The Long And Winding Campaign Trail

April 6, 2010

Settling uneasily into a seder dinner last week after embarrassingly picking the wrong seat and then wondering aloud who this Elijah fella was and marveling at his nerve at being late to this rather important festivity, the conversation moved to more comfortable terrain for me. Or, more likely, because of me. Alerted to my interest in municipal politics, the question was posed why election campaigns were so interminably long at the local level. It was a good question I had no answer to.

It is a slog by any measure. The better part of 10 months, second only to the presidential campaign in the U.S. at some 293 days this year as opposed to the relative sprint of a 36+ day schedule during a federal or provincial election. There is an enthusiastic start just after the new year when candidates step forward and officially register to run for office. And then… a long, slow, at times almost imperceptible march toward the fourth Monday in October. What, that’s still going on? many ask as we head back to work after Labour Day. I thought for sure I’d missed it.

Yet I’ve discovered no answer as to why the campaigns are as long as they are. It could have something to do with the fact that political parties are not allowed to overtly operate at the municipal level. So instead of having 4 or 5 candidates to choose from, many positions will be contested by countless numbers of office seekers. As of this writing, the city of Toronto has 25 candidates running for the mayor’s job. In theory, I guess the elongated campaign gives the lesser known contenders an opportunity to raise their profiles through a grassroots, door-to-door campaign.

But as was made clear with the first mayoral “debate” last Monday where only the 6 highest profile candidates (purely through media anointing) were invited to participate, this one positive aspect of a long campaign has already been short-circuited. Just into April, we already have a two tier system firmly established, with those deemed to have a snowball’s chance in winning granted a spot front and centre while everyone else is designated as little more than “fringe” candidates. So the long and winding campaign is little more than a futile dance for those who aren’t loaded onto the gravy train early on.

So why don’t we use the huge amount of time given more productively? From January through to September let’s organize a round robin series of community meetings and debates between all the candidates, keeping the numbers at each event to a manageable number but have enough of them city wide in order to give everyone an equal shot at being seen by the most amount of people. A candidates’ $200 fee to register their run for mayor would guarantee them a minimum of 4 debates in the first 8 months of the campaign with every level of opponent from the hopeless causes to the high flying frontrunners. No favourtism should be shown. Just a wide open free-for-all.

Otherwise, the duration merely helps the incumbents and other well-funded, well-connected candidates. They can spend their oodles of cash at strategically designated times throughout the campaign to maintain their profiles in a highly public manner. Or like Mssrs. Mammoliti, Pantalone and Ford, sitting councillors all, they can use the early part of the race to raise their name recognition values at the citywide platform of mayor before scurrying back to run for re-election in their wards before the September entry deadline.

As it stands now, democracy is not well served by a lengthy campaign. Voter interest waxes and wanes before fatigue sets in and familiar names ultimately win out through sheer inattention due to attrition. The time should either be used wisely to promote a wider, fuller contribution to the process or we should simply shorten the period between the official starting date and voting day in order to acutely focus the public on the business of selecting our elected officials.

suggestively submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Military On Ice

January 31, 2010

So there I was, minding my own business, having popped in from the cold to play some pool (badly), down some drinks (goodly), clog the arteries with some deep fried goodness (high blood pressuredly). I was quietly rocking out to an anti-John Hughes 80s soundtrack punctuated by the occasional Beatles song which may be the perfect way to listen to The Beatles. One song at a time surrounded by a bunch of music that you actually enjoy. Deep in the background on a massive TV the CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada droned on, mutedly.

Then it happened. Pre-Leafs-Canucks game, our waiter turns up the volume on the television. On it, military personnel start appearing and a Hummer pulls up outside an arena in Stratford, Ontario (host to this year’s HDC). Out steps Ron McLean, a garishly dressed Don Cherry (natch) and a similarly attired kid (ghastly). They make their way into the rink and onto the red carpet where they blather on about the Canadianess of the game of hockey, Our Game®©™. Our servicemen (and women) fill up the cutaway shots.

Jump to the ACC in Toronto where the awesome display of martialistic jingoism continues. Members of the army, navy, air force (we have an air force, don’t we?) fill the screen. Some guy who looks like Tom Cochrane in fatigues but isn’t sings some lame Canada is Hockey, Hockey is Canada, And We Love Our Fightin’ Force Who Is Keeping Us Strong And Free song. By which time, I am completely flummoxed. Who handed over pageantry planning to the dunderheaded Don Cherry?!  (Tip of the hat goes to Christine B. for that notion.)

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Spectacularly. Down from the rafters, a figure in full battle regalia awkwardly rappels toward centre ice. Safely landing, it is revealed to be former Leaf great, 85 year-old Johnny Bower. YEAAAAAHHHHHH! YEAAAAHHHHHH FUCKING YEAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! Johnny Bower in army gear! YEAAAAHHHHHH!!! Wearing a fucking helmet! YEAAAHHHHHHH!!!! What’s next? The dug up remains of Tim Horton and Conn Smythe shot out of a canon? YEAAAHHHHH!!!!!

What the fuck happened to us? When did we officially become American? Isn’t hockey smash your face, beat your chest macho enough without introducing a dick swinging, I love a man in uniform element to it?

A few years back, I was wandering around Melbourne, Australia, taking in the sights. Now, Australia’s a county that shares much in common with Canada although, unfortunately, not the climate. But on the flipside, we don’t have snakes here that can kill you if you even so much as look into their dark, soulless eyes. Both countries were “founded” by European stock who barbarously de-populated their respective lands of its aboriginal inhabitants. We came of age on the international scene by offering our young men up as fodder in the completely senseless slaughter of World War I. Something in which we take a huge amount of historical pride.

In Melbourne, that pride is on display in the form of numerous cenotaphs and statues throughout the city. It struck me when I was there, how quiet Canadians were in terms of trumpeting our military past. Sure, we’ve got our Vimy monument and tomb of the unknown soldier but we always seemed humble in our acknowledgement.

That seems to have all changed now. Fight fear. Fight chaos. Fight distress. Fight. Fight! FIGHT! FIGHT!! FIGHT!!! YEAAAHHHHHHH!!!! Jack Bauer?! Fuck that. We got Johnny Bower! In fatigues! Dangling from a rope, high above centre ice!

And spare me, the whole support our troops trope. If that’s all you got, then you’ve ceded rational discourse to the lame ass, simple-minded sloganeering of George W. Bush, Don Cherry and Rick Hillier. War should only be used as a last, desperate measure and not wielded as some cheap, easy to score PR stunt. I watch hockey to watch the Leafs lose not to bear witness to our fidelity to the fighting men and women in uniform. That’s what the History Channel’s for.

testily submitted by Cityslikr