Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The strongest argument against proportional representation I've ever seen: Faith Goldy's 3.4% vote for Toronto mayor

Toronto mayor final voting results

Yesterday, Torontonians voted in their municipal election and re-elected John Tory by a wide margin with 63.5% of the vote.  Second place finisher Jennifer Keesmaat finished way back but with the still substantial 23.6%.

But Faith Goldy, a far-right propagandist who works through a white supremacist lens and has talked about an upcoming racial civil war in North America, took a disturbing 25,667 votes across the city, or 3.4% of the vote.

Faith Goldy and supporters with Ford at Ford Fest last month
Goldy got a bit famous in neo-conservative circles thanks to her work for Ezra Levant's Rebel Media, a website on which many "mainstream" conservatives like Andrew Scheer have appeared in the past.  Her notoriety increased last year when she "reported" on the Charlottesville white supremacist riot and "appeared on a podcast affiliated with neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer."

For that, she was fired from Rebel.  It's sad to realize that despite that at least one of her videos still appears on the Rebel's YouTube channel. 

Goldy recently made an appearance at Doug Ford's 2018 Ford Fest and got photographed with the premier.  When questioned about this, Doug Ford first found it difficult to disassociate himself from her. 

Goldy's mayoral candidacy got little mainstream media attention.  In the few mayoral debates that took place, she wasn't invited (although she did try to force herself into at least one of them.)  In fact, John Tory explicitly said he would not stand on the same debate platform with a white supremacist.

But Goldy's signs were all over the city and she had enough money to launch robo-calls and other outreach to voters.   And in the end, she garnered 3.4% or 25,667 votes.

This is the kind of thing that opponents of proportional representation have been warning us about and I must say today I am deeply alarmed.

Yes it was a mayoral race, but if this dubiously qualified candidate can win this much support in a mayoral race in Toronto, imagine what she or similar racists in a political party could win in a general election.

I've argued before that proportional representation is a better voting system than our current First-Past-The-Post system.

But today, I'm not so sure.  As we know, in the Ontario model of proportional representation that was defeated in 2007, three per cent of the vote province-wide was the threshold for winning seats in the House.  That party would then be able to use that representation to influence the larger parties.  Winning that toehold in one election would likely mean its support could grow as potential voters realize they're not wasting their votes on them.

Yet, our current system tends to shut out extremists like this.  It's not enough to win 3 or 5 per cent of the vote, one has to win a wider amount of support enough to carry the most votes in at least one seat to earn representation.

This reality has shut out extremists like Faith Goldy from gaining representation and more power in our legislatures with which they could do great harm.

Of course, First-Past-The-Post also has its many flaws.  It hands parties with a mere plurality of support majority power.   Sometimes it even hands the losing party the most seats, as it did recently in New Brunswick.

A friend of mine on social media recently commented in support of First-Past-The-Post, stating "there is no question that FPTP ensures that political parties are only successful if they avoid extremes and extremists."

In some ways, that's true.  Parties will usually aim toward the mainstream in order to win enough broad support to win seats and government.  Parties that only aim toward the tiny minority that are white supremacists and ignore the rest of us cannot usually win seats under FPTP.

In the United Kingdom, the xenophobic UK Independence Party won an incredible 12.6% support in the 2015 election, but that only translated into one single seat out of 650.  In the next election, its support fell way back to 1.8% and zero seats.

Yet extreme parties like that would win seats under proportional representation.  I'd personally favour a five percent cutoff for representation under PR, but even that total could be exceeded by some upstart white supremacist party, as Goldy's 3.4% total yesterday makes clear.

I equate white supremacists with homophobic bigots on the religious right.  And there's no doubt that the shrinking proportion of religious fundamentalists who would destroy the lives of all LGBTQ people have been frustrated of late as their influence also recedes in Canada.

They've responded to this reality by continuing to stay active in the Conservative parties across the country.  But even in those parties, their influence is diminishing.  The Conservatives no longer explicitly oppose same sex marriage, for example.

Yet, far right activists still have had some success in Conservative parties.  Loser candidates with almost zero qualifications for leadership - like 19-year-old home schooled Ontario MPP Sam Oosterhoff, or Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost - seem to regularly win big amounts of support in that party. 

Earlier this year, right wing extremist Tanya Granic Allen ran a one-note campaign in the Ontario PC leadership race against Ontario's inclusive school curriculum (brought in by Kathleen Wynne, it actually acknowledged the existence of LGBTQ kids in our schools.)  Granic Allen garnered an incredible 15% of the vote, almost as much as Caroline Mulroney.  In the end, that 15% of the vote was crucial to "electing" Doug Ford as PC leader, who's now gone on to become premier and cancel that inclusive curriculum (while still ditching the horrid Granic Allen from his candidate roster after some more homophobic comments of hers were revealed.)

So while no far right fringe party has representation in the Ontario legislature, its influence in determining the outcome of the Conservative leadership shows that the big tent parties under First-Past-The-Post are still vulnerable. 

Yet I have to say that I prefer the status quo over seeing a contingent of bigots winning representation under some possible proportional representation system.  While the influence of the far right on the Conservatives remains real but not overwhelming (and they have virtually no influence in the Liberal Party, the NDP or the Greens,) there's no doubt that influence would grow substantially were they to win a foothold of actual seats in our legislatures.

The far right extreme is not going away.  It's true that certain conservatives like Doug Ford or Donald Trump have been able to appeal to them in order to win power under Winner Take All or First Past the Post.   But those same conservatives under these voting systems must still appeal to the much bigger mainstream, and thus that influence is diminished, it seems.  I'd hate to see what a Conservative Party coalition with Faith Goldy's far right fringe party might accomplish under proportional representation.

Suddenly, I find myself questioning my whole support for PR.  Most PR proponents tend to be well-meaning left-wing activists or environmentalists.  But as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Perhaps progressive folks like me who want to stop the flaws of First-Past-The-Post should look to other systems to fix it.

Perhaps ranked balloting - the kind that Justin Trudeau wanted to implement federally and which now exists municipally in London, Ontario - is the better alternative than a system that might give an amplified voice to the far right extremes of our society. 


UPDATE: After some good debate and thought, I've re-thought this and still support Proportional Representation over our current broken First-Past-The-Post system.  Click here for my update. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Big silver lining: goodbye to the buffoonish Giorgio Mammoliti

Goodbye, Mammoliti! :-)
Congrats to John Tory who won an overwhelming re-election tonight in Toronto.

The voters have spoken: the majority of them must be happy with his performance as mayor, as they are presumably happy with the cost of living in this city, the state of transit, road infrastructure, and housing.

Or perhaps they simply know him very well and Jennifer Keesmaat, who launched her campaign in late July, didn't have enough time to get her message out and her name out there.  The race was also hijacked by Doug Ford's ward-changing shenanigans, leaving only about one month for candidates to campaign without that major distraction.

It was too high a hill to climb in so short a time.  Regardless, I hope Keesmaat will stay involved in politics and continue to promote a better city.  And hopefully Tory will steal some of her great ideas for making the city better.  

Congrats as well to Kristyn Wong-Tam, an awesome queer woman of colour who won easy re-election in my ward of Toronto Centre.

Looking around the various ward elections, it's a mixed bag of results with some folks I don't respect much winning, while others I adore also winning. 

The stand-out silver lining tonight is the much-deserved defeat of the buffoonish, repulsive Giorgio Mammoliti, who has been a thorn in the side of all decent people in Toronto for too long.

This is a jerk who's made a career of attacking vulnerable people and spreading hate.  His contributions to public life are a joke, yet he continued to win because incumbents are damn hard to beat in municipal elections where name recognition means a lot.  
Thankfully, the voters of his Ward 7 in Humber River-Black Creek finally sent him packing, electing instead Anthony Perruzza, the other incumbent in the area.

In a funny way, this is solely because Doug Ford reduced the size of council from 47 to 25.  Had that not happened, I'm sure the horrid Mammolit would've won his smaller ward.  How ironic! 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

We get the mediocre city we deserve if we re-elect John Tory as Toronto mayor

I like Toronto mayor John Tory as a person.  He seems decent enough and hard-working.  He's come a long way since the nasty backrooms of the 1993 federal election and even his first run as a politician in 2003, when he placed a strong second to David Miller in the race for Toronto mayor.

He's learned a lot about how to play issues and sound intelligent and fair, even when he has no intention of being so when the cameras are turned off. 

When I hear Tory talk, I've often found myself unsure if I support or oppose what he's saying because his style is to be all over the map, vacillating around most issues, sometimes within the same sentence. 

Tory is often well-meaning, but he lacks follow through and the fortitude to implement a good policy in the face of irrational resistance.  As mayor, Tory has played it safe and often taken the easiest way out of a policy choice.

I was thankful to Tory for getting rid of the Fords from the mayor's office in 2014.  I voted strategically for him then.  But in 2018, Toronto needs better.

Our city's growth is out of control with not much of a plan I can see for making it sustainable and ensuring public services keep up with that growth. It is now common to see school board signs at new condo developments warning potential buyers their kids will likely have to be transported far away to attend a public school. 

Too many pedestrians and cyclists continue to die on our roads in a city filled with entitled, reckless motorists who still consider most downtown streets as their personal highways.  The city's Vision Zero plan has not been supported enough by John Tory, who instead prefers to side with regressive suburban councillors on most road issues.

I'll admit his support of the King Street Streetcar pilot was good, but it struck me as more calculated (to win downtown progressive votes in the face of a possible Doug Ford run for mayor earlier this year) than sincere.   

Tory's decision to champion spending an extra $500 million to rebuild the crumbling eastern Gardiner Expressway is the kind of foolish capitulation to suburban drivers that we've seen from many previous mediocre mayors like him.  When it comes to placating privileged motorists, no expense can be spared, it seems.  So much for fiscal conservatism. (Let's also not forget that Tory truly believed the Gardiner East should be torn down, but flip flopped as mayor when he had the chance to follow through.)
We desperately need a transit system that is comprehensive and serves all parts of the city well.  But there's little chance of that happening under John Tory who's more interested in salvaging whatever he can from his failed Smart Track proposal than building such a network. 

I've been impressed with Jennifer Keesmaat in this race and I've already voted for her in advance polls.  She is someone who knows city planning and city building in her bones and is a bold fighter.  I was thrilled that someone deeply credible got into the race to challenge Tory.  It says a lot that Toronto's city planner decided to run against her former boss.  

All of Keesmaat's proposals strike me as well-thought out and based on firm principles that will lead to a much better Toronto.  Plus she seems tougher than Tory and more capable of implementing her policies than he has ever been. 

But alas, if the polls are correct, Torontonians seem contented with the complacent, wishy washy style of John Tory in the mayor's chair.  

I hope that doesn't come to pass.

We get the leadership and government we deserve.

If John Tory wins Monday, I can only say this to those who support him: 

Over the next four years and beyond, when you're stuck in a massive traffic jam downtown because too many people still opt to drive cars as good transit alternatives don't exist, or when you're crammed into a bus or subway platform waiting, or dodging reckless taxi cars on your bike, or worse yet mourning the death of a loved one who was run down by a speeding motorist on a residential street, remember we brought this on ourselves.   

And sadly we all have to live with it.  

Friday, October 19, 2018

The point has been made. It's time to move beyond the ban on police in Pride

The Canadian Press/Michael Hudson
I supported the move two years ago by Toronto Pride to ban uniformed police officers from their annual parade and festivities.

Like many at the time, I'd become quite pissed at the police for various injustices and stupidities.

I'm generally torn in my feelings toward the police: while I respect professionals who aim to serve their communities with respect and fairness for all and I admire those among us who dutifully run towards danger in times of emergency, I still generally don't like or understand police officers much.

Altruism isn't what primarily inspires most careers in law enforcement; instead, it's usually more the desire to wield power over the rest of us.  I generally see the police as agents of the state who simply act to protect and fortify the establishment no matter how immoral or even evil it might be.  I'll never understand how anyone can unconditionally align themselves with the powers-that-be like that.

In recent years, it's my opinion that police forces in North America have become more brutish, not less.  The brutality thrust upon people of colour communities by police throughout history has been horrific and those horrors continue today. 

We in Toronto remember well the G20 police clashes with protesters in 2010 - when many undercover officers took advantage of the opportunity to flex their muscles and abuse the rights of innocent protesters - showed us what's in their hearts.  It wasn't pretty.

Police organizations across North America are turning themselves into highly weaponized armies and the demands for more budget funding seem endless.  Toronto's police force alone costs about $1 billion per year.  

For decades, the police were no friends of the LGBTQ community.  Back when homophobia ruled mainstream culture in North America, the police would routinely harass and make life hell for us.  And many believe the cops have yet to truly atone for those abuses - I'm one of them. 

In 2016, Black Lives Matter held up the Toronto Pride parade and demanded that the police be banned from future Prides.  Months later, mostly white members of Pride Toronto voted to support that ban.

There's no doubt the ban has divided the LGBTQ community.  Some passionately opposed it, saying it was wrong to ban an entire profession of people.  Others, like myself, accepted it.  But regardless, a message of defiance has been sent to the police and the establishment.  

Since then, the police have still provided needed security at Toronto Pride.  Some sponsorships and donations have been lost.  And there's no doubt the ban has strained relations between the LGBTQ community and the police. 

But as time goes on, an indefinite ban seems simply wrong.  I'd say our community has made its collective point.  The police aren't some monolithic force like the Borg.  They're made up of individual human beings, all of whom have the capacity to grow and learn from past mistakes.  They ought to be decent public servants.  Continuing to hold all police officers accountable for the acts of some seems unfair, especially from a community that has also felt the sting of prejudice.

We are never going to get anywhere if we continually dwell on the injustices of the past.

If the police still need to atone for past indignities and make peace with the LGBTQ community, how can banning them and shutting down discussion make that happen?   It can't. 

Regardless of the insider reasons that may have contributed to the decision, I think Pride Toronto made the right move announcing this week the ban is done.   

The reactions we're seeing now from some expressing venomous hatred for all police officers simply reinforces my own concerns about the initial sentiments that led to the ban in the first place.  Many ban proponents strike me as being perpetually locked into their ideology of distrust and opposition.  To them, the ban was a victory, an end in itself.  How long was it supposed to last?  Indefinitely, it seems.  

These harsh messages of punishing the police or exacting revenge upon them forever were never going to improve LGBTQ-police relations.  They weren't designed to. 

There will always be those who can't forgive, reinforced by their ideological prejudices.  Are all police bullies like the boy who used to abuse this writer?  Too many are, but not all.

A never-ending ban on police is no way forward, in my opinion.  I've gone along with it these past two years, but I say it's now time to move on.  I'm not interested in being a part of a never-ending ideological stand-off. 

We should be willing to forgive and to be the better human beings here, even if the police as an institution have yet to fully atone for their past transgressions against us.