Toronto Municipal Politics

2014: Year in Preview

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, New Brunswick Politics, Ontario Politics, Quebec Politics, Toronto Municipal Politics | 7 Comments

We don’t know what will make headlines in 2014. After all, most political predictions are about as accurate as a Forum poll.

So I won’t try to guess how 2014 plays out, but here are a few things we can reasonably expect to see this year:

  • With the new electoral map coming into force, all parties will begin nominating candidates, as they gear up for the next election. And since the media loves election speculation, there will no doubt be more rumours of the 2015 election being moved up to 2014 – though I can’t imagine Harper would want to go to the polls before what figures to be a popular 2015 budget.
  • It’s likely that Robocon or the Senate Scandal will resurface at various points during the year. Moreover, senate reform could move to the forefront, especially if Harper decides to tack a referendum question onto the 2015 vote.
  • We know the Conservatives will introduce legislation on prostitution at some point this year, and you can be sure debate will continue to swirl around the Keystone pipeline.
  • We know there will be a by-election in Macleod, and we know the Conservatives will win it. More competitive will be Trinity Spadina, if and when Olivia Chow steps down to run for Mayor of Toronto.
  • Speaking of which, it seems likely that Rob Ford will continue to horrify and entertain us all right up to the October 27th municipal election. For one day at least, Torontonians will be right when they think the whole world is watching them.
  • New Brunswick has a fixed election date set for September 22nd. The Liberals, on the rise across the Maritimes and led by 31 year old Brian Gallant, are the favourites with a 2:1 edge over the ruling PCs in most polls.
  • Quebec and Ontario elections seem likely, and both should be hotly contested. Expect the PQ’s “Values Charter” to be a major election issue in Quebec, and transit funding to be front and centre in Ontario.
  • Persons of the Year

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year, Toronto Municipal Politics | Comments Off on Persons of the Year

    Every December, I like to name a “Person of the Year” – the individual who left their mark on Canadian politics over the past year. The only rules are that the PM is too obvious a choice, and that lame picks (“You!”) are strictly verboten. The Person of the Year doesn’t need to be someone who used the force for the powers of good, or someone I like – just someone who made a difference. So, yeah, crack smoking mayors and disgraced senators are certainly eligible. Below is a list of recent choices:

    2012: Allison Redford
    2011: Jack Layton
    2010: Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi
    2009: Jim Flaherty
    2008: Stephane Dion
    2007: Jean Charest
    2006: Michael Ignatieff
    2005: Belinda Stronach
    2004: Ralph Klein

    2013 was not a banner year for Canadian politics. There were some positives, including an overdue free trade deal with the EU, and an overdue debate on Prime Ministerial influence. But for every good news story there was Rob Anders being Rob Anders, Dean Del Mastro and Peter Penashue breaking election laws, and Paul Calandra turning Question Period into a joke.

    However all stories, good and bad, were overshadowed by a year-long senate scandal (with a little Robocon thrown in for seasoning). This certainly leaves Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy as candidates for “person of the year”, but I’m less convinced than some about the long-term damage this controversy will inflict on Harper.

    As is often the case in the midst of majority mandates in Ottawa, the was more action at the provincial level – but it was equally depressing. In Ontario, Kathleen Wynne’s win was inspiring, but she spent the year answering questions about the gas plant cancelation. Christy Clark pulled off a small miracle in BC, but the moral of that story was that going negative works. The most repugnant development of the year was Pauline Marois’ Values Charter which took direct aim at minorities. More troubling than the Charter is that Marois sees it as a path to re-election.

    However it was municipal politicians than rose to the top of the cesspool than was Canadian politics in 2013. London Mayor Joe Fontana is going to trial on fraud charges. Somehow, both Montreal and Laval saw their interim mayors resign, both appointed after corruption scandals destroyed their predecessors. And the mayor of Huntingdon Quebec told a radio station he enjoyed killing cats. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Of course, one man became the face of controversy, not just in Canada – but around the world. That doesn’t neccesarily make him the person of the year. While many Torontonians will disagree, Toronto is just a city, and it’s not like Ford’s Prime Ministerial ambitions were ever going to materialize, scandal or not. But people spent so much time talking about “Toronto’s crack smoking mayor” this year that it would be foolish to assume the entire fiasco won’t have some impact, however subtle, on the way voters look at politicians.

    So, yes, Rob Ford is once again my Person of the Year, as the politician who came to represent all that is wrong with Canadian politics. However, after being visited by the ghost of elections past last night, I’ve realized there is still some good in the world, so Ford will only share the title:

    2013 Persons of the Year: Rob Ford & Naheed Nenshi

    ford nenshi

    Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi will always be linked. They were elected within a week of each other, both running as anti-establishment outsiders against more polished, but overly cautious opponents. 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.

    What made their elections so remarkable was that it looked like they had been body switched as some sort of Canadian Freaky Friday rip-off. Here were the liberal elites in Toronto voting for a foul mouthed football coach with a DUI who had been kicked out of a Leafs game for unruly behaviour. Meanwhile, the redneck yokels in Calgary were going with the Harvard-educated Muslim professor, who blogged about urban sprawl in his spare time. Never have two politicians been so similar and yet so different.

    Since then, the caricatures have only grown more pronounced. There’s no need to recap Ford’s hijinx here, because I know you’ve had more than enough Rob Ford news to eat this year – he has been the subject of daily Daily Show coverage, viral parodies, and an entire gag gift industry. The man is now so well known in the US that he is not just the joke on late night talk shows, but the punch line. He tackles councillors, calls reporter pedophiles, and gives children the finger. And that’s just a typical Tuesday.

    While not as infamous, Nenshi has built a reputation of his own. He is a Twitter sensation, has his face glued on “superman” posters, makes it onto Ontarians’ Christmas lists, and, somehow, was named the sexiest Calgarian. His leadership in the wake of the Alberta floods was textbook, at one point staying awake for 43 hours in a row, prompting a #nap4nenshi campaign. Even in the midst of the turmoil, Nenshi landed zingers, most memorably invoking Darwin’s Law as he warned Calgarians not to raft on the crested Bow river. When Toronto was hit with a flash flood a few weeks later, it’s no wonder Torontonians asked if they could borrow Nenshi.

    Indeed, one of the most remarkable side-effects of the Ford and Nenshi phenomena is a genuine sense of “Calgary envy” in downtown Toronto. No longer can Torontonians look down on Calgary as an uncouth conservative outpost. If they do, Calgarians have the ultimate comeback – the equivalent of pointing out the Leafs’ 46-year Stanley Cup drought to win hockey arguments.

    In fairness, both Nenshi and Ford can point to legislative victories and defeats. Nenshi has had trouble moving much of his agenda through City Council, and raised taxes by as much as 30%, depending how you do the math. While he was handily re-elected this fall, many of the developer-friendly councillors he anti-endorsed will be joining him at City Hall.

    But image is everything in politics and, in 2013, Nenshi was the angel of Canadian politics and Ford was the demon. For that, they once again share the title of Persons of the Year.

    Let he who is without sin…

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Toronto Municipal Politics | 4 Comments

    “You know what, I’m not perfect.. Maybe you are, but I’m not.”
    -Rob Ford

    Rob is right. We should all cut the guy some slack. After all, who among us hasn’t smoked crack and lied about it, been charged with drunk driving and lied about, continued to drive drunk after the fact, assaulted employees, purchased illegal drugs, made homophobic and racist comments on video, been accused of sexual harrasment, hung out with drug dealers, given a mother the finger from your car, threatened to kill someone while high, been charged with assault and making death threats, charged with possession of marijuana, been disowned by Santa Claus and the Toronto Argonauts, compared orientals to dogs, had their wife call 911 on them, and been kicked out of a Leafs game.

    It’s no wonder his brother is now comparing him to Jesus.

    Remember when the big Rob Ford controversy was that he talked on his cell phone while driving?

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Toronto Municipal Politics | 5 Comments

    Warning – very graphic language.

    Great Moments in Scandal Management

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Toronto Municipal Politics | 5 Comments
    Ford makes Torontonians long for the statesmanlike leadership of Mel Lastman.

    Ford makes Torontonians long for the statesmanlike leadership of Mel Lastman.

    “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But no, do I, am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors.”
    -Rob Ford

    The vast left-wing media conspiracy against Rob Ford grows

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Toronto Municipal Politics | 7 Comments

    Yes, the news is bad for the mayor, but c’mon, the Sun has always had it in for him…

    Sun Ford

    Sun Ford 2

    As Easy As 1-2-3

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Toronto Municipal Politics | 3 Comments

    ballotbox_large

    Something good happened at Toronto City Hall this week.

    I know, I know. I’m as surprised as you are.

    Councillors vote to seek end of ‘first past the post’ system in city elections

    Toronto city council took a significant step on Tuesday towards dramatically changing how the city elects its leaders — and who gets to cast a ballot.

    By a vote of 26 to 15, the governing body asked the provincial government to allow it to use the ranked choice voting system, which demands that the winning candidate accumulate at least 50% of votes cast. It also asked, by a margin of 21 to 20, the minister of municipal affairs and housing to grant permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections. Both initiatives require Queen’s Park to amend legislation.

    Proportional representation crusaders will lament that this is more about refining first past the post than overhauling the system, but it’s for that very reason these reforms are likely to see the light of day. Like the weather, Canadians love to complain about our dysfunctional political system, but nobody ever seems to do anything about it. Over the past decade, Canadians have voted down STV, MMP, and various other acronymed voting systems in four provincial referenda. There simply doesn’t appear to be an appetite in the country for radical electoral reform.

    That’s what makes the preferential ballot so appealing. It’s simple – you rank the candidates in order, something most voters do in their heads anyways. The candidate with the most votes still wins – the only difference is that sometimes the vote total will include second and third place votes. Although that sounds like a largely insignificant change, it should lead to a few tangible benefits.

    First, it ensures the winner better reflects the will of the people. With first past the post, all it takes is a 3-way race for someone to get elected with under 40% of the vote – Nathan Phillips, for whom the square outside City Hall is named, won his first election as Mayor of Toronto with just 34% support. While I’m sure that election wasn’t on the minds of councillors, many were no doubt imagining a hypothetical scenario where 2 or 3 strong candidates split the “anti-crack” vote, leading to Rob Ford’s re-election. No, these changes won’t take effect next year, but having a not-so-hypothetical hypothetical staring us in the face certainly makes the benefits of this system easier to grasp.

    With the dreaded “vote split” no longer an issue, candidates can step forward without being accused of siphoning votes away from the frontrunners, and voters will no longer have to choose between the candidate they like and the most “strategic” choice. I’m sure Joe Pantalone would have rather spent the last week of the 2010 Mayoral Campaign talking about the issues rather than if he was going to drop out to prevent a vote split on the left. Ditto for every single candidate who has ever run with good ideas but little chance of winning.

    Finally, a ranked ballot should lead to more civility on the campaign trail. To be realistic, it won’t mean a lot more civility, but maybe a little bit. Candidates will need to be careful about alienating second and third choice voters by waging an overly negative campaign. Yes, the two frontrunners will still knock heads, but in a 3 or 4-person race the game becomes more about being everyone’s second choice than about depressing the other guy’s turnout.

    The ranked ballot isn’t a radical change, and its impact will not be dramatic. But voters aren’t looking for radical change, and it will make our political system a little bit better. Given the state of municipal politics in Toronto these days, that’s very welcome.

    Great Moments in Spin

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Great Moments in Spin, Toronto Municipal Politics | 4 Comments

    I can’t wait to see the tourism brochures:

    Toronto mayor Rob Ford is still dodging allegations that he smoked crack cocaine, but now he seems to think there’s a silver lining to the international attention brought upon his city by the scandal over his (alleged!) drug use: tourism dollars. At least that’s what Ford told Toronto radio DJ Maurie Sherman on Saturday when asked if the extra high-profile press, from morning shows like Good Morning America and Today to late-night hawks like Jimmy Fallon and Jon Stewart, was hurting the city. “No. It’s whatever people perceive it as. Any time you can get Toronto on the map,” Ford said. “I think people have to come to the city and see what we have to offer. And we have great arts and culture, great theatres, great restaurants, great sporting teams. I encourage everyone to come to Toronto.”

    Cone of Silence

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Scandals, Toronto Municipal Politics | 10 Comments

    ford harper

    Rob Ford and Stephen Harper are about as different as two politicians can be, but the one thing they have in common is an uncanny ability to brush off scandals before they stick. Harper entered the 2011 election facing a “controversy of the day” – from Bev Oda’s orange juice, to Bruce Carson’s fraud charges, to Jason Kenney’s use of government resources to target “very ethnic” voters, to “in and out”, to a historic contempt of parliament vote. What did all that get Harper? A majority government.

    If I tried to list all of Rob Ford’s blowups here I’d run out of virtual ink, but despite being one of the most controversial politicians in Canadian history, his approval rating stood at 49% just last month.

    However, this past week we’ve seen holes form in both Ford and Harper’s teflon and, in both cases, they have no one but themselves to blame.

    It’s been nearly a week since claims surfaced of a Rob Ford crack video, yet the Mayor has refused to respond, beyond calling the allegations “ridiculous” and blaming it on a Toronto Star witch hunt. He’s cancelled his weekly radio show and has dodged reporters, to the point where even the Toronto Sun has joined the witch hunt, demanding he clear the air.

    In Ottawa, Harper has been equally evasive when it comes to Nigel Wright’s $90,000 gift to Senator Mike Duffy, letting his enforcers take questions in the House before fleeing to Peru. In his lone public speech on the topic, Harper refused to admit anything wrong had happened, painted himself as the victim. More troublingly, he did not offer any sort of compelling explanation or solution.

    Both Harper and Ford appear content to plug their ears and hope these latest scandals gently fade away, like so many scandals have before. However, by failing to offer any sort of consistent or coherent explanation as to what happened, the public has been left to assume the worst.

    Goodbye

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Toronto Municipal Politics | 4 Comments

    Rob Ford is removed as Mayor of Toronto, and Mark Carney is flying across the pond to become Governor of the Bank of England.

    If any politician is looking to unload some bad news, today would be the perfect “take out the trash day“.

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