The Friends You Pick And The Company You Keep

October 20, 2014

When a mayoral candidate begins endorsing city council candidates, what image is it that they’re trying to project?

choosechooseA sense of inevitability?

This is a lock, folks. I will be the next mayor and these are the councillors I want to be working with me. Help me bring a wave of change to City Hall!

But what if a mayor miscalculates in his pre-election endorsements? What if his endorsed city council candidates lose? Their victorious opponents arrive at (or return to) City Hall knowing the incoming mayor doesn’t think too much of them. It could set a rather chilly tone to the start of a working relationship.

Back in 2010, Rob Ford attempted to ride a growing tide of support as the election neared, to influence some council races, to mixed success, I’d call it. He scored Vincent Crisanti but had a series of near misses against Gloria Lindsay Luby, Peter Milczyn and Marie Augimeri. Aside from loyalty to the end from Crisanti, it’s hard to see if his choices in the other races had much affect on his working relationships with the eventual winners.picksides

But honestly, Rob Ford may not be the best example for this, as his whole approach to governing was based on a binary, you’re for me or you’re against me dynamic. Picking sides was just how he rolled.

Maybe rather than a tactical manoeuvre, we should view mayoral campaign endorsements as a reflection of what kind of mayor we’d be getting. The council candidates a mayoral candidate endorses are the kind of councillors the would-be mayor would like to work with. They represent the ideal city council.

Last Friday mayoral frontrunner, John Tory, officially endorsed two city council candidates, Kristin Carmichael Greb in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence and Jon Burnside, Ward 26 Don Valley West. Ward 16 is an open ward with no incumbent running. John Parker is a two-term councillor in Ward 26.

What do these endorsements say about John Tory’s opinion of city councillors he’d like to work with? According to Josh Dehaas of CTV News, “Tory responded that he did not endorse those candidates because they favour jets, but because they share his vision for the city, including his transit plan.”

logrolling“They both support SmartTrack,” Tory said, “they both support tax increases at or below inflation and they both support contracting out garbage in the east end of the city.”

Carmichael is the daughter of the local Conservative M.P. who had endorsed Tory for mayor just days earlier. Her website is chock full of conservative support and she certainly toes a very fiscally conservative (one might go as far to call it Ford-like) line.

Toronto, and in fact all governments across Canada, are facing increasing pressure on their budget due to growing costs, rising demand for its services, and waste and inefficiencies. They need to operate within their means – you cannot mortgage your kids’ future simply to get by today.

Given this fiscal reality, we need to be able to do more with less. We need to look at things like alternative models of service delivery. This could provide much needed cost savings while maintaining the quality of services we deliver.

Jon Burnside, on the other hand, is a complete cipher. I cannot get any sort of handle on his candidacy at all. I have come across many platitude and slogan filled websites during this campaign but Burnside’s ranks up there among the blandest and least consequential.cipher

In his Accountability and Customer Service section, he pledges a 24 hour callback guarantee and monthly Town Hall meetings. Both admirable but then he states he will “Champion the needs and interests of all of our Ward 26 neighbourhoods. My interest in making a difference will be consistent, earnest and genuine.” And then, “Lead in a collaborative and co-operative way, working together with the Mayor and all Councillors to move our City forward.”

Is it just me or is that little more than space filler?

“The debate about subways versus LRTs is based on the false premise that one of these transit solutions is the best answer in all parts of Toronto,” Mr. Burnside writes. Good, good. Go on. “I support a holistic approach to transit that includes improved subway, LRT, bus and above-ground train services.”

And… ?

Aside from the Fords, who doesn’t agree with that view on transit?

On and on, it continues with little more than mush in bullet points.

I will take my business experience, entrepreneurial spirit and energy to City Hall and ensure that tax dollars are spent responsibly – with a focus on delivering maximum value for every dollar.

City Hall needs Councillors with positive attitudes and an optimistic outlook; people who find solutions rather than offering excuses.  I have a track record of cutting through the red tape and delivering results — results that make a difference in our community.

Zzzzzzzz…

Out of hundreds of candidates running for city council, this is one John Tory chooses to endorse?!fingerscrossed

Look, I endorsed other candidates in both these races. John Parker struck me as a reasonable, civil conservative councillor who stood up to bad transit decisions. City council could use a few more of those types not less. You’d think he’d align perfectly with Tory’s proclaimed moderate, centrist values.

In Ward 16, J.P. Boutros is one of my go-to, A1, top notch challengers. While it’s not surprising Tory didn’t share my views on that endorsement, given Boutros’ very strong stance against proceeding with the Scarborough subway extension, it is disturbing that, according to a media release put out by Boutros after Tory’s endorsements last week, “Tory’s announcement comes two weeks after Tory’s campaign team pledged to me that they had no intention of endorsing anyone in the Ward 16 race.”

Yeah, you know that thing we said before? Well, not so much now. No hard feelings, I hope, if it turns out we backed the wrong horse on this, yeah?killpeacejpg

Frankly, I would’ve thought that, given the divisiveness and acrimony at city council, a mayoral hopeful might want to stay above the fray and come in to office with a clean slate. John Tory’s told us he’s a uniter. He’s all about One City.

Yet, he’s not even elected and here he goes picking sides already.

I’m beginning to suspect John Tory isn’t the kind of candidate he’s been trying to convince us he is.

suspiciously submitted by Cityslikr


The Four Sures — Council Challenger Endorsements VIII

October 10, 2014

So we come to the end of our official endorsements for the upcoming municipal election (although we won’t rule out maybe a surprise one or two here or there. Don’t quote me on that though.) bootsonthegroundWe want to remind everybody reading along that even more so than the mayor’s race, these council races really, really matter. In the end, despite some additional legislative powers, the mayor is just one vote. City council is many.

Moreover, council races can be determined by the 10s, 100s of votes. Even the slightest uptick in votes or turnout can flip a race. In 2010, 13 wards were determined by an average of 347 votes. Five of those the eventual winners were elected by less than one-third of the popular vote.

It’s now 17 days until the election. That’s plenty of time to get out there, donate some time or money to the candidate(s) of your choice, the ones you think will do a great job in advancing the interests of every resident of this city. This is when your help’s needed. This is what they call crunch time.

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Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence

I feel I have to state this upfront. I am a friend of J.P. Boutros. I mean, not a close enough friend to know that he was planning a run for the open Ward 16 before the fact. Still. I have broken bread with J.P. I have had drinks with J.P.

In his role as assistant to the then TTC chair, Karen Stintz, he was frank and fair with me in discussions during the very heated and seemingly ongoing transit debates that consumed last term. As frank as one could be, I think, when it’s your job to adhere to the boss’ plan of action. That’s just the nature of the relationship.

With those cards on the table, let me state unreservedly J.P. Boutros will make one dynamite city councillor.

The least I can say of a possible Councillor Boutros is that he will be one hell of a step forward from his predecessor. The whole transit file aside, don’t forget that Karen Stintz was an unabashed right winger and supporter of much of Mayor Ford’s agenda. Boutros will not be that vote.

His adamant stand against the Scarborough subway during this campaign shows an independence that will be immediately tested if John Tory is elected mayor. Similarly, his outspoken opposition to the island airport expansion. He is a smart growth proponent which too will be subject to a quick study as the Eglinton Crosstown makes its way into the ward.

We think J.P. Boutros is more than up to the task.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse J.P. Boutros for city council in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence.

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Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth

In what should be something of celebratory campaign (as much as any campaign, aside from the winning one, can be celebratory), with 3 women vying for a council seat, there is instead much consternation, driven by fear of vote-splitting and demands for strategic voting, blah, blah, blah.

Look, I have no particular beef with the ward’s incumbent, Paula Fletcher. Point to her absolute anti-Ford voting record as proof of her solid credentials. Tell me how we shouldn’t let our desire for the great threaten getting the good.

But the fact of the matter is, Jane Farrow may be the finest non-incumbent running for city council this time out. Forget great. I’m telling you spectacular.

I cannot rave enough about the new sensibility she would bring to city council, a new approach to governance that has at its core heightened civic engagement. She gets it. She encourages it. Jane Farrow represents a fundamental shift in how business would get done in this city. Ward 30 is being offered the opportunity to make a huge difference in Toronto’s politics.

Hopefully voters there won’t kill their chances at great for fear of the bad. There’s too much of that going on these days.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Jane Farrow for city council in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth.

helpfully, hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch XII

August 26, 2014

This one’s a tough one.

I know J.P. Boutros. I’ve chatted with J.P. Boutros. jpboutrosHad drinks with J.P. I like J.P.

It’s going to be difficult to be seen maintaining any sense of unbiased perspective here. So be it. Take it into consideration as you read on.

J.P. Boutros is running for city council in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence. He was an advisor on transit for the former Ward 16 councillor, former TTC chair and former mayoral candidate, Karen Stintz. To say he had a fiery baptism in the heated cauldron of city politics would be whatever’s under an understatement. Rob Ford. Public transit. Subways, subways, subways. Let’s get rid of streetcars.

The death of Transit City. Service cuts. Fare hikes. Gary Webster. The coup against the mayor to take back control of the file, put the Eglinton Crosstown LRT back on track. One City.

This kind of turmoil might’ve put off public life for some people, apparently not J.P. He cites “loving city politics” as one reason for deciding to enter the race. fierycauldronThe second, and probably more important reason?

Well, it starts with the Scarborough subway.

We all know this story, pretty much by heart now. The mayor’s dream of the Sheppard subway extension dead, reborn in the form of a subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line instead of the planned LRT line. How’d that happen? Well, your guess is as good as mine but it was probably a toxic mix of both political ambition and cravenness at a couple levels of government.

Its appearance as an item at the TTC commission meeting caught J.P Boutros by surprise. When he expressed a WTF after the fact, he was pulled to the side (not by his then boss, I’m assured) and told to know his place. “You’re an advisor not an elected official.”

Correcting that situation is reason #2 Boutros is running for city council.

Since announcing, he’s been stridently hitting that anti-Scarborough subway note, specifically the property tax increase needed to pay the city’s portion of it. ward16It’s absolutely unnecessary since the proposed Scarborough LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway was going to be paid for entirely by the province. A better transit option, as he sees it, with none of the costs.

If we’re fine with a bump in our property taxes, why not use it instead for things the city actually needs? Which Boutros has pledged to do if elected, and if he’s able to help put council back on the LRT track in Scarborough. Yes. As city councillor for Ward 16, J.P. Boutros would push to have that debate opened up again.

“We have something on the books that’s signed right now [the city’s Master Agreement with Metrolinx to build a Scarborough LRT], that’s good to go,” he told the Globe and Mail’s Oliver Moore. “Let’s do it.”

Instead, the city could spend some of the additional revenue in the wider community, better and more parks and green spaces, for example. hitthegroundrunningBoutros has proposed that the city buy some school land the Toronto District School Board is trying to sell off, Bannockburn, keep it as a park for Ward 16 residents. Spending money where you need to rather than where you don’t.

This would put J.P. Boutros at odds on a couple of important levels with the ward’s outgoing councillor and his former boss. Even more so than on the TTC file, Karen Stintz stands as a rabid penny-pinching conservative of the most extreme kind. Not for nothing was she regarded as one of the leaders of the Miller era Responsible Government Group, a de facto opposition band of councillors including the likes of Mike Del Grande, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Frances Nunziata and Case Ootes.

Is that the kind of representation Ward 16 expects from its city councillor?

Boutros doesn’t think so. At the doors he’s been knocking on, taxes haven’t really been much of a talking point he’s hearing. Development, and the proper managing of it, is always a big issue in Ward 16. goodeggTraffic and congestion. Minimizing the impact on the community as the Eglinton crosstown makes its way through. Parks. Ward 16 loves its parks.

People want to believe their money is being spent wisely. It’s a constant refrain I’m hearing from candidates. If that’s not what you’d call fiscal conservatism, then the phrase is utterly meaningless.

In what is now an open ward, J.P. Boutros brings some actual City Hall experience to the table. Some serious City Hall experience. I asked him if there was any baggage that comes with it especially given how acrimonious the transit debates were. Did he make it on many councillors’ shit list?

He shrugged. Not that he knew of. Thought he was able to talk cordially with all the councillors, regardless of political stripe. This time around, if he gets elected in October, he’ll be able to do so as a colleague not as someone’s assistant.

Again, let me re-iterate here. I know J.P. Boutros. I like J.P. Boutros. So, I’m very biased when I say this but it would represent a notable shift at City Hall if Ward 16 elects him as city councillor. shiftgearsKaren Stintz was something of a polarizing figure during her time in office, even before she became TTC chair. I think Boutros brings less ideological division with him. The tone will be different.

“If you can’t run on your own beliefs,” he tells me, “you’re doing it all wrong.”

I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt with that statement and take him at his word. I hope voters in Ward 16 do too.

hopefully and helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


3 Wards To Really Watch Now

February 21, 2014

We interrupt the regular Wards To Watch program to bring you this breaking ward-related, election 2014 news:

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Already early into the 2014 municipal campaign (yes, it really is still early despite the feeling that we’ve been at this since about 2011), 3 wards have come open, the incumbents declaring, for some reason or the other – one, boredom; two, spite; three, bigger fish to fry — they would not be seeking re-election. These are wards that, I think it safe to say, if said incumbents decided to run again, they probably would coast to victory. While none of the announcements came out of the blue, it does suddenly throw a little unexpected uncertainty into the possible make-up of the next city council.

All 3, Ward 2 Etobicoke North, Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence and Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt, as geographically dispersed as they may be, are crowded under their current local representation together at the far right end of the political spectrum. callitadayIn Ward 2’s Councillor Doug Ford and Ward 39’s Councillor Mike Del Grande, you can’t really veer further to the right unless you’re prepared to run into Mayor Ford.

And don’t let Ward 16’s Councillor Karen Stintz’s fall out with the mayor over transportation plans and her mayoral aspirations fool you. She’s pretty much as tax-cutting (except for certain transit projects in Scarborough), program and service slashing, bike-lane ripping up as any conservative politician on council. Remember, she was a bona fide part of the Responsible Government Group, standing in stark opposition to then mayor David Miller, even contemplating a run against him in 2006.

The question is, are these wards as hardcore conservative as the councillors who’ve been representing them?

Ward 2 has been a Ford folks fiefdom since 2000. They probably believe they could run a family pet there and get it elected. Since electoral rules would forbid that, there’s been chatter of throwing up a daughter or nephew as version 3.0. Just how Ford friendly can the ward be?

In our fondless farewell last weekend to Mike Del Grande, we checked out the demographics of Ward 39 and discovered that it contains a larger proportion of old people than the citywide average. leanrightNow, I don’t want to get too ageist here, some of my best friends are old people who aren’t conservative, but the cohort does skew right and it does also tend to be dedicated more to voting than the younger whippersnappers. So maybe Ward 39 isn’t inherently conservative. Maybe its conservative voters just simply get out to vote.

Ward 16 looks like an entirely different can of worms. Before Councillor Stintz, it was represented by the not unprogressive Anne Johnston. In fact, the story goes that Stintz responded to an ad taken out by residents, unhappy with Johnston’s approval of a high rise development in the ward. She unseated the incumbent in 2003, bringing a much different political tone to city council than her predecessor did.

So, is Ward 16 a conservative leaning ward with a preference for conservative councillors or is the current representative simply conservative? The same goes for wards 2 and 39. Are they just empty right wing tip shoes waiting to be filled by the appropriately right wing candidate?

I would imagine that in 2 and 39, conservative candidates have a leg up. There is an established base there for their votes. cleanslateMuch less so in Ward 16.

Even in the absence of an incumbent (or maybe because of that), name recognition will also play as an important factor as political stripe. In 2010, a handful of school board trustees filled council vacancies, some in exceedingly close races. Having a known brand is a big plus at the municipal level.

That said, these are 3 wards that over the past decade have been lockdown, very right wing seats for the conservative contingent at City Hall. It’s difficult to imagine them swinging further that way this year. That’d be like, I don’t know, Mississippi, Alabama and Kansas going deeper red in the United States.

It’s an opportunity for more moderate voices to step forward, to shift things to the centre a little bit, perhaps even dampen down the heated rhetoric some. If you were contemplating a run in these wards in the hopes of doing just that but were put off by the prospect of mounting an uphill battle against an entrenched incumbent there, that obstacle has been cleared out of your way. Now’s your chance. Seize it. In municipal politics, that only seems to happen every decade or so.whatareyouwaitingfor

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr