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.

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