A Very Late Election Wrap-Up

Inequality and problems with governance ensure Ford Nation's longterm survival, despite Rob's "loss" of power.

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Credit: Spacing Magazine

In December of 2013, in a piece on this blog, I wrote quite pessimistically about how our crap candidates and the cynical elections they sire. John Tory was painted as a hero Toronto needs right now, if only he’d run. Karen Stintz chose to run because she saw it as the next logical step. To where? Who knows? And Olivia Chow, so reticent to run you wondered why she needed so much convincing. With a field including a drug addict, a career also-ran, Council’s most ambitious member and a seemingly decent candidate who couldn’t make up her mind, I tempered my hopes that the 2014 campaign might provide a renewing fire, burning off deadfall from the Ford years.

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Ford, the Press, and the 12th Man

The news business is a business, and businesses have to find ways to make money. Obvious as that may be, I regularly have to remind myself that as honest, intrepid and incorruptible as the members of the City Hall Press Gallery may be, they are, in the summation, agents of competing, for-profit businesses.

And those businesses are, inarguably, having a rough go. Every month we’re told that readership is down, ads are down, jerks on the internet won’t pay, and the end is nigh. All of that is probably true, which is why Rob Ford is, for people in news, especially print news, manna from Heaven. Ford is, without a doubt, the best thing to happen to the news business in Toronto, ever. Ever.

It’s no wonder the press wants to keep Ford in office. The Mayor is a one-man headline-writing machine. Even in the pre-crack days, he was always saying or doing something newsworthy. Remember when the silliest thing Rob did was flip the bird at other drivers? How about the time he was reading documents while plowing down the Gardiner? Oh, the good old days. Of course we know now he was probably either stoned off his ass or drunk as fuck in those incidents, but we were more innocent then. They Mayor was just a dangerous lunatic, not a dangerous drug-addled, drunken lunatic. Simpler times.

Now that we’ve been dropped into the crater of a post-crack world, Ford has gone from being good for the news business to being the news business. Policy? What’s that? Votes at Council? Only important in the context of Rob and/or Doug’s looney position on a given matter. For the last 2 years, at least, the daily schedule at City Hall has broken down, roughly, like this:

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Moving Forward(?)

 

In the past week, much of the world’s press (and most of America’s comedians) has been, in some way, focused on the movements and machinations of the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. And who can blame them? Taking your eyes off Ford, even for a second, risks missing something huge. But keeping a constant vigil can be a tricky proposition, especially with a loose cannon like Ford; when you’re paying attention, he disappoints, when you’re caught off guard, he drops bombshells. So it was this week when Ford strolled off a public elevator, not through his customary, protected back-door office entrance and, after playing the world’s strangest version of Jeopardy, finally owned up to smoking crack cocaine.

However, later that same day, Ford did a rope-a-dope and called a hotly anticipated press conference wherein he gave the most selfish speech in political history, simultaneously disappointing everyone and surprising no one. On the odd occasion when Ford bothered to mention the city he’s been chaotically destroying for 3 years, it was only in the context of his personal ambitions and desires. He hoped no one would have to go through what he’s gone through; he professed his love for his job; he expressed relief that this embarrassing chapter of his life was coming to an end. As baffling as it was galling, Ford once again proclaimed that he would go on doing the job he’d been elected to do (that he hasn’t really been doing for almost 2 years) and rejected calls for his resignation. Rob Ford, come hell or high water, would stay on as Mayor of Toronto.

I detailed my visceral reaction to the self-serving campaign launch scam that Ford pulled on the people and press of Toronto here.

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You Gotta Blame The Thing Up Here

Rob Ford greets well-wishers. (Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

If you follow Toronto politics closely enough, you might have started October 31st thinking it would be spent skimming hundreds of pages of court documents in a rushed attempt to be the first kid on your block to piece together the possible involvement of Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford, in the drug-dealing, violent life of his close associate, Sandro Lisi. How wrong you were.

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You Know Who…

I had a thought the other day when pondering the totality of the mess that is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Moreover, I was thinking about the massive amount of media resources dedicated to covering Toronto’s embattled chief bottle-washer and the fatigue that both the press and the electorate might be feeling come election time, next year. Will anyone have any energy left to care about the election? Will voter fatigue help or hurt Ford’s ambitions for re-election? Will the media still be able to cover the Mayor effectively when he’s done such a good job of setting the pace of coverage over his term?

While considering that, my mind drifted to Harry Potter. Specifically, Harry’s arch-nemesis, Voldemort.

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The Second Pride War

"I've got these queers right where I want 'em..."

Just over a year ago, I wrote a piece called “Why Pride” in which I argued 2 points related to the 2010 Pride celebrations in Toronto. In brief, they were:

  1. Pride should distance itself from aggressive political messages that are not its own, specifically the messages related to Israeli/Palestinian relations promoted by QuAIA.
  2. Pride should make better use of their its platform by de-emphasizing the naked, gyrating party and trying to put more media spotlight on their core messages of acceptance and openness.

On one of those two points, the one dealing with Queers against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), I feel somewhat validated by the events of the past few months. Pride did distance themselves slightly from QuAIA which was enough (at the time) to get the wolves at City Hall to back off their bull-headed pledge to pull Pride’s funding. But more than that, it put the focus of this year’s parade back squarely where it belongs, on the continuing day-to-day struggles of LGBTQ peoples in Toronto. Even the flap over the absence of Mayor Rob Ford from the parade was at least centred on the idea that a leader of the people of Toronto should represent all the people of Toronto, especially those who have been marginalized.

On the second point, concerning the emphasis on crazy fun over strong political messaging, I was quite wrong. I failed to grasp the power of an event where people can be themselves, even if only for an afternoon. I can see now that Pride allows those who perhaps spend much of the year couching their real feelings and personality to break free. In that way, the parade is both precious and beautiful and the way in which it creates spaces where people can feel completely comfortable IS the broader political message. I’d overlooked that in the past and I’m relieved to have seen the error in my thinking.

With that mea culpa humbly managed, we must return to the business of the day, which again is centred on QuAIA and the continued funding of Pride by the City of Toronto.

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VoteTO: The Home Stretch to Nowhere

So here we are in the final week of the campaign. In 6 long days, this campaign of 2010 will become our 4yr. hangover when whichever of these dopes we elect will take their turn fucking over one part of the city or another. Probably several at a time. Bumbling, blustering Rob Ford will take great pride in teaching downtown residents a lesson in much the same way Joe Pantalone will ignore the 50% of the city or so who evidently don’t give a shit about public transit or bike lanes. Smitherman…well, he’ll piss off everyone equally. The left will self-righteously attack him for lying about being a progressive. And because he’s a Liberal, he’ll inevitably infuriate the right with a graft scandal or two.

You wish we had a 4th option? Well, so do I. But the job of Mayor of Toronto is a sucker gig and the really smart people don’t fall for a sucker gig. And no amount of bullshit ballot ranking systems are going to fix that. You want to attract talent, you have to make the job worth having.

While pondering my unenthusiastic support of George Smitherman (read my quasi-endorsement) I’ve come upon a few revelations that I’d like to share with you tonight.

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VoteTO: A No Humble Opinions Endorsement

No matter where I go, my heart is always in Parkdale.

In some ways, this election has been the easiest ever for downtown, progressive types like me. Not only has there been an obvious target for our righteous rage, the apparent lack of a clear alternative has allowed liberal progressives to lazily wallow in depression and negativity while avoiding the difficult work of supporting a particular idea and by extension, a candidate as well as the painstaking work of defending their choice to others.  This campaign is all negativity; from the leading candidate on down to his most ardent detractors. Negativity is so very simple because it’s purely reactive. Your opponent says or does something and you react. And thanks to Twitter and Facebook, you don’t even have to leave the house to be on the reactionary bandwagon.

To be fair, I’ve not only been on the Anti-Rob Ford bandwagon, at times I’ve been pulling it forward with my teeth. I’ve taken pot shots, at various times I’ve wished violence upon Rob Ford and/or his supporters and I’ve engaged in brutal arguments with good friends about the mental capacity of Ford’s supporters. And to be clear, in general it’s been great sport. Ford is not only an easy target, he constantly provides you with new material. A fact which makes attacking Ford a very hard habit to break. Truly, were I not deeply concerned about Ford’s chances of winning and the untold damage his mayoralty would do to our city, I might be inclined to keep the blinders on and hammer away on Ford until judgement day…or the election.

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Gimme Sympathy

The heart-wrenching stories of minor inconveniences are already pouring in from across Toronto and it’s only been 16 hours. According to the Toronto Star, a guy had to wait a whole 12 minutes to get a parking spot at City Hall.

But who I am riffing on here, the guy or the Star? It’s bullshit to say “a bit of both” so I’ll say that when even the lefty paper (can we really still call it that? Royson James still works there, after all) is spending a disproportionate amount of words on pissed off citizens vs. pissed off city workers, it’s easy to see where the dice are stacked.

But who can blame the media? Momma’s have to stay home with their kids, Bay Streeters can’t get parking and the gay communitee must suffer the double indignity of a possible Pride cancellation and losing access to Hanlan’s Point. In the Globe, a Ms. Shiner (who can’t “chase men” to “stay alive” at the Community Centre) gets 5 lines of text before the union prez gets one; and then it’s to play Mr. Obvious and say that he’s managing an “unpopular” strike. Hey, mad people make better press than negotiations. So if this strike drags on, the cover of the Sun will get more vitriolic (Bastards!, How Dare They?, Stinks!, etc.) and people, suckers for anger as they are, will get all rowdy right along with it.

But what about the workers themselves. Again in the Globe, a Ms. Godard asserts that “times are hard and their benefits are more than most people have”. Well, so what? If Ms. Godard wants to live in a country where everyone gets the same pay and same benefits regardless of what they do…a perfectly fair society…then perhaps Soviet-era Russia is more your speed than Canada. In Canada, as in most of the Western world, people are free (to an extent) to make as much as they can as long as they play within the rules. Local 416 played within the rules, earning what they’ve got over years and years of collective agreements. And now their supposed to give it back? If the City does get a concession, does Ms. Godard expect to see a cheque. All that will really happen is the city worker will have less, which is bound to have a real effect on their life; and Ms. Godard will have a feeling of moral superiority, which can’t buy shit.

It must be tough to run a union today. Unions typically fight for a guy/gal that works with their hands trying to make something; people who used to be the backbone of our economy; people worth rewarding. But that was in a time when people didn’t weigh their self-worth against the whole world as they do now. A guy who spent 5 years and $50,000 on a degree gets pretty pissed when he’s out-earned by a garbage worker. Money equals self-worth and how the hell can a garbage man be worth more than a university graduate? It’s ridiculous and mean. But there’s nothing the unions can do about it. We are gradually slinking towards a class system and the unions find themselves representing workers who’ve been classified as “the little people”.

As long as you can find members of the public who really thinks it’s “unfair” that someone makes a decent wage with benefits by working with our trash (or our ferries, pools, whatever), then the union must exist. And if they exist, they must work for the benefit of their workers. And finally, let’s remember that contracts don’t sign themselves. The other name on there is Mr. Mayor. A Mr. Mayor agreed to the time bank, for example, and another Mr. Mayor agreed to it again in the last contract. Why does he get off easy?