Vision Quest III

October 1, 2010

Now I don’t know if this’ll work the same magic as it did last week when we wrote about Sarah Thomson’s candidacy and a few days later – voila – she dropped out of the race. But here’s hoping…

Vision Quest III. Up this week, Rob Ford!

There’s really not much more that can be said about Councillor Rob Ford and the race he’s run so far that hasn’t been said over and over and over again already. It’s all so improbable. It’s built on misguided anger and faulty numbers. It makes sense only to those who’ve pledged blind loyalty to the wacky internal logic at its molten core.

(Wacky internal logic, you ask? OK, how about this. Increase councillor responsiveness to their constituents by cutting the number of councillors in half. Wait, what? Won’t that just double their workload and make it that much harder to serve their constituents? On the face of it, sure, but since there’ll be fewer council seats, the competition to get elected will be fiercer and, as anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Free Market 101 can tell you, tougher competition means only the fittest will survive. So, fewer council seats equals better councillors, all who’ll work harder which, and I’m not even sure the hardest core of Ford’s hardcore supporters have thought this thing as far through as this, it will also increase council’s diversity. How, you ask, again? Well, as Rob Ford is on record saying, the Orientals work like dogs. Such hard workers will make them more fit to be councillors. Under a Mayor Rob Ford and his smaller council, the Orientals will take over council! Two birds with one stone.)

That, in a nutshell, is how our mayoralty campaign has gone since Ford entered the race back in March. As we’ve written here frequently, regardless of the outcome on October 25th, Rob Ford has already won. Or at least, his cause can be declared victorious. His ceaseless harping on City Hall as out of control – bloated, profligate, corrupt, onerous on the citizens – has essentially salted the grounds around Nathan Phillips Square (concrete and all) and created a poisoned environment where every politician and bureaucrat can now be painted with the same unforgiving brush. In it only for themselves with their grubby little hands always in taxpayers’ pockets, demanding more from us and giving less back in return.

That there’s but a sliver of truth to any of that is entirely beside the point. Perception is everything, and as in most talking points emanating from the small government, libertarian leaning sect, simply repeating the same message over and over again at higher and higher decibels passes as truth or fact. It sure beats having to take the time to work through a coherent policy platform.

And why would they, for godssakes? Since the beginning of his run, Ford’s been amply rewarded for the discipline he’s shown staying on message. His lead in the polls is, at least in part, credited to delivering an easy-to-remember brand. Stop the Gravy Train! Cut Wasteful Spending! A War on Cars! (Credit for that should really go to Rocco Rossi but Ford’s it made his own.) It makes for great headlines and editorial chatter.

But just how difficult is that, I have to ask. We used to demand that high school students memorize the fucking periodic table of elements. Now, we’re applauding a man who wants to be mayor for his amazing ability to string the same five or six words together over-and-over again regardless of context or much, if any, meaning? Perhaps an admirable trait to posses in the advertising and marketing businesses but something short of desirable when looking for someone to oversee the nuances of governing a large city.

That’s the rub, of course, for Rob Ford and his ardent supporters. There is no nuance to governing a city big or small. Just fill the potholes, fix the streetlights, rid the roads of crime, bikes, streetcars, the homeless (see crime), festivals and marathons, and respond to every single inquiry and demand from every single voter that makes one. Outside of that, leave it up to the private sector to take care of all our other needs. Easy-peazy.

Aside from Europeans and their apologists, who wouldn’t want life and governance to work out just like that? Just like it was back in … the imaginations of those who actually believe there was such a time when all our needs were met, our taxes low and when we could keep our doors unlocked because crime is what happened somewhere else. That is, in a 1950s sitcom.

There has been some recent pushback to these simple minded sentiments. Since Ford became the presumptive favourite, his candidacy has come under more intense scrutiny. The results have not been pretty. His transit plan (or something approximating that) is a mess. Budget numbers don’t add up, with his proposed tax cuts leaving a large whole that he can’t fill without service cuts he’s refusing to divulge. His track record in council suggests that he has very few allies at City Hall which might render him ineffectual as mayor if he does get elected. Continued personal gaffes evoke images of Mel Lastman bringing unwanted international attention on the city.

Even the Toronto Sun has questioned the viability of a Rob Ford mayoralty. Sue­-Ann Levy took a powder and hiked on over to the Rocco Rossi camp. If a radical right wing candidate can’t even maintain the support of a radical right wing rag, is there the critical mass in place to be elected? Plenty of people remain angry out there at what they perceive to be our local government’s vast shortcomings but are there enough of them who will ignore their better instincts and put their ‘champion’ in place so he can take back City Hall for them?

That will be the question between now and October 25th.

quizzically 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


The Defiant One

July 25, 2010

There’s going to be no logical, reasoned way of keeping Rob Ford from becoming mayor, is there. He’s hopped aboard the Resentment Rail, hoping to ride it right into office, cheered on by the Persecution Choir and its conductor, Sue-Ann Levy, chief Pamphleteer and Disseminating Dissembler of Disinformation.

“They’re just trying to muzzle me,” Ford said after receiving an official reprimand for campaigning outside City Hall. “If the other candidates can be on the Square, I can be on the Square … you can’t have two sets of rules.”

Uhhh, Mr. Ford? You may want to check that letter you got from the city’s Chief Corporate Officer, Bruce Bowes, advising you that you’d contravened both the councillor expense policy and Council’s Code of Conduct when you made your Taxpayer Protection Plan announcement in Nathan Phillips Square. Bowes cited “…the section of the councillor expense policy which prohibits corporate resources and funding from being used for election-related purposes and the Code of Conduct which states councillors aren’t permitted to undertake campaign-related activities on city property during regular working hours.” [underling and bolding all ours.]

So there aren’t two sets of rules at work here as Ford claims. Sitting councillors can’t campaign on city property but private citizens can, it seems. Thus, George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi show up at City Hall, unmolested by the socialist apparatchiks getting their “marching orders from on high” while Ford is technically prohibited because – and this may be news to Mr. Ford, rushing in and out as he does council meetings to maintain his 98% voting rate without always spending much time there to figure out who’s who and what’s what before actually casting a vote [most likely] against whatever it is everyone’s voting on – neither Smitherman nor Rossi sits on council. (Although at the last debate, Ford did continually point out that neither man understood City Hall as well as he did. So he must have some inkling that they’re not councillors.)

Now, if Councillor Joe Pantalone decided to deliver a campaign announcement on city property and didn’t receive a similar reprimand then Rob Ford could—

Oh, fuck it. What’s it matter? It’s not like explaining it fully is going to change any Rob Ford supporter’s opinion. That is simply the nature of conservative thought these days. Right is right and the rest is wrong, and very likely plotting to overthrow everything that is good and wholesome. Facts have no bearing on the issues. You’re either with us or agin us; a paranoid pumping, divisive style of politicking that goes back to… well, let’s avoid any Hitler or Nazi references although they were masters of this particular tact… how be we just start at Nixon and move forward from there?

Margaret Thatcher. Ronald Reagan. The Bushes. Mike Harris and his Common Sense Revolution. You can draw a direct line between our current Prime Minister and his ongoing war with the long-form census and the statistical conclusions he doesn’t want to hear and this mindset. Their thinking was best encapsulated by Stephen Colbert when he said that “reality has a liberal bias”. If that’s the case, then they have to create and live within a separate reality, trying to draw in as many people as they can just long enough to claim positions of power in order to try and tilt real reality ever so slightly their way.

Thus, Rob Ford and his inherited wealth is just ‘looking out for the little guy’. How exactly does he do that? By cutting their taxes and out of control spending at City Hall. Just generally getting government off their backs. It couldn’t be simpler. So simple in fact that there must be plenty of examples of it working like charm out there in the bigger, wider world. You know, lower taxes = higher government revenue, deregulation = equitable running of the free market, higher tides raising all boats.

Well no, not exactly. After about 30 years of neo-liberal economics, we can look around and conclude that wealth never trickles downhill. It simply gushes upward like a busted deep sea oil rig, polluting everything around it. Deregulation (or getting the government off peoples’ backs) leads to near economic collapse and the socialization of private risk and debt. And higher tides float only those who’ve stashed enough money away to buy themselves a fancy yacht and drowns everything else that hasn’t learned how to swim.

That is what experience tells us. That is, if you subscribe to an evidence-based reality, of course. Those who aren’t so particular can go on believing that their cars aren’t contributing to climate change, greed is good and that Rob Ford is a viable mayoral candidate who has as much right as the next (non-councillor) guy to conduct campaign events outside City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square.

According to his choirmaster, Sue-Ann Levy in the Toronto Sun, Ford has “…every intention of continuing to use the Square for campaign announcements.”

No doubt. How better to hype his martyr status among all those who truly believe there are two sets of rules? One for them and one for all the privileged, egghead, sushi-eating, transit taking, downtowners who think that Rob Ford is a lying, manipulative, ignorant, backwards buffoon who makes Mel Lastman seem reasonable and who will set this city back a decade or two if he’s allowed to exert any power or influence.Don’t believe me or just outright disagree? OK then. Let’s sit down and examine the evidence, shall we? Oh right. We’ve already tried that. I guess that’s why we call it ‘wilful ignorance’. It is both wilful and ignorant.

fed-uppedly submitted by Cityslikr