THE BLOG
04/08/2014 12:27 EDT | Updated 06/08/2014 05:59 EDT

What Ford Supporters Get Wrong About Olivia Chow

It's hard to know where to start with Mitch Wolfe's piece. But polling basics is as good as any. To support his random chats in coffee shops, which he says show Olivia's support eroding, he cites a Forum Research poll. All polls have a margin of error. Every poll I've seen says one thing, very clearly. Our city wants a new mayor. That's why Olivia has been able to hold three large events. The three largest events of any campaign so far. It's why online engagement with Olivia's campaign is growing exponentially. And it's why there are lots of volunteers, in all corners of the city.

It's hard to know where to start with Mitch Wolfe's piece. But polling basics is as good as any.

To support his random chats in coffee shops, which he says show Olivia's support eroding, he cites a Forum Research poll. All polls have a margin of error. For the one Wolfe cites, it was +/- four per cent.

Commenting on polls isn't wise. They're regularly quite wrong. But at least I understand how to read one. I wouldn't, say, write a column using a poll as objective proof when the poll I point to might well have Olivia up by nine points. That's what margin of error means.

In other words, the alleged factual underpinning of his thoughts is wrong. Which brings us to the so-called analysis itself.

Wolfe says to the economy is why Ford has staying power. He says, echoing the mayor, that there's a construction boom. There is. But an 80-storey building isn't approved and erected in a few years. The buildings we're seeing now, by and large, pre-dated Ford's election. As for the economy in general, unemployment is up; youth unemployment is 22.5 per cent.

No matter. Ford is pro-business. Olivia "is on the opposite side." Odd. I distinctly recall being in a Scarborough business the week before last with Olivia. I'm sure I heard her say she'd cut their taxes. Positive she proposed linking immigrant entrepreneurs with existing businesses -- modelled after a successful program in Vancouver -- to help new businesses start up, and existing businesses export.

This brings us to Ford's "low-tax" policy, which Wolfe attributes to the surging economy. In his four years as mayor, the average property tax increase has been 1.8 per cent. This is identical to the average increase during Olivia's time on the budget committee: 1.8 per cent. Toss in Olivia's firm commitment to hold taxes around the rate of inflation, it's hard to understand where her "pro-higher-taxes" position comes from, exactly.

In fact, it is Ford, not Olivia, who is the taxer. It is he, not she, who wants to waste a billion dollars to build underground rail to Scarborough. She would build above-ground rail, which will be finished four years faster. It would also have four more stops, because it's two kilometers longer.

Ah, I can hear Wolfe saying, Olivia has "her strange anti-subway, pro-bus policy." She's "incredibly incoherent and inconsistent."

What's incoherent about boosting rush-hour bus capacity by 10 per cent so people can get on? Sixty per cent of TTC rides use a bus. People in the suburbs use them more. If we want to get people moving faster, right now, we need better bus service. That's a sensible short-term priority.

Medium-term, she'd build world-class above-ground rail like those found in Tokyo and Berlin, London or Los Angeles, to Scarborough. I've lived in Melbourne and London. I didn't feel I was "settling" for anything when I took an above-ground train. I felt like I was getting where I needed to go.

Shovels can go in the ground next year. It can be done by 2019. In contrast, Ford would wait until 2023, raise taxes for 30 years and hurt the city's borrowing capacity to build a relief line. This relief line (a subway) is Olivia's long-term priority.

Why bother with details, however, when there's a divisive myth to spread: downtown is rich; the suburbs are not. I live downtown. The other day, someone bought a $3 lottery ticket at the corner store near me with a credit card. It was declined. How was this person "affluent"? The fact is rich people live all over, and so do the poor.

Playing divide-and-conquer doesn't become the mayor. Or his acolytes.

So to conclude, let's get back to polls. Every poll I've seen says one thing, very clearly. Our city wants a new mayor. That's why Olivia has been able to hold three large events. The three largest events of any campaign so far. It's why online engagement with Olivia's campaign is growing exponentially. And it's why there are lots of volunteers, in all corners of the city.

And most importantly, it's why reaction to Olivia at a Blue Jays' game or on the TTC has been so warm. I've done them all with Olivia. Not as accurate, granted, as Wolfe and his associates having random chats with people in Wendy's. Then again, accuracy may not be his forte. The three little words I'm thinking of are margin of error.

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