LORINC: Rise up, Toronto Nation

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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.

photo by Bouke Salverda

11 comments

  1. Fantastic photo.
    Rise up, Toronto Nation
    Best wishes

  2. “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.”

    What absolute horse crap. The hard left of Miller is what engendered it. 8 years of 3% and 4% property tax increases, no-bid contracts, invented taxes, all forced through council without so much as a wimper from the media, engendered it. Three years of Michael Cooke and John Cruickshank’s editorial policy at the nations largest daily, and all Torstar’s subsidiaries, and the American approach to blanket political narrative that they push, engendered it.

    It’s the height of absolute self-serving BS to claim that some imagined “Ford Nation hard right” composed of disenfranchised inner-suburb voters is what caused the current state of political discourse, while pretending the rich and well connected of Rosedale, Leaside, Forrest Hill, the Annex, etc, and their friends and sympathizers at Torstar, CBC, Globe and Mail, had nothing to do with any of this.

    Take a break. Go reflect. In fact, go look in a mirror, if you want to see who made this possible.

  3. They are not the hard right. They are the hard stupid.

  4. Oh Rah. So tell us, do you think Rob Ford should resign?

  5. Hey Rah getting tired of polluting reddit with your drivel? And by the way what do you think of Jack Layton and massage parlours?

  6. Hi there John, Thanks for a great commentary. I’d like to bring your attention to an FB group and web site that will be ready to go at the beginning of the election, called “Unite the Vote”. https://www.facebook.com/unitethevotetoronto In the lead up to the last election I felt much like you do now about the dangers of having Ford as Mayor, and set up the group and web site ‘Toronto Cannot Afford’. Of course people are now well aware of the character of Ford in the lead up to the next election, so this angle is now redundant, and a shift in focus needs to be, as you say, about ‘Toronto Nation’. If you have any ideas or would like to contribute to our organization I’d be happy to hear from you. Warm regards, Damian Salter.

  7. Hard right?, or hard wrong?…There are some false conservatives around – given our debt and increases and avoidance of what cars costs us vs. a bit of extra user-pay like a Vehicle Registration Tax, maybe should change our shortform name to Tea.Owe.

  8. “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.’”

    So then don’t. Do the homework to vet what’s factually correct, then report that – and only that. Wouldn’t that remedy the issue you’re steeling yourself for. And doubtfully you wouldn’t be alone.
    Here’s an idea – Spacing, The Star, The Globe & Mail, The National and whomever else would join in on this could simply NOT PRINT THEIR BULLSH#$T. The public, the same indifferent public that so unenthusiastically participates in their civic duty by not bothering to vote, would subsequent be left with a much shorter reading list. You might need a larger funnies section.

    Cheers

  9. By your own accounting, there are 5 candidates on the right (including Ford), and one on the left. Why should progressives discourage vote-splitting? It is in Olivia Chow’s interest that voters supporting reactionary policies divide their votes as much as possible.

  10. The problem with your solution, Arnie, is that it suggests that “left” and “right” are tribal divisions, instead of representing either end of a spectrum of political solutions with a whole lot of grays and room for difference in between.

    The reason Olivia Chow, along with the other five candidates should be amenable to such a solution, is because the total civic populace has an interest in seeing the Ford culture removed from office; cut like a cancer from the body politic. We all have an interest in seeing city government conducted with integrity, intelligence, nuance, compassion, civility, honesty and dignity. This is simply not an option the Ford Bros. are willing to put on the table, and as such there has to be a unanimous response to eliminate them, and simply understand that issues like “should more garbage collection be outsourced” can’t be the ballot question: because the threat posed by the Fords to our civic culture and future is too great.

    R.

  11. I’ve said it before that Ford is (or maybe the term “was” is more appropriate since he doesn’t seem to be mayor in anything but name only) a bad mayor. But I’ve also said that Miller was a bad mayor as well (albeit for different reasons) and that Ford would NEVER have become mayor if the previous Mayor had not alienated large portions of this city. Bottom line is that two terms of Miller prompted a huge backlash that gave us the mayor we have now. That’s something that many on this site (whether contributors or commentators) and other so-called “progressives” (term in quotes because, in my view, very few of them actually are progressives) seem oblivious to or unwilling to acknowledge, which is too bad for them because such a significant blindspot will severely undermine any election strategy them might devise. Many seem to persist in the attitude that those who voted for Ford were the hard conservatives. Respectfully, I would point out that if there that many conservatives in Toronto, we’d have a lot more Conservatives MPs and MPPs…and of course, we don’t and haven’t had for some time. Most people did not vote for Ford… they voted against Miller, and they did so for a variety of reasons (from fiscal, to perceived inequitable distribution of resources, to differences regarding public infrastructure). As Rah, pointed out, there is no Ford Nation. It is a myth used by Ford, his supporters and his detractors to say a whole lot of nothing.

    Fords approval ratings seem to be improbably high given all that has happened. But I think that the ratings suggest people are: A) distinguishing between the antics and some of the things they support that have happened on his watch; and B) they are judging him at a time when the political leaders at both the federal and provincial levels are regarded by many as well-spoken, button-down types who have made an absolute hash of things (something made glaringly obvious by the recent passing of Mandela). Ford’s ratings show the degree to which opinion leaders (the media included) have lost credibility with publics. (Yes, Ford has been discredited as a crack-smoking liar, but the nosedive in the Star’s reputation given its coverage on municipal matters has probably been just as steep.)

    I don’t think it is possible for Ford to be reelected, given how far things have gone. But I do think these ratings suggest the kind of policies that are likely to continue to play well in the coming municipal election.

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