Conservative Conundrum

September 14, 2012

As the football shit show builds and swirls around Mayor Rob Ford, much chatter continues about his re-election chances in 2014, if there are any re-election chances for him once the courts and city’s Integrity Commissioner are done with him. Who from the left will run against him? Adam? Shelley? Does the barrage of accusations and criticism hinder them or only serve to strengthen the mayor’s core support?

But I’m sitting here wondering, what are the Ford Follies doing to the right wing at council?

Surely, the mayor and his councillor-brother must be hurting the brand. Whatever accomplishments they may try to lay claim to are now getting lost in the disbelief shuffle. Repealed the VR–Sorry, I can’t hear you above the din of special assistant/assistant football coaches. Settled city workers’ contracts without hav—What’s that you’re saying? Apparently city owned cars were used to chauffeur around football players. Cut councillor office expenses. You’re kidding, right. Cut councillor office expenses? Ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha. Hahahahahahahah…!

Before becoming mayor, Rob Ford made few allies at City Hall. That was his schtick, the whole lone wolf outsider, giving the straight goods on council waste, nefariousness and gravy train riding. He manned the parapets of eagle-eyed fiscal conservatism.

As mayor, Ford was able to pull together a loose coalition largely through the bullying use of the power of his office. Sure, there are a handful of true hearted believers in the Fordian crusade to cut spending at the municipal level to the barest of the bare minimum and keep taxes unworkably low. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday. Budget Chief Mike Del Grande. Speaker Frances Nunziata. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

But what about the likes of councillors Mark Grimes and Norm Kelly or newcomers like councillors Vincent Crisanti and Gary Crawford? Bona fide, hard core supporters of the cause or just simply along for the ride? It could be argued that Councillor Crisanti owes his fledging career to the mayor’s efforts to unseat former Ward 1 councillor, Suzan Hall. If he keeps his dingy tied to the current ship of state, doesn’t he risk drowning if the whole contraption goes under?

Where does the latest mayoral imbroglio leave councillors Paul Ainslie and Peter Milczyn, both of whom are going about their business, trying to do interesting things within their sphere of influence at City Hall. They owe their positions to Mayor Ford’s appointment largesse. Just how far does their allegiance go because of that? Not to mention Councillor Milczyn was targeted for defeat in the last election by the Ford campaign. He must be itching for a little payback right around about now.

Council conservative stalwarts like Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson and David Shiner have already openly defied the mayor on certain issues (as has Councillor John Parker in a supporting role). Mayor Ford’s weakened position can only encourage further independence and, in the case of Councillor Stintz, a solidifying of leadership in her position as TTC chair. If he wasn’t a non-issue on the transit file before this summer’s series of flaps, he most definitely is now.

Then there’s the wildcard, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. A long time foe of Rob Ford right up until he suspended his campaign for mayor in the late summer of 2010, he effortlessly flip-flopped and became a BFF, soaking up the power that comes with sitting at the mayor’s right hand. Why would anyone be surprised if he just as easily reverts back to previous form now that Mayor Ford’s shining star has dimmed significantly? Where’s Councillor Mammoliti been for the last month or so?

In fact, outside of Councillor Ford, the Deputy Mayor and the Speaker, very few of the mayor’s inner circle have rushed to his defence. Fear based loyalty is not all that binding. A marriage of convenience dissolves when it’s no longer convenient. What allegiance to him remains in conservative circles at City Hall is little more than a delicate balance, keeping their distance while espousing similar fiscal policies. Kill the messenger if you must but don’t abandon the message.

If the mayor staggers through all this and is still up for a run at re-election, will other conservatives stand back and allow him to be their standard bearer? That would seem suicidal. Even if Mayor Ford could stage such an improbable comeback, it’s hard to fathom how he would have the coat tails to seriously re-configure council in his favour. So, you’d be facing another four years of council deadlock with little input from the mayor.

It strikes me that a golden opportunity is forming for a moderate conservative candidate to mount a successful campaign for mayor in 2014 even if the nebulous left puts up only one credible opponent. Think about it. Mayor Ford will always have his core support. Pick a number. 20, 25% of voters? Could it be much higher if he continues to alienate every newspaper in this city?

So a right of centre candidate steps up, picks off all the soft Ford support that has abandoned him and claims the middle. All those Torontonians who still believe in small government, low taxes, accountability. What’s that, half the 2010 Ford votes and a sizeable chunk of George Smiterman’s supporters? That would be some hefty number to contemplate.

There’s been much idle chatter since, well probably, October 26th, 2010 about possible winning match-ups against Mayor Ford down the road in 2014. Most of it has involved coming up with 1 candidate from the left side of the political spectrum in order to avoid vote splitting. But I think the real split, the actual divide that’s happening now not 2 years hence is on the right. It’s a split between the dwindling Ford camp and conservatives who still believe in the competency and conscientiousness of government. The bridge between them has been burned and there’s really no going back.

analytically submitted by Cityslikr


No Girls Allowed

May 24, 2012

Can I tell you something?

Sitting in the audience at last night’s decidedly un-sausagefest panel discussion, The Comments Section, brought to fruition by the relatively new to the scene Women in Toronto Politics group (#WiTOpoli), I found myself feeling very much the bystander… bysitter? My Blackberry deliberately stuffed into my back pocket, it wasn’t a discussion for me to participate in. I came to listen.

Not owing to any sense of condescending chivalry or politeness but, frankly, it mostly had to do with my surprise this conversation even needed to be aired. The talk wasn’t directly about the obstinately immoveable low numbers of women actively pursuing a career in politics although that problem certainly bubbled below the surface of much of what was being said. The evening’s main topic was the low percentage of women finding space to have their views on  municipal politics heard, clogged up as it is by those of us possessing penises. (No, that word didn’t come up. I just used it because I don’t get to very often especially in its plural form.)

Come on, I thought to myself. We’re talking about the wide open world of social media here, the Twitter and Facebook, the blog-o-sphere. Why, even I, an outsider to the world of local Toronto politics, just sat down and started to read, watch and write about it, and two and a half years later, here I am, having reached, well, not dizzying heights but I’ve made a name for myself. I mean, Councillor Josh Matlow knows who I am and, apparently, he doesn’t care for my work.

This is as democratic as it gets, ladies. Meritocracy rules. If you can’t make it here, you won’t make it anywhere.

Of course, in the microcosm that is Toronto politics, we now have a mayor, the scion of wealth and privilege casting himself as the underdog during his successful campaign run, the down-to-earth feller who just wanted to be mayor so he could look out for the little guy. (No, not that one. The actual little guy. I mean, I think that’s what he meant.)

If a rich and, arguably, the whitest of white guys can winningly embrace the mantel of the triumphant outsider, what room does that leave for those who are actually on the outside? Guy claiming to be powerless railing against a guy in power. Sort of a variation on cock blocking. Keep it down a bit, girls. Can’t you see we’re fighting amongst ourselves here?

The hyper-testosterone driven aggressiveness of the current administration probably also contributes greatly to the boys’ clubbiness of the political atmosphere. From the get-go, the language and attitude has been confrontational, regularly descending into little more than a pissing match between supporters and opponents. With a War always going on about something or other, it’s hard not to see a men’s game at play.

Now I’m not crazy for the… a-hem… a-hem… broad gender generalizations. I know as many outspoken and feisty women who like a good knock `em down and drag `em out debate as I do soft-spoken and reticent men. So I wouldn’t say that the tenor of the political discourse in Toronto has kept some women on the sidelines. But perhaps the tone has.

I’ve been referred to nastily in various ways over the course of my time at TOpoli. Never, however, has my gender been attacked. You fucking guy doesn’t quite have the same personal sting as you fucking bitch. Too many times have I seen gender become an issue in the heated debates that flame up on social media sites. Gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity.

All problems with which Mayor Ford has stumbled over during his 12 years in public office. So it’s not taking a big leap to suggest his attitude has fostered an antagonistic straight white male mindset into our politics. More malignantly, an aggrieved antagonistic straight white male mindset that lashes out at any demand to think more inclusively.

And his female troubles are especially pronounced. His Executive Committee is heavily male dominated. One of the two females on it, Councillor Jaye Robinson, has announced she’s stepping down at the end of the year and, if she’s not replaced by another women – it’s difficult to see who’d willing step into her spot at this point of time – there will be one woman on the committee.

Not only that, but in the last election the Ford campaign targeted a number of sitting councillors for defeat, three of whom were women. Councillors Maria Augimeri, Gloria Lindsay Luby and former councillor Suzan Hall who they did help unseat and replace with a Ford friendly face Vincent Crisanti. That would be Mister Vincent Crisanti.

I think it’s safe to say that Ford Nation is not terribly female friendly. While that hopefully will inspire some pushback activism, it also creates, I would imagine, something of a hostile work environment for those women willing to step into the fray. It’s one thing to dedicate time and effort into a cause with the expectations of a spirited and vigorous debate but another thing altogether to find ugliness lurking under every bridge you cross.

It would be foolish, however, for me to lay the blame solely at the feet of the Ford administration for the barriers women are feeling in getting heard around these parts. By not recognizing them myself, I help keep the obstacles in place. Even this post I write hesitatingly for fear of appropriating their terrain and horning in on the action Women in Toronto Politics are attempting to generate.

But I do believe there’s plenty of space at the table for new players, lots of ground still to be tilled. Regardless of who’s in the mayor’s office, Toronto is facing problems and opportunities that cannot be solved or taken advantage of using old methods of thinking or ways of seeing things. Putting new wine into new wineskins and all that.

So if you’re out there, reading this, wondering if it’s worth the effort. From my protected harbour of white maleness, let me assure you it is. And I offer you space here if you want to test the waters, see how it feels or just simply want to get something off your chest and have nowhere else to do so at the moment. It is a humble offer, no remuneration and not tons of eyeballs but it is a friendly place. It is a start in the right direction.

manly submitted by Cityslikr


Dreaming Of A True Ford Nation

March 26, 2012

Hey.

Did everybody see that? At the NDP federal leadership convention this weekend, councillors Karen Stintz and John Parker, locked arm in arm, cheering the radical left crowd on, belting out Le Internationale.

Yeah, me neither. But apparently that’s exactly what Councillor Doug Ford and his brother mayor witnessed. “You’re on our side or against us,” Mayor Ford said yesterday on his radio show. “You’re on the taxpayer’s side or against them. There’s no mushy middle. It’s left or right down there.”

In what must be the most ridiculous case of repositioning ever, Team Ford is desperately trying to cast the world of municipal politics here in Toronto as a simple binary system, a black-and-white world of simplistic right-versus-left, us-versus-them. You’re either with us or you’ve been brainwashed by the vile and manipulative NDP. The mushy middle has drunk the koolaid.

Councillor Karen Stintz, a dipper. That must be news to the previous incarnation of Councillor Stintz who stood in strong opposition to former mayor David Miller. She was a chartered member of the Responsible Government Group. The other Councillor Karen Stintz speaking out passionately if misguidedly against a motion to reclaim about $19 million in service and program cuts in the 2012 budget.

And former Progressive Conservative MPP and Mike Harris backbencher, Councillor John Parker. Another member of the anti-David Miller Responsible Government Group, now suddenly a left leaning councillor, his blue hues changed overnight to that bilious orange.

Let’s not forget fellow Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, a long time foe of the Ford family, clearly because of her political stripes. You see, way back in 1999, she had the temerity to oppose Doug Ford Sr. in a political nomination showdown for the… wait for it, wait for it… Progressive Conservative party. Clearly, a lost cause left wing wingnut. So much so that she was a member of Mayor Miller’s Executive Committee before resigning. “I never felt part of that small inner circle”

In the magical world that exists in the Ford family mind, bona fide conservatives become evil socialists the moment disagreement emerges. There is no middle ground, no third way. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, in her 2010 race to unseat David Miller Speaker, Sandra Bussin, endorsed by former provincial Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, is now a left winger. Councillor Ana Bailão ran in the 2003 municipal election against very left leaning Adam Giambrone and then won the ward in 2010 by beating Giambrone EA, Kevin Beaulieu. Councillor Josh Colle, offspring of Liberal MPP Mike Colle, and up until the recent rash of transit votes, sided with the mayor more than 40% of the time. Councillor Chin Lee, another member of the Responsible Government Group back in the day, backed Mayor Ford more than half the time.

Now, because of their disagreement with him over transit plans have all been hopelessly lost to the dark side, left wingers all.

There was a reason some of the more outspoken critics of the mayor and his brother began calling them ‘radical conservatives’. Actually, two. One, because the Fords are radical right wingers. Despite the election promise not to cut services and programs that’s exactly what they’ve done. They want to make government smaller under the banner of efficiencies. They are endeavouring the smash the unions. They want to privatize everything not nailed down.

That is, in fact, a radical right wing agenda.

The other reason to colour them with this label is to differentiate the Fords and their hardcore supporters on council from actual moderate conservatives. Despite what the brothers will try and tell you over the course of the next 2.5 years, city council is made up with a fair rump of moderate conservatives, those who are able to reach out and form a consensus with a majority of council members. That is what occurred on the transit vote. A consensus of 24 councillors from the moderate right to the left (29 when it came to assuming control of the TTC board) to take  the transit file from Mayor Ford when he failed to bring forth a workable plan to build a Sheppard subway that would almost get to Scarborough.

But the mayor and his brother see such cooperation as nothing short of betrayal and treachery. In their us-versus-everyone else who disagrees with us on any issue worldview, true conservatives march in lockstep. Since they are conservatives, you can’t vote against them and still be a conservative.

So now they’ve pledged to run a slate of candidates against any councillor that dares to defy them. This isn’t new. They did it on a limited scale in 2010. They nearly unseated Councillor Lindsay Luby as well as Councillor Maria Augimeri. Councillor Peter Milczyn similarly had to fight for his political life with a Ford backed candidate in the race. He, unlike councillors Lindsay Luby and Augimeri, has largely turtled and become a pliant supporter of the mayor except for some of his recent votes on transit.

In Ward 1, the Fords did manage to boot then councillor Suzan Hall, locking in undying fealty at city council from one Vincent Crisanti. Councillor Crisanti immediately assumed the position as a largely silent deadwood paper weight rubber stamp yes man for the incoming mayor. When he does rise to speak, he invokes the babbling oratory of councillors Frank Di Giorgio and Cesar Palacio. In the debate over transit and the Sheppard subway, Councillor Crisanti insisted busses ran faster than LRTs and endeavoured to ensure Etobicoke would not see improvement in transit in our lifetimes.

That, folks, is the slate of candidates the mayor wants to put together. Team Ford and Vincent Crisantis in 2014.

sirenly submitted by Cityslikr


Despite Its Best Intentions CP24 Delivers The Debate Goods

August 18, 2010

In spite of its continued attempts to broadcast yet another substance-free televised debate last night, CP24 might just have inadvertently delivered one of those turning point moments that can define a campaign. Let’s not overlook the fact that it happened in Ben Mulroney’s absence. While not actually hard enough proof of cause and effect, I do think it’s worth conducting the experiment again with the next debate for further evidence. Do Toronto a favour, Ben, and stay home with the kids!

Although to be fair, it was apparently his grade school idea of picking names from a hat that delivered the seminal moment for me. If you haven’t been following along throughout the summer, each candidate picks another candidate’s name from a hat and asks them a question. Yeah, yeah. It is usually as lame as it sounds but last night Rocco Rossi had the great fortune of picking Rob Ford’s name and, surprisingly, he offered up a softball question that Ford, if he possessed an iota of sense amidst all the rage and indignation, could’ve/should’ve taken yard.

Rossi asked Ford to comment on a recent Toronto Sun article that suggested Ford didn’t single-handedly shepherd the Woodbine Live deal through council as he’s been spouting as an example of how he can work well with his colleagues and get votes passed. According to the rabidly pro-Ford rag, fellow Etobicoke councillor, Suzan Hall also had a hand in getting council unanimously on side. Here, Ford was handed the opportunity to reach out, seem collegial and show the city that he can play with others.

Instead, Rob Ford replied: “She had nothing to do with it. I was the one doing all the leg work.”

Yep. For the second time in a week, Ford’s gone out of his way to diminish, dismiss and generally kick in the slats everyone he works with. First, another councillor from Etobicoke and fiscal conservative soulmate, Doug Holyday, was paraded out to dejectedly state that maybe, just maybe, Ford shouldn’t call city council ‘corrupt’, at least not without some proof. And now this big fuck you to Suzan Hall.

So to you fanboys out there, trumpeting the ascension of Rob Ford and crowing about all the ass he’s going to kick and unions he’s going to bash and cyclists he’s going to run over, if your man gets elected, he’s going to be a mayor of one. All red faced and blustery, he’ll spend his time in office, stomping his feet and bellowing how he can’t get anything done, blaming everyone else but himself when the fact is, while pathological assholes who can’t work with others may be an asset when running an inherited business, it simply doesn’t fly at a non-political party municipal government level.

Oh, yeah. And there was that whole keeping newcomers out of Toronto thing that sprung up last night as well.

Now, I’m not going to call the racist card on Ford with this. I won’t even label him xenophobic because none of his followers will understand what the word means. What I will say is that his remarks in response to questions about the Tamil “migrants” on the west coast reveal a level of ignorance about urban demographic flow that no non-illiterate adult should possess. Like it or not, the world is becoming more and more ‘citified’, to use some hillbilly talk that seems highly appropriate, and we can’t or shouldn’t want to call a timeout so that we can make sure the house is all pur-dy for our guests’ arrival.

Spin all you want, Fordites, but it can’t mask the fact that you’re backing a talking horse who spouts Tea Party sentiments and everyone who signs on to the movement are simply porch sitting, AM radio listening, backwards looking Know-Nothings. What’s next? Building a fence around the city?

Despite that, there’s no reason to think that Rob Ford won’t be our next mayor. None of the other front running candidates are rising to match his simple-minded clarion call.

George Smitherman seems to be sharping his elbows and is starting to smother the talk of eHealth scandal and other provincial government nefariousness under his watch with a blanket of facts, figures and examples of positive things he oversaw. Now if somebody would just tell him that he doesn’t always need to use up every second of his allotted time. The more he talks, the more it becomes apparent that he’s not saying anything.

Sarah Thomson is no longer the doe-eyed valedictorian. She now just seems torn between two warring impulses. The more socially progressive Sarah which is the result of having two artist parents and the fiscally conservative Sarah who built a million dollar business by the time she was 30. What emerges is an utterly meaningless ‘Toronto has a management problem’ message. So I guess we should just fire all the managers then?

While being far more eloquent and sounding much more reasonable than, say, Rob Ford, Rocco Rossi is similarly one-note. “Value for Money” may mean something to business school types but to me it just sounds like Rossi’s talking to, well, business school types. We would all like value for money, Mr. Rossi. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way especially in government which is not nor should it be a for-profit enterprise.

Leaving us with the most perplexing campaign among the front runners, Joe Pantalone. I do not get what he’s doing at all. With the left side of the spectrum wide open to him, he insists on snuggling up to the cushy but crowded centre along with Smitherman, Thomson and Rossi. I understand with no ideological threat from that angle, he feels free to ignore voters positioned there because where else do they have to go? Still, he’s defining himself as indistinguishable from the other three and getting lost in the shuffle. Their “freshness” makes him seem stale.

Pantalone should just step back and vigorously defend the administration he’s been an integral part of. Despite what his opponents scream and yell, I don’t think there’s nearly the rampant anti-incumbency among voters that the other candidates are counting on. That’s something they have to believe is out there (and stir up) because they’re not offering anything else. Joe just needs to stop giving over to the reality his rivals are trying to create and show us that, despite being in the throes of a nasty economic downturn and the pains that we’re undergoing as we move into a post-manufacturing centre, Toronto remains a vibrant and healthy place to live.

That’s why people will risk their lives to endure an arduous ocean passage to make their way here. For a better life. We have it despite what all the nay-saying contenders for the mayor’s office are trying to tell us.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr