Category Archives: Toronto

When Has Ford Changed His Mind?

There’s an article in the Globe and Mail today in which Doug Ford argues that his brother be given imperial power to rule Etobicoke Toronto. Now this is something that Rob Ford especially deserves in the eyes of big brother Doug. Says Ford the elder:

“One of the great attributes that Rob has. … Rob will sit down and he’ll be in a group of 10 people and they’ll say, ‘Rob, we should do it this way’ and even if he says, ‘Oh, I think it’s this…’ he’s open minded. He’ll change his mind.”

Oh. Can Doug provide us an example of this? I’m just asking because so far all Ford has as a response to criticism is “I was elected to build subways” or some variation on that. I’m waiting for the day he will say something like “oh, yeah, building a subway to nowhere is a complete waste of money and totally stupid.”


Kelly McParland Repeats Big Lie About Toronto

This was the most remarkable idiocy in an otherwise blisteringly stupid column about how Toronto doesn’t matter any more in Canadian politics:

“Toronto’s political clout hasn’t disappeared altogether — it continues to suck up large amounts of provincial and federal funding”

Toronto of course contributes more to federal and provincial coffers than is spent here. Elsewhere McParland says that Toronto needs to elect some Conservative MPs to regain its influence in Ottawa. Excuse me, but electing MPs is not about buying influence, it’s about choosing who represents your values and your priorities. Too bad for Harper that people in Toronto aren’t anti-immigrant gun nuts pining for Fantino’s Charter-less police-state. Apparently until we prostrate ourselves at the feet of our oil patch overlords we can expect no decent consideration at the federal level.

Ford’s Win As Explained by Zizek

One of things that I noted about Ford’s seemingly surprising victory in Toronto is that the field of candidates was historically weak. Joe Pantalone was not a particularly suitable vessel for carrying on Miller’s centre-left legacy. (I recall reading someone who said that Pantalone had all of Miller’s negatives and none of his positives.) Smiterman ran a terrible campaign based around the fact that he was a sort of centrist technocrat who should be mayor because, well, he is a centrist technocrat. Rob Ford ran a fairly typical populist campaign and won by telling people over and over that the elite were unaccountably wasting our tax dollars. In the end the contest was between the centrist technocrat and the right-wing populist and the right-wing populist won.

Viewed through this lens, the Toronto election campaign is reminiscent of something that Slavoj Zizek said on a Dutch TV show recently. Zizek argues that throughout the West political movements are lining up in these two categories, centrist (be it centre-left or centre-right) technocrats and insurgent, far right populists driven more emotion than hard facts. These right-wing populist movements are now better able mobilize people than any particular left-wing group, they have even taken over the language of class by complaining about nebulous “elites” who don’t listen to the people. As Zizek says, “The only channel that functions for more radical forms of discontent is right-wing populism.”

There is no reason why more progressive political parties cannot own the issues of waste and government corruption or the sense that people get that government is unresponsive to them. I mean is Tommy Douglas’ “Mouseland” speech not an excellent example of a progressive attack on government that ignores the vast majority of citizens?

How Ford’s Win Could Affect Provincial and/or Federal Politics

Scott has a great post dispelling the foolish notion that Rob Ford is harbinger of doom for Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals. He writes:

“Municipal politics are a far cry from provincial politics, and I contend one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. For example, does Nenshi’s election in Calgary as that city’s mayor last week herald a wave of progressivism about to sweep Alberta provincially or federally? Of course it doesn’t, and the same thing applies here; municipal politics – even a high profile mayor’s race in Ontario’s largest city – is irrelevant to the federal or provincial scene.”

I agree right up to the word “irrelevant.” What concerns me about Ford’s win is not that it indicates something about Toronto turning all conservative. But that there will now be an incipient conservative “machine” in Toronto ready for use by Tim Hudak’s provincial Tories and even possibly Harper if the latter calls an election any time soon. During the campaign Ford repeatedly stressed that he had supporters from all parties but what he clearly seems to have done is engage numerous people who have no political affiliation at all. In doing so, Ford has likely amassed a rolodex of people who were not interested in politics before but who have now had the thrill to be part of a winning campaign and could likely be energized again.

Folks, despite Ford’s claim of all-party support, that list of new donors, and new volunteers is not going to be shared with any party other than the Cons. If Toronto’s progressives are not prepared, they may be beaten on their own turf by a newly energized base of volunteers who were previously apolitical but have now been activated by an extreme right-winger.

Bullshit in a China Shop

Yeah, I know I’ve been like an absent father for this blog, but some things need commenting on, such as this bit of stupidity from the National Post. The editors the Post claim that Ford will act as a “bull in the china shop” to get things done in Toronto. Really? Ford’s penchant for making enemies does not strike me as being particularly efficacious for any agenda. The Post puts faith in Ford’s record on council, but he doesn’t have one – he yells stuff into the record but seems incapable of working with other right-wing members of council to accomplish the sorts of things he says he wants to accomplish. Tantrums are not a “record” on city council.

The Post goes on to address the bad behaviour thusly, “we believe [Ford is] serious when he pledges — as he did in a recent meeting with our editorial board — that the most egregious of his gaffes are behind him.” Oh really? As if Ford was going to tell the editors of a newspaper that he was going to have even more hissy fits. Ford strikes me as being barely able to keep his rage over plant-watering budgets and graffiti (on private property) at bay. All the while offering what in exchange for his cuts? A subway to nowhere and the end of Toronto’s streetcars at a time when many other North American cities are rediscovering the value of light rail.

People are upset with the status quo at city hall, the polls surely indicate that, but replacing the status quo with something that’s actually far worse is no kind of solution. Ford will get nothing done and embarrass himself and Toronto in the process.

Safe Injection Site for Toronto

There’s a story in the Toronto Star suggesting that the city of Toronto is looking at setting a safe injection site for intravenous drug users akin to Insite in Vancouver. While Insite enjoys broad support in BC, the Conservatives appear to revile it and the RCMP attempted to smear it. The consensus is that safe injection sites do appear to extend the lives of drug-users and, it would seem, give them an opportunity to come into contact with those that could provide them with the resources to get clean. From an ideological perspective though, Harper’s gang seems more interested in viewing drug use as a moral weakness and punishing users for this.

I Smell Some Astroturf

The very final end to the Toronto civic workers’ strike dragged on into the early evening yesterday as Toronto City Council hectored the mayor over the deal that had been struck between the city and its workers. Predictably the right wing rump aka the “Responsible Government Group” opposed the settlement. Of course Miller could put forward a resolution to the effect of “puppies are cute” and this bunch would be opposed.

What was interesting though was the number city councilors both in and out of the Responsible gang that claimed they were opposing the settlement on the basis of some kind grassroots outpouring of constituents. Really? Everyone I know was just so eager for the whole damned affair to end that I haven’t heard anyone say “oh let’s reject this deal and force the unions back out so the garbage can fester a bit longer and the pools can stay closed a bit longer and another session of summer camp can be ruined.”

In other words this groundswell of public opposition to the deal between the city and its unions strikes me as astroturf – fake grassroots. There is a small minority in this city that pathologically hate the fact that Toronto is a centre-left type of place. They are joined by the “fuck Toronto” crowd of right-wingers outside of this city that likewise think the place is some kind of den of socialism. I imagine that this groups have been doing this – as most Torontonians are not looking to see just how much garbage their city parks can hold. I’d like to see how many of these “grassroots” emails came from IP addresses outside the city.