Rank Anti-Ranked Ballot Arguments

October 6, 2015

There are good arguments against ranked ballots. Valid reasons in which they are not optimal, mostly revolving around the question of true proportional representation. goodpointIt is not a perfect system.

Unfortunately, these are not the arguments being made currently, especially by those on city council who voted in favour last week of requesting the province not to give cities the option of introducing ranked ballots in forthcoming elections. Motion 6(a) from Councillor Justin Di Ciano (Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore): “That the Province should not proceed with amendments to the Municipal Elections Act to provide for Ranked Choice Voting.” There’s nothing more to this than not wanting to have the debate at all. It’s essentially trying to kneecap a decision council made last term. No discussion. Just cheap political thuggery.

If you want to hear really bad, woefully inadequate, pure and utter fuckwad nitwittery arguments against ranked ballots, take 5 minutes and listen to this segment on Mark Towhey’s Sunday 1010 talk radio show from three first term councillors, all, interestingly enough, close allies of Mayor John Tory. He voted against the motion. With friends like these, am I right?

I’ll refrain from taking the most obvious snark shot here. Larry, Curly and Moe. Because, really, that’s the first thing that sprang to your mind too, isn’t it.

No. I’m going with Dopey, Doc and Sully. A coterie of dumb. Exemplars of why we here in Toronto can’t have nice things.

When Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb (Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence) opens her mouth to speak, you realize why she doesn’t do so very often. It does her no favours. You know why she supported the motion to bury ranked ballots? She’s never been a fan of them. That’s why. She doesn’t like them.

You can hardly blame her, from an entirely selfish perspective. As Mr. Towhey pointed out, she was elected last year with only 17% of the popular vote. tempertantrumWith ranked ballots, the outcome might’ve been different, depending on the makeup of her challengers and other variables. Councillor Carmichael Greb simply doesn’t ‘believe it’.

Besides, she told listeners, she worked really hard for over a year to ensure that fewer than 1 in 5 voters in her ward put an X beside her name. She earned that 17%, dammit! With 16 candidates on the ballot in Ward 16, it was already confusing for the voters, she claimed. Having to choose 1, 2, 3 would’ve been even more so and, ultimately, not made any difference as far as the candidate who got into office with just 17% of the vote was concerned.

In explaining his opposition to ranked ballots, Councillor Stephen ‘Doc’ (yeah, I went there) Holyday (Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre) continued his impressive display of seemingly sound, rational reasoning always taking him into the reeds of illogical reactionism. It is a step forward, I guess, from the frequent unhinged rantings of his father, the sire of the Holyday dynasty in Etobicoke, (L’il Ginny, anyone?), but if it lands us in the same nonsensical soft spot, what’s it matter? The journey is a lot less fun to watch.

Councillor Holyday informed us that, under the current system, there’s quite a diversity at city council. A diversity along the political spectrum, that is, left, right and centre, and please, don’t look at the overwhelmingly white, largely male elephant in the room. longrouteSuch diversity, according to the councillor, leads to vigorous debate and discussion which, it can hardly be argued, is a good thing.

The problem with ranked ballots, says Councillor Holyday, is that they will ‘flatten’ that diversity. How? Because – and this is where he goes truly Holydian in his thinking – the second or third choice candidates on a ranked ballots will, and I’m quoting here with italics to emphasize the outrageousness of the statement, “…naturally be that centre, centre-left candidate that’s very neutral, very unexciting…”

Where the fuck does he come up with that?! Was he talking to his dad over Sunday brunch before coming in to the studio to do the show? Councillor Holyday proceeds to pile it on, suggesting such a fantasy scenario will lead to boring debates at city council as if the sole purpose of municipal government is to keep us entertained with some gruesome spectacle.

What’s truly amazing about the councillor’s performance here is that he actually brings up an interesting point before taking it and driving it through his eye into the intelligence centre of his brain, thereby killing any possibility of thoughtful discourse. on2ndthoughtBingham Powell, in his 2000 book, Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions, suggested that our current system, first past the post, let’s call it, which requires a simple plurality of votes to determine election outcomes, may lead “to governments that are more extreme than the voters”. Or, less boring, as Councillor Holyday might sum up.

By making his particular argument against ranked ballots, basically smoothing off the extreme edges of the democratic process, Holyday winds up actually arguing in favour of the hyper-partisan, divisive dynamic that has been paralyzing this city for at least 5 years now.

As egregious an assault on our intelligence as that was, Councillor Jon Burnside (Ward 26 Don Valley West) took home the bullshit prize on this particular day. I nicknamed him Sully because, honestly, I failed to come up with a better word ending in ‘y’ for him. Dicky? Pricky? I even briefly contemplated transgressing the c-bomb stratosphere before settling on Sully.

Why?

Councillor Burnside’s anti-ranked ballot justification just drips of condescension toward the voting public. The ‘complication factor’, he stated, despite the fact that host Towhey had perfectly explained how ranked ballots worked in about 45 seconds.idiot Ranked ballots are a lot more complicated than putting down one X, Burnside said, as if counting to 3 gets most of us all fuzzy-headed.

He then goes on to say that when he was out knocking on doors during last year’s campaign, a lot of voters didn’t know the difference between federal, provincial and municipal levels of government as if that somehow proves that we can’t be trusted to mentally multitask. Nope. We’re simple folk. We like to mark our ballots like we like to sign our names. With just one X.

It is hard to refute his argument about the idiocy of the electorate, I guess, at least in Ward 26. After all, voters there voted Jon Burnside into office to represent their interests at City Hall.

In less time than it took Mark Towhey to inform listeners about the nuts and bolts of ranked ballots, Councillor Burnside sullied the reputation of voters and revealed a real patronizing side toward his constituency. I’d suggest anyone wanting to challenge him in 2018 simply print up flyers saying in big bold letters: COUNCILLOR JON BURNSIDE THINKS YOU’RE STUPID, WARD 26! No, wait. KOWNSILER JON BERNSID THINK WERE STOOPID WORD ??WEAR EVER WE LIV!!!

If you’re opposed to ranked ballots, so be it. We do still live in a democracy. idiot1This isn’t Russia. This isn’t Russia, is it, Danny?

Just be honest, is all we can ask. Don’t come up with bogus rationalizations. It’s obvious, listening to these 3 city councillor, Burnside, Carmichael Greb and Holyday, they don’t like change. The won, fair and square, with the current system in place. Why would they possibly want to change that?

But please stop insulting our, albeit limited, intelligence pretending it’s about anything else. You just wind up embarrassing yourselves.

dumbly submitted by Cityslikr


A Diminishing Debate

June 5, 2015

“This is really a transportation issue, not a planning issue,” said Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee chair, Jaye Robinson, after a particularly prickly press conference she called to announce her support of Mayor Tory’s “hybrid” option for the Gardiner east section of the expressway.

stiflingdebate

It’s difficult to know what to make of that quote. Champions of the “hybrid” option, like the mayor and Councillor Robinson, regularly trot out the claim that their choice opens up the Unilver site for massive redevelopment (hinting by omission that the other option, the boulevard option doesn’t which it does). How exactly then is this not a “planning issue”?

Well apparently, it isn’t when it’s pointed out that the “hybrid” option also locks out possible other development potential, some 12 acres of it, worth in the neighbourhood of a cool $2 billion. The boulevard option keeps that development open but also may slightly increase commute times for a small fraction of car driving commuters. Thus, for our mayor and chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, “This is really a transportation issue”.

If the councillor truly believed that, you’d think then, she’d be more open to understanding the transportation issue of this debate. dontbelieveitfaceThat doesn’t appear to be the case. During the press conference, Councillor Robinson played up the traffic havoc that would result if the 1.7 kilometre stretch of elevated expressway came down, replaced by an 8 lane at-grade road. A 5 minute increase in driver commute time. Each way. Negating that would be a “windfall”, the councillor claimed.

Never mind that the numbers in relation to the drive times are contentious. No one knows for certain what they’ll be. What we do know, as rigorously studied and researched examples of other cities that removed expressways have shown, traffic tends to disappear with diminished road capacity. People find other ways to get around the city.

When asked about that fact at the press conference, Councillor Robinson simply replied, “I don’t believe it.”

Just like that. I don’t believe it. I know what I know.

When you refuse to grasp what may be counter-intuitive, you wind up spinning the counterfactual.

While some may be in their element doing that – our current mayor has grown comfortable, trolling in that territory – others wind up diminishing not only the bogus case they’re trying to make but their reputation also. elephantCouncillor Robinson brightened her rather tepid presence at city council last term by stepping up to defend waterfront plans from the incursion made on them by Doug Ford. Now she seems prepared to return to the pod of obedient soldier, stumping for Mayor Tory’s ill-advised assault.

Highly respected urban planner and architect, John van Nostrand, did similar disservice to his reputation with an aggressive performance at the press conference yesterday. A well-regarded name with years of experience, working with the city on waterfront plans and the Gardiner expressway specifically, van Nostrand is the lone ace up the administration’s sleeve in terms of the planning side of the debate. Rather than try to pitch his vision of waterfront development with the Gardiner east remaining elevated, he played pitbull instead, gracelessly attacking the opposing side as simply wrong.

What he tried to do was sell the idea that a better urban form could be developed under and around an elevated expressway than could be with an 8 (or possibly 10) lane, at-grade roadway. granvilleislad“Specious”, he waved off any comparison between the boulevard option and University Avenue while straight-facedly suggesting we could have something similar with the Gardiner east as they have in Vancouver with Granville Island. Counter-intuitive? No. Just counterfactual.

John Lorinc showed John van Nostrand to be an innovative and bold thinker in an article from more than 10 years ago. He was all about enhancing the public realm that had been denigrated by the presence of elevated expressways. A worthy endeavour, for sure, as van Nostrand touted examples of such projects around the world.

As he did at yesterday’s press conference. London, New York, Madrid. But I wanted to know if these places had the choice Toronto faces with the Gardiner east. Did these cities have the option to remove the expressways and bridges or were they simply making do with what was in place? Adapting and adjusting to the results of an earlier age’s choice.

With the Gardiner east, we have another option. Get rid of it, create an entirely new environment. Build and develop essentially from scratch. If that choice was available to London, New York and Madrid, would they have passed it up and simply worked around what was already there?

Of course, we’re long past that kind of nuance in this debate. Arguably, nuance was never part of it. beatenMayor Tory dug in early, set up the ramparts as a bulwark against a rational and robust debate, for reasons still either unclear or absurdly simplistic and calculating.

In falling in line behind him and resorting to mouthing the mayor’s vacuous talking points, not only did “hybrid” supporters like the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee chair and respected professionals like John van Nostrand do the city a disservice, they sullied their own reputation and work in the process. A victory at city council won’t change that.

belittlingly submitted by Cityslikr


Eventually You Have To Stand For Something

March 18, 2015

That’s why it’s not C51 that’s the issue. The problem in this country is we have a prime minister called Stephen Harper. And long as he is prime minister, whether it’s the Supreme Court, the workings of parliament, the politicizing of the police force and the walk away from science and evidence, all of these things can be laid at the feet of Stephen Harper. It’s the reason why he must be beat in the election…The focus we need to have in this country, quite frankly, is not on one bill it is on all the legislation which has been problematic. We need to change this government.

Elect Justin Trudeau and the Liberals or Bill 51 gets it! And by ‘gets it’, we mean, gets enacted and implemented by Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. You wanna talk about fear now? Fear that.

Vote Liberal!orthebunnygetsit

I sat listening to two of my favourite Toronto political figures, Trinity-Spadina M.P., Adam Vaughan and one of the best reporters around, Desmond Cole, on the latter’s Sunday afternoon talk radio program (where the above quote comes from). Before being elected to Parliament in a by-election last year, Vaughan was pretty much enemy number one of the Rob Ford administration, riotous fun to watch poke great big smoking holes in that clusterfuck we called a mayoralty, sometimes with righteous anger and other times outright mockery. Cole has established himself as a major voice writing (and talking) about the stuff most of us would choose not to think or talk about: racism, poverty and the corrosive effects of poor policing. He’s now taken to sitting for one hour a week in the belly of the beast, hosting an a.m. talk radio show.

Their segment, unsurprisingly, centred mostly around the Canadian government’s proposed bill, C51, their terrorist bill which has generated much (and increasing) pushback. c51protestsThere had been nationwide demonstrations protesting the bill the day before, on Saturday, with the turnout numbered in the tens of thousands. Vaughan had appeared at the one in Toronto, raising eyebrows among some folks, since the leader of his party, Justin Trudeau, has come out and stated that, despite some serious reservations, the Liberals would support the bill. Support it and then change it if elected as the government in this year’s elections.

Once more, the Liberal Party of Canada quakes in the face of theoretical machinations of the diabolical Conservatives. If we do this, then they’ll do that. If they do that, then we’ll look like this.

At a purely crass political level, it’s understandable. c51protests1For the past two elections, the Liberals have been defined to the electorate by the Conservatives, fighting both campaigns from back on their heels. In 2011, the unthinkable happened. They wound up in 3 place, setting out immediately to find a fourth leader to lead them into a fourth straight campaign.

With Justin Trudeau then in place, rather than burst forth with a sense of purpose, driven by, I don’t know, youthful optimism and a truly liberal or progressive agenda, they chose instead a certain tentative amorphousness, nothing which could be defined by anyone especially the Conservatives. Sure, they purged the party of anti-choicers. Trudeau mused about pot decriminalization. But mostly, it was vague generalizations that could not be pinned down.

Nothing anyone could throw a punch at. Equally, nothing anyone could hang a hat on and call home. Just place your worst fears or greatest hopes here.c51protests2

Pretty much the not-conservative politics of our generation. The progressive collapse of vigour and ideas. Hum and haw while licking our wounds in defeat, waiting for the inevitable crash and burn of whatever right wing government is in place. A crash and burn that is inevitable because modern right wing politics is designed to crash and burn, and take everyone around with it.

Tony Blair after the disintegration of Thatcherism. Bill Clinton, post-Reagan. Barak Obama in the wake of W.

We here in Ontario are living it with the McGuinty-Wynne doing little more than smoothing out the rough edges left behind from the Harris years. Much of Toronto’s current woes aren’t due to the Harrisites’ assault but because the Liberals haven’t done enough to fully reverse those policies. Conservatives destroy. nothingleftLiberals validate the principles but deplore the excess.

(Don’t mistake this as some partisan attack. No party on the left, as far as I can see, has stood up strongly enough against the basic tenets of modern conservatism. Challenged its bankrupt orthodoxy.)

So it happens again with Bill 51. Few I have encountered or read outside of Conservative supporters have expressed anything less than outrage, horror, contempt for this piece of proposed legislation. The words of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, appointed by Stephen Harper, as Michael Geist points out:

…the scale of information sharing being proposed is unprecedented, the scope of the new powers conferred by the Act is excessive, particularly as these powers affect ordinary Canadians, and the safeguards protecting against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient.  While the potential to know virtually everything about everyone may well identify some new threats, the loss of privacy is clearly excessive.  All Canadians would be caught in this web.

As a result of SCISA, 17 government institutions involved in national security would have virtually limitless powers to monitor and, with the assistance of Big Data analytics, to profile ordinary Canadians, with a view to identifying security threats among them. In a country governed by the rule of law, it should not be left for national security agencies to determine the limits of their powers. Generally, the law should prescribe clear and reasonable standards for the sharing, collection, use and retention of personal information, and compliance with these standards should be subject to independent and effective review mechanisms, including the courts.

The scope of the new powers is ‘excessive’. ‘Limitless powers to monitor’ by national security institutions. ‘All Canadians would be caught in this web’.

Yet somehow, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals found enough in bill C51 that they could get behind, support even without changes in oversight or to the vague language defining terrorism. duckandcoverNothing problematic enough to make a political issue out of it. Just go along to get along.

From a strategic standpoint, it may work out for the Liberals. The Conservative government is currently setting itself on fire in a flaming burst of racist demagoguery and other populist nonsense. Support for bill C51, which initially ran high, now seems to be tanking the more people read and talk about it. Perhaps we are witnessing yet another right wing crash and burn. The Liberals might’ve played this one right for a change.

Yet, by mouthing any type of support for the bill, regardless of how guarded or calculated, Liberals again endorsed a conservative narrative. milfordmanThat there is need for increased surveillance, further intrusion into our privacy, perceived security trumps individual rights and freedom. Accommodation not repudiation.

In the above quote, Adam Vaughan runs down a list of offenses committed by the Harper government against the country as proof of why they have lost any sort of authority to govern. It’s long and damning, for sure. But somehow, he wants us to think that such an immoral, unethical government is still capable of delivering a surveillance law with enough integrity to it that his Liberal party can get behind.

That’s the vacuity of our modern day liberalism, folks.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


Our Man Godfrey

January 19, 2015

mymangodfrey

In his book, The Tiny Perfect Mayor, Jon Caulfield wrote about the ongoing battle over the Spadina expressway and the alignment of the proposed western arm expansion of the Yonge-University subway line which planners and other transit advocates wanted to see run under Bathurst Street.

The pro-expressway forces, who had still not given up the ghost, recognized a fatal threat. So long as the Spadina right-of-way was preserved, the expressway plan might be revived – perhaps by [Premier William] Davis if he had a change of heart, perhaps by a new provincial government (some Queen’s Park Liberals had made pro-expressway noises). A Bathurst route would hammer the final nail in Spadina’s coffin. And so on the same day in August 1972 that it proposed paving four lanes along the old Spadina roadbed, Metro Council rejected its transportation planners’ advice and ignored the pleas for reason of the two affected boroughs, the City and York. Rallied by North York Controller Paul Godfrey, leader of the pro-expressway forces and soon to be Metro Chairman, it opted for a Spadina transit alignment. Afterward, Godfrey expressed satisfaction that Metro had “left its expressway options open.”

From the January 15, 2014 podcast of NewsTalk 1010’s Live Drive with Ryan Doyle and special guest co-host, Postmedia/Sun Media Mr. Thing, Paul Godfrey:

The issues [facing the city] haven’t really changed. In some ways, they’ve magnified. Transit was always a problem. During my era [1964-84], we were building some roads but during my era they stopped building roads. The major moving point they did was stop building the Spadina Expressway. And I think because of that, and because other major roadways that were cut short or not built whatsoever. Everybody says, well, we’re going to do it by transit but the problem was that they didn’t do it by transit. So right now we have gridlock city.

Mr. Godfrey goes on to assure us that, not to fear, Toronto is ‘blessed’ to have John Tory as mayor who is dedicated to relieving congestion in this city. highwaysBut it won’t happen overnight. The problem was created over 20 years, Godfrey curiously suggests, a decade after he left the political scene, conveniently washing his hands of any responsibility.

I would suggest, however, Toronto finds itself where it is today precisely because of people like Paul Godfrey. Last fall’s Globe and Mail article on the man from Christine Dobby presents a picture of someone dedicated to building a personal empire not city building. Remember, he was a municipal politician for 20 years. What does he (or Toronto) have to show for his two decades of public service?

The Rogers Centre, nee the Skydome. A terrible ballpark, perfectly located, that cost various levels of government hundreds of millions of dollars to build and purchased for a sliver of the cost years later by the private company who owned the ball club Godfrey was then president and CEO of. Nothing represents the Paul Godfrey legacy better than that, I wouldn’t think. Public money providing private profit.davidblaine

His last public sector gig (at least for now) was as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation Chair where Godfrey championed the idea of an “iconic” downtown casino. Nothing screams quality public space quite like an inwardly directed, profit-driven edifice dedicated to taking money from people in exchange for… well, not much really. Hey everybody! Look! It’s David Blaine!!

Paul Godfrey admits that he left politics because there wasn’t enough money in it. That’s fine, understandable even. Everybody’s got to eat, or put their kids through private school. Besides, as anyone will tell you, real power happens in the backrooms. That’s where Godfrey has made his real mark on this city. Way back in 2003, John Sewell – perhaps sporting his own bone to pick — claimed Godfrey was the one who floated the megacity idea in front of then-premier, Mike Harris. As Andrew Spicer wrote back then, “Some people just seem to find their way into everything in this city.”

I’d argue that Toronto is something less than it could be because of Godfrey finding his way into everything in this city. He reflects an antiquated, highly privileged view of what makes a city work. I hope his glowing approval of Mayor Tory isn’t reciprocal because, if it is, if the mayor looks to the likes of Paul Godfrey for advice on how to turn things around in terms of transit or housing, it would be akin to asking the chef who’d just burnt the main course, how to save the dinner party with dessert.

paulgodfrey

Only by becoming a Paul Godfrey-free zone can Toronto start cleaning up the mess he helped create.

— hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Comfort In Career Politicians

March 10, 2014

There’s a political slur that can be slung, usually to beef up the slinger’s populist cred, in order to denigrate an opponent. careerpoliticianCareer politician. A trough feeder. A sucker of the public teat. Only in it for themselves.

Some politicians will accuse other politicians of being career politicians. Councillor Doug Ford likes to toss it around in defense of his brother the mayor, a guy who’s been at City Hall for coming on 14 years now. Nearly a third of his life.

The term must have some perceived impact with enough of the voting public to be useful to the politicians using it. Yet, when all is said and done, we sure do love our incumbents. Given every opportunity to throw the bums out, more often than not, we stay with the tried and true. Change is risky. It could turn out worse. The devil you know, and all that.

Look at our current race for mayor here in Toronto. The designated front runners include the above-mentioned mayor, a councillor who’s been in office for a decade now, another candidate’s been flirting off and on with political office for ten years and a former city councillor and budget chief out of the game for eight years. If this gaggle doesn’t represent career politicians, then the term is utterly meaningless.

In all likelihood, these are going to be the candidates we’re talking about well into the fall, leading up to the 0ctober 27th election. sameoldsameoldIf any unknown challenger tosses their hat into the ring, a political outsider that apparently voters so love, they’re pretty much going to immediately be considered fringe. The unfortunate but necessary detritus of a free and open election process.

You got $200? Step right up and register. Nobody’s going to pay you much heed, though. Thanks for coming out.

Unless of course you’re an 18 year-old high school student who raised your entry fee with babysitting money. You may have heard of Morgan Baskin already? AM talk radio certainly has.

Yeah, I know. Everybody rolls their eyes, shrugs their shoulders and automatically writes her off as a novelty candidate. Come on. She’s 18. What could she possibly know about running a city?

And just like that, we dismiss the outsider and jettison our demand for change. We talk a big game about term limits and new blood but when the chips are down? brandspankingnewFingers crossed! Let’s hope John Tory runs again.

Listening to Ms. Baskin’s radio interview last week, she came across as articulate, passionate and pretty tuned in to what’s been going on in the city. While her embryonic website is full of broad stroke ideals and a little short on details right now, it is still only March and is hardly out of place with many of the other mayoral candidates’ on-line efforts so far. I mean, have you taken a look at Mayor Ford’s re-election website?

You get the feeling that if Morgan Baskin was subject to a weekend municipal governance and policy boot camp, she would be right at home with the current front runners. Arguably, she’s already capable of keeping up with the non-Soknackian pap coming from all the other big names. I mean, I haven’t heard her say anything resembling Growing A Better Tomorrow yet, have you?

During the last municipal campaign in 2010, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke spent much time covering the “other” mayoral candidates. In fact, one of us ended up endorsing Himy Syed. Trust us, there are plenty out there fully deserving of the fringe label. There’s no discernible reason why they’re in the race other than vying for whatever public attention they receive. fringecandidatesPublic attention they wouldn’t get otherwise.

Still, who am I to judge their motivations?

Again this time around, amidst all the truly eyebrow raising candidates in the race, there are a couple, in addition to Morgan Baskin, who deserve more than a cursory glance. Robb Johannes made a very good impression at a Scarborough mayoral forum in February. Matt Mernagh seems to be more dimensional than just a medical marijuana advocate. Richard Underhill has a very thorough and thoughtful campaign platform at this early stage of the race.

All of these candidates, I’d have to ask why their interest in civic affairs starts at the top job. It is a complex position, the 6th largest government in the country, overseeing an institution that delivers services and programs to over 2.5 million people. Why would we possibly trust you to manage a $14 billion annual budget? afraidofchangeBabysitting money’s cute but maybe you could explain to me that nature of debt servicing, and the trade-off between less money for stuff now and having more stuff later.

That said, we gleefully handed the keys to the mayor’s office to a man-child based on 10 years of spotty city councillor performance and a vague attachment to a family business. How’d that work out for us?

We love the concept of political newcomers in theory but seem to shrink from acting on it when we ultimately mark our ballots. All talk, no action. If we were really serious, we’d at least hear the neophytes and fringe candidates out and give them significant consideration before retreating back to known territory. At the very least, we’d modify what we mean by being on the fringe.

outsiderly submitted by Cityslikr


Ford Nation Right Or Wrong

March 10, 2013

Nothing brings out the morass of illogic, paranoia and dystopian alternate reality of Ford Nation more than an allegation brought against its titular head, Mayor Rob Ford. flyingmonkeysScandal is what they feed off, proof that a vast conspiracy is perpetually at work in an attempt to discredit, humiliate and ultimately topple the duly elected mayor with a mandate from power. These people – everybody who does not whole-heartedly support the mayor – will stop at nothing to achieve their nefarious ends.

Yes, real life like some badly written comic book.

They are the Oz’s flying monkey brigade, just waiting for a signal from their leader to tear an opponent to shreds.

Never mind Mayor Ford’s past behaviour. It does not factor into their reasoning. An attack has been launched against him. Maximum damage must be inflicted upon the transgressor.

I am not suggesting the mayor is guilty of what Sarah Thomson has accused him of. How would I know? strawmanI wasn’t at the event in question.

But for the life of me, I cannot figure out what Ms. Thomson has to gain by making such a false allegation. Media attention? Sure, but to what end? She garners plenty of media attention already – she is part of the media. I’d argue she’s very good at keeping herself in the public eye.

Here’s one theory that was bandied about as I understood it:

A striving but perpetually unsuccessful political candidate makes false allegations of a sexual nature against a mayor in order to generate publicity for herself and discredit him. This will enhance her chances at victory come next election. It is a tried and true tactical strategy that has launched the careers all those other women like… readyformycloseupAnd I’ll pause here to wait for you to fill in that blank as I’m coming up empty in an attempt to provide any actual examples.

While Ms. Thomson has been unsuccessful to date in winning any election she’s run in, this interpretation of events paints someone so desperate to achieve her ends that she will stop at nothing including slander and libel. She’s a media hound. She’s flakey. How did Mayor Ford put it on his radio show today? “I don’t know if she’s playing with a full deck.”

Such a torturous, scorched earth route to get from point A to B when the shortest way would be to look at the mayor’s own past behaviour. Outbursts of public loutishness. Check. Immediate denials. Check. Heavy-handed dismissal of accusers. Check.

Again. That’s not to say Mayor Ford is guilty of what he’s been accused of. How would I know one way or the other? I’m just saying his supporters are working hard to prop up the least likely explanation.

But there are inconsistencies to Thomson’s story! She said she was drinking cranberry juice but somebody else said she was drinking scotch. She said the mayor told him he was alone down in Florida but we all know he went down with his family. hediditShe said she told his staff about his behaviour but his staff said they never talked to her at the event.

In this version of the story, only Sarah Thomson had motivation to lie. No one else.  Not the mayor. Not the mayor’s staff. Thomson just created layer and layers of lies in order to prop up her original lie.

But we have three witnesses! Ford Nation exclaims. Sarah Thompson has none. So case closed. The Mayor is innocent.

Never mind that two of those witnesses, Richmond Hill councillors, Carmine Perrelli and Greg Beros, in no way refute Thomson’s initial claim. Everyone seems to agree that she joined their group after she had her picture taken with the mayor, saying he’d just grabbed her ass. You need proof of that, came the response. So Thomson and her assistant went back to see if they could get a picture of the mayor grabbing somebody else’s ass. The Set Up, as the media subsequently called it.

None of this undercuts Thomson’s original claim.

OK, but what about Jordan Falkenstein, the eye witness who came forward to state that he did not see anything untoward going on between the mayor and Ms. Thomson. setatrapHe was waiting in line for a picture with the mayor when Thomson butted in front of him. So he got a bird’s eye view and can say with absolute certainty that at no time did he see Mayor Ford grab Ms. Thomson’s ass.

Slam dunk!

But imagine if you will, Mr. Falkenstein on the stand in a court of law.

So, there you were, Mr. Falkenstein, waiting for your turn to get a picture with Mayor Ford and this woman just barges in front of you. You’re cool with that, you say. No hard feelings. She then starts talking ‘in a cynical tone’, you say, to the mayor. You don’t hear the specifics and all the while this is happening, you don’t take your eyes off of the mayor’s right hand which you say stayed on her shoulder the entire time. That’s all you’re looking at, the mayor’s hand. You swear under oath that at no time during that entire exchange you diverted your gaze from his hand.

By its very nature, the kind of behaviour the mayor is accused of by Ms. Thomson is surreptitious, intended not to be seen by anyone else. suspiciousorangesProviding someone who says they did not see what was never intended for them to see is a pretty wobbly nail to hang your argument on. Yet it’s being touted as the final nail in the coffin of both Thomson’s claim and political career.

None of this, let me re-iterate, goes to proving the opposite, that Mayor Ford did and said what he’s been accused of doing and saying. It remains his word against her word. But the degree to which his supporters have leapt to his defense and so totally vilified Sarah Thompson is both disturbing and instructive.

For them, his pattern of previous behaviour has no bearing on his present actions. Instead, it’s all about concocting dark motivations of his accusers and demanding explanations from them that they in no way ask from the mayor. It’s almost as if an attack on him is an attack on them. To question him is to question their support of him. If Mayor Ford is capable of doing all the things he’s been accused of doing that would mean that those who supported him made a bad choice. That’s a tough pill to swallow. headinsandNobody likes admitting they might be wrong.

Instead of entertaining that possibility, Ford Nation goes to extraordinary lengths to create the unlikeliest of scenarios where they are right, where they’ve always been right and where they will always continue to be right. In such a world, everyone else has to be wrong. There is no stone of unreason they will not turn, no hypothetical too outrageous to run up the flag pole in order for that reality to happen.

matter-of-factly submitted by Cityslikr


Every Four Years Whether You Need It Or Not

October 29, 2012

What is it with conservatives these days and their loathing of democracy? I know theirs is an uneasy history with the concept but they seemed to have come to terms with it through the last half of the 20th-century or so. But recently…

Republicans in the United States are intent on suppressing the vote in order to try and steal a state or two and secure their nominee the White House. Our Conservatives prorogued themselves out of a couple of minority jams, unable as they were to cope with the parliamentary insistence that you have a majority of the seats before attempting an unimpeded run of the table. Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals in Ontario (conservative in all but their red ties) liked what they saw in that manoeuvre and shut down Queen’s Park in order to conduct a leadership convention, free from the unruliness of two opposition parties that actually hold down a majority in our provincial parliament.

And here in Toronto, Team Ford has gone to war with some of the city’s Accountability Officers who have had the temerity to question the mayor and his brother’s actions. Apparently there can be too much oversight from watchdogs like the Ombudsman and Integrity Commissioner even for an administration that pledged more openness and transparency than any previous administration in history. Of the world. Ever.

What conservatives seem to believe is that, once elected, they are free to do whatever it is they see fit to do until the next election. That’s what they refer to as a ‘mandate’. If you don’t like what they’ve done, then vote them off the island the next opportunity you get. Until that time, sit down and shut up.

Democracy in four year installments. Citizen engagement and accountability to the taxpayers begins and ends with casting a ballot. Any questioning of motives or actions is nothing more than cheap partisan politics, driven only by a refusal to accept the previous election results. Whining not winning.

Thus rigorously supervised, what’s the need for all these political babysitters? A part time democracy only needs part time overseers surely.  “In Mississauga they have one person,” Mayor Ford claimed last week,” a lawyer on retainer, who does all their jobs.” What’s that they say? As goes Mississauga, so goes Toronto. (Although, unsurprisingly, the mayor might not have had all his ducks in a row on that. “[Deputy Mayor] Holyday said Ford may have misconstrued information that he gave him, about a lawyer on retainer as Mississauga’s integrity commissioner. The lawyer has no ombudsman or lobbyist registrar duties.”)

You know what happens when we have too much oversight? Bounds are overstepped. Our elected officials start having their non-public lives over-scrutinized. Like when they host their own Sunday radio talk show.

But the Fords did what talk show hosts usually do: they mouthed off, they were derisive, they personalized their attack. Should a public servant be empowered to condemn elected officials for the manner in which they exercise their free speech?

Errrrrrrr, what the fuck, Globe and Mail?!

What we really should be concerned about is a couple politicians having unfettered media access to foist their highly slanted views on the public, unchecked and uncontested.  “Hi, I’m Rob Ford, that traffic report would have been a lot better without streetcars.” That you let pass and choose instead to lambast the city’s Integrity Commissioner impinging on the free speech of our mayor and his councillor brother to play AM shock jocks?

The thing is, Globe and Mail, the Fords aren’t just talk show hosts although their administration is largely conducted as if they were.  Just because it’s Sunday doesn’t mean their listeners think of them as Humble and Fred and not the mayor of Toronto as his right-hand man. When they — how’d you put it again? — “…ridiculed [Medical Officer of Health] Dr. McKeown’s nearly $300,000 salary as ‘an embarrassment’…” and asked “Why does he still have a job?”, they did so as mayor and councillor not just talk show hosts. To suggest that the Integrity Commissioner had no place to write them up for such ‘a shameful performance’ is astoundingly narrow-minded about the office’s role in the functioning of an open and transparent government.

Still, it isn’t necessary to have an integrity commissioner say as much. It is best left to voters to determine whether the Mayor is exercising his free speech responsibly. Members of council may rebuke the mayor if they wish. And he’s accountable to voters once every four years for his behaviour.

Oh, I’m sorry. You also have an astoundingly narrow-minded opinion of how democracy should work too.  I guess I expected a slightly higher standard from the editors of the Globe and Mail.

confoundedly submitted by Cityslikr