The Toronto Municipal elections on Monday Oct 27 are less than a week away. The positions of Mayor, City Councillors and school board trustees are all up for grabs. Let me provide a brief overview of what the situation looks like at the ground level here in the city.
The 3 main candidates for mayor, of course, are Olivia Chow, Doug Ford and John Tory. Olivia has the Toronto and Ontario Labour Councils' endorsement. She was a city councillor for 14 years before becoming a Federal MP for the NDP. As the widow of the late highly respected Federal NDP Party leader Jack Layton, she might be considered Toronto royalty of a blue collar sort. Party allegiances aren't supposed to count at the municipal level. Regretfully, Olivia has been successfully labelled as an irresponsible NDP big spender, despite her quite respectable track record on financial issues. Unlike the other candidates, she also has a very detailed plan for the city which includes issues like housing, daycare and realistically meeting other local needs at the community level. Unfortunately despite an early lead in the polls she has circled the 19-23% range since the election heated up this summer. Apparently she has an all star war room and campaign team. One would hardly know it. Sadly she has fallen flat and quite frankly, has little or no chance of winning if we are going to be realistic.
It's true that the pollsters have been consistently wrong in the last few municipal, provincial and federal elections. I would put little stock in them. It's been suggested they are using outdated polling techniques. They largely leave out the new communications media while still trying to make home phone calls. Or maybe they are now just quite simply available for the highest bidder, accuracy be damned? After so many bad calls its a wonder they still have any credibility at all.
Pipe dream: Olivia Chow for mayor?
Unfortunately for Olivia, its quite obvious she hasn't any groundswell of support to suggest her numbers are going to be way off, accept among her own hardcore supporters. Union and party endorsements and help have been low key, while relatively few prominent local NDP'ers and Liberals have been giving her an endorsement. When questioned about the issue of her lack of visible support on CP24 this morning, she claimed that the troops will all be out to help her come election day. Maybe so, but with a flat lined campaign and little apparent fire in her belly despite her dogged determinism who else can they drag out to vote for her? It is with sincerest regrets that I can see her as little more than a spoiler at this point. The great fear here, at the local level, even among progressives is that she will draw away votes from John Tory, allowing Doug Ford to win by default.
Doug Ford is politically somewhere to the right of former Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak. Like Hudak, and his fellow neo consters in Ottawa, he has been ruthlessly pursuing a vicious mudslinging campaign as he attempts to bully and bury his competition deep below all his Conservative bullshit. The numbers don't add up on his outrageous claims that brother Robbie has balanced the city budget and stopped the supposed "gravy Train" of wasted tax dollars. He likewise continues to pursue a very divisive divide and conquer strategy. Brother Rob and he they have at one time or another both been caught making sexist, homophobic or racist slurs against any number of the many diverse citizen groups that make up this fine city. Most ludicrous of all, he portrays himself as the millionaire friend of the everyday working class taxpayer. Those he is supposedly out to serve will ultimately be hurt the most by the Ford brothers continuing privatization and gutting of the cities public services. Meanwhile Toronto continues to be battered with the incredulous antics of brother Rob. He even recently managed to slip out from "cancer care" to blatantly break the election canvassing ban at the advance polls. Mea culpa? Rob Ford has made Toronto the laughing stock of world class cities. However, brother Doug is more dangerous. Unlike Rob he has half a brain. If he wins the chaos and turmoil that we have seen over the last 4 years will only be a prelude of worse to come.
John Tory: Vote for me + I'll dance the Hokey Pokey!
Mayoral candidate John Tory seems to be the Toronto Conservative establishments alternative to four more devastating years of the Ford Brothers misrule. Doug has labeled John as "Richie Rich" in their millionaire election battle. However Tory is helpfully a very potentially useful tool for continuing the cities moneyed class agenda. Privitization of city services is certainly on the table while his policies for local community support issues remains vague. It's at best hidden behind the red herring of the public transit debate that has become the focus of this years municipal election. On the other hand, John is also a "Red Tory", fiscally to the right, socially to the left of the Toronto political spectrum. It was a position that won him little favour among party ranks as a former PC leader. Before I retired, I monitored him for a few years for my union PAC [Political Advisory Committee]. I don't doubt he consults with everybody, can be a gentleman, and will try to be inclusive of all the cities conflicting and quite varied interests. Its a sad state of affairs when one needs to look back affectionately at the Red Tory years of Canadian Conservatism, but if John represents its second coming, well we would in fact be a lot better off than with Ford and his lot. Hudak has been given the boot at the provincial level, Harper might be vulnerable in next years Federal election. Perhaps a Tory win can finally put the neo con US style Tea Party tactics to rest once and for all here in the city of Toronto too?
Granted, from a progressive point of view one is certainly grasping at straws. Olivia would be the obvious choice. I don't doubt she could do an excellent job. Unfortunately there is little to suggest she can now be much more than a spoiler on election day. So does one vote for the Chow dream ticket or the John Tory alternative on October 27th? I'd bet many progressives aren't going to be willing to risk the catastrophe of 4 more years with the Fords, be it Doug or Rob, after all we have been through. The polls either show John and Doug tied in a dead heat, or present Tory with a 9 point lead. Unfortunately for Olivia these numbers might well tend to scare her potential support over to the John Tory camp on election day. The huge advance polls suggest Torontonians are taking this election very seriously, if not too carefully, perhaps even giving John a majority win.
Toronto Transit Debate: Bottoms up?!
Any discussion of this years Toronto Mayoral election should consider the candidates transit plans, since that is the issue over which they have been making the most hay. I am reluctant to do so because, quite frankly, this is at best a rue. The subway debate in Toronto goes back to at least to the 1920's. Playing catch up at this point would certainly be very expensive, time consuming and disruptive. Toronto was presented with a perfectly fine "Transit City" plan during the David Miller years. With wide indepth consultation a mixed transit plan was developed to efficiently move people about this city in time for next year's Pan American games, and the years ahead. Little or no mention of the plan is made today by any of the candidates, each of whom have been trying to reinvent the wheel with their own brand of one upmanship. Any new plan will require a lot of additional financing. If that isn't going to mean some sort of a huge municipal tax hike it will need to be provided likewise by the provincial or the federal government. The Premier Wynne has been quite clear that the provincial Liberals won't just be giving any of the candidates a green light with their so called transit plans. Indeed they are usually little more than a dream list of fictional remedies that will only delay any realistic and practical solution to the cities transit deadlock for many decades to come.
Of course, the mayor alone, whomever that might be come election day, does not get to arbitrarily decide which way the city will go on any number of issues, including public transit. We also face a very sad sack collection of city councillors from all across the political spectrum. Alas, I live in Councillor Giorgio Mammolitis York West Ward. Giorgio's political opportunism is at best an embarrassment, especially when he sucks up to the Ford brothers even after Rob labeled him as a "Gino". Then there was the self proclaimed left wing conspiracy against him. As a lefty I can clearly state this is pure BS. The bottom line is that the ward hardly needs four more years of Giorgio's toadyism whatever ones' political ilk.
Giorgio Mammoliti: Vote for me or I'll kill this bear!!!
As in many Wards, one is faced by a mirade of other candidate alternatives, most of them unknown. One might be well advised to refer to the Toronto York Labour Councils [TYLC] endorsement picks in choosing a progressive candidate [see HERE!]. I have participated during their screening process in the past and can confirm that it is very thorough. However, as is often the case when a virtual unknown is chosen one might well be just throwing away a vote, and in this case a chance to finally get rid of Giorgio Mammoliti. Indeed he is especially vulnerable this election with allegations of corruption and overspending. Like it or not, Nick DiNovo a former local rate payers president is the only candidate within striking range of Giorgio. So does one risk his otherwise vague policies on progressive issues just to get rid of the current demon, or vote for a labour dream ticket that will inevitably go up in a cloud of smoke on election day?
When it comes to school board trustees, the TYLC picks especially for the public board, are more likely to be viable candidates, especially considering how few votes are often needed to win. The Toronto public board is caught up in a polarized left verses right wing trustee struggle, while the Catholic board marches to its own odd ball assortment of local right wing parish drummers. The TYLC has ventured a few possible winning progressive Catholic trustee endorsements this year though it largely remains pretty slim pickings.
I'm afraid after all is said and done, a lot of voters are going to just have to hold their nose and vote strategically in this years Oct 27 Toronto municipal election. The bottom line for many of us, including the progressive electorate is that four more years of Fordism is totally unacceptable. Be that as it may I encourage you to check out the labour picks for all the races. Good luck!
Soooo .... If you can't always get what you want? What then???
Counterpoint: Why you shouldn't vote strategically @ HERE!
The case for voting for the best candidate. Rather Polly Anna in my books: May the best person win @ HERE!
A complete list and map for all the TYLC endorsements is @ HERE!
A TYLC report on why this election matters so much is @ HERE!
More TYLC on their endorsement picks + other updates is @ HERE!
On + off the Ford Bros campaign trail: timeline + over 2 years of news links @ HERE!
A night out with Ford Nation! You are there @ No Ford! No Way!