Re-Imagining Toronto III

March 6, 2013

[On Thursday, March 7th, Idil Burale and I will be hosting a discussion forum at the Academy of the Impossible called, Reimagining Toronto: Understanding the framework of urban/suburban politics. So this week at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, we’ll be looking at some of the issues that make up the divide of such urban/suburban politics.]

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Throughout the week, we’ve been writing about the political landscape that lead to Rob Ford’s victorious run for mayor of Toronto in 2010. The historical background, the media environment, all the what you might call externalities. More or less an attempt at objective observation.

Today, let me get all subjective and present a frank and full mea culpa. How I played my part in the election of Mayor Robert Bruce Ford. babesinthewoodsA big ol’ ooops.

As cub observers of the political scene in Toronto, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke made its first appearance on January 4th, 2010. The day candidates could officially file with the city. We and Rocco Rossi made our municipal debuts together. Ha, ha. We’re still here.

Councillor Rob Ford as candidate for mayor was still a figment of our feverish imagination. It would be another couple months before he declared his intention to run. The possibility of such a thing merely tickled our funny bone. If nothing else, it would provide a bit of comic relief to the proceedings.

We continued not to take him seriously throughout the spring and early summer. His building constituency had to be fragile, a protest movement with no legs. It wouldn’t sustain itself through the all the missteps and scandals that would surface. When people were confronted with his deplorable behaviour during his ten years as councillor – cllrrobfordthe ‘Orientals’, dead cyclists, drunken outbursts at hockey games and on and on and on – there’d be a collective ‘Eewww’.

Yes, we were guilty of hurling invective, comparing him to Chris Farley, an excellent candidate for manager of a Walmart and on and on and on. Not only did we mock his one-note campaign style and his dodgy grasp of important policies but, unfortunately, we also ridiculed him about his weight and appearance.

When it became clear that Rob Ford had established himself as a serious contender for mayor, we finally had to overcome our disbelief and bewilderment and come to grips with that cold, hard reality. No, that can’t be right. What’s going on? What the fuck is wrong with people?!

On July 14th, 2010, we wrote a post entitled ‘An Open Letter To Rob Ford Supporters.’ By a long shot, it remains our most read piece to this day. (That’s called building an audience, that is.) In it we asked, with as little snark and condescension as we could possibly muster, what was the appeal. Why were they embracing his candidacy like they were. His numbers didn’t add up. His policy planks were wobbly under the weight of sheer improbability. His track record as a councillor indicated no desire on his part to solve the problems suburban voters faced in the amalgamated city.

Nearly three years on, the validity of our concerns holds up. There have been cuts when candidate Ford said there would be none. He’s shaved spending not cut the billions he said he could cut. fordnationHis transportation plan is in tatters, no more thought out than it was in 2010. On most major issues the city faces, the mayor has been sidelined, reverting to the lone wolf councillor he always was.

Yet Mayor Ford has retained his core support. His approval ratings hovering between 42-48%, essentially where they were when he was elected. The conundrum continues.

I don’t share some of my colleagues concern that this makes him re-electable. Sure, given his lack of performance one might think the numbers would be significantly lower. Where they were for his predecessors when Toronto had tired of them, in the thirties and high twenties. But compared to where Mel Lastman and David Miller sat at the same time during their first term? 48% is nothing to be boasting about.

And the news that John Tory hasn’t ruled out a possible mayoral run next year must send shivers up and down Team Ford’s spine. It’s what they feared most in 2010 and fought so hard and under-handily to stave off. biggermanThe appearance of any credible right of center candidate in the 2014 campaign – be it Tory, Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson – will spell the end of Mayor Ford’s hopes for a second term.

But that it’s come to that as the catalyst for a crash and burn of this administration should be mystifying to many of us. A startlingly high number of suburban Torontonians still love the mayor, despite what the rest of us would view as a bad case of the unrequiteds on his part. For our part, we’re still as confused about that connection as we were back in 2010. Now, as much as then, we need to come to terms with it and figure out how to make the case that it is an unhealthy relationship for all of us.

earnestly submitted by Cityslikr


Re-Imagining Toronto II

March 5, 2013

[On Thursday, March 7th, Idil Burale and I will be hosting a discussion forum at the Academy of the Impossible called, Reimagining Toronto: Understanding the framework of urban/suburban politics. So this week at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, we’ll be looking at some of the issues that make up the divide of such urban/suburban politics.]

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countrymousecitymouse2

In yesterday’s post, we pointed to David Miller’s 2006 re-election where he won 42 of Toronto’s 44 wards with nearly 57% of the popular vote. Four years later, Rob Ford swept into power, largely erasing all traces of a Miller mandate outside of Toronto’s downtown core. It was a dramatic turn of events that reflected a tumultuous discontent with the outgoing administration especially in the inner suburbs.

How did such a turnaround occur? What had David Miller done that so alienated voters in Etobicoke, York, North York and Scarborough? In terms of the political landscape, there was no suburban-urban divide in 2006 (or in 2000 for that matter in Mel Lastman’s second term). ironcurtainSuddenly in 2010, we had our very own version of the Iron Curtain.

The city as a whole was feeling somewhat unsettled. Toronto had weathered the global economic crisis fairly well although unemployment was up and the region’s manufacturing base shrinking. Voters were feeling particularly antsy.

Of course, the 2009 outside workers’ strike loomed large over local politics. Garbage piled up in our parks and when it was all over, the perception was the Miller administration had caved into the unions and handed over the key to the vault. The facts didn’t really back that up but since the mayor didn’t crush the unions into oblivion, he’d failed epically.

The over-arching tone of the 2010 campaign was pissed off. Everybody was angry. torontostinksNone seemingly more so than those in the inner suburbs.

If it wasn’t about being over-taxed, it was about being under-served. Whatever prosperity and new-fangled artscape or shiny development sprung up did so downtown. Suburbanites were left on the outside looking in and, to kick more sand in their collective faces, the tab was theirs to pay.

Troublingly, when perception doesn’t meet reality, it’s the perception that often times wins out.

There’s never been any convincing evidence that the city’s suburbs subsidize downtown spending. In fact, during David Miller’s time in office, there was much attention and capital spent on the inner suburbs. A new subway was being constructed that would extend the Yonge-University-Spadina line into the city’s northwest corner on its way up to Vaughan. Transit City was a plan to bring more rapid transit to areas that had none. The 13 Priority Areas Neighbourhood Action Plan was established to combat poverty in almost exclusively places in the inner suburbs. The Tower Renewal Program.

None of it overly glamorous unless you were a policy wonk or directly affected. But it’s simply untrue to say that the suburbs weren’t an important part of the Miller Administration agenda. So how did that view gain such traction?truthreality

Here’s my working theory.

The toxic pool of political discourse created by a growing anti-Miller sentiment in the media and splashed about in by early mayoral candidates George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi was expertly marshalled by the Rob Ford campaign into a potent divisive force. Wedge politics at its finest. Candidate Ford convinced adopted and amplified voter alienation in the inner suburbs to mirror a personal alienation during his decade long term as councillor at City Hall.

Rob Ford, lone wolf, outside councillor as champion of the forgotten and abandoned tax payers of suburban Toronto.

After four years as mayor, it’s obvious nothing could be further from the truth.

As a politician Rob Ford and those closest to him have little interest in public sector investment in the public realm. They stand firmly opposed to almost all of the legacy items of the Miller Administration’s attempts at suburban renewal and engagement. wolfinsheepsclothingIt’s not about spending and engaging more in the suburbs. It’s about not spending more anywhere.

The government should not be in the business of governing.

This urban-suburban divide we find ourselves facing is a political one more than geographical or cultural. While we can blame David Miller for not being more explicit about his goals or somehow not making his intentions clearer to voters in Etobicoke, York, North York or Scarborough, the real culprits are those claiming to be looking out for the little guy when every policy they pursue proves the exact opposite.

submitted by Cityslikr


The Gig’s Up

January 24, 2013

It’s impossible to accurately predict a turning point of an era, let’s call it, while still living in that particular time. seethefutureUnless of course you have planes flying into buildings. That kind of catastrophic plot point writes itself. But in a period of relative normalcy on a scale of one for placid calm and ten for, Run For Your Lives, Jesus Has Returned!, you can never be certain when things have taken a most definite turn.

But allow me to go on record as saying I think yesterday, January 23rd 2013, was a turning point of the Mayor Ford Era here in Toronto. Now, now. I know lots of you will quickly jump in and claim that there have been so many turning points over the course of the last couple years, how could I pick just this one. You would not be wrong. I just think yesterday all the air that remained came out of the hot air balloon that once carried Rob Ford aloft.behindthecurtain2

The prick (ha, ha) that did it?

Matt Elliott at Metro’s Ford For Toronto, Debunking Ford Nation’s favourite budget chart. I will take it one step further. Mr. Elliott’s article debunks the very platform upon which the Ford Nation was constructed. City Hall’s fiscal foundations were crumbling due to out-of-control spending by the Miller Administration. The Gravy Trains must be stopped. Councillor Rob Ford was the man to do it.

It was the flimsiest of canards, and not one used only by then candidate Ford. He just perfected it. Coincidentally, this week is the 3rd anniversary of Rocco Rossi announcing his mayoral run chickenlittle(h/t to the Toronto Star’s David Rider for sending a reminder out). He too was full of municipal spending/debt alarmism based on little more than pronouncements of big, scary numbers. “He [Rossi] is prepared to sell off assets such as Toronto Hydro,” Vanessa Lu wrote, “to put the city on a better financial footing by cutting the city’s debt, now hovering near $2.5 billion.”

George Smitherman wasn’t above such cheap politicking, talking about how the city was nickel and diming residents to death and ‘restoring Toronto’s financial credibility’. Not for nothing, Mayor Ford recently claimed (albeit in typical Fordian hyperbole) that 80% of voters in the 2010 election backed his mandate. Meaning, I guess, everyone who didn’t vote for Joe Pantalone.

And all of it was nonsense, baseless assertions that opened the door for the Ford administration to run amok and slash and burn which was their intention all along, notwithstanding a rock solid pledge that there’d be “No Cuts To Services, Guaranteed”. texaschainsawmassacreAn easy line to follow that fit perfectly on a t-shirt and bumper sticker. It doesn’t have to be true if it’s snappy.

This isn’t to say that all’s pollyannishly well and good. Toronto does face some financial hurdles. Reeling in overspending just doesn’t happen to be one of them. As Matt (and most other reasonable political minds around these parts) has pointed out over and over again, we can’t fix major problems like congestion and crumbling infrastructure by slicing away at our annual operating budgets or attacking unions or contracting out services or selling off assets or a combination of all those things. Those numbers simply don’t add up.

Reducing revenues won’t help out either. This Team Ford’s done by not only getting rid of the Vehicle Registration Tax but by also ensuring we keep our residential property taxes insufficiently low. A clear-eyed examination of the facts will reveal the mayor’s claim of over-zealous tax-and-spending of the previous administration to be outright misinformation based on de-contextualized charts and misleading graphs.

We haven’t been having a truthful conversation about this city’s finances for over three years now. All to our detriment. As we head into more uncertain territory over the next few months – Tnot just in terms of the outcome of Mayor Ford’s legal ups-and-downs but the Metrolinx forthcoming report on future transit funding – we really need to start dealing honestly and in an informed way with our current circumstances.

Hopefully Matt Elliott has finally put a stake through the heart of the Legend of Toronto’s Profligacy. It was never a thing. We need to get past it now and start working on the real problems we’re facing.

frankly submitted by Cityslikr


Ford Nation Decimation

October 7, 2011

A fitting end to an uninspiring provincial election campaign. The best one could say is, at least the worst possible outcome did not come to pass. Or as the Toronto Sun put it: Welcome to Hell. OK. Maybe that’s the best thing to emerge from last night. The mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are totally in a tizzy.

Actually, that’s completely untrue for two reasons. 1) I assume the mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are always totally in a tizzy for some reason or another. 2) The best thing to emerge from yesterday’s provincial election is the absolute repudiation of any notion of a Ford Nation. As Councillor Adam Vaughan predicted a few weeks back, “Ford Nation is a notion. It’s just a notion. It’s not a factor, it’s not going to be a factor. It does not translate to the province, it won’t translate beyond the last election. Some people voted for Rob Ford, based on some promises of tax cuts with no service cuts. They found out that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to build subways, that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to get rid of the gravy down here, and he’s found no gravy.” Or as Sol Chrom more succinctly put it last night: “Can we officially retire the phrase Ford Nation now? There’s no such fucking thing.”

The complete shut out of the provincial PCs in the 416 area code would point in that direction no matter how much the mayor tries to distance himself from the result. What’s that he said on Metro Morning today? (Yes, Mayor Ford actually stepped into enemy territory at the CBC. All by himself.) “My name wasn’t on the ballot.” He didn’t endorse anyone.

Yeah, but how about this from March, Mr. Mayor? “If he [Premier McGuinty] says no [to the mayor’s request for additional money], obviously there’s a provincial election coming up on October 6 and I want to work with him, not against him, but obviously if he’s not helping out the city I’ll have no choice to work against him.. I’ll have no other choice but to call Ford Nation, and make sure they’re not reelected in the next election. But I do not want to do that.”

So maybe it was a case of the mayor not wanting to unleash Ford Nation as opposed to being unable to.

Either way, Mayor Ford is today facing a somewhat different scenario at the provincial level than he was yesterday. The Liberals are still in power and no longer entirely in election mode although with a minority government, you never can tell. Toronto and much of the GTA, if no less Blue, the Red and Orange are shimmering a little brighter. His own home turf of Etobicoke remained a Liberal stronghold as did neighbouring Mississauga. And, horrors of horrors, right on the doorstep to the north, an NDPer was elected in Bramalea-Gore-Malton!

The political ground beneath his feet may not have shifted drastically but it sure got a whole lot rockier. Will it force him to start playing nice, or as nice as he is capable of, with those he so despises politically? The left wing kooks. The bike riding pinkos.

The answer to that may lie in how the premier chooses to play his cards. Having survived, albeit not unscathed, what was supposed to be another Blue wave here in Ontario will he stop pandering to a more vulnerable mayor here in Fortress Liberal/NDP Toronto? Incoming newcomer, Jonah Schien was a big proponent of Transit City. Will he and the other downtown NDP MPPs use their minority government leverage to put the plan back on the table? I’d be happy just to see the mayor forced to bring it to council for debate. That seems like a very minor demand to make. More importantly, perhaps the timeline for the province resuming their obligation to pay for half the operating costs of the TTC can be pushed up. That’s something the mayor can get on board with.

At council, it’ll be interesting to see if the game’s changed a little bit too. Two fairly solid supporters of Mayor Ford may now be able to stop helplessly toeing the line now that the election’s over and their respective relatives were easily re-elected on the Liberal ticket. Executive Committee member Michelle Berardinetti’s husband, Lorenzo, retained his seat in Scarborough as did Josh Colle’s dad, Mike, in Eglinton Lawrence in what was supposed to be a hotly contested race against former mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi. It wasn’t. So are these two councillors now more free to display an independence of thinking from the mayor?

And what about Ana Bailão? Her ward has been consumed both federally and provincially by the NDP. Looking down the road to her own re-election fortunes, will that change in colour force her to distance herself a little more often from the mayor?

For all the lifelessness of the provincial campaign, a lifelessness that helped contribute to the worst voter turnout in history in Ontario, it has certainly detonated some reverberations here in Toronto. Very, very noticeable cracks in Mayor Ford’s once seemingly bulletproof veneer have been fully exposed. Having endeavoured to make no friends with anyone not possessing similar political stripes, he’s now at the mercy of those he bullied, berated and otherwise alienated while in his briefest of ascendancies. He left himself no wiggle room.

It’s going to be fun to watch him squirm.

not unhappily submitted by Cityslikr


Our Provincial Endorsement

October 5, 2011

With the importance provincial governments play in municipal life, I’m somewhat bewildered by my lack of engagement with the 2011 election. I should be on top of this, combing through party platforms, tracking down candidate debates or otherwise just staying on top of things. But no. I dithered. I procrastinated. I couldn’t beat back this feeling of caring less.

In trying to avoid the burden of responsibility, I lay the blame squarely on the respective campaigns’ shoulders. It all seemed to be about what we don’t need. We don’t need another 4 years of Dalton McGuinty. We don’t need another neo-conservative at the levers of power, desperately trying to steer the ship of state away from the future. No time for change. Exactly the time for change.

Well, if that’s the case, do I really need to be paying attention?

Snap out of it. Of course you do. Must muster interest. Do your duty as a citizen. Engage! Engage!

So I sat through Rogers’ Trinity-Spadina candidates’ debate minus the incumbent MPP. I went through campaign literature. I scoured party websites. And here’s what I came up with.

Surprise! I won’t be voting Conservative. The last thing we need is another anti-urban leader ignoring the interests of municipalities. Ignoring would be generous to Tim Hudak. It’s more like looking at cities as dumping grounds for the disastrous results of their backward policies. Remember Mike Harris?

As for the government of Dalton McGuinty? Ambivalence is mostly what wells up within me. For every strong initiative it’s made in areas like education or the environment, there’s been two steps back in the face of strong, largely misguided opposition. You don’t like wind turbines in toss-up ridings? They’re gone. Catholic school boards got problems with progressive approaches to sex education in the classrooms? Ignore it and carry on with your discriminatory, pre-Second Vatican Council ways.

Oh yeah. And let’s not forget the trampling of our civil rights, police state approving fiasco that was the G20.

The Liberal Government’s dealing with cities has been wishy-washy. Yes, it’s redone a lot of the damage inflicted by the Harris gang. Uploading many of the services dropped into our laps in the late-90s. They passed the City of Toronto Act which gave more powers and flexibility to the city to deal with its particular issues. There’s been the more than half-hearted Big Move and nod to the importance of public transit in the GTA. We got some of the gas tax. Promises have been made since 2003 of restarting provincial contribution to the annual operating budget of the TTC. Transit City was a signature piece of the transit puzzle here in Toronto. Until it wasn’t.

One might hope that, if given a 3rd majority, McGuinty would become more resolute and less afraid of his own shadow. He has stood firm in the formidable face of opposition to the HST. If Ford Nation fails to dislodge him, the premier might start standing up to the more ridiculous whims of our mayor. Moreover, Premier McGuinty might gracefully approach retirement and the Liberal party could entertain the notion of reclaiming its more liberal leanings.

But what about the Liberal candidate in our riding? One Sarah Thomson. We got a healthy dose of her when she ran for mayor of the city last year before she ran out of gas late in the proceedings. Underwhelming initially, she never really caught fire but she did evolve over the course of the race, the first of the candidates to begin backing away from the city’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket narrative and did seem to be listening to the actual problems we were facing. She adapted an extensive bike lane plan and was the first one to float the idea of road tolls, getting laughed out of the place by her opponents.

Yet, she still has a tendency to talk in sound bites. There’s the air of the high school valedictorian about her. I get the feeling she’s running here because there was no riding closer to home. She may be an ideal McGuinty Liberal which I hold against her. On the other hand, she’s not Rocco Rossi.

Normally, I don’t have to go through such a process of elimination about where I’ll be placing my X on the ballot. Trinity-Spadina is an NDP stronghold. I tend to lean that way most of the time. It should be a no-brainer.

However, maybe it’s the fallout of the lacklustre campaign but I’m just not feeling Andrea Horwath’s vibe. Rather than pick up where the federal NDP left off and run unabashedly with a left of centre platform, I’m feeling nickel and dimed by all the talk of capping gas prices, removing the HST from home heating fuels. On the other hand, they have promised to restart contributing to the TTC operating budget and other transit initiatives. But that feels almost ad hoc, not part of a bigger plan for cities.

Where’s the tapping into the Occupy Wall Street movement? It’s a shitstorm out there, people! Governments should not be retreating in the face scary economic news. We need to be talking Keynesian not deficit reduction. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.

And then there’s our incumbent, Rosario Marchese. He may be a very nice man and a crackerjack constituent MPP. But how would I know? I never hear much from or about him until election time. Maybe it’s living in the shadow of MP Olivia Chow who keeps me apprised of everything she’s doing.  (What’s that you say, Olivia? A private member’s bill calling for a national transit strategy?) Marchese pales in comparion. But when he missed most of the Rogers’ candidates’ debate, it just struck me that he’s merely doing time.

Leaving me with the Green Party. Now, truth be told, I’ve never really known what to make of the Green Party. I get the environmental thrust but there’s also been the fiscal conservatism they’ve often touted. Some of the pledges in their platform come with the ‘when the budget’s balanced’ caveat. I’m sorry but with all the grim predictions making the rounds out there about an almost certain double-dip recession, budget balancing should be the last thing we’re talking about now.

That said, the Green Party candidate in Trinity-Spadina, Tim Grant, has caught my fancy. A former teacher who has been involved in the environmental movement since the days when most of us were asking, what’s that? He was a member of the Harbord Village Residents Association. His platform stresses biking and walking as much as public transit. Mr. Grant advocates a Junk Food Tax and a carbon tax. During both the Rogers’ candidates debate and on The Agenda’s Confronting Poverty, he came across as not only knowledgeable but collegial with his opponents.

On top of all that, he’s pictured riding a bicycle on his campaign signs!

I realize that in voting for Tim Grant, I’m doing little more than lodging a protest. There’s no hope in hell he’ll be elected. But I’m alright with that. Let it be known that I’m protesting the Liberal government and it’s too tentative embrace of a green economy in general and a strong, unapologetic public transit strategy. I’m sending out a protest to the provincial NDP. Don’t take my vote for granted. Out with the deadwood and in with new blood.

For all those reasons, tomorrow I will be voting for Tim Grant in the riding of Trinity-Spadina and The Green Party of Ontario.

humbly submitted by Cityslikr


Harmonic Convergence

January 28, 2011

This irony cannot pass quietly without us taking an opportunity to kick it around for a moment. At least, I hope it’s ironic. I’ve never been able to get a good grasp on the word and whenever I attempt to use it, I think I might be coming across a little Alanis Morisette-y. (Not to mention repetitive. Almost a year to the day. We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are nothing if not annually consistent.)

Last night our mayor participated in a fundraising dinner with 3 of his opponents from last year’s election to bring attention to the horrors wrought by campaign debt. The Harmony Dinner it was dubbed, and for anywhere from $250-$2500 a pop, you could pitch in and help put George Smitherman, Sarah Thompson, Rocco Rossi and the mayor back into the black. Or at least, less out of the red. Joe Pantalone, bless his red, white and green heart, inharmoniously held his own fundraiser earlier in hopes of burying a $30,000 debt because he still cannot bring himself to be in the same room as former premier Mike Harris who served as the Harmony Dinner’s co-host and who, the ex-councillor feels, inflicted untold damage on the is city. Talk about carrying a grudge. Although, remember when we almost had that subway running along Eglinton?

For his part, George Smitherman doesn’t owe any money but apparently participated in the event to help Sarah Thompson who wound up $80,000 in the hole before she ended her campaign and threw her weight behind Smitherman, helping the longtime frontrunner finish in an unspectacular second place. Personally, I would’ve let her dangle. Rocco Rossi, first in and first out of the “big” names in last year’s race, came to the dinner hoping to erase the last half of the $60,000 he was on the hook for.

The mayor… the mayor… and here’s where the irony kicks in. (We think.) Our mayor, the boastful tightwad, the budget buster, the Gravy Train stopping, little guy looking out for-ing, riding the rail of populist outrage at City Hall profligacy, yes that mayor, spent $1.7 million to get himself elected while raising almost, and I’d stretch it out a little with the playful TV catchphrase `wait for it, wait for it’ but everybody already knows where I’m going with this, almost one million dollars. 900 K to be exact which left him the biggest panhandler at last night’s event.

Mayor Rob Ford has $800,000 in campaign debt. How is that not ironic? And if it is (and I really do think it is), add another irony layer to it because, like most political donations, people giving money get partial tax rebates. So this mayor, preparing to gut the city back to its skeletal remains, first wants City Hall to help pay off the debt he accumulated campaigning for the job that would put him in the position to do the gutting.

The fuck is that?!

And why hasn’t there been a much larger public excoriation of him?

I have nothing against public financing of election campaigns. In fact, I’d be all for full public funding if there was some way to portion out money equitably and sensibly. But something about Mayor Ford wanting a piece of it just doesn’t sit well with me. And the fact that he dug a significantly bigger hole, we’re not just talking degrees but by orders of magnitude, makes me believe that we’ve elected a mayor who thinks austerity is for other people.

So those 10 years of office budgets the mayor never used while he was a councillor and saved the city, let’s call it half a million dollars? The mayor now wants some of that back. To pay his own personal campaign debt. Let’s remember that, shall we, when we’re standing out in the cold, waiting for a bus that no longer runs on Sundays.

ironically (I think) submitted by Cityslikr


Vision Quest V

October 15, 2010

So far on our Vision Quest we’re batting .500, with a couple candidates we profiled dropping out of the mayoral race after our write-up on them. Last week was Rocco Rossi. With the chatter swirling around election circles in the last few hours, let’s see if the trend continues.

Up today: Joe Pantalone!

Frankly, even factoring in the Rob Ford phenomenon, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke find the Deputy Mayor’s campaign to have been both the most confounding and aggravating. Confounding, because as the only highly recognizable progressive voice in the race, he should be enjoying a wide swath of support from what we thought was a deep well of left of centre leaning in this city. Aggravating, because his campaign took so long to start pushing back against the prevailing nonsense of a city on the road to ruin that had taken hold of the campaign imagination.

Some of this, obviously, was beyond Mr. Pantalone’s control. With anti-incumbency in the air even before the race started, he represented the face of an administration the howlers howled about. Worse still, it felt like he wasn’t the best face put forward. A 2nd, 3rd or even 4th choice meekly offered up after the Adam Giambrone flame-out and a couple other ‘names’ declined to toss their hats into the ring. If this was all the last 7 years was going to give us, well, it’s little wonder those on the left developed a bit of a wandering eye. Joe Pantalone felt unsatisfactorily compensatory. A definite sense lingered that if David Miller had one more election in him to defend his legacy, we would’ve rallied mightily to the cause. But since Mayor Miller wasn’t up for the fight, his supporters felt a little gun shy too.

More disheartening still, Mr. Pantalone is not the strongest of campaigners. There’s an uneasiness you detect when he’s doing the dirty work of politicking in big crowds or even up on stage during debates. Pantalone has shown flashes of spirit and intellectual acumen at points in debates but mostly it’s been awkward mouthing and re-mouthing of talking points and moldy gardening analogies that simply haven’t ignited the fire under an unsettled electorate.

The ironic and sad fact of the matter is that the exact same could be said about Councillor Rob Ford. He’s sweatily awkward out there glad-handing in crowds. His participation in debates consists of talking points and talking points only. Yet, he’s managed to flame the zeitgeist of angry sentiment into a poll position in the race until recently. Perhaps it all comes down to what Councillor Adam Vaughan said in pulling the plug on his support of Mr. Pantalone earlier today, “…you have to fight the election you’re dealt, not the one you want.” Arguably, Joe Pantalone got a mitt full of dud cards.

Vaughan’s move to help shore up support for George Smitherman in the race against Ford is the latest defection of left-leaning names that leaves the Deputy Mayor dangling, essentially. There are calls for him to pull out of the race to help ensure a Smitherman victory. (Or more pointedly, ensure a Ford loss.) So inconsequential has Pantalone become in the race that when he released his economic plan earlier this week, it received scant notice. Who cares? It’s not like he’s going to be mayor anyway.

And yet, here we are, demanding fidelity to a two man race between candidates whose plans and platforms have been examined, re-examined, and examined again, only to be found severely wanting in almost every case. Two candidates who have pushed the premise of a city on the brink of ruin while the facts suggest otherwise. Two candidates pledging to bring in tough, neo-conservative policies that are suspect and very likely unnecessary if not harmful to the well being of this city.

Two candidates who, theoretically, should be splitting the right wing vote and allowing a progressive like Joe Pantalone to sail on through up the middle. Somehow that just isn’t happening. The progressive base just has not bought into Councillor Pantalone as its standard bearer. There is, it seems, what they are calling down south in the U.S. of A., an  “Enthusiasm Gap”.

Yes, Joe Pantalone and his team must accept some blame for that. Things just did not click when they needed clicking. But the wind was never, ever, at Pantalone’s back. Enough voters simply did not want to hear what Joe had to say, no matter how much truth there was to it (and there was much more truth emanating from the Pantalone campaign then there was from any of the other front runners), no matter how many outside, unbiased voices assured us that Toronto was faring alright, given what was going on in the wider world around us.

That was a tough, pretty well impossible, sell to the voters of Toronto in 2010. The salesmen of defeat and retreat have been louder, more forceful and ultimately, it seems, more persuasive. If there was a time when more reasonable voices should’ve been heard above the din, clearly this wasn’t it. This wasn’t Joe Pantalone’s time. A sad end to a 30 year municipal career which deserved better.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr