How does Toronto benefit from polarization?

By Pat Watson Wednesday December 05 2012 in Opinion
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So, are you a rightist or a leftist? Picture a body in which both the right and left arm are trying to amputate the other. How well would the body carry out its daily functions if either or both were successful? Down the rabbit hole into a polarized world of left and right, this schism is such that each is deemed the absolute nemesis of the other.


Which brings me to the “spewage” from some politicians in the aftermath of the decision by Justice Charles Hackland that found Rob Ford guilty of conflict of interest and the ensuing penalty, which is for Ford to step down as mayor of Toronto.


Ford ran the line up the flagpole when his initial public reaction to the judge’s decision last week was to conjure up a vast left-wing conspiracy. The Fords – that is Rob and his councillor brother Doug – have pushed city politics with relentless conjecture into exactly what it should not be, and that is party politics. It has no place at City Hall.


While it would be disingenuous to pretend that there are no political affiliations or political leanings of all stripes among those elected to council, the spirit of municipal cooperation is now being eaten away by constantly framing issues as right versus left.


We already have enough of that at the provincial and federal levels to send anyone to the hospital for respite.


What most people in this city want to hear about from those they have entrusted with their votes is what plans those who have been elected and who promised us they would see to the best interests of our city are carrying out in honouring that trust.


Given those challenges, there is no space at this level for divide-and-ruin politics.


For as long as I can remember, for example, there has been that askance look by the rest of the region regarding Scarborough – you know, “Scar-beria”. That would not have mattered much in the old days, just a harmless local running gag. But put through the meat-grinder of political spinsters, these old inanities have become fodder for playing identity politics.


You would have thought that the foolishness of this kind of polarization as it threatened to cause the political structure in Washington, D.C. to implode would have been a bad enough example to stop it from seeping north of the border.


What I find so offensive is that the people who really should be above the fray in these matters are at the head of it. The Ford brothers – the mayor and the first time councillor for Etobicoke North – are leading the pack. What possible benefit can there be in tearing our city apart with this juvenile rhetoric?


It is one thing to leave it to the journalistic set to make hay with political drama, but for municipal politicians to stoke the fires is regrettable. And “regrettable” is being kind.


What does being left-wing or right-wing have to do with garbage pick-up? What does it have to do with where we are going to find the actual money to address the overwhelming transportation infrastructure needs of this growing city? What does it have to do with clearing the snow, if enough accumulates over the next few months?


What does it have to do with delivering amenable accommodation of drivers and bicyclists? Or keeping daycare centres open? Or fairness over parking tickets? Or dealing with the provincial and federal governments so that the largest city in the country, which still gives more in taxes to both the province and Ottawa than it gets back, can get a fair deal?


It seems to me that the more time these characters spend manufacturing a focus for their fears, leftist and rightist bogeymen, then the less time they have to get on with the substantial business of what is truly in the best interest of this city whose name they choke on when saying how much they love it.


Who do they think they are kidding? What this city cries out for is mature, pragmatic leadership. We’ve already seen the results of the schoolyard gang mentality, and it sets a very bad tone.


A note on the more TTC trains change…


So those shiny new articulated subway trains come with doors that don’t function smoothly and thus add to travel and wait times. Some of us hear the apology so often that it echoes during our sleep: “Regular service will resume shortly, we apologize for the delay.”


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