Friday, October 24, 2014

Toronto: We're not there yet.

In the final weekend prior to the Toronto municipal election, realization for Toronto is “we're not there yet.”

Fifteen years after amalgamation created the mega city, it’s still a fractured municipality made up of "old Toronto" and the others. Key though, is that traction in "old Toronto" isn't necessarily a path to electoral success. Quite the opposite, in fact. What's more likely is you'll have a quasi-suburban millionaire classifying you as “elite” based on simple geography. What's equally likely is that urban progressives bitterly dismiss what they see as the Torontonian hinterlands holding back their city from being the progressive vanguard Toronto's potential suggests. Both points of view are similarly unproductive. Toronto is big, vast, and not of (only) two solitudes. Citizens must take the responsibility to cultivate a better understanding and co-exist in a way that's not stratified based on a simplistic left-right spectrum. While leadership matters, citizenship matters more. It starts there.

We're not there yet where a self-described progressive, immigrant woman is able to win leadership in this city. The reasons are plenty, and I'd start with her campaign. Frankly, it certainly doesn't end there. Ms. Chow - in case you were unaware to whom I'm referring - let her polling lead slip due to a dispassionate, unfocused campaign. Political campaigns are about many things: personality, connection, and strategic marketing to name a few. Until the final days, it was unclear whether Chow had put much thought into either of those things. Other key things such as organization, volunteers and cash, were readily at her disposal. Let's not kid ourselves, however. As an immigrant woman, Olivia Chow had a higher bar to clear. This is even more head-scratching given the prior administration's exploits that were more aptly connected with the lowest common denominator, but this disconnect speaks to a certain privilege. What we saw were defaced lawn signs and racist online comments. What we didn't see might explain - as much or even more than her campaign - why Olivia Chow will likely finish in third place behind two rich, white men. Despite being one of the world's most multicultural cities, Toronto isn’t anywhere close to a comparable representation in its leadership.

Oh, and privilege. That privilege I spoke of: we're not there yet when a potential mayor can speak freely and openly about white privilege and still get elected. I remember watching the CBC mayoral debate a couple weeks ago, and the candidates were asked to name a mistake they made and what they learned. John Tory had a great answer. He referred to his 2007 campaign to lead the Province. This campaign was derailed by his pledge to fund all religious schools in the same manner that Catholic schools receive public funding. His lesson learned was that even if he thought he was correct, he had to be careful about how he introduces a policy or an idea by ensuring its palatable to the public. He's correct. Does this make it ok for him to deny white privilege? Categorically no. Would he still be leading in the mayoral race if he hadn't? Dubious. While Tory isn’t exonerated, the culpability in this circumstance lies with the electorate more than the candidate. We’re not there yet where frank discussions about race can be publicly discussed without atavistic reactions.

Tory is a man scarred by many political defeats, and those defeats have seemingly prepared him for victory in this race. Will Toronto be a lot different after four years of John Tory? Well that's not up to him. After all, it's our city, and it extends well beyond city hall. What he will provide, however, is a more collaborative environment that will enrich citizenship. This will be a noticeable change from heightened antagonistic rhetoric and international embarrassment that have characterized the last four years. For those who fear Tory as a Conservative, ponder this: not all Conservatives are Mike Harris or Stephen Harper. Tory has had enough experience on the losing end to know which political risks are worth taking and when to seek consensus. Further, it’s his own Conservative Party who abolished him for not fitting their ideals. In a city whose two previous administrations have been far left and even further right, Tory’s inexact position on this “spectrum” might be an asset in turning Toronto’s competing identities into complementary identities. His main challenge will be to appear focused and steadfast. We’ll see if we get there.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Toronto, choose your boo! Four candidates, but three of them don't really want to be mayor.

As the latest polls show mayoral candidate Olivia Chow's campaign stymied by negative momentum, I began to wonder why. My initial thought is that Chow is this year's George Smitherman: she was the first "big name" to announce, and she brought her own (leftist) constituency as a solid base. This immediately made her the front runner.

The she did the most ill advised, advised thing that front runners do. Somewhere in the political playbook, it's kosher for front runners to run a boring, inoffensive campaign. The aim is to avoid negative attention and to limit fodder for your opponents and the media to throw you off course. In my limited experience, this never works. What ends up happening is that voters are uninspired by these cautious front runners, and voters lose connection to the candidate due to difficulties understanding what said front runner stands for -- that is beyond the name recognition that allowed the candidate to be the front runner.

Herein lies Chow's problem. Of course she's for "progressive" things, and she wants better transit with a downtown relief line. Such topics have been discussed ad nauseam for as long as I can remember. These policies don't allow Chow to stand out. Where is her fresh take? Sure I see her shamelessly pandering at pride parties, Caribana galas, and EDM festivals, but what's the message that she's bringing to these events?

She's PROGRESSIVE. Yes, I know she's progressive, and if I didn't know, her "not-exactly-red" army would tell me. However, without a tangible idea, her progressiveness is meaningless. My theory: it's meaningless because she's not sure what she brings. She seemed to enjoy the prospect of being mayor when her anti-Ford coronation was a foregone conclusion. When things changed, and with less and less encouraging poll results, Chow hasn't shown why she wants to be Mayor exactly when it's most critical. Anyone can love this stuff on the good days, but the real test is whether you still love it enough during the not so good days. I'm unconvinced that her heart is in it. Without that, there's no connection with voters.

Chow is not alone, though. John Tory, of Dalton McGuinty, Kathleen Wynne, and David Miller defeat fame, hasn't exactly been brilliant in expressing his desire to replace Rob Ford. First came the speculations whether he would. Then when it became unofficially official, he still wouldn't confirm. It seemed like your high maintenance friend who won't come to your party unless you gave him/her a personal invite despite the fact that just like everyone else, he or she received a Facebook event invite. Ok I tried. What I'm really saying is that John Tory asked the electorate, "are you sure you sure?" about five times before he finally decided this mayoral race was worthy. Dither much?

To his credit, his team has done a better of being the boring front runner, but much of this might be caused by our preoccupation with Chow's descent. Additionally, in the past, Tory has been the boring front runner who tried to not be boring. He sabotaged his chance at being Premier by opening the religious school funding can of worms. With history in mind, counting the number of days that have gone by that Tory hasn't euthanized his campaign has been sufficient distraction from the fact that he's a boring front runner. Plus let's face it, he's the current best chance to beat Ford, so eggshells.

Then there's Ford. Enough has been written about this man, so not much more space needs to be dedicated to him. He's had the job as mayor, but he frequently doesn't show up - allegedly. When he does show up, he's sometimes late, and sometimes intoxicated - allegedly. With that and all the other mess that he's gotten into, that's not someone who acts like they really want their job.

Who's left? Soknacki of course. He has little name recognition, and that might be too great of a hindrance. He's tried to overcome that with ideas on police budgets, re-imagined transit policy, well-executed social media presence, and a few other policies that make any poli sci nerd giddy. He doesn't have charisma in abundance, and this might be near impossible to overcome. What he does have though is an eagerness. This is the type of eagerness that's not doused by a bad poll or a bad day. He was one of or the first "major" candidates to register, and since then, he's been heavy on policy and light on political soap opera. Unlike the other candidates mentioned who treat this job as a hobby, or one candidate in particular who takes his job for granted (ALLEGEDLY!), David Soknacki wants this job.

Friends have told me you should only be in a relationship with someone who likewise wants to be in that relationship. Well the Mayor is our collective boo for the next four years. What kind of relationship do we want?

Friday, June 13, 2014

2014 Ontario Election Roundup

It's been a while. Oh Well.

-She won because she had the best personality and the best ground game; this wasn’t a Liberal victory, it was a Wynne victory
-She also won because she stuck to key messaging: I’ll admit that I was disappointed in her debate performance, but one thing she stuck to was that there were two choices in this election. That obviously resonated with voters at the NDP’s expense
-she puts away those fears about her being a leader from Toronto
-she continues her record as a winner, not matter the circumstances. Others could take a lesson *coughJohnTorycough*
-neither her sex nor her sexuality were factors

-Ironically, his best moment imo was his concession speech: he came off as genuine and palatable. Compare that to his campaign style in which he was overly rehearsed, scripted, and seemingly sleazy. That turned voters off.
-Million jobs – you can’t be “hopey-changey” with your million jobs while promising to cut 100k jobs, it doesn’t add up. Furthermore, for hope and change to work, it has to be plausible. No one associates the Ontario PCs/Hudak with that brand of politics.
-the PC team focused on packaging their candidate, but it didn't seem like they focused on different regions/group of voters

-Her strategy wasn’t as bad as it seemed, it was just not well executed, and perhaps she was the wrong leader to do it. Layton brought the NDP to the centre and Mulcair is trying to do the same thing. The difference with Horwath is that it didn’t seem like some gradual strategy; instead, she sent a shock to the urban NDP base. Victims: Marchese and Prue
-While her team gained in popular vote, there’s just something about her that doesn’t seem to resonate with voters. I think it’s authenticity. She seems generally amateurish on the hustings, and those things turn people off.
-She didn't prove that there was a good reason to call the election, and she paid for it.

-We all know that Hudak won the debate, but political debates aren’t necessarily about winning the argument, it’s about setting up your message.
-Hudak winning and Horwath under-performing actually set things up perfectly for Wynne’s MO in that it clarified that there were two choices. From then on the LPC banked on the fact that they could get enough people to choose their candidate, and well, the result.

Federal Politics
-This is good for Trudeau. Doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to win, but there are positive signs that his brand of politics which isn’t that far from Kathleen’s has appeal. There’s party infrastructure in Ontario that he can count on too. Still, the OLP did poorly in the southwest, so there’s much to work on
-This is not so good for Mulcair. The NDP lost some urban seats to the OLP, and this is where there will be a battle in less than a month between those two teams federally. Will the fractured NDP base in Ontario have any spillover federally?
-Harper… well people are saying it shows the Libs can win in the 905 again etc. Yes, that’s true, but Harper isn’t Hudak. He’s a better politician with a better team. Still, he’ll be facing a formidable opponent. Added to that, there’ll be a Liberal gov’t in Ontario that won’t let up on him. Wynne will be much more in step with Trudeau than McGuinty and any of his federal counterparts ever were.

-They weren’t as bad as everyone anticipated
-Ekos and Forum were good, Abacus was ok, and none were terrible except Ipsos. Gah.
-Those likely voter models need to go.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Toronto Votes 2010: The Timidity of Hope

Tomorrow is the vote day for Toronto's municipal election, so now's probably a good time to chime in.

There are a couple standout elements from this election campaign that I find a bit disheartening. First, the three most recognizable names who entered the campaing are the ones left standing - that's of course not counting Giambrone who didn't really get started. Sure, there are a million fringe candidates left (40 actually), but there are three legitimate candidates, and two of them have a possibility of becoming Toronto's next mayor. Joe Pantalone's fate is sealed as a formidable also-ran.

I find the fact that these three are left disheartening because it says that voters didn't really look beyond the most popular names. Once again, Toronto will have a mayor who previously served in elected office. So much for the outsider notion. Even John Tory, who never officially entered the race, was polling high enough to win just based on name recognition only. I hope this doesn't say what I think it does about Toronto voters. This links to the second thing that makes me shake my head, and I've heard it way too much throughout the campaign: there are no good candidates. Really, Toronto? Were there no good candidates or did you just not pay enough attention?

Usually I'm pretty tough on the press for focusing on the backroom stuff and not on policy, but this time they did a reasonable job of finding the right mix. The big items in this election were transit and finances. From my perspective, the people with the least specific plans are the ones with the chance to be mayor, showing that Torontonians aren't being that discriminating about their choices. Sarah Thompson and Rocco Rossi campaigned pretty hard on policy, but they were unable to make any connection with voters. It seems that instead of listening to the ideas from these candidates (some ideas were better than others), voters turned the other cheek and complained that there's nothing good to listen to. Sure, there's the retort that it's the objective of campaigns to make voters listen. In Rossi's case maybe that's what did him in. His failure to grab attention despite being positively reviewed by the left and right wing media oulets caused him to announce some radical ideas that did very little to solidify him as a legitimate contender.

What we're left with is Smitherman vs Ford. Sure there's Joey Pants, but let's be serious, this is a two horse race. If you're thinking of voting Pantalone, I would first urge you to measure that against your ability to live with Ford as mayor. If that's not much worse than Smitherman as mayor, then by all means, vote freely. Otherwise, vote strategically because there are only two people who can win. Yes, I get it, you should vote for the person you want, not against the person whom you don't want, but if voting with your heart causes you a headache, then being strategic could save you an advil or two.

Or it may not even matter. I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but I think Ford's passionate supporters will show up in higher numbers than those who've been reluctantly relegated to the Smitherman camp. I haven't looked at any demographic polling data, but since Ford's cornerned the conservative market who tend to be older and more diligent about their civic duties, I expect his voter turnout to be the deciding factor. Well if he does win, let's pray that he'll surprise everyone and not be a complete disaster.

I'm hoping, but not too audaciously.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


To the point:

I don't have anything against the NDP even though I don't like their leader. Still, I'm a bit reluctant about a merger. Electoral cooperation? Sure. A merger? I dunno.

I'm reluctant for a few reasons: first, Canada would become a two party state. Yes, there would still be the Bloc, but they're not really in the business of governing Canada. If the Bloc performs well, but the campaigns are fully decided in ROC due to only having two choices, does this isolate PQ? Maybe not in reality, but in perception. What are those ramifications? Conversely, what if we can't get a solid decision from ROC and the Bloc has the balance of power? Do we really want a party who doesn't believe in this country controlling the agenda? The last bit sounds a bit like late 2008 Harper anti-coalition scare tactics, but it should be considered (especially since there would be one less player).

Additionally, the Liberals have rebounded from doing poorly before: Turner to Chretien. I know those were different circumstances when the right became fractured, but is this the only way forward? Something to think about.

The most compelling anti-coalition reason from my perspective is the least self serving as a Liberal. I like having the dippers around. Yes, their current incarnation would likely not gain power anytime soon, but I think we need those smaller voices that are willing to put ideas out there that the "blue chip" parties can't. Turning into a two party state virtually eliminates this, and ideas from left field that might end up being beneficial might be silenced. Even though the NDP has never governed, they've punched above their electoral weight, and Canada's benefitted from this. Put them under a party umbrella, and compromise might eliminate some of their shine.

I get that Harper's unsavoury. I know he'll do everything he can to destroy other parties, but is the electorate passive enough to let him? What about the press? Even though I don't respect, I can't fathom them sitting around like a Harper cabinet minister -- completely bound and gagged.

I like the idea of electoral cooperation, but a merger? Use whatever Liberal stereotypes you want against me, for me but Liberal is Canada. I love a strong and independent Canada.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oh Snap! (pwned)

If the Liberal Party were Precious, and Robert Fowler were Monique, then the Liberal party just got a vintage television thrown at their heads via this little ditty (not about two American kids growing up in the heartland).

Granted, he was equally or even moreso harsh on the Conservatives, but he said some things Liberals need to think about. Read the speech while I get a plate of pig's feet.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

CTV's Bob Fife...

According to Bob, the Liberals are losing their way because they've been focusing on things Canadians don't care about; things like the Afghan detainee issue, a First Nations University in Saskatchewan, and Israel.

Isn't that just emblematic of what's wrong with the Canadian media? His vision is that you should only focus on the "big headline" issues, but I'm pretty sure that the point of having 300 plus members from across the country is that a wide range of issues can be brought to the agenda. The question is, then, should the Liberals focus on uncovered issues before they're mainstream and elevate them to headline grabbing status, or wait until they're headline grabbing and desperately latch on to them. This is a bit of a dilemma because in Bob's Question Period 101 class, you don't focus on non headline issues, but if you don't find these other issues, there won't be any to bring to the forefront. I guess MP's should play more politics than they do now, and Jane Taber can get more fodder for her gossip column.

Seriously though, some of these issues might not be Lisa Raitt sexy, but they're worth discussing. Additionally, bringing up issues that aren't in the headlines might reveal some that deserve more spotlight. You know, investigating and uncovering issues. I guess some media bodies don't really value that.

I'm talking about this from a Liberal perspective because that's just me, but the standpoint from which a lot of media members operate isn't beneficial to any political party long term. I never really thought about this, but this could be one of the reasons why Harper hasn't had a majority. He's operating within a media sphere where he has to manoeuvre within such narrow confines that it's pretty hard to expose himself and his party. Would exposing himself and his party give him his majority? Well there are two sides to every coin.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'll never understand the Canadian Media

This week the Liberal party is having a grand policy conference. This should, seemingly, be welcomed by political commentators given that one of the major knocks against Iggy and his crew is that they haven't really presented many alternatives to the governing party. I guess things like national childcare and abortion strategies in developping nations don't count, but I digress.

Now that the Libs are having this policy conference to, you know, strengthen ideas so they can present themselves as a credible alternative, it's being met with dismissal by the ink armed terror squad. The reasoning - it has too many experts and not enough grass roots involvement. So if I understand correctly, they're knocking the Liberals for consulting policy experts rather than asking Joe six pack (not the plumber) for sensible policy ideas?

Call me foolish - it's been done many times before - but I'd much rather have people who've dissected ideas inside out involved in the policy discussion. Sure, there can be good ideas from the grass roots level, but I for one don't have enough time to juggle my career and personal life, plus determine Canada's environmentally sustainable future.

It feels typical knocking the media, but my inclination is that a media body that doesn't remain earnest in its purpose does a huge disservice to its political process. Nevertheless, I find myself in a position for which at least one commentator criticizes Ignatieff: it's a poignant question how to fix the media going forward, but the solution might be out of my grasp

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Liberals and Michael plus thirteen

Well it's been quite a while since I've written. I've pretty much taken my ball and run home since the last election. It's mostly been work etc that's taken my time.

Nevertheless, Stephane Dion's wife supposedly went on a bit of a tirade today. Everyone has the right to their opinion. She has some good points because I've always contended that Dion was done in by his own party. The most unencouraging thing about the whole affair though is that the party is airing its dirty laundry. There's bickering for the Tories to see, for the NDP to see, for the Bloc to see, for the Media to see, and most importantly for the people to see.

It's funny being in a party -- you have to make compromises as an individual and as sects within the party because they party will never fully represent all of your views. I'm not a Liberal party insider with the accompanying knowledge, and the difficulty of being in opposition usually brings about similar discontent. This then begs the question, how much are the members of the Liberal party really willing to compromise? They weren't really willing to do so with Dion, and now there are obvious dissensions with Ignatieff as leader. Where Ignatieff has surpassed Dion is that he replaced his inner circle to try and correct the course. Time isn't always that much available in politics, but are the party powers willing to compromise enough to allow the party to correct itself because increasingly it's becoming self evident that the party needs time to strengthen itself. After all, there were 13 years of Liberal rule. This was mostly because of a helluva PM, but the other guys were also in a similar position to the one the Liberals are in now. Do the liberals really need 13 years for the message to sink in?