In a city as ethnically diverse as Toronto, arguably exceeding any other in the world, it is frustrating that the media’s anointed front-runners for the next mayoral election include just five White males and one White female out of a field of 28 registered candidates. What’s more depressing is that none of the chosen is particularly inspiring. What does this say about the powerbrokers’ view of multiculturalism in this city whose visible minority population in the 2006 census stood at some 43 per cent and which is estimated to reach 63 per cent in 20 years.
So it is to their credit that the Better Ballots organization added African Canadian lawyer, Rocco Achampong, to the lineup along with the usual six while also welcoming all the candidates in yet another mayoral debate at the University of Toronto earlier this week. Ten were given the opportunity to present their platforms, albeit each for one minute. Yet, even that little was more than they have been accorded up until now in this kind of forum. Unfortunately, no local TV station bothered to fully televise it.
We know there are some fringe candidates who only register as a lark, so it is understandable that there has to be reasoned decision making about whom to take seriously. But, when you have people like Achampong, a graduate of prestigious Trinity College at the University of Toronto, and community activist Rev. Wendell Brereton or Chinese Canadian Sonny Yeung being ignored, it becomes obvious that those deciding who are qualified to run for this important office are terribly out of touch, maybe deliberately so. It should not be left only to ethnic community news outlets to focus on the ideas and energies of the non-White candidates.
That almost all the candidates for mayor are male is another cause for concern given that there are more females in this city than males. How do we engage the wealth of female talent in Toronto to get them fired up enough to run or even to vote? We have not seen any female from our community on Toronto City Council since Sherene Shaw was elected in 1997.
While it is encouraging that publisher Sarah Thomson has been given status as one of the six front-runners, she has been referred to as the only female candidate. Maybe Charlene Cottle who is also campaigning for mayor will have something to say about that.
Of course it is the responsibility of those who throw their hat into the ring to tap into the various avenues for publicity in order to get their message out to the broader voting public. However, it is also the task of mainstream media to equitably give space to all serious candidates, regardless of how many there are. Instead, by virtue of whom they chose to take seriously and frequently report on, what we have is a selection process governed by the few mostly White males in editorial rooms. This is not democracy.
Too many people don’t feel represented by the current council or these front-runners, and the related disengagement manifests in low voter turnout. We need a mayor who represents Rexdale as well as Rosedale. Media can do their part by showing that involved members of Toronto’s many ethnic communities can and do help to make this city work.
Having said all of that, we are intrigued by news reports and opinion pieces which suggest that former mayoral candidate and former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, John Tory, might be encouraged to get into the race.
When Mayor David Miller announced he was not going to run again, there was every expectation that Tory would run and that he most likely would win. Until he announced that he was going to take a pass.
It is clear that Tory has wide support among Torontonians across the political spectrum. He would certainly be a welcome addition to this campaign. Moreover, this might just be his time to lead the largest and most important city in the country.