Com­ing elec­tions of­fer lit­tle hope

Same old ideas and politi­cians in sys­tem gamed by in­cum­bents

Annex Post - - NEWS - JOHN SEWELL

In these days on the edge of spring, with a fraught po­lit­i­cal world lack­ing the val­ues of love and peace, some­thing solid and un­chang­ing seems more de­sir­able.

Those char­ac­ter­is­tics cer­tainly de­scribe Toronto City Coun­cil. Solid, even stolid, and un­chang­ing in the face of elec­tions. A quar­ter of cur­rent coun­cil­lors have been there since the mil­len­nium, some even longer.

It’s an un­chang­ing in­sti­tu­tion. In­cum­bents al­most al­ways get re­elected, which be­lies the idea that elec­tions here of­fer real choices.

One can al­ways be hope­ful about groups like Progress Toronto which wants to bring new en­ergy to city hall in the up­com­ing elec­tion, but the chance of that com­ing to fruition is small.

The rea­sons for the lack of change aren’t hard to find. Coun­cil­lors build up lists of peo­ple they have helped in var­i­ous ways — the four-year term gives them lots of time to do this — and many agree to take an elec­tion sign show­ing the in­cum­bent has wide sup­port. That’s a ben­e­fit not avail­able to a new­comer.

The col­lapse of news­pa­pers means there’s no good way for new can­di­dates to pub­li­cize al­ter­na­tive ap­proaches about lo­cal is­sues to show there are choices. In­cum­bents have bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties to raise the funds needed for strong cam­paigns.

If ev­ery­thing feeds into the in­ter­ests of in­cum­bents, then po­lit­i­cal new­com­ers don’t have much of a chance.

For change, one must rely on in­cum­bents leav­ing. Ray­mond Cho in Scar­bor­ough was elected to Ot­tawa, so there’s an op­por­tu­nity for change, as there is with the death of Ron Moeser, also of Scar­bor­ough, and Pam McCon­nell of Cab­bage­town.

Shel­ley Car­roll, Gior­gio Mam­moliti and Denzil Min­nan-Wong, both of North York, are can­di­dates in the June pro­vin­cial elec­tion, which will pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties for new­com­ers if ei­ther is elected.

Three new wards are be­ing cre­ated down­town pro­vid­ing three more op­por­tu­ni­ties. And there’s one more cat­e­gory of change pos­si­bil­ity: where the coun­cil­lor is fac­ing pos­si­ble crim­i­nal charges.

Justin Di Ciano of Eto­bi­coke is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by po­lice re­gard­ing elec­tion ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, and if charges re­sult, this will rep­re­sent a se­ri­ous prob­lem for him in the elec­tion.

Term lim­its might bring about some nec­es­sary change.

Mary-Mar­garet McMa­hon of the Beaches is one coun­cilor who promised two terms, and they are now up, and she is leav­ing. She’s a per­son of prin­ci­ple.

To get the whole city coun­cil to vote for term lim­its would mean most coun­cil­lors vot­ing against their own self in­ter­est. Un­likely.

All if which means there are 10 op­por­tu­ni­ties among the 47 coun­cil­lor po­si­tions that might bring change — al­though new­com­ers might sim­ply mimic the old. You can’t ex­pect peo­ple to change — we all just carry on in our mod­est tracks. So we can ex­pect more of the same at city hall for an­other four years.

Where will we find the fresh voices to deal with the city’s sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial prob­lems? Or to im­prove pub­lic tran­sit, ad­dress the af­ford­able hous­ing crunch, fix the pot­holes or save pedes­tri­ans by slow­ing down traf­fic?

If it re­ally hap­pens that Doug Ford be­comes premier, one can be sure he’ll make all kinds of changes that will make life more dif­fi­cult in the city, com­pound­ing the prob­lems.

Sadly, it’s a tired city hall gov­ern­ing the mega-city. Maybe be­ing solid and un­chang­ing are mer­i­to­ri­ous char­ac­ter­is­tics in these times, but those val­ues will not bring about a more pro­gres­sive city that many of us yearn for as spring ar­rives.

Sadly, it’s a tired city hall gov­ern­ing the mega-city.”

The Progress Toronto group hopes to be a vi­tal voice in the com­ing mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion

Post City Mag­a­zines’ colum­nist John Sewell is a for­mer mayor of Toronto and the au­thor of a num­ber of ur­ban plan­ning books, in­clud­ing The Shape of the Sub­urbs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.