2010 Toronto Muncipal Election

2010 Person of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

As 2010 winds down, it’s time to pick a Calgary Grit Person of the Year for the 7th consecutive year. The criteria is simple – a person who made an impact on the Canadian political scene in 2010 (ruling out obvious choices like the PM, or lame picks like “you“).

But this was a tough year, with no obvious choice once it became clear that I couldn’t contort the criteria to give the award to Sidney Crosby.

Federally, 2010 was about as dull, meaningless, and mundane as it gets. No election. No crisis. No bold policies. No leadership races. Wake me up when it’s 2011. If I had to pick a federal politician, I’d have to go with my buddy, Tony Clement. He was, after all, at the centre of the largest stories of the year – the Census, Potash, the G20 Summit. So convinced was I that Tony should be the Man of the Year that I sent him an application form – alas, he never filed it out, so I had to look elsewhere.

Now, the “political person of the year” doesn’t have to be a politician. Ivan Fellegi and Munir Sheikh could have been joint winners for turning the Census into the unlikeliest of issues. A wild card pick might have been the kids who set up the “anti-prorogation” Facebook group. But in both cases, Harper seems to have recovered and the probability of long term damage is low.

As always, interesting candidates can be found in the provincial arena. Shawn Graham signed then unsigned the NB Hydro deal and, in the process, signed away a promising career. Danny Williams called it a night. So did Gordon Campbell, though he would have been a more deserving candidate in 2008 for his carbon tax, or in 2009 for his re-election victory and subsequent HST announcement.

All good candidates, but none really define the year that was.

In my mind, 2010 was all about municipal politics. Some people think municipal politics don’t matter, but they must if people like Jim Watson, George Smitherman, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Maurizio Bevilacqua, and Inky Mark leave provincial and federal politics for a chance to run (and in some cases, lose) municipally.

The problem is, I can’t very well pick 100 mayors as my people of the year. And selecting Rob Ford is a bit too Toronto-centric for a blog with “Calgary” in the name. So, after much thought, here are my Men of the Year:

Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi

Of all the mayoral races in 2010, none were more fascinating, surprising, or memorable than these two. In a city overrun with “pinko cyclists”, a loud Ralph Klein clone from the suburbs drove away with it. In “redneck” Calgary, a Muslim Harvard graduate who teaches University and blogs about urban sprawl was the come from behind winner. Ford and Nenshi shattered stereotypes, prompting many to scratch their heads and wonder if we’d entered the world of bizarro politics.

Though the differences between Ford and Nenshi are obvious, their campaigns were quite similar when you get down it it. They both ran as anti-establishment outsiders. They both defined themselves early with a clear message and understandable policies. They both filled a void left open by overly cautious front runners. Yes, the kinds of people who voted for them may have been different, but a vote for Nenshi or a vote for Ford was a vote for change regardless of whether you were a commuter from Etobicoke or a student in downtown Calgary.

Beyond the immediate impact Ford and Nenshi will have on the 3.5 million Canadians they now represent is the effect their wins will have on the rest of the country. Is Ford’s win a dark omen for Dalton McGuinty or an opportunity? What does Nenshi’s victory in Calgary do to the already rocky world of Alberta provincial politics? What does this anti-establishment wave sweeping the country mean for Stephen Harper?

In addition to these questions, the lessons learned from these campaigns will last…well, at least until the next memorable election. There isn’t a politician in Canada who isn’t thinking about “the gravy train” right now. And there isn’t a campaign manager in Canada who hasn’t looked at Nenshi’s use of social media.

But above all else, in a dreary year for politics, Calgary and Toronto gave us mayoral elections worth watching and worth talking about. Which is more than can be said about just about everything else that happened politically in 2010.

2009: Jim Flaherty
2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

Where you live

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The City of Toronto has released the poll-by-poll election night numbers and the result is no surprise – if you live in pre-amalgamation Toronto or on a subway line, you likely voted for Smitherman. If you’re a surburban type who drives a Ford, you likely voted Ford.

The Torontoist has the map:

And BlogTO looks back at previous elections:


UPDATE: And Ottawa!

The Rob Ford Phenomenon

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election | Leave a comment


I’m not sure a thorough post-mortem is required for yesterday’s election in Toronto. Much has been written about Rob Ford in recent weeks and it’s fairly easy to understand what happened. It was simply a case of Ford being the right person with the right message at the right time. Politics is usually as simple as that.

But since people usually try to make it a lot more complicated, let’s take a quick look at what this wasn’t a case of.

1. It wasn’t a case of Toronto suddenly becoming more conservative. Calgary has had Liberal mayors for 20 years without electing a single Liberal MP. So I wouldn’t take this as a sign that Stephen Harper or Tim Hudak are about to march to the CN Tower anytime soon. This theory becomes ever shakier when you consider the number of conservative incumbents who were tossed out in favour of Liberals in other Ontario cities.

2. It wasn’t a case of Ford winning by default or because other campaigns messed up. This election was all about Ford from start to finish. If voters truly didn’t want Ford, they had plenty of time to switch their vote to Smitherman. If they didn’t like Smitherman, there was plenty of time for a third candidate to emerge, the way a third candidate emerged (and won) in Calgary when voters were underwhelmed by the two front runners.

3. It wasn’t Joey Pants’ fault. If you look at the numbers, Pantalone wasn’t the difference in this one. Even if he drops out, Ford still wins. And it wasn’t like Ford came out of nowhere – everyone knew that voting for Pantalone meant they were tacitly endorsing Ford for mayor, and they were cool with it.

So what was last night all about? Part of it was the anti-incumbency craze which is sweeping the nation. Toronto voters, especially those in the suburbs, were fed up with waste at City Hall and felt the suburban car crowd was being ignored. Ford played on that sentiment beautifully.

He got his message out early and just kept blabbing about the “gravy train” over and over again like a broken Teddy Ruxpin doll. Most debates I watched went something like this:

What’s your plan for snow removal Mr. Ford?
Stop the gravy train!

In politics, if you get a powerful message, you stick to it. And Ford did just that.

So that’s the “right message, right time” part of the equation. The real question is how on earth an inarticulate hot head who opposes immigration to Toronto and has been charged with everything from drunk driving to spousal abuse could be the “right person”?

Well, for starters, he had credibility on the waste issue due to his track record of not spending from his council expense account. Having the right message isn’t enough if you don’t have credibility on it. Given Smitherman’s track record at E-Health, he wasn’t perceived to have the same level of credibility on this issue as Ford.

Ford also has the rarest of qualities in a politician – he comes across as genuine. Because they saw him as a real person, voters looked past the shaky math and were willing to forgive his many, many, many shortcomings. Ford reminds me more and more of Ralph Klein with each passing day (right down to the incoherent red faced victory speeches), which is why he cannot be underestimated.

I know the common sense is that he’ll be a disaster and will be O’Brien’d in 2014.

Perhaps.

But so long as Ford stays true to what got him this far, voters may very well continue to forgive. Ralph Klein had a good run and it’s incredibly presumptuous to assume Ford won’t be around to exasperate us downtown Toronto Liberals for many years to come.

Ontario Votes Live Blog

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11:15 pm: Sorry for the delay in status updates. Us elitists can get sidetracked from important tasks like blogging, when filled with rage (and fine wine).

As for the results…well, Ford ran a good campaign. I’ll have more on that tomorrow. For now, I think it’s important for progressive Torontonians to keep things in perspective. There’s only so much the mayor can do – he won’t be ripping up the streetcar tracks any time soon, or cancelling the Toronto marathon.

Plus, this is good news for McGuinty – it gets the “angry protest vote” out of everyone’s system and gives McGuinty a possible stalking horse to run against in a year’s time. This wasn’t a conservative wave sweeping across Ontario – many progressive candidates, including Maurizio Bevilacqua and Jim Watson, won tonight.

While the results aren’t shocking – I’d predicted a Ford win – it does leave me a big bafflegabed. I mean, I leave Calgary and now they’ve got Naheed Nenshi and I’m stuck with Rob Ford. I feel a bit like Eeyore with the conservative rain cloud following me around.

8:10 pm: Ford wins. Well, that was anticlimatic.

8:06 pm: The downside of the scan-trons is that you get results right away. With a third of the polls in, Ford has built up a massive 51% to 31% lead.

7:30 pm: My fellow Toronto elitists have begun arriving…we’ve already had to open up a second bike rack for overflow parking. The wine is chilling, the hors d’oeuvres are cooking, and the recycling boxes have been placed out for everyone. The fun is about to begin!

7:08 pm: Fun drinking game for tonight. Drink a shot of gravy every time someone talks about “the gravy train”. See if you can avoid passing out before they declare a winner.

6:35 pm: My prediction for tonight – Ford 45%, Smitherman 41%, Pantalone 12%. But I’m hoping to be proven wrong.

6:25 pm: Just got back from voting for George Smitherman.

The exciting revelation of the day is that Toronto will be using scan-trons for this election – which means Canadian democracy has finally caught up technologically with most 1994 Grade 6 classrooms. Presumably, this should make for a quick reading of the ballots tonight.

Given how close the polls are, this election is going to be all about turnout. So your litmus test tonight is really this – are the lines longer in Etobicoke or in downtown Toronto? The answer to that question will decide the election. For what it’s worth, the lineup at my polling station (downtown) seemed about as long as for the federal election.

I’ll be hosting a “Toronto elitists” election night party tonight and will be live blogging all the festivities and snark, so be sure to tune back in here later.

What’s the matter with Calgary?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Humour, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

Dear Calgary,

You used to be cool. You were the conservative rebel without a cause. You welcomed George Bush and Sarah Palin with open arms. You could always be counted on for a good pro-Iraq war rally. Ann Coulter called you “the good Canadians”.

The man who embodied this Calgary image was Ralph Klein. He was your mayor in the 80s. By voting for Ralph in 1993, you saved Alberta from a Liberal government. You stood by your man even after the drunken visits to homeless shelters, after the plagiarism, after he heckled the AISH recipients. The rest of the country laughed at Ralph, but you didn’t care. Because, like Ralph, you were too cool to care.

This all led to a good natured rivalry with Toronto. In 2004, Scott Reid famously said “Alberta can blow me” during the election campaign. A decade earlier, you’d pasted “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark” bumper stickers on your trucks. That was just the sort of relationship Calgary and Toronto have always had.

And you know what? The relationship worked. Calgarians hated the Toronto elites for their self-righteousness and their blind devotion to the Liberal Party, while the self righteous Toronto elites shook their heads and wondered what was wrong with those backwater Calgarians who would elect a donkey if you slapped a Tory logo on its behind.

But now, everything has gone topsy turvy. Here’s the Leger mayoral poll from yesterday’s Calgary Herald:

Nenshi has now rocketed to 30 per cent, tied with Higgins and just behind Ric McIver’s 33 per cent support, according to a Leger Marketing survey of 500 Calgarians conducted between Oct. 6 and 11.

Holy chinook?!? The “it” candidate in the Calgary election went to Harvard, ran a nonprofit, and blogs about the best ways to limit urban sprawl. Rosedale parents are going to have a hard time using that to turn their children against Calgary and scare them into voting Liberal.

Especially given what’s been going on in Toronto, where the front runner wants to limit immigration, says “oriental people work like dogs“, and has a record of DUI and assault charges so long it would make Ralph Klein blush.

I mean, seriously. Take a look at these two pictures and tell me which one of these guys looks like he should be mayor of Toronto and which one looks like he should be mayor of Calgary:

And it’s not just Naheed. The “conservative” candidate in Calgary’s mayoral election, Ric McIver, has staked out the conservative turf by…promising to raise taxes less than the other candidates. Hell, he’s been attacked by the NDP candidate in the race for wanting to spend too much on the airport tunnel. The guy isn’t exactly the president of Tea Party North.

The other front runner, Barb Higgins, is assumed to be progressive but, in fairness to her, that’s only because no one really knows what she stands for.

So Calgary, I’m writing you this letter as a friend. I feel someone has to let you know you’ve gone soft. Hell, you elected 5 Liberal MLAs in the last provincial election, more than “Redmonton”. Here’s an e-mail I got from a friend of mine in Calgary yesterday:

I for one, being a proud Western Canadian, welcome 4 years of insanity to the city of Toronto. I have always maintained that the real crazies in Canada live or reside in the city of Toronto, Mel Lastman proved that and may Mayor Ford continue that proud tradition.

All I know is that wack jobs like Lastman, Miller and Ford would never see the light of day in a sophisticated Canadian locale like Calgary, Alberta.

Is this how you want to be described Calgary? As “sophisticated“?

So I am begging you. To stop this insanity and preserve your reputation as Canada’s conservative bad boy, I am urging a massive “Rob Anders write in” campaign for mayor. You need to make this happen, simply to keep the natural order of the universe in balance.

Or else next thing you know they’ll be holding Pierre Trudeau parades down 17th Avenue and Stanley Cup parades down Yonge Street.

Sarah Thomson’s Martha Moment

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In 2006, Martha Hall Findlay was the only woman in an 8 candidate field. She was a political outsider who earned high praise from the media for her performance during the campaign, despite lackluster levels of support. And when she threw her support behind Stephane Dion in Montreal, it gave Dion the momentum he would eventually need to come out of top.

Now, leadership conventions are very different beasts from municipal elections. But Thomson’s endorsement of George Smitherman today, coupled with an encouraging poll, and a fiscally conservative message, may be just what the Smitherman campaign needs to turn the tide against the Rob Ford phenomenon.

Right Turn

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Polls, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

Polls out today show fiscal conservatives ahead in Calgary and Toronto.

Calgary (Leger, n=500 phone)

Ric McIver 43% (profile)
Barb Higgins 28%
Naheed Nenshi 8% (profile)
Kent Hehr 4.1% (profile)
Bob Hawkesworth 3.9%
Craig Burrows 3.6%
Joe Connely 2.9%
Wayne Stewart 1.8%
Alnoor Kassam 1.4%
Oscar Fech 1.2%
Bonnie Devine 0.8%
Paul Hughes 0.8%
John Lord 0.4%

Kassam and Hughes are actually out of the race. Likely a wise move, because if you’re tied with Oscar Fech, it’s time to go (Oscar’s platform usually involves digging up gold buried under City Hall).

The results from this poll are hardly earth shattering. McIver has been the front runner for the past 5 years and Higgins is still finding her feet in this race. However, the news isn’t all bad for her – 15 points can be made up in month municipally, and she is clearly positioned as the “anybody but McIver” candidate. Nenshi is still far back, but can at least spin this as a sign he’s pulling away from the pack. For the rest of the field, there’s little joy in mudville.

Toronto (Nanos, n = 1221 phone)

Ford 45.8%
Smitherman 21.3%
Pantalone 16.8%
Rossi 9.7%
Thompson 6.4%

This poll will come as more of a shock for anyone living outside of Toronto. Yes, those “Liberal elites” John Baird rails against are lining up behind a man who could become Canada’s first Tea Party mayor.

For those in Toronto, it’s not as big a shock. Ford has become the torch bearer for every suburban voter fed up with waste at City Hall and has forged a Ralph Klein common man connection to voters, to the point where voters will forgive his many deficiencies.

Luckily, as is the case in Calgary, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played and many voters are just now tuning in this episode already in progress. Right now, the “Stop Ford” vote is being split – by Election Day it will congeal, presumably around Smitherman.

Still, the early returns are strikingly similar in both Calgary in Toronto – in both cities, voters have clicked their right turn signal, looking to the candidate who talks the loudest about cleaning up waste at City Hall.

Party Like It’s 1999

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Of all the things to hold against Rob Ford, this is probably the least of them:

Mayoral candidate Rob Ford had a 1999 marijuana possession charge against him dropped, the Toronto Sun reports.

The newspaper says he was pulled over on vacation in Florida and was found with a joint in his back pocket on Valentine’s day 11 years ago.

But this story illustrates how Toronto’s mayoral election has become “All. About. Ford.”

And if the vote turns into a referendum on this tea party north candidate, that certainly bodes well for Smitherman.

UPDATE: Ford has also admitted to being charged twice for assault and once for failing to provide a breathalyzer.

But let’s go easy on Rob – let he who hasn’t been charged four times cast the first stone…

Let’s Get Municipal

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

Calgary: Calgary is still buzzing over Barb Higgins’ entry into the Mayoral race, and there are reports she has hired Liberal strategist Don Lovett as her campaign manager.

On the policy side, frontrunner Ric McIver has released his vision for Calgary, and Higgins has responded with her “policy framework“. Both are bland, unoriginal, and short on specifics (the platforms, not the candidates, both of whom I find intriguing). Fellow candidate Naheed Nenshi offers a strong critique of these policy “announcements” on his site.

The airport tunnel is emerging as a big issue. True to the bizarre nature of Calgary politics, the right wing candidate wants to spend and the NDP proxy in this race thinks it’s a waste of money. Go figure.

Toronto: With John Tory out of the race, it’s now very much a Smitherman versus Ford affair.

And the Smitherman campaign is starting to turn up the heat, launching an attack “FordonFord” website.

Edmonton: Edmonton Politics is the must see source for this one. Also, Alex Abboud runs down the hotly contested ward races.

Montreal: Speculation is now rampant about the next mayoral election…in 2013. Good grief, we’ll probably have 2 or 3 federal elections before then.

Regardless, the latest rumour has Denis Coderre making the jump to municipal politics. My anonymous Liberal sources have also confided to me that Martin Cauchon is now considering a run for Montreal mayor in 2013.

Dauphin: Tory MLA Inky Marr is running for mayor. Which means, in Inky’s opinion, being a backbencher in Stephen Harper’s caucus is a less glamourous position than being mayor of a town of 8,000 people.

Toronto Votes 2010: Adam Giambrone’s Star Wars Kid Candidacy

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We’re still a long way away from e-day, but Toronto’s mayoral race is starting to take shape. According to the city’s website, there are 24 declared candidates – alas, Ange Maniccia has withdrawn, failling to generate a significant amount of Maniccia-Mania in the first day of his/her candidacy. Relax Ange, we all have moments like that.

From among that list of 24, there are a handful of legitimate candidates – one of Giorgio Mammoliti, Joe Pantalone, or the yet-to-declare Denzil Minnan-Wong could break through as a contender.

But early on, the media focus has been on George Smitherman, Adam Giambrone, and Rocco Rossi. For those unfamiliar with Toronto-politics, here’s where you’ve probably heard of these men before:

-Giambrone’s name gets mentioned on Facebook whenever someone is bitching about the TTC
-Smitherman is part of the “Former McGuinty Cabinet Ministers” Facebook group (closing in on the anti-prorogation one as the largest FB group in Canada)
-Rocco Rossi has most likely wished you happy birthday on Facebook.

So what should we make of our three challengers thus far?

Well, with John Tory gone, Smitherman is clearly the front runner. He’s branding himself as the pit bull of the race (Q: What’s the difference between George Smitherman and a pit bull? A: McGuinty has yet to ban George Smitherman):

In an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Smitherman opened the door to road tolls, rejected banishing bike lanes from arterial roads and promised to apply bulldog toughness to the city’s finances – unlike the current administration, he said, which is struggling to impose a 5-per-cent budget cut on recalcitrant departments and agencies.

“If my bureaucracy basically shot me the finger,” Mr. Smitherman said, “well, I’ll let my reputation speak for itself … a shrug of the shoulders and the middle finger salute isn’t going to cut it.”

Former LPC National Director Rocco Rossi (who, in passing, deserves a round of applause for the increased Liberal fundraising numbers in 2009), is positioning himself on Smitherman’s right flank. It’s not too surprising, really. Rossi was John Tory’s campaign manager in 2003, so he stands to inherit much of the Tory organization…it only makes sense to try and inherit as much of Tory’s vote as possible.

Which brings us to young Adam Giambrone, chair of the TTC. Giambrone should be taken seriously in this race – John Laschinger is his campaign manager, and Giambrone will appeal to many of the same people who elected David Miller. Now, when I say that Giambrone should be taken seriously, that’s intended more as advice to his own campaign, than as a warning to the opposition. Case in point:

I’m as big a fan of self-deprecating humour as anyone out there, but there comes a point when you cringe. After watching this video, I just can’t imagine this guy running the City of Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I love that he has a sense of humour, and he seems like an OK guy – the video would make me consider voting for him as SU President. Well, maybe not, but definitely as VP Events for the chess club.

But Mayor of Toronto? That’s a fairly serious job, and nothing Giambrone has done thus far, during this campaign or during his political career, gives me any sort of sense that he’s ready for that.

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