I am leaving for a long-planned three-week trip later today. As on the eve of all such journeys abroad, I am filled with anticipation about visiting interesting places, and gratitude, for being able to share these experiences with my family.
At the same time, I feel another less familiar and unhappy sensation: I am really looking forward to being rid of Toronto for a while. I am utterly fed up by our politics, and I deeply resent the fact that recent events have led me to feel this way about the city I love most.
I am beyond appalled by the way two crude and stupid men have attacked hard-working and talented journalists like Daniel Dale, Kelly Grant and Robyn Doolittle, all for the crime of doing their jobs exceptionally well.
I am distressed that as the polarization of our politics becomes ever more pronounced, the vitriol from the Ford Nation hard right has engendered an equally uncompromising politics among some voices on the apparently progressive left.
I am exhausted by those days when the brothers unleash yet another stink bomb over the city — the second-by-second revelations leading to hours of distraction, plus the gnawing sensation of having been knowingly suckered into responding to the sort of attention-seeking behaviour I’d expect from a six-year-old.
And I am astonished that a handful of people who attended a No Jets Toronto forum I moderated last week thought it would be appropriate to tell me, to my face, that I was a “coward” and the cause of the problems facing the waterfront because I had the temerity to ask a few devil’s advocate questions.
Oh, Toronto, how did we get here? And how do we get back?
When I return, the 2014 mayoral race will have officially begun. I am steeling myself for ten aggravating months during which we, in the media, will be forced to regurgitate the lies that the mayor will present to voters in the guise of a “platform.” Marginalized in council for his abuses and conduct unbecoming, he will enjoy pride of place on the ballot, at the all-candidates debates, and in the media.
Here’s the good news: as I look at the field of stated and possible challengers – Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz, David Soknacki, John Tory and Denzil-Minnan Wong – I can say with confidence that every single one of these individuals is seeking to win the election for honourable reasons. I may not agree with their positions, but that’s fine and as it should be. They are all public-spirited politicians, with experience and capabilities, as well as their own solutions to managing the business of the city.
Indeed, if we were to remove Ford’s name from this list, Torontonians would be treated to an excellent election featuring serious candidates with serious ideas, as well as a demonstrated commitment to local government and local democracy.
But that’s not the election we’re going to have, is it?
After you strip away all the platforms and policy stances on this and that, the 2014 race will really only be about one question: how do we take back the city?
How does Toronto Nation rise up and tell these two thugs to, well, move on?
So here’s the thing: with all due respect to the advocates of ranked ballots and those who legitimately critique strategic voting, the choice on October 27 must be as crisp and unambiguous as possible. Thumbs up, thumbs down. No vote splits.
For that reason, I fervently hope that at some point in the middle of the fall, the remaining challengers will look around the table, set aside egos and personal ambition, and line up behind the one candidate who is best positioned to defeat Ford in a head-to-head contest. At this early stage, no one should try to game out who that candidate will be: we all have nine months to engage with their respective platforms, ask tough questions, and judge their ability to handle the limelight.
But when these men and women — and their energetic and engaged backers — reach the backstretch, I hope they all have the wisdom and grace to recognize the enormity of what is at stake in this election.
Because the truth of the matter is that we simply cannot go on this way.