Posts Tagged ‘Toronto mayoralty’

Mayor Tory asks the rhetorical.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

Asking a question rather than making an accusation is another piece of equipment in the politician’s toolbox. Mayor John Tory of Toronto should be an expert at this form of bafflegab. He would have learned it in his years as a disciple of Ontario premier Bill Davis. Bill never publicly confronted his opponents. They were all friends.

This came home to me the other day reading about the letter Toronto’s mayor sent to the sitting conservative MPPs (other than the premier) from Toronto at Queen’s Park. What he was asking the MPPs to do was to speak up on behalf of their constituents. It seems that the provincial government had unilaterally and retroactively cut child care benefits of more than $80 million that subsidized day care spaces for more than 6000 Toronto families.

Tory had a perfect right to be disgusted with these MPPs but he knew their response before he asked. Backbenchers who rock the boat are sent to Purgatory. They become non-entities who do not get any good committee assignments or plum trips or chance of promotion. And if they ask too many questions or otherwise raise Doug Ford’s ire, they get sent to the far corner of the legislature to commiserate with former conservatives, MPPs, Amanda Simard, Jim Wilson and Randy Hillier.

Sure, John Tory would be well aware that conservative MPPs have a right to ask questions in the confines of caucus. The problem is that Doug Ford is not all that knowledgeable about the rights of the MPPs. Nobody wants to take the chance of angering him.

And while it is a long time since I took civics in school, there is little likelihood that any Canadian politician would be running for election solely for the purpose of representing his or her constituents. The road to power today is that you are elected in the sweep of your party, you answer only to your political party and your constituents be damned.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Persons who help themselves get most.

Monday, December 10th, 2018

The headline was supposed to be ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ It did not seem right though to invoke a Deity. Considering how many Deities are promoted around Toronto these days, it could have ended up a three-line headline.

This started out to be about Ontario premier Doug Ford. When the premier reduced the number of councillors in the city of Toronto earlier this year, he promised Torontonians millions in savings. He lied you know. It is becoming more apparent every day that the only people who will profit from having Doug Ford in the premier’s office are lawyers. And what you know for sure is that it will be the province that pays.

And the city has not yet felt the full force of its newly-elected 25 councillors. That gravy train is only now chugging into city hall. Within two days of being sworn into office, the councillors doubled their staffing money, increased their office budgets and told the clerk that they want a raise in pay. These people are not pikers.

But at the same time, it was strange to look down on the council in seating space that used to hold twice as many councillors. The Toronto council chamber needs some redesign. It was as though they wanted to emphasize the change wrought by the vindictive Doug Ford by clustering to one side.

It was obvious that they would claim the need for more staff. They are going to need the help to deal with the concerns of almost twice the constituents. The personal salary increase will be the icing on the cake.

Considering the average number of constituents, the staff to be managed and the hours of dedicated service required, the job is now worth more than $200,000 per year plus expenses. And as that is more than the dilettantes at Queen’s Park are getting, the Toronto politicians can expect a nasty draft from the direction of the Ontario legislature.

It might surprise you to know that in examining the workload of municipal, provincial and federal politicians over the years, the heaviest is municipal, the second heaviest is federal and our provincial guys and gals get the easy end of things. If the provincials are diligent, they are out promoting themselves.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Dumb ideas for publicity.

Friday, October 12th, 2018

The toughest challenge for municipal candidates is the problem of getting some decent publicity during the campaign. You sometimes get the feeling that all reporters hate you and you are just wasting your time. It always seemed that it was only the really dumb ideas that can break down barriers. What proves that theory is the latest effort by Toronto mayoralty candidate Jennifer Keesmaat.

We hear that the erstwhile candidate wants to shut down three of the city’s public golf courses. It seems that since the three are operated at a loss by the city, she thinks they should be put to other civic use. (That would likely cost us more.)

Reading her suggested uses, it would more likely increase the costs for taxpayers than to save any money. And why does she want to annoy Toronto golfers? Those golfers really appreciate the city providing facilities for many different recreations. And the candidate had better stay away from baseball diamonds. All that would get her would be thousands of little league mothers after her scalp.

I have played the public course in the Don Valley at the 401 and Yonge Street many times over the years. It was less than ten minutes from where I lived. I can also report that reaching par on that course was a fond hope that I never came close to achieving. I always felt that if I just held back a bit on my swing, I could have saved a lot of golf balls. I can assure you it is not just the green fees for golf that cost so much.

Remembering the Dentonia Park course, I always thought of it as a par three course for mountain goats. I think I played the Scarlett Woods course once but it must have been a long time ago. I usually rated courses by how many balls I lost and Scarlett Woods is in the ‘not bad’ category.

But if Keesmaat thinks she is going to get the hoi polloi to revolt against the elite with doing away with a few public golf courses, she must be kidding. If she wants to expropriate the Toronto Hunt, Rosedale, Weston and St. Georges, she might have a point. All those restrictive courses are sitting on prime land for development. I think you even had to have a pedigree as a Torontonian to just get to caddy at those courses.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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…Now, where were we?

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

It seems to me that we left off when premier Ford of Ontario pulled a rabbit out of his hat and told Toronto council hopefuls to stop running for 47 council wards in Toronto and just run for 25. Since people had been campaigning for weeks for the 47 wards, many of them were unhappy with their broader horizons. Regrettably Dougie and his crew at Queen’s Park came into some serious criticism for his sudden and unexpected interference.

And then a superior court judge stuck his oar in on behalf of the somewhat indignant city council. In response to this Dougie threatened to use the “Not Withstanding” clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also appealed the judge’s ruling. The appeal was successful, so now it is not necessary to “Not Withstand.”

But this commentator does not consider the number of councillors on council as the most serious question. In fact, the number of councillors has very little to do with their ability to get things done.

In fact, let me suggest to you that there are certain councillors in Toronto who are going to have a friend at Queen’s Park. If you think it is nice to have friends, let me also point out that Dougie has a bone to pick with some of the other long-time councillors on Toronto city council. These people were not friends when the Ford brothers tried to rule Toronto council. And Dougie has only begun to get even.

Now, you might suggest that Doug Ford has more important things to do as premier of Ontario than screw around with Toronto council. If you think that, you do not know him.  Dougie is as small-minded and petty as they come.

Whether there are 26 or 48 members of city council, each of them, mayor and councillors alike, have only one vote. The mayor has some other powers available to him or her to enable the mayor to appoint committees that will work with him or her to move things along.

What is needed is some sort of political structure that enables mayoralty candidates and councillors to run on a platform that says what they will do if elected. If elected, then they will have a responsibility to keep their promises and give the citizens responsible city government.  When you realize that Toronto has a larger population than most provinces, you have to admit that these people deserve the chance to have their city run properly.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The politician as huckster.

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

It is hard to estimate the times a politician has said to me: “What do you think of this great idea? In most cases—if part of the campaign team—I will listen to the idea and then say: “That’s nice, now go to that wall, hit your head against it ten times and hope you have forgotten the idea.” It is cruel but, in most cases, necessary.

Luckily party candidates federally and provincially are expected to toe the party line and most understand they are not allowed to throw in their own ideas helter-skelter. Most of the ideas come from municipal candidates. And sometimes I have actually encouraged their use.

But there are strict conditions. The idea has to be simple and easy to communicate, of value to everybody and of long term value to the community and, if not free, at least inexpensive.

A good example of this is a mayoralty candidate here in Barrie who came up with an idea for a year-round farmers’ market. It is a simple idea, easily understood, proposed for an excellent location, could be self-funding and, besides, the present farmers’ market is desperate for a larger and more accessible home.

I liked that idea and actually did some of the publicity work behind it. My only regret is that the same smart guy is running for re-election again, eight years later, and we still are still stuck with the same over-crowded farmer’s market at city hall.

I could make the same remarks about the SmartTrack plan espoused by Mayor Tory in Toronto. Here he is running for re-election four years later and still talking about how great SmartTrack could be.

The difference between Tory’s SmartTrack proposal and challenger Keesmaat’s transit plan is that, typical of most professional planner’s suggestions, Jennifer Keesmaat’s plan requires an advanced degree in transit services to even comprehend. The only hope for it is that a voter might see a transit stop close to their home.

The SmartTrack idea appealed to me from day one because it reminds me of why the ‘El System’ in Chicago helped build that great city. Chicago used the already existing train lines into the city to build a workable mass transit system. That is what SmartTrack does. It can save billions in routing costs.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Tory Odd Couple Challenge Wynne.

Monday, June 5th, 2017

A pair of losers could be Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s nemesis. Meet ‘The Kid’ and the ‘Big Guy.’ They just got back from the Soo were they took a solid Liberal seat in a bye-election by 40 per cent of the votes. These cowpokes are riding high in the saddle.

But they are an unlikely couple. The Kid looks like a nerd, sounds like a nerd and is a nerd. He is leader of the Ontario Conservatives. He is Patrick Brown from Barrie, Ontario. He is a backroom political manipulator who got carried away with his own ego. He stole his party’s leadership with the age-old trick of signing up ethnics en masse. Nobody called him for cheating. Who knows how many paid their own membership? (And why do you think the federal party changed the rules for its leadership contest and required individual credit card number or personal cheque with each membership?)

The Big Guy is more interesting. He is the late Rob Ford’s older brother. He is what is referred to in show business as a Second Banana. He is the side kick who does not get the girl. He is brunt of the jokes. He always comes second, never first. Doug Ford’s management of the family business must have cost so much that the family want him to run in politics instead. It was his younger brother sweeping into the Toronto mayoralty in 2010 that allowed him to win the council seat Rob vacated. He lost to fellow Conservative John Tory when he tried to replace his brother in the mayoralty race in 2014.

What is amusing about the relationship of Patrick Brown and Doug Ford is that each needs the other. Brown needs the key to Ford Nation—the collection of malcontents across Toronto who bought into the populist promise of Rob Ford to “end the gravy train at Toronto city hall.” To defeat the Wynne Liberals, Brown has to win seats in Toronto. Brown does not understand Toronto and does not appeal to Toronto voters.

Ford, in turn, has to know by now that he cannot count on Ford Nation alone to carry him. He needs the party support that Brown can give him. These guys need each other. They deserve each other.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The grandstanding of Patrick Brown.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

People who prefer to grandstand in politics can be a pain in the ass. There are times when a politician should to take a stand on an issue but that is when you can reason and suggest alternatives to help solve the problem. Our Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Ontario does not believe in such niceties. He just goes for the jugular.

And to make matters worse, his latest attack is more of an attack on a former leader of his own party than an attack on the Liberal’s Premier Wynne. John Tory who is now a very popular Mayor of Toronto was Conservative leader in Ontario from 2004 until 2009. It is the mayor’s proposal to charge tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway that Brown is dissing. Brown is asking the Premier not to agree with Tory’s proposal.

It is examples such as this that Ontario voters should pay attention to before telling pollsters that they would choose Brown over Wynne in the election less than two years from now.

What people have to realize is that for the mayor’s proposal to work, people need alternatives to those city expressways. As it is you might as well refer to those city-owned highways as stall-ways. They are grossly overcrowded from very early in the morning to late at night.

But what alternatives are people proposing to help alleviate the problems? The province and the federal government have been doing their part to offer infrastructure funds to build light rail or subways as well as fund improved transit connections for commuters. It is the constant confusion as to the city’s  direction that has put Toronto so far behind in meeting infrastructure needs.

And now we have Patrick Brown MPP, a small-town boy from Barrie who is sticking his oar into Toronto’s all too muddied waters. He might have stolen the leadership of his political party last year but he failed to buy any more brains or knowledge to go with the job.

Brown’s predecessor Michael Harris might have thought he was fixing things back in the 1990s when he amalgamated the City of Toronto with its burgeoning suburbs but he failed to give the city, now more than four times the size, effective governance. It seems that no Ontario government wants to have a strong and capable government in Toronto.

But if we had Patrick Brown running the province, we would all be in trouble.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Everybody wants the perfect mayor.

Monday, March 18th, 2013

You can spend a lifetime wanting what will never be. Last week there was a story in a Toronto paper about finding the best candidate, saying the city needs a mayor everybody can get behind. That will never happen.

It is important to remember that in the last municipal election in Toronto, Rob Ford was not the frontrunner early in the year. It was not until well into the campaign that his promise to get rid of the gravy train started to resonate. The only problem was that when elected, he found that there was no gravy train. He also found that bombast and a media following do not replace leadership. Ford had nothing for the voters.

As a councillor, Ford used a personal approach that worked with the voters in his ward. He was never re-elected in the ward because of his accomplishments but because of that relationship. The only problem is that as mayor of a city the size of Toronto, that kind of personal approach is impossible.

Even here in Babel with a population of about 135,000, the present mayor could hardly run for re-election with the approach he used so successfully in his first run for mayor. By your second go-around, your failures start to catch up with you. The best hope is for no competition. More politicians have been re-elected by weak competition than by accomplishments.

Toronto is much more complex. And to try to get elected in a city of that size without the open participation of political parties makes the situation close to impossible. Anyone who thinks that party organizations are not involved behind the scenes also believes in fairy tales. If, for example, Olivia Chow was foolish enough to leave federal politics for a run at the Toronto mayoralty, she would have a solid phalanx of New Democrat workers behind her. She would also find out what Liberal George Smitherman learned: Being strong in the centre city and Scarborough does not mean you can win in Etobicoke and North York.

Surprisingly Toronto today has the same problem as Babel. It is just a matter of scale. Both cities are lacking a sense of what they are and what they can be. A city is not just a place to live; it is an extension of you as a citizen. Today, both are insecure. Politics is not trusted. Hope is tenuous. Aspirations lack succour. People feel used. Where is the leadership of a future? What is that future? It all starts where we live.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Location, location, location: builds casinos.

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

It has finally been deduced that the main argument in Toronto over casinos is where they will be located. Some people got it into their minds that the Toronto Convention Centre would be a great location. All that has done is confuse the issue.

It has already been determined that nobody cares what the residents of Toronto feel about the issue. The level of ignorance among the citizenry, their politicians and the news media has made it clear that any discussion of the facts for or against the issues involved is a waste of time. There are just too many people who are neither interested in facts nor willing to allow others their individual rights.

The few politicians actually willing to fairly discuss the pros and cons of the casino issue are lost in the overwhelming rift between the Mayor Ford supporters and the Mayor Ford haters. If you are a Ford supporter, you are expected to favour a casino. If you are a Ford detractor, you are expected to shun casinos, demon rum and the devil in equal parts.

But the biggest problem—mentioned earlier—is the location problem. The people promoting the Toronto Convention Centre location for a casino are crazy like foxes. They could care less about the infrastructure problems involved. So what if the area is hyper congested and unable to support the sheer numbers of people. That is bonus day to these developers. Congestion makes them rich. That is their nirvana. It assures their future.

If you have never stood outside the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas on a Saturday evening to watch that panorama thingy they do in Vegas, you might not understand. There is a magic to the event. And if you do not have your pocket picked and get groped by at least three hookers, you have not fully enjoyed the scene.

But realistically, the better Toronto locations for a casino are at the west end of the Exhibition Grounds, Woodbine Race Track or at the far end of Scarborough. In any of those locations, the land should be owned by the city and the city’s share of the proceeds are easily ensured.

Of course this might require that some of the city politicians grow up and realize that they cannot stand Canute-like against the tides of human nature. The people in Toronto who want to go to a casino will go anyway. Why give the profits to bus companies?


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Political hypocrisy is always with us.

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

This is an old story. It was over 30 years ago and the head table group was meeting in a room off the ballroom in the Sheraton Hotel across from Toronto city hall. An Ontario cabinet minister and the writer were enjoying a drink and having an interesting discussion about when we expected to have casinos in Ontario. At the time, we were just starting to have ‘charity casinos’ in the province and there was concern about where these events were headed.

We were joined by a young politician from North York who had already cut a swath for himself in municipal politics and was soon to be named Metropolitan Toronto chairman. “You are discussing one of my favourite topics,” he told us. “In fact, I just got back from a weekend junket to Las Vegas.”

“Well Paul,” I said to him, “We’re discussing having casinos in Toronto so that you do not have to go so far. How do you feel about having casinos here?”

Today, Paul Godfrey is chair of Ontario Lottery and Gaming and he might not be amused to be reminded of what he said as a politician, so long ago. Suffice to say, he rejected the idea of having casinos in Toronto. It was political hypocrisy at its finest! (Political hypocrisy is when you put down the voters as needing protection when what they really need is protection from this type of politician.)

But he is hardly alone in that. Toronto city hall has politicians today calling for a vote on whether to allow casinos. Where do they get off telling Torontonians if they can go to a casino? Where do they get off, telling us we do not want the jobs, the attraction for tourism and the opportunity to have a world-class casino?

While they are at it, maybe they should also have a vote on which churches we should go to, whether convenience stores should sell beer or if they should ban lotteries. There is no end to opportunities for the bigots and hypocrites among us to make sure people do not do anything they dislike—or are just being hypocrites about.

It seems the Ford brothers in Toronto might just be the rare exception as politicians. They might have some really strange ideas for Toronto transit and to be very bad at voter relations but you know that, with them, what you see is what you get—all 550 pounds (250 kilos) of them!


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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