural sanctuary. Thus, African-American and Latino candidates in Chicago mobilized perceptions of exclusion, discrimination, and conflict to promise political leadership in fighting these injustices. They proudly cited endorsements from ethno-racial advocacy organizations. And they largely abstained from using those ethno-racial references that candidates in Toronto heavily relied on: invoking ethnicity as culture and symbolically including groups in the political process by using their heritage languages. These forms of addressing race and ethnicity were persuasive because they were consistent with widespread narratives about how ethnic politics worked in these two cities. Conversely, using those narratives reproduced them as organizing principles of ethno-racial politics. In other words, the findings reveal not only ethnic conflict and harmony, but how conflict and harmony are socially constructed.

This leads to the question of whether certain ethno-racial references cannot successfully be made because they clash with widely-shared narratives. [bolding mine]

The “widely-shared” narrative in Toronto is that, at least in comparison to the United States, there’s no racial or ethnic drive here. This feeds “voters’ perceptions”, freeing them from much self-reflection when they go to the ballot box, convinced they didn’t vote for that black guy or that Muslim woman or Asian candidate because they were black or Muslim or Asian. Race has nothing to do with it. How could it? This is Toronto.

So, it’s just a coincidence that only 11% of city council is made up of visible minorities in a city where that demographic is 3 to 4 times that size. Nothing to see here.

oliviachow

frankly submitted by Cityslikr


My Lunch With Andray

October 14, 2014

We’ve been writing much here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke during our conversations with city council candidates about the battle many of them face with a lack of nurtured, encouraged civic engagement. disengagedThis has been especially noticeable to me in the former municipalities of the so-called inner suburbs. Etobicoke. York. North York. Scarborough.

And then there’s ‘enforced disengagement’.

This was a topic of discussion I had last week with Ward 2 Etobicoke North council candidate, Andray Domise. We endorsed Mr. Domise a couple weeks back but hadn’t actually talked to him in person save a couple quick handshakes at a few public functions where our paths had crossed. I quickly realized that the subject of civic engagement was, I don’t know, a theoretical one for me while for Domise and the other candidates running in Ward 2, it was very, very real.muniraabukar

Most of us have heard by now of the sign wars going on up in the ward. Fellow Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar was nastily instructed to ‘Go Back Home’ on her signs, part of a disturbing racist outburst that has occurred during the later part of the campaign. Domise too has had sign battles, defaced and replaced in a concerted effort to keep his campaign team otherwise occupied.

We can try and shrug it off as the usual electioneering antics and tactics but it’s hard not to see it as having a chilling effect on both candidates and residents alike. Who wants to put their name forward or speak out publicly if the reaction you’re going to get is based on nothing more than your skin colour or ethnicity? Go back home. You’re not wanted here. Your opinions don’t count.

Neither does your vote.

Hardly the environment to cultivate civic engagement.

Making matters worse, of course, is that Ward 2 is the Ford family’s playground. You only had to look at this campaign to realize just how entitled they feel they are to it. wardbossDoug Ford, one-term councillor, announces he’s had enough of municipal politics and will be leaving. In his place they attempt to prop up 20-something nephew, Mikey, and keep him away from any and all media. Rob, the mayor and former councillor, gets sick, decides instead to run for his old position in Ward 2 without really campaigning, bumps nephew Mikey to local school trustee candidate, Doug runs for mayor.

All this after Doug parachutes into town in 2010 to claim the Ward 2 council seat, trouncing local activist and 2006 runner-up, Cadigia Ali, by 10,000 votes. “Hope in Ford country”? Don’t think so.

Add in a degree of fatalistic inevitability – the Fords rule this roost – to the sense of racist unwelcoming, only further fuels that ‘enforced disengagement’.

On top of all of this, life for many residents in Ward 2 has not noticeably changed for the better under the 14 year misrule of the Fords. Follow along with Domise’s Twitter feed to see just how little improvement there’s been, how little engagement, interaction even, especially during Doug Ford’s time in office. justanotherpoliticianWhat’s the use of getting involved if the politicians who are going to win anyway do nothing for you? And when you do, when you throw you hat into the political ring, you’re viewed as just another say-anything-do-nothing politician.

Hostility, inevitability, ham-fisted ineptness = apathy, indifference, disengagement.

Yet, despite all this, the council race in Ward 2 has 3 viable candidates challenging the Ford legacy, with the breakout star being Andray Domise. That in itself should be cause for great joy and celebration. I think those of us who’ve never put their names forward for political office, who live in areas of the city not dominated by zero-tolerance for inclusion and engagement, under-estimate just how much courage that takes.

But you can’t simply flick on wider civic engagement like a switch. It doesn’t pop up from fallow ground. There has to be a history to build on. The Fords claim to speak for the people without ever actually having listened to them or actively attempted to let them speak for themselves.civicengagement3

The Ward 2 city council race will be something of a bellwether for the rest of the city indicating just how far along we are down the path of engaged democracy. Andray Domise has emerged as a new voice in support of that civic undertaking and in opposition to our traditional complacent boss politics. This election represents only the beginning of that change. We all will need to pitch in to continue pushing the concept forward.

submitted by Cityslikr