My point is simply this: Many want change in Toronto politics, but unless we start changing the way that media covers local council races, the same style of candidates will continue to be elected, we can no longer be allergic to the potential of something better, unlikely or fear something different in such a diverse city.
At City Hall, members of council and staff have done their utmost to fill the leadership vacuum. Toronto's non-partisan system, while messy, has allowed its city government to deliver with little disruption. Council and the City's senior management found equilibrium on a wide range of issues from transit to housing to electoral reform.
I was not prepared for what actually happened last night. Olivia Chow started off with vigour but then seemed to fade, John Tory was aggressive, and both attacked Doug Ford as if he were the frontrunner. There were no kid gloves for the debate newcomer. I think many observers may see this as the beginning of the end for John Tory, the much anticipated point where he begins to lose as he has done so often before.
Tomorrow is the first appearance at a debate of mayoral candidate Doug Ford, not to be confused with councillor Doug Ford, or Rob Ford's campaign manager Doug Ford. This is a whole new ballgame. After just a day as the candidate, Ford propelled the fortunes of Ford Nation from a distant third to within striking distance of the leader. Polls showed him at levels no Ford has been at in over a year outside of Etobicoke. For the few people still following this race, here are my thoughts on the five things to watch for in this first Doug Ford debate.
The mayor is only relevant if people make him relevant. For every time we make a sensation about Rob Ford and his latest scandal, we give him attention that he does not deserve. His election chances were ill-served when social media went quiet, and we are now ill-served by perpetuating stories about how he is a tactless, corrupt, and bigoted embarrassment to the city.
This past fall I was carded by a Toronto police officer near my own neighbourhood. It wasn't my first time. After returning home that day I did some research on the topic of police surveillance and came across Body Worn Cameras (BWC). They would prove that Toronto police disproportionately target minorities and community outrage in the city is justified. The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all measure that restores public trust in police. But in Toronto, where there is a clear crisis of distrust between minority communities and police, it becomes clear that police officers might have to wear these Body Worn Cameras to regain some of that trust.
I thought former Trinity NDP MP Olivia Chow, would be a formidable challenger to Mayor Rob Ford. But I am starting to have my doubts, as the glow of the brief honeymoon with Chow has dissipated. And Olivia Chow is faltering and fading. Chow's agenda recalls an earlier more left-wing extremist period in Toronto politics. Since the first debate, the indications are even stronger that Ford is cutting into Chow Country. The reasons are obvious.
This is why council is so important. As a unified body it has immense power to shift the agenda of our city. A mayor should technically be able to unite and determine solid goals for Toronto along with a strong policy agenda designed to solve our toughest of challenges. Unfortunately there hasn't been much unity on council and partisan-politics has stifled much progress. The never ending subway vs. LRT debate creating a rift between the downtown core and the suburbs and a lack of true 'big-picture, visionary thinking' has seriously stalled Toronto's ability to capitalize on its unique potential.
Could you envision Toronto City Council changing the name of Yonge Street to 1 Street? Well, this is what the TTC is doing to our subway lines. Subway lines are underground routes for trains carrying people just like streets are routes for cars or bikes or buses carrying people. Main route names are rarely if ever changed because of their history and because it would cause major confusion.
One of the corollaries of our governing WASP culture is a loathing of animal appetites, an emphasis on self-control at the expense of, well, everything. Which is why it's great to see Rob Ford pour beer, crack cocaine and oral sex all over this carefully built myth of false gentility that means "Canada" to the outside world.
As Ford continues to bumble forward, few people in Toronto actually want it to stop -- gleefully salivating over the impending destruction of Canada's most famous man. That's the real embarrassment; Ford opponents can't stop watching and gloating even though it might be the only way to avoid "Ford more years."
Ford apologized for his alleged actions in the crack video scandal on Saturday, but his apology left a lot of people angry and confused. Where others want him to apologize for his shenanigans regarding drugs and drinking, I want him to explain and apologize for his consistent, uncaring attitude towards his office, his city, and the people who live here.
When the news finally broke about the alleged crack video being in the hands of the Toronto Police, the addiction therapist in me saw it as a blessing in disguise for Mr. Ford. I recall thinking "maybe now he will stop this charade, get the help he needs and get his life back on track." I don't know Mr. Ford personally. But what I do know is that his behaviour of late is very indicative of an alcoholic or a drug addict. If he's serious about wanting to remain in office, I think it is irresponsible of him to pretend as though everything is fine. It's not fine, and I base that only on what has come out publicly. I can't even imagine what we don't know about.