In the lacuna between election day and official start of the new council, I wallow. Fluctuating wildly between boredom (Come on, come on, come on! Let’s get this party started!!) and still lingering disbelief and outrage at what transpired on October 25th, I’m in creative irons. I lash out. I curl up in a fetal position, sucking my thumb. Making no headway.
The funk has not gone unnoticed among my dwindling readership. Normally chastised by one ‘Jerry’ (if that indeed is his real name) for using curse words, we were taken to task a couple days ago for replacing brains with bile and, essentially, crying over spilt milk. “The dirtys [sic] been done [sic] help us clean it up so maybe next time the right decision can/will be made,” ‘Jerry’ opines.
‘Jerry’’s right, of course. What’s been done has been done. Screw it. Deal with it. Move on. The die has been cast. We have to play the hand that’s been dealt us, if you’ll excuse the mixed game metaphor.
How exactly do we proceed with an incoming mayor representing only half of a sharply divided city? Council is very much an unknown with almost a third of it made up of new faces which is a rare high turnover at the municipal level. In many ways, this should be a very exciting time for Toronto. Old challenges met by new faces.
And yet, and yet… where we are and how we got here doesn’t really bode well for where we are going. As told by Edward Keenan in his piece for Eye magazine 10 days ago, the deep chasm that fully revealed itself on election day goes beyond income disparity or geography. Much of it seems to be based on the perception of reality itself. Those in ‘Ford Country’, mostly the pre-amalgamated non-Toronto cities making up what’s now been called the inner suburbs, think City Hall under the David Miller administration was severely out of touch, spending all its time and money on their precious downtown core while neglecting everyone else and using inner suburb money to do so, further adding to their alienation and disenfranchisement.
That this sentiment is factually incorrect on almost all counts is beyond question. Keenan points out that early on in his tenure Miller embraced the United Ways’ 2004 report, Poverty By Postal Code and set out to deal with the problems it highlighted. “Miller and his allies on council took that report to heart, and many of the city’s centrepiece policies are aimed at addressing the problems it outlines,” Keenan writes. Thus was born Transit City, the Tower Renewal Program and the designation of 13 ‘high priority’ neighbourhoods, almost all of which were located outside of the downtown core of the old city of Toronto.
Despite this, Keenan suggests that many of those who would benefit from these programs were unaware of them. While filled with righteous indignation about plant watering, retirement parties and the proverbial Gravy Train, they somehow missed the memo about all the activity down at City Hall going on to help bring them and their communities into the fold. How did that happen?
Well, here’s where Keenan’s insightful and exhaustive article falls flat on its face frankly. Apparently, all those who voted for Rob Ford were simply “…not part of the conversation about urban policy. They’re working to pay the bills, take care of their families, get ahead and enjoy their lives…” As if everyone who didn’t cast their ballot for Ford (the downtown elite, let’s call us) were doing nothing more than hanging out between attending council meetings, eating bonbons and sipping lattes, hiding the information from outsider prying eyes. One of the most shocking omissions in Keenan’s piece was any talk about the role of the mainstream media in the dissemination of misinformation. Voters could reel off the litany of Rob Ford bumper sticker chants but remained in the dark about what was really going on at City Hall? That’s somehow “our” fault rather than the likes of Sue-Ann Levy or John Oakley?
But, I put my elitist heart on my sleeve.
In case you’re thinking, oh no, there he goes, railing about past events, what’s over and done with, I think it’s very pertinent to how we go forward from here. If the new mayor and some of the council have been elected on faulty premises or outright distortion of facts, where does that leave us in opposing them and trying to defeat their worst intentions? Do we surrender to their unreality? Since we were viewed as snobs and out-of-touch downtowners during their campaign whenever we expressed contemptuous doubt for their candidates’ misguided and ill-informed ideas, how will that change now that he’s in charge?
“Maybe if a few more downtown elitists spent some time in Ford Country,” Keenan figures (but not the other way around with Ford Country residents shedding their ignorance about us elites), “we could start a conversation about bringing about the ‘united Toronto’ Ford proposed the night he was elected.” OK, Mr. Keenan. We get to know our Ford neighbours, hang out at their place for a backyard bbq. Start up a conversation over our ribs and Coors Lite. So… we’re going to finally stop that Gravy Train, eh?
Where does the conversation go from there? I don’t ask rhetorically because I really want to know. The answer will determine how the next four years plays out.
— exhortingly submitted by Cityslikr