Ford Tough. We Laugh.

March 27, 2010

When news broke about councillor Rob Ford’s entry into Toronto’s mayoral race, well, let’s just say that pandemonium broke out here in the editorial space of All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. “I want to write the post!” “No, I want to write the post!!” No, I want to write the post!!!” “No, I do!!!!” “No, I do!!!!!”

You get the picture. But I eventually won out because this is my site. I call the shots. If somebody else wants to step up and start contributing a little more than doodles on cocktail napkins or even.. just anything, every now and then. I mean, we still haven’t caught up with Acaphlegmic since he pulled the Houdini act in Niagara Falls last week. If you’re out there, buddy, how about just a quick note to let us know everything’s cool?

Anyway, Rob Ford’s now running for mayor and we’re even more excited than Sue-Ann Levy. He represents everything we hate in today’s “grassroots” right wing political thought. The bogus claim of populism. Long since discredited Common Sense that is anything but. Fiscal prudence masking nothing more than a miserly mean-spiritedness. The man’s demeanour smacks of pure I got mine, Jack, and you can go fuck yourself.

He’s a politician that hates politicians leaving you unsure why he ever ran for public office in the first place aside from protecting his and his own. Now he wants to be the head of the 6th largest government in the country?! And we couldn’t be happier about that even if we were Sue-Ann Levy. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist another look. Is the lady honing her skills for a crack at a spot on Fox News or what?)

Some of our joy springs from a tactical place. Ford’s entry into the race crowds an already crowded right of centre spectrum and promises to divvy up conservative votes. It will force the others who have pledged fidelity to reactionary policies to differentiate themselves from the hard core values that Ford brings to the table. Rocco Rossi has already attempted the repositioning tango when he declared last week that he was not nor had he ever been a right winger. There’s little sense now in courting Rob Ford voters now that the real deal’s arrived at the dance.

But mostly it’s the theatrical shenanigans that Ford will bring to the campaign that has us over the moon. There is the very serious possibility of some retro-Lastmanesque buffoonery that brings on a wave of oxygen-inducing giddiness. A dash of unscripted, wacky remarks mixed with a soupçon of belligerent outbursts topped off with heaping cups of bluster and blather that is the Fordian trademark. His is a horn of plenty candidacy that will never leave those dabbling in political commentary empty of meaty material to run with.

If this sounds like little more than a hasty dismissal of Rob Ford for Mayor, it is. Although we did likewise when Mel Lastman threw his hat into the ring back in the day and much egg wound up on our faces. But this is different (fingers crossed.) Lastman was alone on the right side of center when he faced off against Barbara Hall. Ford is sharing those digs with others who have, at least so far in the campaign, been treated as viable candidates.

We also heartily welcome Rob Ford into the race because it places everything that he stands for on a much wider stage than he’s had as merely a councillor from Etobicoke. Now a far bigger audience will be given the opportunity to plug into his preposterous anti-politics politics. The soap box is that much higher for him to bellow out to the heavens explaining how exactly he would run a city by spending less, taxing less and basically doing less. Governing by not governing.

Call us naïve. Call us cock-eyed optimists but we still think a majority of Torontonians have heard that siren call before and witnessed the havoc it wreaks on the common welfare of this city and aren’t prepared to get fooled again.

So welcome to the circus, Councillor Ford. We’ve been waiting for the clown act to appear.

gleefully submitted by Cityslikr

Niagara Falls Ontario Wonderful Place For You To Go

March 23, 2010

Unexpectedly finding ourselves in the middle of a casino in Niagara Falls one night last week (tell me that hasn’t happened to you), we pondered on the notion of government sanctioned gambling. What had once been a highly controversial topic less than 20 years ago was now simply a given. A not-quite-Vegas-more-like-Reno-or-maybe-Atlantic-City given where cheese and bad food rules although the drinks are made in Ontario expensive.

We are not gamblers. Or, after our Niagara Falls experience, I should say, two of us aren’t gamblers. (Acaphelgmic went missing and has still not turned up days later.) It’s not owing to any moralistic bent. To our mind, we just don’t see the point of it. Money does burn a hole in our pockets but we can think of much more interesting ways to piss it away.

Like with so many other things though, we are face first into the prevailing winds of our time. Large swaths of the public, who otherwise rail against handing over their hard earned cash to the government in the form of taxes, happily do just that at a slot machine or card table. It’s a matter of personal choice, I guess, although for some that is highly debatable. Gambling, once the scourge of decent society, is now an acceptable pastime, wealth distributor and government income generator.

Last fiscal year, the Ontario Gaming and Lottery Corp. pumped nearly $4 billion into the Ontario economy, half of it directly into provincial coffers. It is a major employer and corporate sponsor of charities and cultural events. The 10 casinos it owns and/or operates have brought a pulse back into the ailing municipalities that have embraced them. This is a service sector largely resistant to economic cycles.

“If gambling, why not drug decriminalization?” my non-gambling colleague asks over sparkly cocktails at a glittery bar. “Or prostitution. Let’s accept the fact that there are distasteful habits that we just can’t legislate or regulate out of practice, and get in on the action.” Own it to rule it.

Maybe mayoral candidate Giorgio Mammoliti isn’t so out there after all. OK. He is but as governments on all levels grapple with mounting fiscal imbalances why are we ignoring potentially huge revenue streams that are swirling around us, untouched in the underground economy? Not so long ago, we as a society didn’t abide gambling. We seem to have overcome our qualms about that. Why not legalized (and taxed) prostitution or drug use?

I would probably be an even stronger advocate of such ideas if I truly thought moneys made from such non-traditional enterprises were properly plowed back into the public sphere. A meander off the beaten track of the city of Niagara Falls doesn’t fill me with hope however. My childhood memory of the place is that of a somewhat tacky, down-at-heel vacation destination. Posed on the veritable precipice of a truly astounding natural wonder, the town was as equally awash in chintzy souvenir shops, carnival attractions and all the other markings of low rent consumerism.

Despite the boost to the local economy that the government run casinos claim to have provided, Niagara Falls still feels somewhat shabby. Dilapidated houses sit in the shadows of high rise hotels on somewhat derelict feeling streets just off the main drags. Actual residential areas are few and far between. Try finding a bank when you’re in need of some cash (no, I don’t have a problem) and are absolutely unwilling to hand over exorbitant fees to ATMs that you’re pretty sure are directly linked into the casinos.

It simply feels that little of the cash being thrown around town makes its way back into the lives of the people who live here. But hey, without the casino, do you think Gladys Knight and the Pips would give so much as a second thought to Niagara Falls as a tour stop? Where else would octogenarian funnyman Don Rickles ply his trade without our wealth of casinos?

And where else could our provincial government turn in order to divest its citizens of billions of dollars aside from the casinos and other gambling venues? It is the new reality, this uneasy truce between citizens and their elected representatives. The casino quid pro quo. I’ll give you my money although I want a little something in return. No, not services. But a chance to strike it rich under the flashing lights and faux grandeur of palaces dedicated to what we once considered nothing more than filthy vice.

sanctimoniously submitted by Urban Sophisticat