If politics is the art of the possible, political campaigning in the 21st Century is fast becoming the art of the improbable. Rob Ford, Toronto’s new mayor-elect, is yet more proof of that.
The Ford election machine proved a formidable force in a climate of social unrest. Ford’s promises to cut taxes and waste resonated with Torontonians, distressed over mounting and unaffordable tax demands in these hard times.
The message that people want a break from the increasingly heavy tax burden is understood by all, so we wait to see if Ford is really up to the challenge.
Apart from his promise to junk the annual $60 car tax, we look forward to the repeal of the land transfer tax, that stupid five-cent shopping bag tax/fee/whatever, more public-friendly and helpful municipal employees and the end of what Ford has called “the gravy train” at City Hall.
But, will he be able to drastically cut costs and still properly run a major, world class city?
We would rather not see a pull back of Toronto’s participation in Transit City, which is already underway with contracts signed and the preparation for new light rail vehicles already started. Ford prefers subways to streetcars, but on fewer routes. With the PanAm Games coming, we are going to need efficient public transit.
Will we see major cuts to funding for arts and culture, an important aspect of big city life? How will the Ford cuts affect Caribana, for example? He has been quoted as saying that he won’t touch funding for the festival. We hope he keeps his word on that. He might want to replace Councillor Joe Mihevc as the liaison to the festival, though. Joe has run his course. In any case, he supported George Smitherman. ‘Nuff said.
We could see the reduction of bike lanes – or a freeze on new ones – which was an important aspect of outgoing Mayor David Miller’s vision for the city. While that idea may make some drivers happy, when cyclists are back to weaving in and out of vehicular traffic the reality may prove less appealing. After all, cycling in the city is here to stay; cyclists aren’t going away. And they won’t be heading to High Park or to some new bike lanes in hydro corridors as Ford has suggested.
In his 10 years as a city councilor, it is common knowledge that Ford did not grasp the skill of conciliation or consensus building which is a hallmark of political maneuvering at city council. That will have to change quickly.
While there could be some doubt at this early stage as to whether he would be able to pull enough votes together to get his agenda through, it is not impossible. Councillors will have to remember that a very large percentage of the city’s voters put him in charge. Torontonians want change and, if this election proved anything, it is that they better get it.
The municipal elections were not just about the election of the mayor of Toronto. There were hundreds of civic-minded people who stepped forward to be of public service. Many of those who ran for office were from our community and a few of them were successful in their bids. Among them, Scarborough Centre incumbent, Michael Thompson, was returned with a landslide, taking 84 per cent of the votes in his ward. Toronto District School Board trustee Michael Couteau was returned, as well as Stephnie Payne, although by a slim margin. Beyond the Toronto borders, Renrick Ashby was re-elected to Ajax City Council.
We encourage all the other civic-minded individuals from our community who threw their hats in the ring this time around but were unsuccessful to continue their efforts to represent their communities. We especially call on the young candidates to continue their political involvement – build alliances, get on boards, do community work and get involved in the wider society. That way you can build a track record so that when the next election comes you will have the name recognition and experience.
We have four interesting years of city politics ahead of us. Use your talent, skills, knowledge and the experience you have gained these past number of months to help make a difference in your communities.