Accidental Activist

Waking Up With a Rob Ford-Sized Hangover

As I drove home past the line-ups of still-to-vote voters, listening to the news that Ford was already elected, confirmed to me how broken our democracy is.

By Ben Bull
Published October 26, 2010

What a day! What an election. What a total waste of time.

It's hangover time here in Toronto. This morning we flipped over in bed to find Rob Ford lying next to us: What the hell have we done?

While Hamilton - Bob Bratina and Brenda Johnson notwithstanding - elected the status quo, Toronto's election was all about change.

I worked the polls last night as a scrutineer for Joe Pantalone's doomed-from-the-outset campaign and, our voting system being the anarchic 18th century institution it is, I had a lot of time to reflect on the events of the past few months.

As I studied the cobwebs on the church basement ceiling and waited for the election official to help me cross out some names, two main thoughts ran through my mind:

1. People vote with their emotions

How many choices do we make with our hearts instead of our heads? Marriage? Relationships? Sure. These decisions generally pan out quite well. After all, you can't quantify or objectify beauty and attraction. It just feels right.

But how many other emotional choices fare so well? I've bought houses based on my gut. And changed jobs. Houses next to busy roads and half-way homes, jobs in healthcare and sales...my decisions have often led me to wonder - what the hell was I thinking? The answer, of course, is that I wasn't.

And so it is for many of us with elections. We see a candidate, we hear their sound bites and we note how they make us feel. Whether it be George Bush's folksiness, Bob Bratina's soothing tones, or Rob Ford's down-to-earth appeal (and yes, he does have an appeal) the emotion we feel helps us mark our ballot.

How do I know this? You may ask. Well, I don't. But my observations back me up. Why else would so many people I've spoken with compliment my candidate on his platform and integrity and yet vote for...anyone else?

"We just want change" they stress, as if 'change' was a platform in itself. Change is not a platform, it's an idea; an idea that generates an emotion.

Here in Toronto voters have felt the need to address their feelings. Sadly most of their feelings have been negative - frustration, anger, annoyance - and so they search for the only natural counteractive emotion: Change. And thus, a vote for Rob Ford becomes the electoral equivalent of a punch in the drywall.

2. Voting is a complete and utter waste of time.

When I left the Toronto polls at 7:30 pm last night, the line-ups were out the door and down the block. Even before the doors had closed (after 8 o'clock in many cases as those still in line at 8 pm were being allowed to vote) the CBC had declared a Ford landslide.

Of course, well before the polls even opened our various media outlets were telling what was going to happen and what we had to do. Given that it was all a foregone conclusion, you could be forgiven for asking yourself: Why bother?

Campaigning doesn't really help us make the best choice either. The truth is, and always has been, that campaigning is a branding exercise which bares little comparison to a real job interview. Do your research, craft your message, unveil your candidate, and sell, sell, sell. The real work of politicking can wait, and who really cares if your guy can do what he says anyway? It's all about wining!

Another reason not to vote is that our electoral processes are just so inane! This year the scrutineering rules were changed so that scrutineers - whose job it is to oversee the voting process on behalf of their candidate and to cross reference the names of their confirmed supporters with those who have voted - weren't allowed to flip through the voter records.

For me, and every other scrutineer on duty, this meant I had to look over the election officials' shoulders and watch them cross off every single name.

This presented a wealth of logistical challenges. As I was by myself, I had to try and track six separate election desks at the same time, one name at a time: Impossible!

Not surprisingly, I got nowhere.

My cause was lost then because, due to all the lost time, I was unable to call all of the missing supporters before the 8pm voting deadline.

I literally wasted a day.

Fixing Our Broken Democracy

As I drove home past the line-ups of still-to-vote voters, listening to the news that Ford was elected, confirmed to me how broken our democracy is. Broken not because my guy lost and Ford won - in truth, the choice in Toronto was never that great - but broken for all of the reasons noted above.

Broken because electing good people is just so bloody difficult.

We've talked at length here on RTH about how to upgrade our electoral system, both in the campaign stage and afterwards. A few recent comments on the site caught my eye and are worth a closer look.

Realfreeenterpriser writes: "If you REALLY want change on Council; double the wards, cut the wages in half (or less) and redistribute by population. That increases the voices on Council, eliminates the fulltime jobs AND brings back the element of public service."

I love this idea. It has often occurred to me that many elected officials are only in it for the money. At the federal and provincial level especially, the pension benefits are huge.

In many ways real change comes, not from our politicians, but from our community builders. And how much money do they get? Many of our social service, not-for-profit and activist folks are volunteers or low paid workers. And many of them are far more qualified to push the buttons of change in our council chambers than our current crop of iffily-elected politicos.

Of course there are many barriers to election. Campaigning is heavily reliant on name recognition, smart branding and, of course, money. Leveling the campaign playing field, perhaps by providing a maximum spending limit and offering tax funded advertising options, would go a long way to upping the quality of our candidates.

RTH commentator Pxtl doesn't like the pay cut idea: "Cut-rate councilors means politics are a sport for the rich or the easily-bought".

I disagree. Rich people have one important trait - they love making money. And because they are rich, they have most likely already found a way to make it. It's unlikely rich people are going to forgo any portion of their high paying day jobs to address garbage pick up complaints, flip through 200 page reports and sit on committees all day.

Yes, there is the possibility they could seek elected office to develop useful contacts and exert a profitable influence, but rich people already have other ways to achieve this - they sponsor our councilors!

Pxtl proposes that we implement two more solutions: "1) Approval voting or IRV [Instant run-off voting] for council and mayor. 2) More power to the mayor's office."

Again, I like these ideas. Perhaps we could combine the smaller ward/part-time councilor model with IRV and an enhanced power structure to the Mayor's office. IRV at least gives me the opportunity to make my vote count. And a strong Mayor gives me the opportunity to vote for a mandate and see it carried out.

BeulahAve's ideas are equally well thought out: "I like a model where at least some representatives have an interest in multiple wards or even the city as a whole. Part of what makes our Council dysfunctional is that everyone but the mayor is watching out for their own ward."

They've tried this Councillor-at-large model in other cities, like Boston, which has four city-wide representatives. Again, I like this idea but I have to confess, I don't know how well it works. Perhaps some RTH commentators could illuminate me?

Hammer Time?

It's going to be an interesting four years in Toronto. I fully expect Rob Ford and his cronies to decimate the town, or at least try. The city will march backwards and the left, once again, will unite.

Meanwhile Hamilton has Bob Bratina, Brenda Johnson and then, well, pretty much the same old crew. But Hamilton also has RTH and an ever-evolving community spirit and sense of impending achievement. Perhaps the Hammer's time is now?

Alas, Toronto's time, thanks to our emotional electorate and broken democracy, is a long way ahead.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

47 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 26, 2010 at 21:40:05

FYI, it's Brenda Johnson, but ya we get the point . LOL

By the way, Oshawa just used a new election system with the 'at large' voting method.

http://www.oshawaexpress.ca/NEW/viewpost...

Instead of ward councillors they simply have a council that is voted city-wide. I'm not sure how well this works, nor am I sure why a city as small as Oshawa needs 26 councillors, but there could be some merit to an at-large system.

Hamilton used to have a Board of Control that represented the entire city. Wouldn't be a bad idea to bring back.

Hey Ben, fire off an email to Rob Ford and see if he can send some of the gravy train down to the Hammer. We've got some LRT lines that need funding.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-10-26 20:41:19

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted October 26, 2010 at 21:44:49

The election of Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto could drive some of that city’s less fortunate citizens to Hamilton if and when Ford’s proposed spending cuts come to fruition. How many of them will a struggling Hamilton economy with an overburdened tax base of its own be able to accommodate?

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By Anonymously (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2010 at 21:47:31

You can thank Joe Pantalone for Rob Ford's victory. If Joe dropped out than his vote combined with Smitherman would have been enough to beat Ford.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 26, 2010 at 21:53:21

You can thank Joe Pantalone for Rob Ford's victory.

/s/Joe Pantalone/First-past-the-post/

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By rambling... (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2010 at 22:47:22

This seems one of the most incoherent and rambling articles to ever appear on this site. What is your point?

Of course our system did not work very well. As Churchill pointed out: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others"

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2010 at 23:33:30

Ben's article raised a lot of valid points.

Democracy isn't a take-it-or-leave-it thing. There's a million different ways to share decision-making, and some are far better than others. If we can't raise questions about how our "democracy" works, then how democratic is it?

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2010 at 01:09:11

I wager you would be singing a different tune had "your" candidates won and you were happy with the results. What makes you think that changing the process will change the result? The populace has spoken as is their right.

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By Clay Shentrup (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2010 at 03:01:24

Approval Voting (the simplest form of Score Voting) is a great alternative.

Unfortunately, Instant Runoff Voting is NOT a real solution. Case in point, the last IRV mayoral race in Burlington, Vermont. A bloc of voters who preferred Republican over Democrat over Progressive could have cause the Democrat to win INSTEAD of the Progressive if they had (insincerely) ranked the Democrat in first place. IRV doesn't end the spoiler effect - it just delays it.

Ralph Nader's former running mate, Matt Gonzalez, gave me the privilege of publishing this essay on the subject to his personal blog. Please give it a look -- I think you'll find it interesting.

http://asitoughttobe.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/score-voting/

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted October 27, 2010 at 07:53:22

@Anonymously, that's not really true.

Rob Ford - 380,201 George Smitherman - 287,393 Joe Pantalone - 94,840

Now, if every single voter for Pants switched to George, they'd win... but only with 2032 votes. And I think it's safe to assume that a number of them would have thrown their support behind a third party voter, voted for Ford, or even worse, not voted at all.

It's unfortunate, but Rob Ford captured the hearts and minds of the most voters, by far. He won, fair & square.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 27, 2010 at 14:22:29

Let's see, an outsider candidate unsupported by the media and political elites, running on a take back cityhall for the regular guy/stop the government waste platform rides what could be described as a grassroots movement into the top spot in Canada's largest city against some very well connected political opponents and some want to declare that a failure of democracy? What???

You may not like Rob Ford and his values or you may simply view him as some sort of ridiculous cartoon character unfit to be Mayor, but declaring his election proof that democracy is broken is simply BS. We need more candidates to get elected the way Rob Ford did… they just need better ideas and more mental firepower than he wields.

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2010 at 14:37:19

"Let's see, an outsider candidate unsupported by the media and political elites, running on a take back cityhall for the regular guy/stop the government waste platform rides what could be described as a grassroots movement into the top spot in Canada's largest city against some very well connected political opponents and some want to declare that a failure of democracy? What???"

I can assure you I would be even more upset if another baffoon had gotten elected with the support you mentioned. The fact that Ford got elected with little traditional (the 'elite' I think they're calling it now :) )backing is the only bright spot of the whole campaign.

The crux of my complaint is that Ford would not have passed a traditional job interview for Mayor. Campaigning is a branding exercise plain and simple. His outsider reputation worked in his favour this time.

Ford is boorish, racist and has demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of urban issues. His platform was shallow and mostly impractical. He has been unable to build concensus in 10 years of council work. He is a poor candidate and will most likley be an ineffective mayor.

Many of our 'traditionally' elected (media backed etc) politicians are equally unqualified. THAT is the reason I'm supporting some of the reforms I've repeated in this piece.

Suggesting I'm a poor loser is nonsense. I had no expectation that Pantalone would win in fact I believe I stated that all the candidates - the favourites at least - were poor choices. What we need is better candidates. Surely we can all agree on that?!

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 27, 2010 at 14:38:30

Um no Rob Ford is not an "outsider candidate", he's been the Etobicoke councillor for ten years.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2010 at 14:50:38

@Clay Shentrup

IRV has its flaws, but I don't think anybody argues that it is worse than FPTP. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But yes, while approval voting lacks granularity of control for the voter, but it is simple and clear for the voter to understand not only how they are voting but the math behind the calculation.

Alternately, I'd support some sort of "limited-proportional" subset of council. Simply a body with, say, 8 votes, apportioned out to the top N mayoral candidates. So in this vote, we'd see Bratina as mayor with 4 votes, and DiIanni and Eisenberger each sporting 2. This would give the Mayoral candidates (who are far better understood by the public) a stronger voice in council and reduce the spoiler-candidate issue as well.

So I'd go with Approval voting in the Ward-levels, and the above system of proportional-representation system that lets the Mayor (and mayoral-councillors) have more power in council.

Obviously, I'm talking out of my ass and spitballing ideas as I go.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-10-27 13:51:54

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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 27, 2010 at 15:05:13

Obviously, I'm talking out of my ass and spitballing ideas as I go

That's okay, so are the politicians.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 27, 2010 at 16:06:46

Um no Rob Ford is not an "outsider candidate", he's been the Etobicoke councillor for ten years. - Nobrainer

He is and always has been an outsider on that council and clearly not part of the political elite in this country... you know the ones that call in Justin Trudeau to back them in a Mayoral race in a city where Mr. Trudeau doesn't even live.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 07:57:35

Um lets see. The Toronto Star ran an openly hostile and nearly libelous campaign against Rob Ford since he declared his candidacy for mayor. The CBC routinely ran stories highlighting Mr Fords foibles personal and political in an effort to disparage him. Tags like racist, homophobe, buffoon, unqualified are hung on him on a regular basis. Why is that? Because he is white, fat and heterosexual?

In ten years on Toronto City Council, Mr Ford has personally returned over 220,000 emails and phone calls, many from people who do not even live in his ward. He has consistently returned the nearly $60,000 office budget alloted to each Toronto City councillor. Out of his own pocket he has ressurected the Don Boscoe High School football program. This is a school of mostly visible minority kids from under priviledged homes often with no father figure in the picture. He has given these kids a place to be after school and no doubt has contributed towards a more positive life outcome for many of these boys who have garnered scholarships they would otherwise not have had the chance to.

Over 3800000 people voted for Mr Ford in a municipal election that saw record voter turnout in Toronto. Broken down ward by ward he even won in highly ethnic areas of the inner city. Suffice to say the myth created by his detractors that he is racist did not resonate with the people he is supposed to be prejudice against. In the coming months I would be suprised to see the formation of Mr Ford's personal Anti Gay Gestapo, or a fence erected around the Church St area to keep gay people in one place.

Mr Ford's message was simple and it worked in a community where people are pissed off and fed up with City Hall telling them what is good for them.

FOR THE RECORD. I do not know Rob Ford, I do not work for him, I do not live or vote in Toronto, however I do work there. This simple lesson in Rob Fords victory is that he spoke to voters concerns. Period. Like him I am sick and tired of the liberal left and their media lackeys pontificating from on high about what is good for people, how we should live our lives, and DON'T YOU DARE DISAGREE OR WE WILL SILENCE YOU! Now that the gravy train for the socialist glitteratti is over they are shouting like Chicken Little "THE SKY IS FALLING"!

Go cry me a river.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 09:07:58

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 09:36:34

@ Shempatolla - Agreed that Ford took a whipping from the Star. Hell, even the Sun was tepid in it's praise. I agree that this was unfair. I have blogged previously about the role of the media in this election, and I agree that they should stick to reporting the news and leave the biased reporting out (I don't agree with endorsements, polls or one-sided OpEds).

I also agree that Ford appears to have a good work ethic and a respect for tax payers dollars. These are, obviously, very important traits and he should be commended for them. But Ford won the election by tapping into our outrage, and he showed little substance when trying to explain how he would fix the overspending/lack of tax-payer respect problems. More worrying is his obvious lack of decorum (see Ryan's comment above) and his inability to grasp critical municipal files. Rip up streetcar tracks? Yes, the streetcars should be faster but how does replacing them with buses speed anything up? And sticking bike lanes in ravines? This is seriously flawed thinking. It is truly scary that such a lack of knowledge could propel anyone into the Mayor's chair.

It's disappointing that you have fabricated an enemy in all this. Calling people 'lefties' is a cop out. The people I know disapprove of Rob Ford because they understand what is needed to build a better city and they want the best for their city, not because they are beholden to an ideology. In fact my friends are all over the political map. You're tendancy to label Ford detractors is another example of how emotion has fueled this man's rise to power. I suspect you will defend him at all costs and nothing I or anyone else can say will detract you from that. And therein lies the problem.

Ben

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 09:47:26

@Shemptolla, you started out reasonable (yes, print/web + CBC media's coverage of Ford was slanted, although I assume talk and rock radio worshipped him)... but then you started assuming that your opponents are racist, which is never a good plan when 90% of the candidates in every election, incl. the ones we're pulling for, could be described as "old white guys".

I voted for two old, heterosexual white guys, and my favourite candidate in Ward 2 was a young, fat, heterosexual white guy.

I'm sure most RTH readers voted similarly.

But don't let that get in the way of your persecution complex.

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By frank (registered) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 09:47:42

Local politicians don't make any legislation relating to gay straight or homosexual people specifically so I don't believe you have anything to worry about there. Those are his personal beliefs and he's entitled to them. His oriental comment was, I believe, meant as a compliment and it's shockingly true although his choice of words might have been better.

About the streetcars, there was an article yesterday about not actually ripping up the street car tracks that are already in place or removing the Rockets that are already there...a statement made by his brother.

You are actually beholding an ideology when you say that a person's belief system should prevent them from holding a position such as mayor. Should an outspoken transvestite Muslim be prevented from being mayor? Then for the same reason a person who's the polar opposite shouldn't either! Freedom goes BOTH ways.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 10:13:07

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Thank you. You wouldn't believe the number of people I've heard admonishing others not to let the 'good be the enemy of the perfect' in post election discussions over the last few days.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 10:13:12

Did you hear his CBC interview? Hilarious. He hung up on them haha http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHJGR4i7f...

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 10:22:12

"You are actually beholding an ideology when you say that a person's belief system should prevent them from holding a position such as mayor. Should an outspoken transvestite Muslim be prevented from being mayor? Then for the same reason a person who's the polar opposite shouldn't either! Freedom goes BOTH ways."

A person's belief system should indeed be a factor in the ability to be Mayor if it shows that they will be biased in their decision making. Ford has stated that he doesn't want any more new immigrants to move into TO. 'We should look after the folks we have' or something like that. He has also made generalizations about Asian folks ('Orientals'). Closed minded and ignorant attitudes are absolutely relevant characteristics.

BTW, for the record, I don't actually believe that Ford is a racist, he's just stupid.

Ben

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 10:31:36

What we need is better candidates. Surely we can all agree on that?! - Ben

Sure, I think you'll get most people to agree that we need better candidates. Agreeing what is "better" will be the tough part. The majority of people thought Bob was "better" than Fred... I certainly don't agree with them.

I don't disagree with your assertion that democracy is broken. I just don't believe the election of Rob Ford is the best proof of that. But if you wanted to argue that the party system, voter turnouts below 50%, corporate lobbying and a lack of education about political systems and their importance has broken our democracy, or heck even declare that democracy has always been broken or a sham I might be inclined to agree with you.

I will accept your main point though. Our democracy is broken, it isn't working for the people… but when 60% of eligible voters can't even be bothered to take a walk down to their local school or church to exercise a fundamental right of the society we live in, let alone get all up in arms about its current state, then people bare as much blame as anyone else, (e.g., media, "elites", lobbyists, etc..).

... example of how emotion has fueled this man's rise to power. - Ben

I don't really think there is anything wrong with emotion fueling people's vote, especially if raw emotion, whether it be disgust, frustration, etc... gets more people out to vote. I do wish people would use a little more critical thinking about who to vote for though.

People do have to be careful not to let emotion cause them to cut off their nose to spite their face.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 10:37:10

Thank you. You wouldn't believe the number of people I've heard admonishing others not to let the 'good be the enemy of the perfect' in post election discussions over the last few days. - Highwater

We should all know what the road to Hell is paved with though ; )

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 10:43:58

Why did Rob Ford tap in to "our outrage" ? Because that outrage is there and it is justified. I work for the City of Toronto, and have for 20 years. I've seen mayors come and go. June Rowlands, Barbara Hall, Mel Lastman, David Miller. They have gone from center to right to left and left again on the political spectrum. For the last seven years under David Millers tenure, unless you were part of his inner cabal your voice on council did not matter. From stupidity like unrestrained or unreasoned traffic calming, to hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on TTC projects on St Clair Ave, to continued and unaccountable funding for special interests, to the bungling of delivering services and the trash strike, the Miller crew pissed away tax payers money and did so with an arrogance and contempt reminiscent of past federal Liberal governments. Rather than control spending they simply found ways to get their hands deeper into taxpayers pockets.

If you questioned or argued against the Millerites you were branded a bigot or a homophobe or regressive, or out of touch etc etc.

Ryan it is ironic for someone who obviously sees himself as "progressive" and left of center to opine and judge another's qualifications to lead because of their point of view on different matters in society. So what if Rob Ford supports a pastor opposed to same sex marriage? A very large percentage of the population of this country feels the same. (Personally I could'nt care less about it) Does that invalidate their rights as citizens or make their opinions worthless? Whether certain groupls in society want to admit it or not, HIV/Aids in western society is still largely a disease transmitted through unprotected gay sex and intravenous drug use. Yes in the third world where women have almost no personal or property rights and education levels are low and there is no access to contraceptive aids HIV among women is largely spread by heterosexual unprotected sex. But that is a whole different debate. His comment about Asian people was intended as a compliment if not verbalized in the most adroit way.

As for his denials of his actions that may have been less than admirable. Remember this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiIP_KDQm...

It didn't seem to hurt Mr Clinton's reputation as the darling of progressive thought in the U.S. (I've actually seen the guy speak at Carmen's. While I don't always agree with him he is an interesting dude)

I would not and will not defend Mr Ford at all costs. I've said I don't know the guy. I will however defend his right to run for, win decisively with a huge mandate, and hold office in Toronto. He has not yet served one day as mayor and the whining from (and let's be honest, it is whining) from the left is piercing. If anyone can find an opponent to Mr Ford who has vilified him in ink or video that is not identified with being from the left, please share with me.

Good public policy is not the exclusive domain of those that come from the left of the political spectrum. We live in a society where people from both sides died so that we can sit here and piss and moan about the other. To condemn Rob Ford before he has had an opportunity to act on his fairly won mandate is simply sour grapes. If in four years he has been an abject failure as mayor, I'll be one of the first ones to say so.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2010-10-28 09:47:01

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 11:00:12

Shempatolla, I was responding specifically to your suggestion that people call Ford a racist homophobe simply because he's "white, fat and heterosexual".

As for why I have a problem with Ford, it's not because of his position on the political spectrum, but rather because of his well-documented indifference to facts and evidence. He just endlessly repeats the oversimplifications and outright falsehoods that promote his agenda, regardless of whether they bear any similarity to the truth.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 11:13:26

We shall see what happens

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 11:36:06

“Rather than control spending they simply found ways to get their hands deeper into taxpayer’s pockets”

Completely agree. I too am angry about the increase in spending (was it 17% over 8 years…? Something obnoxious like that). The vehicle and land transfer taxes smack of money grabs, a tax at every turn. These measures rightly tainted Miller’s term and need to be addressed.

I would also like to address overspending at the union level. Why are unionized employees getting pay rises when the rest of us are taking pay cuts or getting laid off? I want municipal employees to be well looked after but this needs to be commensurate with the economy and the tax payer’s experience.

I also would like someone to address our biggest budget – police services and the fire department. Are we getting value for money? Can we scale back or improve the efficiency of these services? But nobody is addressing this. These departments are untouchable – even by Ford. Cost cutting and government efficiency is not the exclusive mandate of ‘the right.’

“HIV/Aids in western society is still largely a disease transmitted through unprotected gay sex and intravenous drug use.”

Who cares? I don’t care about these issues at the municipal level. But what Ford has demonstrated with his comments – regardless of whether he is right or not – is that he is incapable of discussing sensitive matters in a mature way. I’m not one for political correctness, in fact I find it tedious for the most part, but our leaders have to at least avoid upsetting people if they are going to build consensus. With such comments Ford is going to upset and alienate many of the same people he purports to represent.

“His comment about Asian people was intended as a compliment if not verbalized in the most adroit way.”

Generalizations, even if complimentary, don’t serve anyone well, they just demonstrate ignorance and confirm a lack of awareness. They alienate people. They are not appropriate traits for someone who needs to grasp complex issues and build consensus.

“As for his denials of his actions that may have been less than admirable. Remember this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiIP_KDQmXs”

I didn’t see the clip but come on - the man gets drunk at a hockey game, swears at and slobbers all over the people next to him, and then denies it when confronted with the evidence! Oh, and then he apologizes.

We then find out that he’s been charged with drunk driving and marijuana possession. Again, when confronted with this – what does he do? He denies it!

All this speaks to the man’s character. Sure, I think Ford would be an amusing drinking companion, I don’t believe he’s bigoted or racist at heart. He just says it like it is. A great dinner guest perhaps (unless you have gay, Asian or new immigrant folks around your table. Or unless any of your guests have lost a loved one to a bike accident). But truly, these qualities are not appropriate for a major city mayor.

“I will however defend his right to run for, win decisively with a huge mandate, and hold office in Toronto”

Whoever contested this? He has every right to run and win. But we voters also have a duty to think with our heads and not our emotions. And our democracy should be modeled in a way that puts forward better quality candidates. Ford won because the choice was so poor and emotions were running so high. Many hiring mistakes have been made in this way.

“He has not yet served one day as mayor and the whining from (and let's be honest, it is whining) from the left is piercing. If anyone can find an opponent to Mr. Ford who has vilified him in ink or video that is not identified with being from the left, please share with me.”

Again your ideology is getting in the way of the argument. I’ve vilified Ford on this site and I’d describe myself as centrist if anything. I voted for Thatcher when I lived in the UK. I like elements of both the Tory and Liberal platforms. Who cares? How does any of this help the argument? It’s not about right and left, it’s about what’s good for Toronto. Good policies come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Good public policy is not the exclusive domain of those that come from the left of the political spectrum”

Agreed, who says it was? You sound bitter. I would love to hear more about your experience under Miller, it’s obviously been upsetting. As I said above, good policies come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“If in four years he has been an abject failure as mayor, I'll be one of the first ones to say so”

I sincerely hope he isn’t, and I’m keeping an open mind. I’ve been disappointed by politicians from every side of the spectrum – including Miller - and voiced my disapproval. And I’ll do so with Ford. But I’ll also give him support for anything he proposes which makes sense and kudos for anything he does well. I hope your experience under Ford is better than with Miller. Toronto needs to hurry up and cut the fat and start making some real progress.

Cheers

Ben

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By frank (registered) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 11:43:14

'We should look after the folks we have' or something like that. He has also made generalizations about Asian folks ('Orientals'). Closed minded and ignorant attitudes are absolutely relevant characteristics.

Joejoe that sentiment is held by a great many people. The idea is that people who are living in the city need to be taken care of rather than focusing dollars on attracting new people. Would you prefer that he had listed all the various asian persuasions? 'Oriental' is an accepted term. Just because you object to someone because they're more uncouth than you expect doesn't make them less fit. I know quite a few rednecks who'd fail your test who could probably educate MANY people. Your ideology is that someone should be polished and willing to make enough compromise to keep everyone happy. Unfortunately that's idealistic...as can be seen in the Pan Am debate. As for someone's maturity level, do you even know the guy? You're judging someone's future decisions and performance based on their sound bites, that's not entirely mature either.

You enjoy using the word ideology to vilify other peoples' opinions because they don't fit into your ideological world! Give it a rest!

Comment edited by frank on 2010-10-28 10:45:02

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 12:08:39

Cost cutting and government efficiency is not the exclusive mandate of ‘the right.’ - Ben

It doesn't seem to be anyone's mandate anymore. Raiding the pockets of the captive population of taxpayers is so much easier. They've got us by the ankles and they're about to turn us over and shake the rest out of us. They have literally become bullies stealing milk money.

...that sentiment is held by a great many people. The idea is that people who are living in the city need to be taken care of rather than focusing dollars on attracting new people. - Frank

And when you look at it as a population issue rather than an immigration issue, many "progressives" share the sentiment. We do not need more people in this or any country... but the corporations and capitalists do.

Oops, look at me getting all Malthusian. I normally don't voice the opinions from the dark recesses of my sick (and tired) mind ; )

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 13:12:35

Seems I've hit a nerve.

"I would also like to address overspending at the union level. Why are unionized employees getting pay rises when the rest of us are taking pay cuts or getting laid off? I want municipal employees to be well looked after but this needs to be commensurate with the economy and the tax payer’s experience. "

" also would like someone to address our biggest budget – police services and the fire department. Are we getting value for money? Can we scale back or improve the efficiency of these services? But nobody is addressing this. These departments are untouchable – even by Ford. Cost cutting and government efficiency is not the exclusive mandate of ‘the right.’ "

I'll take a stab at these. I work for the Toronto Fire Service. So I can only speak to this department specifically. In terms of budget we are the city's third largest behind the Police Service and the Social Service/Homeless Office.

In terms of union costs... I have gone as many as 4 years without a pay raise or while working under a collective agreement that had expired and not been renegotiated. If memory serves 3 contracts that I have worked under were arbitrated. The remainder negotiated. As far as value for service the citizens of Toronto are served by the fourth largest fire department in North America. Complement is mandated by a set of standards determined by the NFPA and the insurance industry which mandates the number of firefighters per 100000 citizens. I can tell you that in the 20 years I have worked on the Dept we have always struggled to maintain a minimum complement and frequently if not regularly are well below by at least 100-150 firefighters. Compensation while decent is still well below what a comparable professional in the private sector in the mining or oil and gas industry makes.

The Fire Service is far from untouchable. The budget process is no easier on senior department staff than any other city department. The only thing that is different is that if they get it wrong, bad things happen, then they have to answer for that too. Their is waste certainly, but I would say not at the sharp end. There is a ghastly duplication of services at the administrative level between Fire and EMS.

"Again your ideology is getting in the way of the argument."

Really? It would seem your ideology or sense of propriety is getting in the way of the argument. Rob Ford won the election. Period. He did so in the face of a very well funded smear campaign spearheaded by the largest newspaper in the country, the nations public broadcaster, special interest groups and every left leaning liberal hack that could be stuck in front of a microphone or a camera. To suggest that I am bitter for some reason is non sensical. You should re read your posts. I'm not the one that sounds angry. He beat the hand picked candidate of the establishment and kicked his ass. To imply that he was elected simply because people were emotionally out of touch or their wasn't another viable candidate is insulting to the 380000 plus people that voted for him.

Personally and for the Fire Department the Miller era was not a bad one. There are a multitude of reasons for that. To begin the city was read the riot act by its insurers and advisory groupls over decrepit fire trucks, under staffing, poor morale. They were mandated to make those improvements. Second, after the Mel Lastman reign our association and management forged a much better relationship with city council.

Essential services are not an area the public and tax payers should take issue with David Miller over. He is by and large a very good and decent man. Where his tenure was a disaster is in the areas of fiscal responsibility and public expenditures on extremely poorly thought out plans and policies that have resulted in the wasting of millions and millions of dollars.

It is to this FACT that Rob Ford spoke. It struck a chord and we have the results of that message. Now we will see what happens.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 13:28:51

Apologies for the spelling and typos. Brain works faster than the fingers.

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 13:32:52

Greg, I don't think we're that far apart in our opinions. Yes I am angry. Maybe not so much angry - upset, worried - definitely. But we clearly both want what is best for Toronto.

It's obviously pointless arguing that Ford is not qualified to be Mayor as this is a subjective opinion. Personally I feel the evidence against his credentials is massive, but clearly most Torontian's either disagree (or don't care).

The next time I have this discussion (after a deep breath and a cup of tea) it should probably be framed as Keily suggested:

"I don't disagree with your assertion that democracy is broken. I just don't believe the election of Rob Ford is the best proof of that. But if you wanted to argue that the party system, voter turnouts below 50%, corporate lobbying and a lack of education about political systems and their importance has broken our democracy, or heck even declare that democracy has always been broken or a sham I might be inclined to agree with you."

Evidently Ford supporters do not feel that his many mis-steps and character traits are a serious impediment to his ability to lead the city effectively. I would argue it's his lack of a demonstrated clear understanding of complex, key issues - like transit - that are more worrying. Regardless, he's earned his chance and he deserves our support as he gets to grip with these challenges. I sincerly hope he proves me wrong :)

PS Thanks for the perspective as a Fire Fighter. I would love to have a better insight into working conditions for unionized workers. It will be interesting to see how far Ford is able to go with his cost cutting measures on the backs of municipal employees.

Ben

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 13:46:45

I think CUPE is going to have a rough go. I believe his position is if the Unionized workers want a contract (specifically I'm talking garbage collection) they should bid on it. Old Etobicoke did not suffer during the garbage strike as they had contracted out since before amalgamation and still do. Weird. But I think that is what he is talking about. Additionally I think you will see fewer hirings to replace retiriements. City staff grew by something like 8000 under Miller.

I cannot honestly say that I am a Ford supporter. I don't live in TO I live in Hamilton. I could not have voted for the man if I wanted to. What irks me is that a certain segment of the population there/here has made a judgement about the man before he has worked day 1. Not based on his performance, but based on his opinions, his appearance, his actions off the job. That is intolerant, it is elitist, and wreaks of a double standard.

History is replete with flawed figures who either rose above their flaws or did not allow them to interfere with the performance of their duties.

Winston Churchill, McKenzie King, Bill Clinton, JFK, Rudy Giulliani, etc etc.

I'm not suggesting Mr Ford is in this class of individual. We won't know until he actually works in the job.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 15:31:41

Rob Ford Election Map

From here:

http://torontoist.com/2010/10/which_ward...

Toronto is a city divided.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 15:44:29

Thats normal. We have the same problem in Hamilton. The core has nothing in common with the outlying areas

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2010 at 16:04:58

The colour flow on the map is somewhat misleading. Ward 16 17 Davenport, 12 York South, 24,26 Don Valley, 31 Beaches East York, are hardly suburban and were won by Ford. Wards 12, 13 Toronto Center Rosedale are the tony neighbourhoods populated by the establishment crowd that were largely behind the smear campaign against Rob Ford. and that supported their candidate George Smitherman.

Additionally while there are some big spreads in percentages in several wards, they are not huge in many of them.

Again the proof will be in the pudding. We will get to see how effective Mr Ford can be with the council that was elected.

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By Clay Shentrup (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 00:13:08

@Pxtl

IRV has not typically replaced Plurality Voting -- it has typically replaced top-two runoff, which indeed MAY be better than IRV.
ScoreVoting.net/HonestRunoff.html

Also the "granularity" of IRV is misleading. It is true that a voter can put down more information on a ranked ballot than on an Approval Voting ballot. With n candidates, you can rank them n! different ways, where's you can only approve them in (2^n)-2 different ways. So for 5 candidates that's 120 different ways you can rank them, vs. 32 ways you can approve them. But that's only a third of the story.

The other two important factors are:
1) How inaccurate that data is, due to incentives for the voter to "lie", and
2) How efficiently the tabulation method sums that data.

Despite common myth, IRV incentivizes voters to use the "exaggeration strategy", where they push their favorite two FRONTRUNNERS roughly into first and last place, regardless of who their actual favorite candidate is.
www.electology.org/analysis/irv-plurality

And regardless of whether you believe that, the empirical reality is that voters intuitively DO exaggerate like that when using ranked ballots.
scorevoting.net/AusAboveTheLine07.html

The voting method you're describing doesn't sound proportional to me. It sounds like cumulative voting(??). Please check out Asset Voting, which *is* proportional.
scorevoting.net/rangeVcumulative.html
scorevoting.net/Asset.html

Clay Shentrup
clay@brokenladder.com

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2010 at 01:11:09

While I agree that elitist bureaucracies and boondoggle projects are a problem, I hardly see Rob Ford as an answer. The fact that he will be mayor of Toronto worries me intensely. The actions and opinions I've heard about so far all point in an overwhelmingly bad direction. The fact that he was elected says little - have elected representatives never failed before?

Bratina, Ford, etc. It's all an expression of a deep dissatisfaction among voters. And in time, they too will be "tossed out" by it. There's never really another option (Smitherman? Eiesenberger? not voting at all?) - just another bunch of clowns. If this is "democracy", why is everyone unhappy with it?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 16:36:10

If this is "democracy", why is everyone unhappy with it? - Undustrial

It was never intended to keep anybody happy : (

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2010 at 16:46:51

Ben Bull protests too much - the bad he sees, I see as good - if i got the story straight from minimal attention to that race - getting rid of streetcars and contracting out garbage is long overdue. Hamiltonians should cheer - why do we think the province is not picking up its share of the burdens as Merulla complains about? Hey, Toronto is draining the till. Maybe there will be a few crumbs we can have before Debt Tsunami washes over us all.

I do say hooray for any thoughts on reforming democracy, indeed, i'd go further, all the way to Athenian Democracy as described on Wikipedia. Lots of luck though. Seems we blew it when we had our chance in the MMP referendum.

I now doubt this problem can be tackled head-on but what folks can easily do is cancel their subscription to the Spectator, which is at least 2/3 of the problem in this town. Hit 'em where it hurts - money.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 17:26:54

Quote:"You can thank Joe Pantalone for Rob Ford's victory."

Hamilton had 15 candidates for mayor, many of whom should have dropped out, if you follow that line of thinking.

Who 'should' have won here? Who should have dropped out?
Who should we thank for Bob Bratina's win? Who should we 'thank' for Larry D. coming in 2nd.? Who should we blame for Fred coming in 3rd?

Pantalone was the only candidate I would have voted for in Toronto.

Thanks 'Smithers' for LHIN, E-health. :O
G.S. would have made a mean spirited, nasty, bully of a mayor. John Baird in a purple tie.

I think you will have to wait & see what Ford does, & how he does it. The "Stop the Gravy Train' slogan was something that residents could strongly relate to, even more than Justin Trudeau's Purty Face, & Tiny Perfect's benevolent lawn gnome glow.

I would not have voted for Ford for mayor, but I can tell you he was the Best city rep. I ever had. He helped everyone! (quite Different from the 3 'Who's Yer Daddy' members we have here who do Nothing for many of us, 100% of the time!)

Maybe somebody will run for mayor of Hamilton with the slogan "Stop the Toxic Daisy Chain, & Mutual Backscratching"? I'd vote for that person!!

Stop being so smug! It's going to take Generations, not terms of office, or even decades to get the rot out of Hamilton Government, & Good Luck With THAT!

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By 110% (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 22:14:53

Shempatolla, thank you so much for talking common sense. Unfortunately, the left won't comprehend your words -- they believe it is their divine right to govern and Lord help anyone who disagrees with them -- but you reassure the rest of us that all hope is not lost.

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2010 at 12:00:39

"The left" There's that term again. Meant as an insult I take it? But, what, exactly, does it mean?

If you disagree with Rob Ford's policies does that automatically make you from 'the left'?

Personally I'm not aware of being beholden to any particular ideology.

I used to be a fan of Margaret Thatcher's free market / anti-union philsophies but my opinions have modified over the years. I believe the government should take a role in managing our national infrastructure and social-health type services, which benefit us all - education, health, clean water, police, defense, transit, etc.

Whether that makes government 'big' or 'small' I don't know. However big it needs to be to provide all these services adequately is how big it should be.

Does that make me a leftie?

I also believe the government should explore private partnerships where the public good can be ensured so that my tax dollars can be made to stretch further.

Again - am I a leftie?

I believe we need to provide a safety net for folks who are out of work, having mental difficulties and the like.

Am I a leftie?

But I also believe this safety net should be more geared to preventing illnesses and that those who are suffering should be provided with the services they need to get them back on their feet and, if possible, into the workforce.

Am I a leftie?

I think our urban centers should have guranteed annual transit funding from our federal or provincial governments. A wide range of healthy transit options should be provided and funded by us taxpayers: bike lanes, dedicated transit corridors, toll based car lanes.

Does this make me a leftie?

I'm also cautious about the role of unions. While I understand the role they have played, and do play, in pushing forward progressive employment legislation, I'm also aware of the inefficiencies they can bring to organizations. My own personal experience of unions have not been productive at all. I question why we can't find another way to ensure that ALL employees have basic employment rights, one that doesn't bring with it the inherent inefficiencies that unions seem to encourage.

Does this make me a leftie?

Dismissing a comment or a commenter as a left or righty doesn't add anything to the discussion unless you can substantiate what it means. I would love for someone to tell me ;)

Cheers

Ben

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 01, 2010 at 14:44:09

Yes other than the union thing you most definitely are a leftist. In many ways I am as well although I see myself as a fiscal conservative.

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By .. medusa (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2010 at 22:25:18

... Ford is like the fatted calf before the media slaughter ...

Remember Mel? The media loved him, at first. The media got lots of air/print time outta him. Now they've got Ford and they are salivating. It's going to be a very very short 'honeymoon' with LOTS of gob-smacking airtime & ink spilled everywhere. Insatiable, they'll tear him to pieces.

He'll do one term, just, then, 'out'.
... o'the scandal(s), there'll be aplenty ...

By the way, Smithermen lost because he was gay. End of. It's more FUN (with better mileage/profit) to bait a pig then it is to bait a gay guy, ask anyone in the media.

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