My endorsement for councillor

Let’s start with this: Frances Nunziata is an excellent retail politician. If you call her, she will call you back. If you need something done, she’ll get it done.

But Weston has been suffering under her watch. Stores along Weston Road are struggling. Transit is gasping. We seem to be in a constant state of construction and disruption, and our town is getting very little out of work that will benefit everyone but us. Something is wrong.

And though this is not entirely Nunziata’s fault (she did not invent the digital camera that killed Kodak), Nunziata’s politics are not helping.

Frances—can I call her Frances?—is part of Ford Nation. She believes in subways, cars, and low taxes. She believes in business, the little guy, public-private-partnerships, and small government. And these are good things. Except for Weston.

They’re not what Weston needs right now. Weston needs public infrastructure and public goods. These are things that increased taxes buy.

What kind of public goods? Things that will make Weston a more pleasant place to do business and a more delightful place to live. Off the top of my head:

  •  Childcare
    • A city-subsidized childcare would make this a more desirable neighbourhood for young couples. We used to have one.
  • Functioning, funded transit
    • Buses, buses, buses. Bus infrastructure. Express buses. Articulated buses. Decent bus shelters (why do we wait outside in the winter?)
  • Bike paths
    • Join the Humber gap, create safe bike infrastructure to get to the GO, and build a bike path along Wilson to join North York and Toronto.
    • Build a path south to the Junction and Bloor. It’s impossible to get there now by bike.
  • Public art
    • Work with the BIA to make Weston Road lovely again
  • Trees and parks
    •  Trees along Weston Road and Jane Streets would calm traffic and noise and create a nicer pedestrian environment
    • The dilapidated houses on Weston must be expropriated and demolished.
  • Indoor community spaces.
    • A YMCA would be great, but let’s start small. There are no community programs at schools in Weston. Why not? The Elms and Amesbury have them. Weston could too.

These require taxes, government, patience, and cooperation. These are not the beliefs of Ford Nation.

You might then think that Dory Chalhoub would be my endorsement.

He is not.

Calhoub has guts. He’s running on a shoestring budget against an entrenched opponent. He shows up, he campaigns, and he tries. And he ought, above all, to be commended for that. I salute him wholeheartedly for his noble, and Quixotic, campaign.

But I cannot endorse him.

While Chalhoub he has put himself forward as the person to fix the riding he, too, appears to be fiscally conservative, and as long as he thinks that we can fix our problems without working together—and that’s just another way of saying “taxes”—then he is mistaken.

He has no experience. Chalhoub says that every new candidate starts off without it. True. But other candidates prove themselves in the minor leagues before trying out for the majors: Chalhoub, as far as I know, has not been much involved in the riding, certainly not in Weston or Mount Dennis.

Dory—can I call him Dory?—also lacks vision. He did not respond to PositionPrimer or InsideToronto to give details about his platform. (Nunziata did.) Dory did not even disclose which mayoral candidate he would back—surely the shortest cut to a platform he could take. His website is incomplete (the links to his policy pages are broken), he has no social media, and even the photos on his website are clipart: in this beautiful town, he chose a picture from Hamilton to represent neighbourhood beauty.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say he’s running on a very simple platform: “Not Nunziata. But close.” The lack of policy could be intentional. Like staring at clouds, we can see what we want to.

Our choice, then, is between two unsatisfactory candidates, neither of whom seems to have a long-term vision for Weston.

I cannot endorse either.

Municipal Election Viewpoint

Voting will take place in a few days and the campaigns for Council and Mayor will soon be history. The endless campaigning has produced a few surprises, one of which was the collapse of the Olivia Chow campaign. Before nominations opened, the Mayor’s job was waiting for her and the campaign seemed a formality that would end with an inevitable coronation. At the end of last year, my wife and I saw Ms. Chow lose a crowd of ardent supporters after speaking for only a couple of minutes. As she rambled on, the crowd began to murmur and my wife (who has an annoying habit of being correct) confidently predicted that Ms. Chow’s charisma shortfall would result in an unsuccessful campaign. The collapse of support for Ms. Chow has disappointed many who are leery of John Tory and more particularly, Doug Ford. While Mr Tory is undoubtedly a decent man, his natural inclination leans towards business interests and his ideas on transit and transportation are poorly thought out. It seems likely he will win as the alternative spectre of Doug Ford makes a vote for Olivia too risky for many. The Provincial Liberals have committed themselves to implementing ranked balloting which will finally eliminate the need for strategic voting in the future. For now, John Tory is probably the safest candidate to choose.

In Ward 11, WestonWeb was despairing that any candidates would step forward to oppose longtime incumbent Frances Nunziata. Eventually a couple signed up, Jose Garcia and Dory Chalhoub. These two unknowns were seen as incredible long shots against the veteran of several successful campaigns stretching back decades. One candidate has used the long period of campaigning to his advantage; Dory Chaloub, whose confidence has grown as his talking points have resonated with voters. In particular, Mr Chaloub is articulate and has been able to connect the dismal state of the ward directly to the inability of Ms. Nunziata to lift York South-Weston out of its deep and decades-long malaise. In addition, Ms. Nunziata’s increased profile as Council Speaker has exposed her flaws to a wider audience. Although there is not much to choose from politically between the two, Mr. Chalhoub understands that York South-Weston needs change and is not stuck in denial about the status quo. He has a background in business and seems intelligent and assertive enough to deserve a chance. Ms. Nunziata sees no problems and therefore seeks no solutions. Her political ambitions lie in city hall; focussing on improving York South-Weston only gets in the way. It’s time for a change.

Star does not endorse Nunziata

The Toronto Star has endorsed Dory Chalhoub, not Frances Nunziata—although it is clear they seem him only as the better of two bads:

With almost 30 years in local politics, incumbent Frances Nunziata (open Frances Nunziata’s policard) has lingered far past her sell-by date. Painfully ineffective in recent years, she has been one of council’s most complacent Ford followers. Dory Chalhoub, a young entrepreneur, is energetic to the point of being brash. We disagree with some of his policies, such as his support for a casino, but this ward needs a dose of vitality. Chalhoub gets our nod.

Sullivan votes against raising murder minimums

Conservatives like mandatory minimums—the sentences that lead to life sentences for stealing a pair of socks. These laws take away judge’s discretion to tailor punishments to the crime.

It’s odd for Conservatives to give judges more discretion, but, in a weird way, that’s what they’re doing with bill C-587, which would allow judges to give longer sentences than required by the current law. Murderers who rape or abduct could be sentenced by their judges to up to 40 years without parole, instead of the 25 years—and only 25 years—they get now.

Judges would ask the jury for instruction. The judge could then, if she wished, give a life sentence without parole for a term between 25 and 40 years. Presently, all people serving life sentences are eligible for parole after 25 years.

C-587 is a private member’s bill, and it passed first reading with support from the Liberals. The NDP, including Mike Sullivan, voted against the bill.

York South Weston debate report

I’m amazed it didn’t end with tear gas.

Doug Ford, Olivia Chow, and John Tory fought like cats in a sinking bag at the York South–Weston debate. The audience was worse.

I don’t think anyone who wasn’t a supporter will switch sides, but Ford was very effective at his first debate of the campaign.  He savaged John Tory at one point, asking him who does purchasing at City Hall; Tory had no answer and looked lost and a bit panicked. Ford asked him how many committees there are; Tory floundered and said “I believe there are five?”

But Ford’s weaknesses were apparent too. He was loud. He was simplistic. You could hear the laughs on TV when Ford attacked Tory for being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Ford wouldn’t say if he would march at Gay Pride, and gave the impression that he’d spent the last Pride parades at nearby bars. He also wanted to talk about only two things: the Ford family record and transit. Every question was answered with a subway.

And then there were his supporters. They were embarrassing, to our community and to him. They booed and jeered in the middle of their opponents’ speeches, even Tory’s final statement. They were the most awful kind of anti-intellectual: afraid to even let contrary views be spoken. The worst moment—and there were lots of bad ones—was when someone heckled Olivia Chow while she was speaking, sensitively and fairly, about Rob Ford’s crack use. The heckler said “Go home Olivia! Back to China!”. She looked genuinely defeated.

And make no mistake: debates are stocked better than trout ponds. Ford wants his opponents shouted down.

Despite the attacks from the audience, John Tory stayed poised, and when he could talk about his SmartTrack program, he came across well. But he spent most of his energy, particularly later in the debate, attacking the Fords’ record. Ford, being Ford, was loud, rude, and interrupted him before much damage was done, except by himself.

Olivia Chow was quiet and careful. A few times she even pointed out, quite decently, that the other candidates were dodging the question. She tried, too, to answer questions that she was asked with facts and reason. But her even temper—and what seemed to be uneven lighting—made her seem like the third candidate. She neither gave nor received any devastating attacks, and instead talked about policy: the three different kinds of bike lanes, community benefit agreements, youth cabinets and such. She came across as knowledgeable, fair, and a little boring.

Uneven lighting? It looked just as bad from the other side.

The candidates spent very little time talking about Ward 11 issues, with one exception. Olivia Chow’s best (and, really, only) attacks were when she went after Tory’s SmartTrack plan, which will require tunnelling in Mount Dennis. If Chow gets her way, tunnelling looks likely to be an election issue and proof that Tory doesn’t have enough experience to be Mayor.

But as Andrew Coyne pointed out on Twitter, “This ’90 degree turn’ line of attack by Chow seems well-crafted to win votes within 50 feet of the corner of Weston & Eglinton.” So Chow is unlikely to get her way.

 

A candidate in, a candidate out

Rob and Doug Ford made most of the news yesterday, but the candidate list for Ward 11, which includes Weston, also changed at the last minute.

Daniel Winer, a young man who had thrown his hat in the ring for Ward 11, dropped out. Jose Garcia jumped in. Dory Chalhoub and the incumbent Frances Nunziata stayed in the race.

Nunziata will be hosting a kickoff barbecue today at her campaign office, at 2051 Weston Road, from 1 to 3 in the afternoon. All are welcome.

In related news, John Nunziata, Frances Nunziata’s brother, and a former MP for Weston, entered the race for the other York South—Weston riding, Ward 12, just over Jane. John Nunziata served as MP from 1984 to 2000 as a Liberal and an Independent. He was later charged with assault and fined $10,000 for lying under oath.

Mayoral debate announced

Local residents’ associations will be hosting the only local mayoral debate on Tuesday, September 23, at 7:30 pm (glad-handing starts earlier). Olivia Chow, Rob Ford, and John Tory will all be attending—David Soknacki having dropped out of the race today.

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