Friday, June 23, 2023

Toronto has withered under centre-right leadership for too long, it's time for a thoughtful progressive mayor to fix it

Olivia Chow speaks with supporters
I am quite disappointed with the mediocre results former mayor John Tory achieved for the city of Toronto.   

In eight years, Tory mostly dithered while the city was going to shit.  Apparently, he worked long hours but I don't know what he actually achieved that pushed the city forward.  In fact, we've gone backwards.  Housing became a huge crisis while he counted the pennies making sure property taxes stayed artificially low.  His Smart Track mass transit mirage taught us that nice-sounding big plans for transit are just bullshit designed to trick us.  He was abetted by other centrist do-nothings and conservatives on council as they annually made sure the road construction budget ballooned, as well as the police budget, but nothing much else.   

That lack of vision and leadership at the top made for deeply inconsistent city services and quality of life.  Progress on needed infrastructure was slow to get planned and implemented.  The TTC is a mess caused by years of cuts and mismanagement.

Bad decisions to rebuild the aging Gardiner Expressway were taken just to appease the numbskulls who can't conceive of any other way to get around Toronto than to zoom through it at 100 kilometres an hour on a massively subsidized and archaic raised highway.  It's been galling in this mayoral by-election campaign to hear the principle-challenged Brad Bradford and other centrist and neo-conservative do-nothings demand we must never revisit these bad decisions.   

This is the team that drove Toronto into the ditch where we've been living now for several years.  The last people to fix the city will be those who helped to break it.  Looking at you, Ana Bailao.  I'm glad you have ambition, Ana, but I'm sorry.  You are completely the wrong person for the moment Toronto finds itself in.  

Mark Saunders has campaigned to make the city more dangerous for cyclists.  Why?  Because his neo-conservative asshole advisers are playing the same game they've played since Mike Harris: divide and conquer.  Pick an unpopular foil to attack, and the dumb masses will line up behind you like they did for Rob Ford and Donald Trump.  But luckily, Torontonians know better than these neo-con folks.  Coupled with Saunders' general lack of political leadership skills, his campaign has largely gone nowhere.  Now many conservatives are flocking to the equally abhorrent but slightly more articulate Anthony Furey, ensuring a divided right. 

For me, I hoped that Mitzie Hunter might garner some momentum to become competitive in this race.  She is bright and likeable and hard-working.  Leaving her full-time job at Queen's Park was quite the gamble.  She's put a lot of work into designing her comprehensive plan for the city and I could easily live with her as mayor.  The city would get the thoughtful progressive attention it needs with her in the mayor's seat.  

Unfortunately for her, Mitzie's campaign has been a bit unfocused (as was her previous Liberal leadership campaign in 2019/2020.)  She's tried to release plans for all of the city's major problems, but hasn't quite perfected her communications on why she is the best person to implement them.  In a very crowded race filled with ambitious people advocating similar proposals, she hasn't been able to stand out and go up in the polls. 

Josh Matlow showed little interest working with people and building coalitions across the city until his mayoral run this year.  His positions on most issues mimicked my own.  But I was warned by a longtime family friend of his that the whole Josh Matlow schtick has been and continues to be an elaborate performance, perhaps the best performance yet from the failed actor.  Apparently, Mr. Matlow believes almost nothing about what he says.  On top of his lone wolf personality, he doesn't seem to be the person our city needs now as mayor. 

This leaves Olivia Chow.  Compassionate, thoughtful, hard-working with nerves of steel and the battle scars to prove it.  Chow decided to run when other decent, authentically progressive candidates took a pass. 

Chow has tapped into and spoken to the city's fatigue with the negative impacts of the centrist status quo.  We're tired of the messes we continue to see in the city parks with garbage bins falling apart, public bathrooms gross and shut, and inconsistent, illogical, never-ending work being done to our infrastructure. 

Other candidates have engaged in hysterics demanding taxes be kept low while promising that spending under them will jump to improve city services.  Ana Bailao has run one of the most dishonest campaigns one could imagine, having been an accomplice to the city's current state of disrepair and now promising to fix it with her bullshit promise to upload the Gardiner and Don Valley expressways.  When it's clear that won't happen, were she to win the mayor's seat, we'd immediately see her flip flop on all of her promises and settle in to enjoy those strong mayor powers.  And the mediocrity will only continue. 

Thirteen years of conservative / centrist do-nothing rule in Toronto has damaged the city and needs to come to an end.  This by-election, spurred by the surprisingly bad decision of John Tory to engage in inappropriate behaviour and his good decision to resign, is now a chance to reset Toronto on the right path.  

It's time now for a progressive mayor with an inclusive, hard-working vision, someone who will pay attention to the details and actually prioritize quality of life for all, not just roads, police and low property taxes.   

With her opposition divided between a handful of centrist and conservative candidates, Chow looks well-poised to win the race and I see that as a very good thing.   Polls have put her at about 30% support for weeks.  I have a feeling she's going to end up closer to 40% on Monday, a strong mandate to fix Toronto and to challenge the idiot in charge at Queen's Park.   

If Chow prevails, I'll look forward to seeing gradual improvements to the little things like the Martin Goodman Trail along the waterfront that has been badly neglected these last 13 years.  And hopefully more coherence, more action and less empty talk from City Hall.

As mayor, her challenge will be to reach out to centrists and conservatives on council to find common ground to push Toronto forward.  I'm very confident Chow has the skills to do that well and be a great mayor for the city.  If she doesn't reach out to all across the city and continue to build coalitions, Chow will be vulnerable in the next election in 2026 when she'll likely not benefit from a divided opposition as she is doing this year. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Today's tonic: "York’s Catholic school trustees are abusing their power by refusing to raise the Pride flag. Their day of reckoning is coming"

Today's tonic: "York’s Catholic school trustees are abusing their power by refusing to raise the Pride flag. Their day of reckoning is coming," by Martin Regg Cohn

I couldn't  agree more with the columnist on this.  

It's long past time for an Ontario leader to be brave enough to take on this sacred cow of a separate system just for Catholics and unite our public education systems to end this systemic discrimination based on religion.  No faith should have special rights in modern Ontario.  

 In 2007, the public made clear in that provincial election (with the crushing defeat of John Tory's PCs who advocated that year expanding funding to all religions) they certainly don't want to further silo off our public education system to create even more religious public schools.  

Instead, the solution to this discrimination is clear: one system for all.