Summertime By-Election Blues

August 1, 2013

By-election day today in Ontario and, let me tell you, this is one election I am content to be able to sit out. hohum1While I can’t speak to the three races outside of Toronto, what we’ve witnessed with the two campaigns in town – Scarborough-Guildwood and Etobicoke-Lakeshore – has been dismal. Dismal, dreary, discouraging. If the intent of the three major parties was to disengage the voting public beyond what any summer by-election would do naturally, well, bravo. Slow clap and let me just rinse to get the bitter taste from my mouth.

If it wasn’t apparent in the last provincial general election, this past five weeks or so has shown beyond a doubt that the Liberal government is suffering through ruling rot. Three terms in now and it’s all about desperately holding on to power by any means necessary. ribbitHopes that a leadership change might’ve sparked some sort of internal renewal have pretty much been dashed by their performance at least here in the two Toronto riding by-elections.

Prime time for the opposition parties to step up and make their case.

But like in 2011, both the Tories and the NDP have run one note campaigns: The Liberals are bad. Time for a change. OK. I agree. What kind of change are you going to bring to Queen’s Park? The Liberals are bad. Time for a change. OK. We’ve established that. So what will you do differently if elected? The Liberals are bad. Time for a change. A change to what? The Liberals are bad. Time for a change.

Can you give me any sort of specific change you propose?

pander

SUBWAYS!!

But the Liberals are for subways too.

The Liberals are bad. Time for a change.

Throughout the last 3 rancorous, chaotic years at City Hall, there’s been a quiet conversation happening about perhaps the need for the discipline of party politics at the municipal level. partydisciplineToo many wildcards, acting in their own parochial best interests, making decisions in a willy-nilly fashion. Time to bring in the whip. Time to restore order.

Nothing about party politics at the provincial level currently would make me think this is a good idea. These by-election campaigns have revealed the system to be one of rigid thinking and unquestioning loyalty to a banner not the people. It warps otherwise seemingly well-intentioned candidates into talking point spewing automatons. How else to explain the former chair of the TTC and champion of the LRT-driven Transit City now referring to the technology as 2nd-class? His Liberal opponent, past CEO of the CivicAction Alliance, a group well-regarded as sensible contributors to the region’s transit debate, has thrown all that from the bus to embrace a sudden Scarborough subway zeal. brandloyaltyThe city’s Deputy Mayor who has spent some 30 years in municipal politics not building subways wants voters in his riding now to think he’ll deliver one to them as their MPP.

If as a voter in today’s two Toronto by-elections you can bring yourself to cast a ballot for any of the three major parties, you’re just pledging blind, partisan allegiance to empty party politics. You are part of the problem not the solution.

From my perspective, I’d like to see Doug Holyday win in Etobicoke-Lakeshore for no other reason than to have him take his cranky old man act the fuck out of City Hall and up to Queen’s Park. A side benefit might be that Peter Milczyn and the other nominal Liberals on council will realize that Mayor Ford is not their friend and that their relationship with him goes entirely in one-direction. protestvoteMaybe they’ll stop rolling over, hoping for a friendly rub of their bellies.

In Scarborough-Guildwood, it strikes me as the perfect time to go Green. The party’s candidate, Nick Leeson, has sounded the most reasonable, positive and not beholden the interests of Big Subway. I voted Green for the first time last provincial election and the world did not end. My candidate lost but, at the very least, I let it be known to the Liberals, PCs and NDP that none should take my vote for granted and that what they were delivering up as reasons to vote for them were no longer palatable options.

Today’s vote shouldn’t be seen as just a referendum on the sitting government. It needs to be an indictment of the entire system at Queen’s Park and the putrefying, self-serving culture it’s become.

protestly 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