Privatized Parts

March 4, 2010

The Toronto Star’s headline for March 3rd declares: Smitherman Backs Privatization.

Inside, the news reads as little more than a minor, almost imperceptible bump up in enthusiasm for privatization than the candidate’s been touting previously despite the article hyping it as his “first substantive policy pronouncement” of the campaign. According to Smitherman, “… any moves to outsource city services would be carefully reviewed,” which I guess makes him the prudent candidate versus opponent Rocco Rossi’s wild-eyed, stock floor trader panicked approach to the selling of city assets and privatization of services.

In actual fact, the respective platforms of Smitherman and Rossi range all the way from point A to point A, essentially coming down to the difference between gutting the city mercilessly versus gutting it mercifully. And where to put bike lanes. Two peas in a pod, really; worse and worser. If you’re a big fan of privatization it’s a happy choice that comes down to how you want to slice up the pie.

One of those big fans of privatization is — surprise, surprise — Smitherman’s chief fundraiser, Ralph Lean QC. As noted previously, Mr. Lean is partial to, at least, “examining” the idea of “outsourcing some city functions.” A point of preference which contributed to the falling out Lean had with Mayor Miller last September just before Miller announced he would not run for re-election in 2010. As George Smitherman publicly signals an open mind toward privatization, it seems he may be more attuned than the outgoing mayor to the wishes of his chief fundraiser.

So what, you say. Surely it’s not unusual for a candidate to share political views with the people working on his campaign. It would seem wrong for anyone to go out and solicit money for a candidate whose views they don’t believe in, wouldn’t it? Hypocritical. Cynical, even.

Yet reading through Ralph Lean’s CV from an article posted on his law firm’s website, over the past decade or so he’s been retained as a lobbyist for American firms interested in the state of outsourcing such varied government functions as prisons and tax collection. It makes Lean’s interest in the areas of privatization and outsourcing seem less political and more.. personal. As Smitherman slowly but deliberately drifts toward a more accepting view on the topic, one wonders who’s calling the shots in his campaign.

And if George Smitherman is elected mayor of Toronto in October and hopes to keep the job for a little while, say, at least a second term that would garner him both national and international coverage when the city hosts the 2015 PanAm games, he would do well to learn from his predecessor’s one fatal misstep. Defy Ralph Lean QC at your peril.

See George. See George Jump.

“There are outsourcing salesmen,” Smitherman explains in the Toronto Star article, “and I run into them all over the place [italics ours], who have advanced this idea that outsourcing in and of itself is some panacea. My experiences are different … It’s intensely risky to have a discussion whereby the quality of the service being provided to the citizen is set aside and the fiscal piece is advanced. I am saying we need to look at outsourcing where it makes sense, given the state of the city’s finances, while protecting our citizens.”

“I will be their protector.”

Don’t worry citizens of Toronto, Smitherman assures us when it comes to outsourcing and privatization, as mayor he’ll have our back. Small comfort we should take from that when we consider that Ralph Lean QC has the ear of George Smitherman.

Cassandraly submitted by Cityslikr


Back Room Brouhaha

February 8, 2010

What I would’ve given to be a fly on the wall in the room where John Laschinger decided to join the Adam Giambrone campaign team. One of the architects of David Miller’s two election victories, Laschinger seems to have embraced another hopeless cause in chairing Giambrone’s run this time around. The face of everything that’s wrong with Toronto these days, Giambrone sports the wrong kind of name recognition and to say his path to the mayor’s chair will be an entirely uphill one is to display a firm grasp of the obvious.

So is Laschinger simply attracted to the underdogs? Miller in `03. Belinda Stronach’s bid for the then Progressive Conservative leadership in 2004. John Tory in 2007 and his tilt at the windmills to become premier of Ontario. Laschinger seems to have made a profession of attempting to snatch victory from the gaping jaws of defeat. Now add Adam to the list.

Or maybe there’s a little something more at work on this one? Is it too much to hope that there’s a back room battle royale brewing? In the murky political shadows, dueling operatives have thrown down. Feathers have been ruffled. The dander is up. Yes, this time it’s personal.

I muddy my hands in the besotted dirt of conjecture and speculation after re-reading the National Post article from last September where jowly bagman and Bay Street big shot, Ralph Lean QC publicly split with Mayor David Miller and referred to Laschinger as “… the hired help” on Miller’s campaign team. Oh no, he di’int!! This coming from the guy who was lying low when Miller was a nobody back in 2003 and then jumped on the bandwagon when Miller was a shoo-in to win re-election in ’06, citing “It would be better if we had a voice at the table to represent our views.” Who exactly is this we and our that Ralph Lean QC is talking about?

It’s hard not to see how someone couldn’t take the “hired help” retort as a short, smart slap across the cheek with a white glove. In my mind John Laschinger read it, sat back, biding his time and waited to see what candidate Ralph Lean QC would get his hooks into. With that set – Come on down, George Smitherman! You’re now a contestant on the Price Is Right!! – Laschinger saddles up with Giambrone and prepares to slay the dragon.

The move seems almost noble in that light which is not a sentiment one normally associates with management consultants and political strategists of John Laschinger’s stripe. But compared to the dismissive arrogance and doughy sense of entitlement projected by Ralph Lean QC, chairman of Cassels Brock law firm and eerie but fitting Fox News honcho Roger Ailes look-a-like, backing Giambrone comes across as nothing short of selfless on the part of Laschinger. If you don’t count the whole personal insult angle that I’ve completely manufactured.

Roger Ailes or Ralph Lean?

And it’s a no-brainer to side with Laschinger in the made up war in my mind. Whatever else you may think about the merits of professional consultants and paid political operatives, there is clearly a skill to delivering up a viable campaign plan especially one of this duration which is pure marathon, second only to the U.S. Presidential slog. You might even call it an art form.

How difficult is it to do what Ralph Lean QC does? He’s a guy who wants to cut government spending, freeze councilors’ wages and — follow the line on this – examine the outsourcing of some city functions. That’s gobblie-gook for privatization, folks, and Lean is nothing if not a spokesman for privatization, lobbying for a number of U.S. firms looking to get in on the outsourcing action.

Lean or Ailes?

A typical campaign fundraising pitch by Ralph Lean QC? “So my candidate is thinking of outsourcing some of the city’s functions.. I don’t know, garbage or tax collection, part of the TTC.. whatever. If you want on the ground floor of that, maybe you and a few of your friends might want to cut me a cheque.. ?”

The ironically surnamed Lean doesn’t even have to leave his desk to do that. The money comes to him. And oh yeah, the man’s a “… big supporter of Porter [Airlines].” So it’s not hard to imagine another round of voting to bring back a bridge or push for a tunnel to the island, errr, the Billy Bishop Airport if the new city council comes together in the shape of which someone like Ralph Lean QC approves.

It’s enough to make you want straight up, publicly funded elections. No money from anyone, individuals, unions, corporations. Financing doled out solely from the public purse. Candidates would still need the likes of John Laschinger to run for office but Ralph Lean QC and his ilk would be shit out of luck. And the commonweal would be all the better for that.

imaginatively submitted by Urban Sophisticat