Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Please Don't Blame the Latte Drinkers...

Consider dearest friends, who’ve taken to Facebook and Twitter to express their outrage over Toronto’s 2010 municipal election, the reality that we’re going to have to live with Mayor Elect Rob Ford for the next four years. So the time is night to park our outrage on a colour coded sidewalk and learn to deal with apparent regime change.

The reality is that of the five main candidates for mayor (Ford, Smitherman, Rossi, Thompson and Pantelone) was there any one candidate that really excited anyone? In the ten months that we’ve had to deal with non-stop campaigning, breathless press-releases, doomsday warnings, endorsements, bad-advertising (Bocci Balls) and cock-a-many ideas (I’m looking at you Rossi) have you really been inspired by anyone’s vision for Toronto?

I ask that question even to Ford supporters (although I don’t really know any admitted Fordites); Ford’s vision consisted of stopping the quote un-quote gravy train and demanding respect for taxpayers. Anything beyond these mantra’s that was released by the Ford people was nebulous at best from a policy perspective. Destroying streetcar tracks, colour-coding sidewalks for parking purposes and slashing councillor budgets are probably not going to happen. So like Londoner’s during the Blitz – let us all keep calm and carry on.

In the ensuing cluster-fuck of post-election game playing I suspect that many people are going to argue that Toronto is now like London, England where a divided electorate oscillates between the musings of the inner city elite and demands of the exurb proletariat. We’ve already seen this supposed thesis from faux-Torontonian Richard Florida who tried to tie is aged creative class thesis to Toronto’s electoral map; the result was a downright intellectual #fail. Still the belief that a Ford win represents the triumph of the suburbs over the downtown elite will be propagated by all of us looking for answers over this undesired outcome.

Pish-posh people. The reality is that Ford polled decently well downtown; his message resonated even with us latte drinkers. You may not know of anyone who voted for Rob Ford, but almost 400,000 Torontonians did. Vote spread in the old city and suburbs hasn’t yet been published – but by my simple arithmetic (using a 64% eligibility factor) there were 440,000 eligible voters in the old City of Toronto versus 1.1 million in the inner suburbs (North York, Etobicoke, etc..); accounting for 52% turnout that means there were 220,000 votes cast in Toronto versus 550,000 thousand in the inner suburbs. Are we assuming that every voter that bothered to vote in the old city voted for George? Don’t think so… That $60 vehicle registration tax buys almost 15 grande latte’s at Starbucks. And that anti-immigrant stuff? I had a cab driver who immigrated to Toronto from Sri Lanka with a Ford sticker on his bumper… to quote Kevin O’Leary from Dragons’ Den – MONEY. Where is MY MONEY?

The reality is that people from St. Clair to Cityplace to Flemingdon Park to the Bluffs were pissed right off at City Hall. No foot in mouth antics from our fat fuck of a nearly mayor Ford was going to stop their support of him.

So anyway before we all start freaking out and drooling over Calgary’s hot young thing of a mayor, let’s pull up the bootstraps of our Hunter Wellies (for those who live downtown) and whatever it is people buy from payless (class-joke alert!) and assess what we should do next.

There are two main take-aways from last night's result:

1) Things Are Going to Be Fine – Look I will probably not be sharing bow-tie tying tips with our mayor-elect (“Rob, don’t you hate that final step when you have to make the final loop…” “I know Naymark, I find it easier with silk bow-ties versus cotton,” “oh Rob you are so right! <3”), but the man is our democratically elected Mayor and as much as I may find him distasteful he is only 1 vote on a dysfunctional council 45. His hands are somewhat tied by legalities of our provincial masters. Furthermore Toronto has a unique (I may say blessed) ability to do seemingly ok without a strong leader. We’ve kinda had mediocre mayors since the City was amalgamated (the first couple years of Miller’s regime showed promise). This may be a complacent attitude, but sometimes when I walk around downtown I can’t help but think that all of this talk of Toronto’s decline is well, a bit overwrought. If Toronto is the next Detroit – why is Cadillac Fairview spending $200 million dollars renovating the Eaton Centre and why is the Ritz Carlton opening their first Canadian hotel on Wellington, amongst other hundred of construction projects that are occurring downtown? In a sense, and this is why I don’t agree with the two Toronto thesis, Fords victory was an attempt to bridge the clear disconnect between our fiscally responsible and fairly successful corporate identity with our fiscally irresponsible and union-jammed City Hall.

2) The Lack of Leadership in this city needs to be addressed - As a city we seem to not attract the type of leadership some of us think we deserve. Why was there not a single credible candidate in the centre-left that was able to bring forth a vision of Toronto that resonated with Torontonians? Rocco Rossi’s vision (especially from his early days) never resonated with the broad public while George’s “man with a plan” was vague at best. Is the city so devoid of its own sense of self that the best and brightest in Toronto could not cobble together a single hope vision that countered Ford’s vision for a fiscally responsible municipality? Eek.

So there ya have it folks – Ford, built tough.

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