The Long Shots — Challenger Endorsements III

October 3, 2014

Who doesn’t like a cinderella story? A rags-to-riches tale of unexpected triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds or an imposing adversary. The Little Engine That Could. Rocky. Those damn ants and that nasty assed rubber tree plantrubbertreeplant

We love them because such an arc is so exceedingly rare in real life. The best person doesn’t always win. Giving it your all won’t guarantee the podium.

Politics is no exception. Dark horses seldom catch anyone by surprise. Incumbency sits like dark matter, bending elections to its well. You don’t even have to be a very good incumbent. Most times, being an incumbent is all you need to remain in place.

Which is what makes people throwing their hats into the ring despite the improbable mountain they have to climb so absolutely edifying and inspiring. You got to believe in the rightness of your cause to face almost certain defeat and to forge ahead in spite of it. To dream the impossible dream, am I right?

So today, we’re talking long shots in our city council challenger endorsements. Three candidates who, on a level playing field, would be frontrunners based on their ideas, passion for their respective communities and dedication to civic engagement. Three candidates who have dropped the gauntlet on some less than impressive opponents and shown a willingness to fight an uphill battle for no other reason than it being a fight that needs to be fought.



Ward 34 Don Valley East

You’ve all heard this rant before. Long time incumbent Denzil Minnan-Wong serves in the upper echelon of divisiveness and destructiveness at City Hall. He seeks to shrink the efficacy of local government to little more than paver of roads and collector of garbage. He’s been doing that since the days before amalgamation.

His opponent this time around, Mary Hynes, is no stranger to City Hall herself but sits across the committee table from Minnan-Wong, speaking up for all the things he could care less about. He talks about taxpayers. She talks about community. We met and chatted with Mary in July, in the infancy of her campaign. She is well aware of the David versus Goliath aspect of this race but also knows in the past 3 campaigns, Minnan-Wong’s share of the popular vote has dropped.

Perhaps Ward 34 has just been waiting for the right alternative. Mary Hynes most certainly fits that bill.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Mary Hynes for city councillor in Ward 34 Don Valley East.


Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest

Paul Bocking is young, enthusiastic, articulate, with a fresh perspective about local representation. He projects a rosy-cheeked, can-do spirit that isn’t based on the fact he’s running against some entrenched, weezy, old guard councillor. He’s not. He’s running against entrenched, weezy, old guard ideas.

When we met this past summer, Bocking couldn’t stop talking ideas and issues. Almost all of them were in direct opposition to the incumbent he’s trying to unseat, Michelle Berardinetti. We’ve spoken often and never really very flatteringly about the councillor. Although just finishing up her first terms, it seems like she’s been there forever.

Scarborough is what Scarborough is because it continues to elect the likes of Michelle Berardinetti to represent its interests at City Hall. A little bit of Bocking could go a long way to changing perception and attitudes.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Paul Bocking for city councillor in Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest.


Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt

It’s hard to imagine worse representation at City Hall than outgoing councillor Mike Del Grande but I don’t think it’s out of line for me to say that the presumptive favourite in the race to replace him, Jim Karygiannis, doesn’t look to be much of an improvement. He retired from federal politics after 25 years in office and is looking to now bring the burning issues and values of 1988 to municipal politics. Exactly what Scarborough needs at this juncture.

The really frustrating thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Franco Ng, a former Del Grande staffer, would be the ideal way forward for the ward. He is obviously very familiar with the neighbourhoods and communities from his time at City Hall. His views on modernising the suburbs, revitalizing aging shopping malls and employment lands, are exciting. The afternoon I spent travelling around the ward with him in August was very instructive in how new voices can energize old ways of thinking.

Jim Karygiannis represents, if not a step back for Ward 39, a digging in of its heels or burying its head in the sand. It would be a waste of the next 4 years. Franco Ng would be a real opportunity to step into the 21st-century.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Franco Ng for city councillor in Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt.

high hopesly submitted by Cityslikr

Challengers To Watch XIII

August 28, 2014

Talking to Paul Bocking about Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest, it’s difficult to imagine how it sent the current councillor to City Hall to represent it. oneofthesethingsAs seen through Mr. Bocking’s lens, Ward 35 has the second lowest average family income in the city, the residents depend heavily on bus travel to get around, there is a prevalence of aging apartment towers.

And yet when you think of the incumbent, Michelle Berardinetti, what immediately springs to mind about her work in her first term is the Scarborough subway, bike lane removal and elephants.

Paul Bocking sees this election as one about inequality. (Yesterday’s news about the alarming rate of children living in poverty in Toronto certainly emphasizes that point.) Ward 35 is full of working class neighbourhoods hit hard by the collapse of the local manufacturing base. Former good paying jobs now replaced by minimum wage, temporary employment. Small businesses unsuccessfully competing with nearby big box stores.ward35 A car dependent area of the city under-serviced by public transit. A destination for new Canadians looking to put down community roots.

Many of the solutions to the problems ailing places like Ward 35 are at the macro level, beyond the reach of local politicians. But the answer to that is not simply ignoring the problems, hoping another level of government will sort everything out. It’s the job of a city councillor to highlight those problems and to use what tools are available to alleviate them, to create a dynamic where positive change is possible.

This goes beyond simply keeping taxes low. It’s about investing in communities. Creating opportunities for everyone to better their lives. goldenmileThis is something’s that’s done door-to-door, street-by-street.

Bocking is no stranger to that kind of community activism. He has been part of the fight against TTC fare hikes and cuts to service, delivering a deputation on that topic during the 2012 budget fight. He is a big proponent of the community benefits program, fighting to ensure that when major public infrastructure projects like the Eglinton Crosstown LRT are built, jobs and training are made available to local residents. As a high school teacher, Bocking is well aware of the disconnect between school boards and city council. He’d like to see more integrated programs between the two and a reassessment of the fees charged by schools to use their facilities which, currently, are priced far beyond the reach of many local groups.

It is an approach most notable for its ground up activism rather than a top down, edict like proclamation style. communityIf elected city councillor, Bocking vows a much more inclusionary engagement with residents. There were few community consultations on very important issues that arose over the course of the past 4 years, including the subway-LRT debates, a waterfront casino, budgets. As a fan of movements like Participatory Budgeting, Bocking would change that, endeavouring to seek resident input before big decisions are made.

He admits that the Scarborough subway is an issue when he goes knocking at the door but he senses people aren’t as committed to the idea as subway advocates claim. When the merits of the LRT get pointed out – serving more people and more communities – many don’t seem as vehemently opposed. Again, it’s all about better community engagement.

For Bocking, the subway debate is more of an abstract issue. Something that, even if it comes to pass, is a decade away at best. communitymeetingIt won’t help anyone in Ward 35 now. Certainly not as much as improving the current TTC service will. Certainly not like ensuring tenants’ needs are addressed. Certainly not the way increasing the accessibility and affordability of children’s programs would.

The best city councillors don’t simply represent their community. They build their community. That isn’t accomplished fighting ideological battles or stirring up resentment toward other wards or areas of the city. Community isn’t built from above. It’s created through engagement and listening to the concerns and ideas expressed by each and every member of it.

Paul Bocking seems to have a knack and predisposition for that kind of work. If we’re to bridge the so-called urban-suburban divide that currently afflicts municipal politics here in Toronto, communityengagementwe have to hope places like Ward 35 elect candidates like Bocking as their city councillor in order that they actually join in on our collective conversation instead of being relegated to shouting from the sidelines. We need to start hearing from them not about them.

As a city councillor, Paul Bocking seems determined to give residents of Ward 35 a voice rather than be the voice for them. Real civic engagement starts right there.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr

A New Generation Of Suburban Resentment

March 25, 2014

How would you best sum up Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest) first term in office? is a question nobody’s asked me until now.surprisedbythequestion

Hmmm. Councillor Berardinetti, huh? Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest, eh?

Elephants, bike lane hatred and other terribly misguided public transit views.

Yeah. That about sums it up.

As to the elephants, I can’t offer up much in the way of analysis. Something about moving them from an unhealthy environment at the Toronto Zoo to a nicer place more conducive to the elephant lifestyle. How best to do that. Bob Barker. Different coloured t-shirts in the council chamber.

I remember Councillor Berardinetti being all up in that debate. No judgement from me about it. Wasn’t high on my list of things to be concerned about. bobbarkerKudos to the councillor for making it one of hers.

While she seemed to love the elephants, Councillor Berardinetti had little time for bike lanes. During the 2010 campaign, she claimed that some residents living along Pharmacy Avenue had moved because they could not “get out of their own driveway”, and within a year of taking over as councillor in Ward 35 had the damn bike lanes torn up along with those on Jarvis Street. In fact, run through this list of council votes from July 2011. Councillor Berardinetti pretty much came out against every pro-biking measure.

We get it, councillor. You represent a suburban ward. Everybody likes to drive there. Bikes have no place in your vision of how a city moves people around.

Or LRTs, for that matter.

Between she and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre), they played point for the 7 other Scarborough councillors who eventually helped then TTC Chair Karen Stintz flip the planned Bloor-Danforth LRT extension to a subway. crybabiesNot so much good cop-bad cop, the two traded off on being perpetually outraged and indignant. World class transit! Scarborough is owed! Selfish downtowners!

“You can’t go to residents with revenue tools and not even deliver a subway,” Councillor Berardinetti pronounced. Subways are the only mode of transit worth paying for. Nothing for nothing. Something for subways.

Yeah so, pretty much stamp their feet, whine loudly and hold their collective breath until they got their way.

To give her full marks, at least Councillor Berardinetti had been consistent in her opinion that Scarborough deserved a subway, any subway. She went along with Mayor Ford when he sought to bury the Eglinton crosstown and agreed that his Sheppard subway folly didn’t need any of the Dr. Gordon Chong suggested revenue tools to proceed. The councillor was an early and eager adopter of the Scarborough LRT/subway swap, even voting for an additional property tax increase to fund it, waitingforasubwayan inclination she didn’t show a lot of on almost any other issue so far during her time at City Hall.

Throughout much of this term, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti has proven herself comfortably in line with Mayor Rob Ford, especially on fiscal matters. She’s voted to keep taxes low, freezing and eliminating important sources of revenue. Just this year, as a member of the Budget Committee, she pushed a motion to ignore the staff recommended property tax increase, lowering it by .25% and making up the difference with any surpluses from the projected Land Transfer Tax revenue. Credit where credit’s due, the councillor didn’t then turn around and vote in favour of a report looking at any possible reduction in the LTT rate.

She pretty much reflects the arc of the city council story during the Ford era. As an original member of his powerful Executive Committee, Councillor Berardinetti enabled all his destructive instincts early on. But as he pissed away his power to influence the agenda, she slowly changed course, jumping from the Executive Committee during the mid-term shuffle. berardinettifordShe had also left the Budget Committee for a while from March 2012 until January of the following year. A trendsetter, let’s call her. Totally comfortable with his policies but unhappy with his politicking.

Maybe this might play well for her constituents.

In 2010, she handily beat incumbent Adrian Heaps, concluding a bitter struggle that had gone back to the 2006 election that resulted in lawsuits and all sorts of legal wrangling. Ward 35 went strongly pro-Rob Ford in that election, so maybe she’s tapped into a certain ambivalence toward the mayor amongst her residence, loving the message, just not the messenger. If that’s the case, she may be hard to unseat.

But if anybody were to run against her based on her record, take her to task for her habit of underfunding the city’s ability to pay for programs and services, call her out on her subway love taking priority over common fiscal (not to mention transit) sense, Councillor Berardinetti would have a lot to answer for. She’s been very much at the epicentre of a couple of the city’s most divisive debates over the last three years, nutcrackerand has not provided a particularly cooperative voice, opting instead for the us-versus-them, suburban-versus-downtown tone of anger and resentment that has plagued Toronto since amalgamation. Having been put into a couple positions of leadership as a first time councillor, with an opportunity to change that tone, she failed to provide much leadership at all.

It’s hard to imagine she’ll grow into the role going forward, having adopted the familiar position of Scarborough councillor with a chip on their shoulder that seems to be the commonplace feature with many. Why change? It’s an approach that’s been working since long before Councillor Berardinetti came to Toronto City Hall.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr