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?
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.
I’m not looking forward to the possibility that my local park (Christie Pits) is now apparently going to be one of the temporary dump sites during City Toronto’s strike. I don’t believe the city has said so officially, but on the radio this morning it was reported that fencing had gone up around the outdoor hockey rink. If Miller isn’t able to handle this strike quickly and effectively there’s a real possibility that it could be more damaging to his re-election prospects than the rumoured return of John Tory to the race for Toronto mayor.
If you’re a Toronto taxpayer then the answer is “not you”* since he’s too busy running for provincial office to be a city councillor. Now it would be bad enough if he were drawing a salary from the city and maintaining his seat on council (incumbency goes a long way in Toronto). But no, now he’s using his spot on city council to campaign for the PC party on the council floor! An account from Spacing.ca:
“In the midst of questioning Mayor David Miller on the cost containment measures, Shiner took the time to remind everyone what John Tory would offer cities before asking if the mayor would show more support for provincial party platforms that provide financial relief for Toronto.”
So it’s not enough for Shiner to run for another office while drawing a taxpayer salary, he’s going to go stump for his party boss while under the guise of a representative of the people of this city! This man deserves to lose. I used to live in Willowdale and I wish I could vote in more election there just to have the opportunity to vote against this self-serving asshole.
*Unless John Tory pays taxes in Toronto, then it’s “probably not you”
First Toronto was going to close all community centres on Monday, now they’ll stay open. This follows on the heels of re-opening the tax debate and then not re-opening the tax debate. This brouhaha has been rather frustrating to watch. I was excited about Miller in 2003 and I was will to give him another shot in 2006 but I’m quickly running out of patience. One of the problems that has hamstrung Toronto for the past ten years has been funding, yet if these closures were part of a way to put funding on the provincial election agenda, it seems that city council cannot even figure out how to do that.
We look disorganized, we look like we really ought not to be trusted with any more money. I’d probably choose Miller over any number of the right-wing hacks on city council that might run against him, but I feel like he’s squandering his mandate.
First it seemed like Giambrone was going to close it down, but now it appears that there will be consultations and the like before anything substantive is done. In other words we are at least six months away from closing a subway line. There is some discussion as to whether this was some kind of bluff, Giambrone said not on CBC radio last night. Of course if it was a bluff, it would not profit the TTC to say so. My gut instinct on this though is that there will be a way found to save the subway line. The sort of blow to Toronto’s collective psyche from losing a whole subway line as well as the optics of a Kyoto-embracing city closing public transportation will keep the line open.
In the meantime this is going to be something that plays to the coming provincial election. John Tory promises that he will rebalance provincial-municipal roles and responsibilities (and their financial burdens) so that Toronto might have a prayer of affording to run a city. Like fixing healthcare on the federal scene this sounds like the type of thing were a great deal of meeting and accord-writing can happen without anything substantive getting done. I’m not sure how the, uh, Harris rump still in Tory’s Tories will take to this plan to renege on their legacy.
Meanwhile Jason Cherniak is putting the blame on the city itself. I’m not sure I get where Cherniak is going though with his post, I’m not aware of Toronto spending all kinds of money on “tearing down highways” or any such thing. It’s as though he forgot about the downloading mess that we were stuck with ten years ago. Or perhaps we need to read into Cherniak’s line about “a bunch of politicians far too easily reelected year after year [that] are unable to get their bloody acts together” a slightly veiled criticism of the NDP members of Toronto City Council.