I’m not at all sure how I feel about that but mostly it just doesn’t feel right.
This coming from someone who has voted for Olivia Chow at every given opportunity. As city councillor when I lived in her ward. As a member of parliament in 1997, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011. As mayor in last year’s unsuccessful mayoral bid. I think it’s safe to say I’ve voted for Olivia Chow more than any other politician.
And I’m not sure that would be the case this time around.
It’s not like I’ve got any problems with this concept of ‘career politicians’ either. If someone dedicates their lives to public service, and does so with the best of intentions of contributing to a wider public good, my hat’s off to them. Do it as long as you’re able, you’re dutiful and have the confidence of a majority of your constituents.
That’s not what this is about.
I just wish if Olivia wanted to stay and work in Ottawa, she would’ve stayed and worked in Ottawa. Thanking those supporters pushing her to run for mayor of Toronto, she’d decline their exhortations, insisting that the federal level was where she felt she could be most effective. All humble and grateful for their belief in her but holding firm in taking a pass.
Olivia Chow’s entry into the race for mayor last year (not to mention the months and months of speculation beforehand) drastically altered the landscape. It pushed at least two other very capable candidacies to the sidelines in an effort to keep the left of centre side united. In essence, Chow was anointed, seen as the saviour to move Toronto on from the tumultuous Ford years.
And then she went and dropped the ball, doing a terrible, terrible job. Why? I can offer nothing but pure speculation. Bad advice? Unable to maintain a strong city-wide campaign? No compelling narrative beyond We Can Do Better? A combination of a bunch of weaknesses?
Her quick jump back into federal politics suggests another possible reason for her mayoral crash and burn. Maybe her heart just wasn’t in it. It was nothing more than an opportunity, an opportunity with a fallback position of returning to Ottawa if things didn’t work out. Maybe John Tory’s team was right. Maybe Olivia Chow was just another NDP candidate. Mayor. M.P. Whatevs.
I wish Olivia would’ve stuck around after her municipal defeat last October to help rebuild the progressive side of the political equation her campaign helped splinter. To assist in figuring out how enough self-proclaimed progressive voters concluded someone like John Tory was moderate enough for them. To be a part of a different team that puts the city and not a party first.
Perhaps she still will. It’s hardly guaranteed she can defeat the Liberal incumbent, Adam Vaughan, who took the riding after Chow resigned her seat. With the re-drawing of Trinity-Spadina, the demographics may skew less in her favour than it once did. Still, it’s hard to see the election battle between the two playing out as anything less than a titanic struggle.
All I do know is that, because of the new riding configurations, I’ll be spared the tough decision of whether or not to vote against Olivia Chow. It wasn’t something I ever had to think much about doing before. That’s a little bit sad.
It’s a federal by-election in Trinity-Spadina, right? This is going to make no big difference on the make-up of parliament. I guess there might be some sense of momentum going into next year’s general election but, you know, for what that’s worth.
So I actually don’t have to perform the party-candidate balancing act. You know the one where it’s all, I like the candidate but am unhappy with the party, or vice versa. The lesser of two evils more often than the best of both worlds. There’s no fear that if I vote this way that party will become the government.
That’s going to make it incredibly easy for me to mark my ballot.
Adam Vaughan, hands down.
I say, put him in office and see what he can do before we head back to the polls in 2015. How much influence will he actually have in setting the Liberal party’s urban agenda? Will the pressures to toe the line that come with party membership curb the sharp-tongued, outspoken former city councillor?
Truthfully, I have grave concerns about the quality of Justin Trudeau. I’ve yet to see any rigour manifest in him. If Adam Vaughan is elected MP on Monday, I’d eventually like to ask him what it’s like working under the leadership of someone who seems not nearly as smart as he is.
During his time at City Hall, Vaughan did not suffer fools gladly which earned him something of a prickly reputation. Certainly over the course of the last four years, there were plenty of fools to go around, many of them holding positions of power. That never sat well with Vaughan.
Now, I’m not comparing Justin Trudeau to Rob Ford. I just don’t see him as much of a heavyweight although I’m perfectly happy to be proven otherwise. I hope the possible presence of Adam Vaughan in his caucus will bring out the best in Trudeau. If it doesn’t, if he doesn’t live up to his commitments to housing and other progressive urban issues that Vaughan has been touting during the campaign, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Exactly how maverick-y will he be willing to go?
And that’s the beauty of this situation, right? It’s a trial period. See how it works, re-visit my decision next year.
Besides, the NDP candidate in the race, Joe Cressy, has made next-to-no impression on me. Zero impact. I have little sense of what’s driving him to seek this office. Progressive ideals, for sure, but what I’m hearing mostly from him right now is party, party, party. The NDP is home to progressive voters. The Liberals long ago abandoned their progressive ideals. There’s only one way progressives could think of casting their ballots. NDP, NDP, NDP.
Oh, and Jack Layton.
But for me, we’re not fighting the last election. We’re getting ready for the next. I have great admiration for the work Adam Vaughan did as a city councillor. I think the Liberal party with him a part of it, will be a better party, a more progressive party than it’s been for a couple decades now.
If I’m wrong about that, we get to do this all over again in 2015.
(We pull this up from our archives, October 5th 2011, because, really, not a whole lot has changed since then. The Liberal candidate in Trinity-Spadina isn’t Sarah Thomson but has not been any more impressive. The government itself, now led by Kathleen Wynne rather than Dalton McGuinty, has not become any more trustworthy — see the Scarborough subway file. The Progressive Conservatives have moved a whole lot further to the right, promising a whole lot more pain which they’ve called ‘hope’ and a lot less constructive governance. The NDP has continued to drift further away from my values in a bid to… win, I guess. The Greens remain the only party that is speaking to the issues that matter to me. So once more, in 2014 as we did in 2011, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Tim Grant of the Green Party as the candidate of choice for Member of Provincial Parliament from Trinity-Spadina.)
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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!
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 undone 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.