Asked to name what she regards as the highest priority project in the city, Horwath seemed to indicate that politics — and not sound transit planning — has been the NDP’s guide: “I think it’s those neighbourhoods in the outskirts of this city that aren’t receiving the transit they need.” When a reporter asked about the Downtown Relief Line, she replied: “I think it’s a mugs game to try to divide this city in terms of who needs transit more. We have to address all of these concerns.”
Sounds to me like the NDP leader thinks the DRL is all about relieving congestion for downtowners. Maybe she needs to turn off the Ford’s radio show and realize the value of the line in Scarborough and North York.
… there’s no reason to push for a by-election. Indeed, I’d argue that a spring by-election would merely make a deeply unhealthy political dynamic worse. The city desperately needs a break from Ford Fest so council can get back to work on the issues that matter of the residents of Toronto.
In a recent Toronto Life essay on the need for renewed urban leadership for the city, Richard Florida unsparingly sets out the long-term risks of pursuing Ford’s “anti-urban” agenda. But he told me last week his warnings have fallen on deaf ears, with barely a peep by way of response from Bay Street and the corporate elites. “Many Torontonians including our business leadership claim to want Toronto to be a great global city like London or New York,” Florida said in an email. “But they say nothing about the casino, nothing about the mayor. They just want it to somehow `happen.’ I cannot understand the failure of the business community to speak out. The mayor is ruinous to them – he and his policies hinder and hamper their ability to attract talent. How do they not see this? Why don’t they speak out? Why do they acquiesce?
Yet as these increasingly damaging episodes pile up, it is reasonable to ask why his closest political advisors – starting with chief of staff Mark Towhey – have done so little to persuade their boss to front small but politically resonant initiatives that would re-cast his mayoralty. They are, of course, in a murderously difficult situation, because their counsel is routinely thwarted by brother Doug, who only believes it’s been a good week if he’s poured more gasoline on the fire.
Via @JohnLorinc …
Ford, in absolutely all facets of his life, obeys the rules except when they don’t follow his own superseding logic; he always has and always will. Whether it’s a conflict of interest, or reading while driving, or any of at least a couple dozen things, if he deems something appropriate, then the rules can go fuck themselves, ‘cause he’s Rob Ford and he knows best. I’m not sure how many times he can get away with the same defense, but it’s worked for him so far and I expect it’ll work this time as well.
@JohnLorinc and @GraphicMatt on Rob Ford and conflict of interest | #TOpoli
Two important and necessary takes from two of the smartest and most thoughtful observers in Toronto politics.
Matt argues that while Rob Ford’s record doesn’t exactly look good on him, this conflict-of-interest kerfuffle shouldn’t trigger his removal from office. He rightly points out that the law leaves no middle ground:
As it stands, the law is set up with little room for sway: either Ford is guilty and he’s removed from office or he’s innocent and he walks away cleanly. It’s kind of like if the only possible criminal penalties for petty theft were nothing or death by firing squad.
By contrast, John points out that
… the mayor, in the past, seems to have been familiar enough with the municipal conflict laws, and attentive enough to council debates, to know when to stick his hand up after the speaker asks for declarations of conflict.
I can certainly understand the argument that Rob Ford won the election, and that regardless of what we may think of him, he’s entitled to serve out his mandate to the best of his ability. Because Matt’s right in more than one sense: previously, he’s argued that engineering Ford’s removal via this conflict-of-interest process is going to look like “sore losers” to some of his supporters.
It’s a compelling argument, and in an ideal world, I’d find it hard to disagree with his contention that if Rob Ford is to be removed from office, it should be because someone else manages to persuade more voters to support his or her vision of the city. Ultimately, though, I think Matt’s analysis founders on the Can’t Have it Both Ways shoals. As I suggested on his site:
You’re right, it’s disturbing to think that there’s nothing in between skating and removal from office, and there’s a very strong argument that there should be. By the same token, though, you’re also right to point out that there’s no middle ground between flagrant disregard or staggering incompetence either. I’d be more sympathetic if it were just the football thing, but when the guy actually stands up at council and argues, essentially, that the rules shouldn’t apply to him, the wiggle room disappears.
So which is it? If there’s no middle ground on the offence, then why should there be a middle ground on the penalty? Rules are rules, and they’re there for a reason. Yeah, the droolers of Ford Nation will lose their shit, but when did they ever not?
The Liberals, bless their souls, have revealed nothing whatever about how they intend to carve the turkey. I don’t think they have a clue.
John Lorinc on the province’s, er, “prudent” approach to public transit and how to fund, plan, and build it.
Indeed, a new phrase – “they really Forded that issue” – should enter our lexicon.
Toronto’s transit future: avoiding the Team Ford Disaster | #TOpoli
Next Wednesday, city council will meet to debate the shape public transit will take for the next several decades.
We’ve seen a fair amount of sound and fury regarding the subway / LRT debate. We’ve seen a public servant fired for nothing but spite. We’ve seen public meetings where the facts and evidence have been presented, and we’ve seen public meetings whipped up to lynch-mob levels of anger. We’ve seen lobbying, misinformation, astroturfing and truly mind-boggling levels of bullshit. We’ve listened as the mayor and his brother have taken to the airwaves to push their version of things unchecked by any opposing viewpoints.
But this isn’t just about subways versus LRT, and it’s not about downtowners versus suburban residents. It’s not about pampered elitists versus second-class citizens. What it comes down to, in essence, is: do you trust Team Ford to get things right on anything, never mind the most important and expensive file in the entire municipal-governance arena? This is going to have financial and infrastructural implications that reverberate for decades. As John Lorinc put it last November, this could be
We’ve seen the reports. We’ve heard the evidence. We’ve talked about the recommendations. I’m not going to go through them all here. The state of the debate is neatly summed up, though, by one of the panelists appointed to report on transit options for Sheppard East. Not surprisingly, the panel favours LRT over subways for a variety of reasons: ridership, population growth, density, employment projections, and so on. You know, the kind of things I like to refer to on Twitter as #FactyEvidencyTransitStuff.
And what’s Rob Ford’s reaction? He calls the report “hogwash” and says the panelists are “biased.” I’m sorry, I need to shake my head for a minute. And then borrow a comparison from his brother: how is it that we trust this guy with anything more complicated than a kids’ lemonade stand?
As the University of Toronto’s Eric Miller told the Globe:
It’s not exactly a revelation that some of the subway fetishists have a somewhat, um, elastic relationship to the truth. My favourite example is the continued flogging of the “St. Clair Disaster” meme. Much as I hate to reduce things to sound bites and lapel-button slogans, perhaps it’s time to coin a counter-meme: let’s avoid the Team Ford Disaster.
I guess the more fundamental question here is, how do you reach people for whom facts, evidence and logic aren’t part of the discussion? I don’t have an answer for that. Over to you, intertoobz.
- The SRT is not LRT
- Going after new revenues really must be a joint municipal-provincial project
- I can eat a bowl of alphabet soup
- City Council is Supreme | politics | via @Torontoist and @hamutaldotan
- @AdamCF and @JM_McGrath talk governance, institutional reform, and #TOpoli
- THIS is what the Toronto transit fight is all about? REALLY?! #TOpoli - It’s a Remarkk-able life
- From Grover Norquist to Gary Webster: putting #TeamFord’s #TTC jihad in context | #TOpoli #Toronto
- #TeamFord and our city: Can no one talk sense to these guys? | #TOpoli #transit #TOlabourdispute
Conservatism: is it a label? Is it a brand? Or maybe just a little bit more? | #TOpoli
That smartypants fancypants @Cityslikr is forcing me to put on my crankypants. I warned you youngsters what would happen if you didn’t get off my lawn!
All right, all right, so I telegraphed that one. Indulge me.
The #TOpoli twittersphere / blogosphere / wankersphere (my usual preserve) has been all lit up over the past few days, thanks to John Michael McGrath and his thoughtful essay about legitimacy. We’ve heard from several folks in response, among them Ed Keenan, Hamutal Dotan, John Lorinc, and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, for starters. All worthwhile reads, and I’d encourage you to click on every one of these links.
But it’s today’s post from Cityslikr that’s prompting this grumpy-old-man lecture, admittedly because he’s all but dared me to correct him. Dude may be surprised, therefore, to learn that I agree with most of his argument today (probably because it’s substantially similar to the one I made yesterday). I think we’re all in agreement that while what’s been going on at City Hall over the past few weeks isn’t ideal, it’s a reasonable and workable response to a mayor who can’t or won’t work and play well with others. And it’s important to stress, as Ed and Hamutal have, that this isn’t a case of unworkable dysfunction. There’s a great deal invested, I’d submit, in advancing a narrative which paints all politicians as a bunch of fussy children squabbling in a sandbox, and in prompting exasperated voters to blow off the obligations of citizenship because, what the hell, they’re all crooks and liars.
Indeed, I seem to recall some young whippersnapper taking exception to that kind of talk some time ago. Where was it? Oh. Yeah.
But that’s not what the young scamp’s called me out about. And it’s here that I have to confess, it’s this particular debate that’s fuelled many late-night beer-enhanced conversations.
I’ll admit to a pedantic, perhaps even obsessive focus on the meanings of words. (One of my many annoying qualities, I know. Too much education and not enough wisdom, perhaps? Whatever.) But I fixate on it for a reason: words are the foundation of public discourse, and public discourse is the most basic currency of citizenship and civic engagement. If we’re to converse with each other like rational adults, we have to be able to agree on the definitions of the terms we’re using.
And by the same token, when we allow others to strip words of their meanings and repurpose them for their own ends, we’ve given away the game before it’s even started. It’s why I keep harping on winning back the words.
Which brings us to the term “conservatism.” Cityslikr’s already tried to anticipate where I’m going with this, with his fancy-shmancy Edmund Burke references. (Geez louise. You cite Reflections on the Revolution in France once, and the rest of your life, you’re shlepping around this giant freakin’ statue on your back.)
But I’m not going there tonight, because for the purposes of this argument, there’s no need to get all academic and elitist-like.
What is conservatism, at its heart? The way I’ve always understood it, it’s about identifying the best and most worthwhile parts of our history and our tradition, and working to preserve and enhance them. It’s informed, I’d submit, by a devotion to the principles of stewardship. We want to leave things the way they were when we found them, or preferably a little bit better, for the next group to come along. If that’s conservatism, and I believe that it is, then sign me up.
In Canada (pardon me while I get mythic), that carries elements of generosity, civility, caring, and community spirit. It’s something that we’ve worked for generations to build, to advance, and to extend to as many of our neighbours and our fellow citizens as possible. It hasn’t come without struggle, and it’s sometimes easy to gloss over some of the less savoury aspects of our history in honouring that, but the bottom line is: we’ve got something here - a culture, a national character, a way of relating to and caring for one another - that’s taken years to build, to develop, to foster. This is our identity. This is who we are. You don’t get to come along and sweep that all away for the sake of some ideological or financial agenda.
And that’s why it’s so important to reclaim the mantle of conservatism from those who have hijacked it over the past few decades. Because whether you’re talking about think tanks pushing the austerity agenda and lecturing us about tightening our belts, or tabloid screed-writers fulminating about waste and mismanagement and cultures of entitlement and gravy trains, what’s at work here is a focused and disciplined campaign to dismantle, to tear things apart, and to weaken the bonds of community. If these folks are conservatives, then I’m two steps left of Joe Stalin.
So, while my pal Cityslikr is right about the sort of autocratic bullying we’ve seen from Team Ford passing for conservative orthodoxy, I think he’s wrong in the way he’s set it up. (But he’s such a nice boy. He means well.)
In his opening paragraphs, he gives a vivid description of the anti-democratic impulse, and the bare tolerance of democracy. You can see that at work every day, whenever people complain about how messy and inefficient it is and then vow to keep its practitioners away from their kids’ lemonade stands. Where I differ from him is in his characterization of it as conservative. Disdain for democracy or popular sovereignty has nothing to with liberal or conservative or right or left; fundamentally, it’s about power and privilege. In that context, those are just labels. And it’s because I don’t want to see honourable traditions and intellectual currents stripped of context and meaning, and reduced to mere labels, that I’m arguing against the misuse and misappropriation of the term “conservative.”
The folks currently losing their shit because Team Ford’s losing its grip aren’t conservatives. They’re not valiant culture warriors, and they’re not courageous champions of Joe Lunchbucket Subway-Wanting Beleaguered Taxpayer. They’re just part of the noise machine, and they don’t merit any more respect or attention than that.
- Winning back the words: reclaiming ‘elitism’ in the age of Rob Ford | #TOpoli #onpoli
- In answer to @graphicmatt – no, this isn’t conservatism | #TOpoli
- Team Ford goes Godzilla on the waterfront: this ain’t your grandpa’s conservatism
- Not Your Grandaddy’s Conservatism
- Why conservatism needs to be rescued | #cdnpoli