The Magic Middle

March 15, 2011

Talk is brewing of some sort of middle ground bubbling up from the rancorously partisan divisions at City Hall. Over at Spacing yesterday, John Lorinc wrote of the Gang of Six; six new councillors who didn’t hue to strict left-right voting patterns during the protracted special council meeting called by the mayor last Wednesday to de-board the TCHC. While Mayor Ford comfortably triumphed on the main issues of the evening, some cracks formed on side motions and amendments that showed the administration doesn’t hold an iron grip on a majority of council.

So as we move forward from what everyone’s referring to as the low-hanging fruit that the mayor’s been successfully bashing away at – and yes, as complicated an issue as the TCHC imbroglio was, its treatment by city council and the press made it a big ol’ low-hanging, over-ripe fruit – and onto more challenging matters like, say, garbage privatization, selling off of city assets, further and deeper cuts to things like the TTC, things may not go as swimmingly the mayor’s way. What happens when things become much more contentious not just between right and left but for those trying to navigate the bipartisan, middle way? When the mob’s frenzied, anti-government bloodlust is sated and people start looking around and realizing, wait, you’re cutting what? That wasn’t part of the deal.

Will the so-called tug-of-war between the left and right on city council become less one-sided with the current winners, Team Ford, having to learn how to be conciliatory instead of confrontational? Is this administration even capable of such a gesture?

It seems hard to imagine not just because the mayor’s been so heavy-handed since taking office but his decade long career as a councillor points to a pathological inability to get along with those he doesn’t agree with. His is a black and white world, and consensus is deemed a sign of weakness. You’re either with him or against him. If you’re against him, it can only mean that you’re a socialist. Or worse.

The problem with the debate so far is that it’s being painted in terms of this radical view of Mayor Ford. I am hard pressed to think of any current (or recent) councillor who veers as hard left as the Fords veer hard right. Yes, City Hall was called Silly Socialist Hall under David Miller. By Sue-Ann Levy who shares the equally skewed opinion with Mayor Ford and his brother that anyone to the left of them is a… how did she describe it in a recent babbling rant? “…gravy train-enabling, public teat-sucking, union-loving… leftist hangers-on and despicable leftist hypocrites.” The mayor himself back in the day when he was still a councillor referred to the Globe and Mail as a ‘socialist newspaper’ in the now infamous Fat Fuck video that he starred in with Giorgio Mammoliti and John Barber.

The Globe and Mail. A socialist rag.

This current council does not suffer from a deeply divided left-right cleft. It is all about the far right versus moderates. The question is, under the baleful, full court press of the mayor and his team, can a genuinely moderate group of councillors emerge and start holding sway come vote time?

Let’s start with the six Lorinc mentions, Councillors Bailão, Berardinetti, Colle, Matlow, McMahon and Robinson. If they consistently voted with the 16 or so who regularly oppose the mayor, they’d still come up 1 short of a majority. Councillors Chin Lee and Ron Moeser have not been slavish in their devotion to Mayor Ford, so they couldn’t be ruled out as allies in this enterprise. That still leaves this group precariously dependent on everyone dutifully following suit which, it seems, only the mayor can count on currently.

So to cobble together a more comfortable consensus, you’d have to look to chip away at that wall of unflagging support Team Ford now can count on to push his agenda through. Discounting the new councillors Crisanti, Crawford and Pasternak who have cast their lot in with the mayor and mortgaged their future on his continued popularity… oh, and his brother, Doug, the mayor’s political Siamese twin… there are 16 councillors who all worked with Mayor Ford when he was a councillor. We know they all didn’t share his views or votes back in the day. In fact, it would be interesting to figure out what kind of common ground they shared with the mayor while serving as councillors together. (Paging Ford For Toronto! Paging Ford For Toronto!)

Surely a handful of these could be counted to buck the mayor if a reasonable centre began to take hold. Giorgio Mammoliti, once sworn enemy of Rob Ford and a fair-weather friend if ever there was one. Nobody else can do an about-face political pirouette like he can. I’d put Karen Stintz in a similar camp. Gloria Lindsay Luby has already opposed the mayor on an amendment during the TCHC debate. As has Frank Di Giorgio on occasion. Denzil Minnan-Wong and Paul Ainslie both smack of opportunists. Councillors John Parker, Michael Thompson, David Shiner and Norm Kelly seem like they’re capable of independent thought and/or can’t be considered hard core ideologues. Think about the sweet revenge, Councillor Peter Milczyn, if you helped make the mayor irrelevant after he tried to unseat you in October.

The fact is, Mayor Ford is irrelevant when we’re talking about finding middle ground. He doesn’t know how and wouldn’t be interested if he did. As Lorinc pointed out in his Spacing piece, the man voted against amendments to the TCHC motion despite them being right up his alley in terms of oversight simply, it seems, because he didn’t like who brought them forth, Councillors Shelley Carroll and Adam Vaughan which, if true, is nothing but spiteful, partisan politics. You can’t find a middle way with that.

In order for this council to find a moderate, middle-of-the-road consensus, Mayor Ford will have to be sidelined. While I realize that is easier said than done as he holds a lot of high cards, it is worth remembering that despite his claims to having a mandate, nearly 53% of Torontonians didn’t give him one. It is those folks you should be afraid of not the mayor.

moderately submitted by Cityslikr

A Letter Home

January 22, 2011

As many of our regular readers may remember, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke used to be three. While I, Cityslikr was the point man, I was ably assisted on occasion by two contributors, Urban Sophisticat and Acaphlegmic. Not a perfect union by any stretch, sometimes more 3 Mouseketeers than Musketeers, but not unworkable.

Then came the election of Rob Ford as Toronto’s mayor. My compatriots got spooked. (See the post-election analysis here.) Urban Sophisticat threw up his hands and left town. Over the holidays a postcard arrived from him. He’s on a boat somewhere in the Mediterranean, burnishing his elitist cred.

In truth, Acaphlegmic wasn’t spooked so much as… spookily ebullient. He’d met some Ford supporters shortly before the election and after their man won, he decided to infiltrate their ranks, he called it. To live amongst them. Get to know what made them tick. He went off to live in Larry’s Garage and since then we’ve heard hide nor hair from him.

That is, until the wee hours of this morning.

Under the cover of darkness, an email appeared in the inbox, purporting to be from Acaphlegmic but we could hardly recognize it as something he’d written. Gone was the usual bombastic flamboyance, the tone of condescension, the obscure wordplay. It was a note racked with doubt and a certain degree of fear. This was not from the Acaphlegmic of old.

Despite some concern I have of posting a fraudulent letter on this site, I do so reluctantly as many of you (OK, two) have asked about the whereabouts of Acaphlegmic. Part of me hopes it isn’t him. That it is just some cruel hoax. But if it is Acaphlegmic and you’re reading this out there, buddy, come home. All is forgiven. There’s always a spot on the couch for you here at the office.

I write this quickly. They are suspicious if anyone spends too much time on the computer that’s not some sort of pornography. Big breasted women pornography, it seems. Anything else and they start asking questions.

(Which is why it’s been so difficult to be in contact.)

My field work has been compromised, I fear. Not long after settling into these comfortable digs in Larry’s garage, his middle daughter, Darlene, returned to the nest, her third marriage in tatters. She came to me, inconsolable, poor thing, because her family simply didn’t understand. Truth be told, neither did I. Three marriages and not yet 34? Come, come. How be we try and put in a little effort.

Thoughts I kept to myself as you know I try not to be judgmental about such matters. The lack of criticism on my part was taken as, well, affection, I guess, leading to one thing leading to another and before you could say, maybe you should take a little relationship timeout, Darlene was spending more time in the garage than in the house, if you get my meaning.

So, full disclosure. My thoughts and views of life out here in Ford Country may be clouded through the distorted lens of romantic entanglement.

First thing to note is that, despite the huge upswing in turnout for the election last October which helped propel Rob Ford into the mayoralty, politics is not on the minds of many out here. Most of the time, it’s the last thing they want to talk about and sometimes an open hostility is exhibited at the very mention of it. For example, one night at dinner I brought up Transit City and the whole subway versus LRT imbroglio. Immediately I was set upon by Artie, Larry’s brother (Darlene’s uncle) who was in town, visiting from… somewhere north of here… starts with a B, I believe.

“What’s with the politics?” he bellowed at me. “You know who talks about politics? The Shah of Iran talks about politics. That’s who talks about politics.”

The Shah of Iran?

Of course, there was a slight uptick in the acceptability of political discourse when Don Cherry delivered his boffo performance at the mayor’s inaugural meeting. “Atta boy, Grapes! Sweater the bunch of whiners.” Sweater as a verb? What does that even mean? I was afraid to ask lest it make me even more conspicuous in their presence.

They love their Don Cherry, just like they love their mayor because they sense the two are just ‘one of them’. Aside from a similar vocabulary and a propensity toward constant sweating, I don’t see the comparison, frankly. But maybe I don’t have the right kind of eyes, as Hunter S. Thompson once framed it. “That’s right, you don’t,” Darlene informs me when I use such a turn of phrase. “You nerdy bookworm. Come here and give your honey a kiss.”

They also love their sports. Any sports, really. Hockey, the NFL, something utterly barbaric called Ultimate Fighting. Do you have any idea what that is? Men in a cage, kicking and punching each other into bloodied pulps until one renders the other unconscious! It so riles the boys up around here that they inevitably wind up trying out some of there ‘killer’ moves on each other (and me, unfortunately) until somebody, again inevitably, winds up pulling, bashing or splitting something. I’ve lost a tooth after being forcibly thrown into one of their impromptu matches and consider myself lucky at that.

Strangely, they also watch curling.

Much was made during the course of the campaign of how those supporting Rob Ford weren’t much into the ins-and-outs of policy and such. They didn’t have the time, what with them leading busy lives, holding down jobs (sometimes 2), raising kids, etc., etc. While I wouldn’t deny any of that. Everybody in this house works diligently at their respective vocations. But what I will say is that if they spent even a fraction of their spare time, reading a newspaper that wasn’t the Sun or just staying even moderately informed about the world around them as they do following sports… well… The information they have at their fingertips about penalty minutes, batting averages, 3rd down conversions. Heads full of stats! Just none of it relevant to the decisions that are made which affect their lives, down at City Hall, Queen’s Par–

… I’m back. Darlene surprised me with an unexpected appearance. I think I switched over to the girlie site before she realized what I was actually doing. Is it me or do you too find it strange that a woman you’re intimate with would be less put out by you looking at other scantily clad females than writing about politics?


Out here in Ford Country, they also love their cars. I guess it’s not surprising as they spend so much time with them. Driving to and from work. Driving to get groceries. Driving back to get the groceries they forgot because they didn’t make a list. I don’t understand it. What have they got against making a list? It would just save much time and effort, pain and anguish.

They drive a lot, is the long and short of it and their cars are important to them. In some cases (and I’m not naming names here but Roger is Darlene’s younger brother), their cars are like another member of the family. They name their cars. Dora. As in Dora the Explorer. Apparently some cartoon character. They wash their cars whenever an opportunity arises. They stand around with the hood open, just staring in at the engine, and poking at it every now and then.

They while away hours, sitting in their cars at the drive-through… no, excuse me… the drive-thru at Tim Hortons. Even if the place is empty inside! “Why don’t we just park and grab coffees inside?” I’ll ask only to be met with blank stares and stony silence.

Now, you should be sitting down for when you read this next part, I know about these people’s love of Tim Hortons first hand as, are you ready, I have a job at one. Yes, yes. Believe me. I’m as surprised as the next person but Larry and everybody started wondering where I was getting my money from [we’ve often wondered that ourselves here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke – ed.] so I asked Darlene if she could get me a job at the branch she works. You know, as a cover. It has been a very eye-opening experience, let me tell you, holding down what everyone around here calls a ‘real’ job.

People love their Timmies as they call it. Again, very familiar just like with their cars. A friend. A family member. “Let’s grab a nosh at Timmies,” they’ll chatter like they’re skipping through some sort of storybook tale. “I’m beat. Let’s grab a double-double at Timmies.” Such reverence and adoration you’d expect from people talking about church or an exotic location with great historical significance. It’s just coffee, I have to resist from yelling at them, the hair net scratching my scalp. A donut. You know what that is? Deep fried dough. Not the body of Christ.

Whenever I lose my patience like that, though, I try to remember that it’s me who is out of step with the majority. My ‘downtown’ views and kooky ‘elitist’ attitudes are not the mainstream. I am a stranger here. Still trying to learn their ways, their rituals, their manner of seeing the world.

It’s much harder than I initially expected, I will admit. They look so much like us but there are times when I think they might as well be a different species. I fear it’s going to be a long, hard winter out here. It already has been. At least, I have something to keep me warm through the dark night out here in Larry’s garage. The space heater works like a charm!

I must go now. There’s rumblings from the others drawing nearer. Meaning only one thing. Some sort of televised sporting conflict and they’re coming out to watch one or the other. Damn. I’d hoped for a quiet CSI night. Fingers crossed, it’s not the ultimate fighting crowd. I just don’t think I’m up for any sort of rambunctious tussle later. I have to work in the morning.

Take care. I will attempt to write more often with further observations.

Yours undercover,




Thumbs down on the new design. It looks like you’re writing about gardening or a love of cats.

Going To Pot

August 19, 2010

Frankly, I’m skeptical about the whole Rob Ford Caught With Pot in Florida story. It stinks to high heaven and not at all in the good way. That nice deep earthy, skunky way.

Firstly, I am not unfamiliar with the weed and have known my share of folks who are regular partakers. Never have I encountered someone of Ford’s personality trait who likes pot. At a party, they’ll wave an extended hand off, saying it doesn’t do much for them except make them sleepy.

Now, maybe there’s a laidback side to the man that very few of us get to see. Relaxin’ Rob, kickin’ it old school in FLA, wearing nothing but a speedo, blowing a doob and scarfing back pounds and pounds of shrimp cocktail.  Maybe, but I just can’t picture it. I just don’t want to picture it.

As has already been stated all over the interwebs, if Rob Ford were an illegal drug user, it would be a drug like coke. Crystal meth. Amyl nitrate poppers. OK, maybe not amyl nitrate. But then again, maybe. Whatever drugs it was that killed Chris Farley, those would be Rob Ford’s drugs of choice. If he were an illegal drug user.

Secondly, who broke the story and the timing of it are both highly, highly suspicious. Like the previous drug related pseudo-scandal involving Rob allegedly offering to illegally buy oxycontin for his new gay best friend, it was the Toronto Sun bringing us the pot tale. (Note the paper playfully chiding him as a Bad Boy.) By breaking this story now, the pro-Ford rag helped their candidate get out ahead of it, call himself yet another press conference to clear up yet another misstep, all well before election day when, hopefully, voters will have long since forgotten it.

More importantly, this minor blip of a controversy comes just 48 hours after Ford took his first real hit of the campaign during Tuesday night’s televised mayoral debate. When the topic of the Tamil “migrants” was raised, Ford stated that until we got our house in order and took care of the people who already live here we shouldn’t be going out of our way to welcome newcomers. Maybe it just came out the wrong way but no amount of spinning by the Ford people could totally obscure the fact that their guy might be a little bit of a xenophobic bigot.

Now, to his rock solid base — the Ford Army — his view on this was not just inconsequential but probably bang on. Everything the man says is bang on. In their eyes, Rob Ford can do or say no wrong. He could be caught strangling a baby while anally penetrating himself with a fuzzy puppy and they wouldn’t so much as blanch. That would just be Rob being Rob. What are you going to do? THE CITY DOESN’T HAVE A REVENUE PROBLEM! THE CITY HAS A SPENDING PROBLEM!! STOP THE GRAVY TRAIN!!!

The question is, however, is his base large enough to elect Rob Ford mayor on its own? One would hope in 2010 Toronto that wouldn’t be the case. Although we may be caught off-guard at just how many hillbillies we live amongst, they still aren’t plentiful enough to sweep Ford into office single-handedly.

So he has to reach out a little toward the right of centre. Not much, especially if the race continues as it is with these 5 front runners and 4 of them not having the devoted following that Ford has. Just 5-10% of those somewhat disaffected uncommitteds who feel overtaxed and underserviced and possess a streak of libertarianism in them. Those people still angry about having had to deal with their own garbage for 6 weeks last summer.

But when they hear Rob Ford being labeled as a mean-spirited bigot, they recoil. Ewww. That’s not right. John Tory would never say anything like that. And suddenly Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson begin to look like viable alternatives.

That is the sheer genius of the sudden appearance of the Rob Ford busted for pot and refusing a breathalyzer test in Florida more than 10 years ago story. It wipes the immigration gaffe right off the map and helps no one but Rob Ford. Given his history of boorish behaviour, it wouldn’t surprise me for a minute that he’s got hundreds of these things in his back pocket to use every time he says or does something that could seriously jeopardize his candidacy. With still 7 weeks to go in the election, he’ll probably have to use all of them.

I have now stopped thinking of the brain trust of Rob Ford’s campaign as mouth-breathing dunderheads who hold their daily meetings over hundreds of chicken wings at some Hooters. Whoever they are – and I still don’t see it being the candidate himself – they are proving themselves to be pure evil masterminds and should no longer be underestimated. For those who do not want to see Rob Ford as our next mayor, they have to ignore these insignificant diversionary tactics and continue to focus on all the real reasons he is unfit for the office.

mellowly submitted by Urban Sophisticat

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

Our Cancerous Campaign

August 12, 2010

I write today in soothing tones like those of the 1970s FM DJs, all smoky and silk, in hopes of ratcheting the shrill tone of the mayoral campaign down a notch or two. It has been all vitriol, spouting nothing but contempt and vilification. Yes, some of it is unfriendly fire between candidates as one might expect especially from an uninspiring brood of candidates who lack anything close to resembling a forward thinking vision for the city.

But much of the ugly, mean-spirited rhetoric has been directed at the very body the mayoral hopefuls are vying to lead: the municipal government itself and all those who Tend to the Garden of Its Upkeep (the title of a never released ELP album from the late `70s). The bureaucracy, in other words. The allegedly ‘corrupt’ council. City workers who have the temerity to inconvenience us and go out on strike. Oh sure, Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, the standard bearer of incumbency, does chime in with the occasional dissenting peep, peep, peep of ‘This isn’t Cleveland. This isn’t Detroit’ but it’s usually lost in the indignant jeering of his rivals calling for a jihad against those making our lives miserable. Entrenched and self-serving civil servants and career politicians.

Vote for me because I hate the institution of democratic governance as much as you do!

Never mind the bent, twisted logic of that sentiment and please ignore the results of electing the practitioners of such political thinking (the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, the diminution of Ontario under the Harris-Eves-McGuinty rule, Stephen Harper’s full frontal assault on the state currently underway), when we’re angry we have a tendency to favour politicians who mirror our distrust and dislike of politicians. And nothing eggs on our ire toward politicians more than hearing about the kind of salaries they enjoy and the perks they wallow in. They make how much?! That’s unbelievable, outrageous, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph…

It’s a funny dichotomy. We extol those in the private sector raking in much larger sums of money per annum and enjoying far more luxurious perks. They are the titans of industry, we say. Creators of jobs (although not so much lately) and floaters of boats everywhere (again, not so much lately). Making a success of yourself in business is the height of accomplishment. Toiling away in the bowels of government, well, clearly you’ve settled and should consider your life wasted.

It is an odd case of self-hatred. Shouldn’t we encourage our best and brightest to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the business of government? Wouldn’t that make for a better society? Instead, we shower praise and riches on those who package our middle class aspirations overseas and make monstrous returns for their investors. When business is paramount, government is seen as nothing more than an irrelevant impediment.

So here we are, cheering on millionaires and the well-to-do, telling us that they’ll improve our lives by dismantling the very apparatus that paves our roads, brings us water, maintains peace and order (on most days). Not only that, but they’ll happily do it for cut rate prices! Rocco Rossi pledged to slash the mayor’s salary by 10%. Rob Ford, George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson have promised to freeze their pay if elected in October. Hell, Ford could probably seal the deal and become this city’s next mayor if he promised to do the job for free.

All this in the face of a recent report suggesting that, in fact, the position of mayor in Toronto was under-valued, remuneratively speaking. No matter. A politician should not be concerned with niggling things like pay, pension or their financial future. At least, according to Rocco Rossi.

“Politics is a high calling, but it should be a time of service, it’s not a career, and the moment you start looking at it as a career, that’s when people start worrying about the salary, the pension and the benefits, as opposed to serving the people,” Rossi said.

So, only the selfless and those that can afford a life in politics need apply. Or, to steal a phrase from business parlance, you get what you pay for.

sedately submitted by Urban Sophisticat

Politics’ Raging Id

August 4, 2010

Here’s some news that’s not really news unless you’re simply pimping out your services for the cause of right wing reactionary outrage:

Councillors’ office tab — $500,000 and counting

According to the Toronto Sun, profligate city councillors are madly spending all our hard earned tax dollars before the next council takes its place after the October 25th municipal election. Halfway through the year and they’ve already spent half a million dollars. Wow! That’s a lot of money and displays the powerful but empty gesture of throwing around absolute numbers.

As the Sun article noted, after a vote to reduce their office budgets this year by 5% to $46,241.25, council members have already spent $500,000 between them. That would be about, well, 44 X $46,241.25 = $2,034,615. And, $500,000 ÷ $2,034,615 = 25%. So really, the story should read that, halfway through their last year, members of city council have only spent a quarter of their office budgets. Signs of Restraint, perhaps?

Not at the Toronto Sun and other organs of right wing ideological thought, apparently. When contacted by the paper about the alleged orgy of spending, Rob Ford stated that he was “disgusted”. Well, there’s a surprise. Rob Ford “disgusted” by spending at City Hall. The man is nothing if not consistent in his varying shades of dyspepticism. Team Ford then Tweeted: Proud to have spent the least of your money at City Hall. A sentiment that can be just as easily understood as: Proud to have spent the least amount of time and energy trying to further the interests of the city I serve.

Before readers can examine the article’s numbers too closely the Sun quickly moves the focus onto 3 councillors it loves to disparage. Joey Pants spent nearly 2K “sprucing up his constituency website” but clearly it’s nothing more than in aid of his mayoral aspirations. Then, naturally, there’s the matter of Kyle Rae’s retirement party. The Party. The Gay Communist Party. And Adam Giambrone is particularly targeted for doling out nearly 3 grand for French lessons. French lessons! As a councillor here in Toronto!No matter that Giambrone pointed out that he is “… the city’s representative at AFMO (an association of French municipalities in Ontario)” and is “a member of the French committee” and does “the media in French”. We all, right thinking tax payers know what’s really going on. He’s planning a run at federal politics and official bilingualism is a prerequisite. “He’s using taxpayers’ money to benefit himself,” Ford blustered.

Cue the righteous indignation. No questions asked about when Giambrone took his French lessons. Before his career at City Hall went up in smoke earlier this year? Maybe he thought that a bilingual mayor, even here deep in Anglo Ontario, wasn’t a terrible idea. But does it really matter to the likes of Rob Ford and his tribe? They recognize an opportunity to exploit bad optics when the Toronto Sun hands them one.

Which is what the right wing does best, thrive on bad optics, horribly disfigured through the prism of their skewed lenses. Optics and the mangling of them is all modern conservative thinkers have to go on anymore. Anything to turn on the venomous spigot of voter anger and misdirect it at the shadowy arch-enemy: government. They’re the bad guys. The cause of all that is wrong in society today. Government, and their taxes and spending and regulating and paving of roads and stitching together of a social safety net that picks the pockets of hard working taxpayers like you and me who don’t need anything from the government but to be left alone, dammit!

There is much to be done to set this city back on a healthy course again. Nickelling and diming councillors isn’t one of them. That’s a minor matter for small minds; those unable to imagine bigger things or brave enough to tilt at bigger windmills. Rob Ford is their Don Quixote (despite having an appearance more in line with Sancho Panza). Except the cause is far from noble. It is trite, petty, vindictive and reveals little more than a destructive streak that serves no purpose outside of satisfying inarticulate rage. Nothing good ever comes of that.

cervantesly submitted by Cityslikr

The S(T)ory That Just Won’t Die

August 3, 2010

Being away from this computer even for just a few days always seems and feels much, much longer. Your rhythm gets messed up. The flow of information is interrupted. Thought and idea processing becomes sluggish and non-responsive.

It’s political ennui and being caught out of the loop rolled up into one big Egg McMuffin of disorientation. (Which reminds me. I’m hungry. Why is there never anything in the fridge?)

Scrolling back through unread emails and Tweets, following what may be pertinent links to stories that might’ve been of interest last week. The process is more laborious than usual as these are now the official dog days of summer and campaigns have pulled back on the throttle a bit, taking a breather before the final push begins after Labour Day. Not much is happening and deeper digging may not reveal much for the effort.

Let’s see, there’s the ongoing call for a full inquiry into the G20 debacle. (Neal Jennings does a great job here gathering mayoral candidates’ responses or non-responses as the cases may be to how they would deal with the fallout from the G20 if elected to office). Apparently the weather was excellent for Caribana festivities. Will John Tory run for mayor or won’t—OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!! ARE YOU PEOPLE STILL ON ABOUT THIS?! I KNOW IT’S SLIM PICKIN’S OUT THERE, NEWS WISE, BUT DO YOU HAVE TO CONTINUALLY BEAT THIS DEAD HORSE WHEN THERE’S NOTHING ELSE TO WRITE AND/OR TALK ABOUT?

This is John Tory here not Mario Cuomo painfully mulling over a run for the U.S. presidency in the 1980s. John Tory. We’ve been through this before, remember? He’s not bringing anything new to the table except the notion of being the least uninspiring of a wholly uninspiring field of front running mayoral candidates. Hardly newsworthy, folks. Yet, there they all were from the Toronto Sun through to the National Post and Globe and Mail, once more, weighing the pros and cons, ups and downs, pluses and minuses of a John Tory candidacy. How many ways and how much ink must be spilled to spell out one word? Indifferent.

The most interesting aspect of this latest Will He Or Won’t He is that it stems from an email exchange between Tory and candidate Sarah Thomson whose campaign team already includes one Mr. John Tory Jr. as a senior adviser and is poised to hire George Tory (brother and son of) as campaign manager. It seems that to Ms. Thomson’s way of thinking Tory Sr.’s waffling has bogged her candidacy down in the mud of uncertainty. Her need for clarity is understandable, Ours? Not so much.

But the dreary saga does reveal just how incestuously inbred our local political scene is. Torys everywhere. Doesn’t anyone find that at all disturbing? No wonder the pond of discourse is so shallow and oxygen deprived.

Now, I’m sure the journalists covering Toronto’s municipal beat are all very nice people except for maybe Sue-Ann Levy over at the Toronto Sun. No one can write that partisanly crazy and be considered nice. If let off their respective leashes they would, in all likelihood, take the time to more fully explore other mayoral options given the apathetic response in the general public to what has been offered up so far. Surely they must be as bored as we are about the John Tory speculation story. Rehashing rehash over and over again. They weren’t the ones to arbitrarily winnow down the race from the get-go to 6 or 7 acceptable candidates, were they?

That dubious distinction must lie at the feet of the higher ups in the journalistic food chain who aren’t responsible for reporting the news so much as they are for creating it. Which brings us back to the real storyline behind all this front runner business and apparent Tory – gulp… I can barely bring myself to say it – mania. Who decided any of these candidates including John Tory should be considered our only viable alternatives? I know it makes me sound naïve just asking that question but it really needs to be asked and explored and talked about.

This is our democracy. Just because those making up the headlines and attempting to generate buzz can’t or won’t see past their office doors or windows and gaze upon the wider list of candidates beyond sitting councillors, former M.P.P.s and backroom dilettantes, doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t. Maybe the collective yawn a solid majority of the electorate has given to the list of “acceptable” candidates handed down from on high is because they are little more than sitting councillors, former M.P.P.s and backroom dilettantes and not very attractive prospects for mayor of this city.

How’s that for a story angle, media? So far, chalk us down as unimpressed. What else do you have for us or are we going to have to start looking elsewhere for the information we need to make the informed decision that are integral to our democratic process?

desperately submitted by Cityslikr