Vision Quest VI

October 21, 2010

It’s Thursday. So you know what that means. Time for another Vision Quest. Toda—

But wait, you’re all saying, probably. Vision Quest usually happens on Friday. What’s with the Thursday Vision Quest? It’s throwing my equilibrium all off.

Well, the thing is, with just 4 days before election day, we needed to set aside 3 for our mayoral endorsements. So, we decided to push the last of our Vision Quests ahead by a day. Hopefully, this won’t be a constant source of disappointment to those who then keep thinking it’s Friday, only to have the fact that it’s actually just Thursday constantly thrown in their faces.

And to be clear: this in no way should be viewed as an official endorsement. This is not an endorsement. This is not an endorsement. Nope, not an endorsement.

Vision Quest VI (Thursday and final edition): George Smitherman!

Nicknamed Furious George, but for those of us with more leftish hues, what Smitherman should be better known as is, Infuriating George. Smart, thorough and tirelessly hardworking, he should’ve been everyone’s (who wasn’t backing Rob Ford) easy 2nd choice for mayor. Yet, it’s as if he made it deliberately impossible for us to take to him, seemingly intent to alienate and provoke us, almost as if it were part of a… diabolical plan.

The rube in me, who treats everything on the level, no subtext, no ulterior motives, saw the unfolding Smitherman campaign as a bumbling, stumbling mess. Determined almost, to repeat the exact same mistakes as his former boss, Barbara Hall, in the 2003 election, going from frontrunner to a distant 3rd place. He practically disappeared there during the spring and summer months, threatening to become another big name bust.

But then it clicked into place as soon as it was announced that, in fact, Rob Ford had become the candidate to beat. In mid-September, his victory was pronounced as pretty well inevitable, his almost 25 point lead was viewed as insurmountable. A collective OMG!!! arose from the general populace. What are we going to do?! This can’t happen. We need to elect Anybody But Ford!!

Cue the sounds of horses approaching from the distance, the arrival of the cavalry. Fear not, good people of Toronto, your white knight riding to the rescue. George Smitherman is here to drive the evil Rob Ford gang back to the wilds of Etobicoke. Our hero!

Pure brilliance, if a little disturbingly calculating. A truly post-modern campaign that smartly up-ended the big name, early front runner dilemma. Tactics trumping substantive thinking and the need for any sort of comprehensive complete policy platform. In 2010, that may be all that’s necessary to become mayor.

Had Smitherman Our Saviour then arrived and stood up vigorously to the radical, right wing retardedness of Rob Ford, it may’ve been a done deal. Instead, George lurched right, aping much of the Ford anti-City Hall populism and firmly embracing the modus operandi of another former boss of his, Dalton McGuinty, who has built his entire political career on the notion of being only slight less bad than the Mike Harris era Conservative government. Vote for me because I’m not as bad as that guy.

George Smitherman. Just another unprincipled, scheming politician with a hollow core. But hey. At least he’s not as bad as that other guy.

And as the campaign winds down, he then has the balls to try and castigate those who haven’t fallen into line behind him, portraying them as the villains if he comes up short and Rob Ford wins this thing. Holding a gun to the city’s head, his endgame now consists of, vote for me or this guy gets it.

Yeah, that’s the guy I want as my next mayor.

So repellant has Smitherman’s tactics become that I refuse to cut him any slack or give him the benefit of doubt on anything. We were rightly reprimanded by a commenter on our post a couple days ago who pointed out that we misrepresented Smitherman’s rejection of safe injection sites. His position on the issue is much more “nuanced”. Fair enough. But at this point, we cannot grant him anything resembling nuance. We can only see the darkness.

To us George Smitherman is simply a political hit man, dispatched from Queen’s Park to quell a restive and vocally frustrated city that has become noisy in its displeasure with the contemptuous disregard and mismanagement at the hands of its provincial overlords. He doesn’t want to lead Toronto. He wants to keep it in its place. In that, he is no better than Rob Ford.

The company he keeps is Tory blue, through and through, including Harrisites, many of whom wouldn’t be considered friends of Toronto. Ralph Lean, best known in political circles as a David Miller band wagon jumper whose very public break with the mayor last fall helped grease the way to the mayor’s decision not to seek re-election and opened the floodgates of anti-City Hall sentiment that Smitherman slid in on, is a key part of his fund raising arm. And the fact that Barbara Hall has babysat George’s son does little to alleviate our growing mistrust of Smitherman’s intentions.

He wants us to merely settle on him as our next mayor. It could be worse, he tells us. Rob Ford. Yes, he’s right. It could be worse. On the other hand, it might not be. There’s much of the devil you know at work right now. And if George Smitherman can’t win this thing based on his own merits, well, maybe he just doesn’t deserve it. For 10 months or so, all we’ve asked is that he prove to us that he does. Four days before election day, George Smitherman has come up woefully empty on that account.

angrily submitted by Cityslikr


Sneering Smitherman

February 22, 2010

OK. So when can we expect to start hearing some positive tones coming from the George Smitherman campaign? Almost from the get-go there’s been nothing but invective spewed forth, denigrating anything and everything to do with City Hall. Yeah, we got it, George. The place is a nest of under-worked and over-paid politicians and bureaucrats alike, and you’re the tough guy who’s going to knock heads and make things fly right. City Hall is Jack Palance. George Smitherman is Shane.

Not that he’s alone wallowing in the bile. Rocco Rossi is no slouch himself when it comes to matching Smitherman in heaping sneering superciliousness upon Toronto’s public servants. Together they are proving to be the Beavis and Butthead of the 2K10©®™ campaign trail, sitting around watching the proceedings and yelling: Fire! Fire!! Burn! Burn!!

As we have said in these pages relatively regularly, criticism’s the easy part. Solutions aren’t so simple. Unless of course you are George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi who have both displayed an easy affinity for right-wing, neoconservative/liberal platitudes and claptrap.

Rossi thinks that if we just sell everything, it’ll be clear sailing ahead. Along with squeezing out ‘efficiencies’, that’s the heart of his multi-year plan to restore fiscal health to the city. It’s like listening to a panicked investment advisor when he hits a rough patch. Sell! Sell! Sell!! And the next thing you know, you’re looking at a Great Depression.

Smitherman, having learned firsthand from his former boss at Queen’s Park, is pitching himself just slightly less fiscally conservative than his opponent. It’s not that he is against selling public assets per se (he couldn’t be, what with Ralph Lean as his chief fundraiser). He just thinks it should be done in a more orderly fashion than Rossi’s willy-nilly, fire sale approach. Aside from that, the two candidates are pretty well marching in campaign lockstep.

Smitherman’s response to the city’s proposed budget is all dismissive snarl, manly chest beating and empty campaign rhetoric. Cuts, slashes, freezes and a general shaking up of the sense of indolent entitlement George perceives City Hall to be full of. No more ‘hobby horses’ under the responsible leadership of a Mayor Smitherman. It’s all about long term thinking replacing stop-gap measures with a dollop of ‘innovative models’ and ‘new approaches’. It’s a campaign strategy of can’t and cant.

To Rossi and Smitherman, it’s as if the last 12, 13 years never happened. For both, Toronto’s fiscal problems are all its own doing. Never mind that structural deficits really started in earnest when the provincial government massively downloaded social services on municipalities in the late-90s without the corresponding money to run them. Never mind that the same government pulled out of the traditional 50-50 funding of operational costs for the TTC at the same time. Never mind that all those annual savings from amalgamation never materialized. I mean, come on. That’s so last century.

Of course this heavy tilt to the right is made possible in the absence of any credible progressive candidate in the race since Adam Giambrone’s flameout. Oh wait. Who’s that over there? Right, right. Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone and his 30 years of municipal experience. But come on. He’s not really plausible for mayor. I mean, look how short he is and he’s got that funny accent.

Pantlone is either proving to be an ineffective candidate or he’s just being bulldozed past in what, according to the cold, logical analysis of the National Post’s Terence Corcoran, is Toronto’s “… momentous shift to the right”. Either way, until someone is able to step up and be heard above the shrill din of hard conservative blather, Smitherman and Rossi (sounds like the name of an appertif) are going to continue battling it out to prove who can be the meanest, nastiest, slashiest-and-burniest neo-con on the block. Or until Rob Ford enters the race and assumes control of the hardcore spectrum of the right wing, making the other two seem almost reasonable by comparison.

This anti stance by the likes of Smitherman and Rossi with some similar haymakers thrown by Giorgio Mammoliti may sound good to receptive ears but it really amounts to little more than a cancer on the body politic of Toronto. It’s self-immolation and makes it impossible to see how any candidate who gets elected on such a platform could govern properly. Who wants to work with or for someone espousing dismissive, malicious attitudes towards you and what you do? While George Smitherman may think such hard-nosed tough talk exemplifies leadership, it’s nothing but cold calculation and mean-spirited posturing which will repel more voters than it attracts.

City building it’s not and shouldn’t that be the one thing we demand from our mayor?

testily submitted by Cityslikr