Five things that need to change in Weston / Mount Dennis. Part 4.

As we approach the year end, here are some things that seem to be holding us back locally. This is the fourth of a five part series.

As always, your comments are welcome.

4. The Democratic Process.

From aguafund.org

Next October will see city council elections for councillors and and mayor. Barring a cataclysmic upheaval, few seats will change hands in 2018. One positive note comes from the recent redrawing of ward boundaries to better reflect the changing population densities. The boundaries, in place since 1999 needed updating since ward populations had become uneven during that time. For example, downtown has many more residents thanks to the ongoing condo boom. This change was fought by the likes of Justin Di Ciano and Giorgio Mammoliti who presumably felt threatened by a more democratic redistribution. The OMB, (needing to act quickly and not known as a fan of democracy) in a surprising decision, rightly smacked down the appeal.

Ward 11 (along with only 6 others) will be unaffected as the population in our area has remained relatively static but four additional wards will be created in time for the elections; three of them in the downtown core. Downtown wards are often quite left leaning so the good news is that this may signal a more progressive council in the next term

We have a ‘first past the post’ system for all Canadian Elections including local council seats and mayor. A simple majority determines the winner. Unfortunately, the first past the post voting system favours incumbents and many people stay home, knowing that their candidate is disadvantaged. This is why we have so many career-politicians in Toronto. Some are elected term after term, often with the votes of a tiny fraction of constituents.

There is a better way. Ranked balloting allows voters to choose their first, second and third choices and gives more voting power to electors whose first choice doesn’t win. It also prevents fringe candidates from winning through a split vote. In the last mayoral election for example, Doug Ford could well have been elected if Olivia Chow had run a stronger campaign and split the centre-left vote between herself and John Tory. As an aside, other than bluster and the occasional ferris wheel popping up, one can be forgiven for wondering if anything would be different had Mr. Ford won in 2014.

From rcvmaine.com

It would seem obvious that anyone interested in a better democratic process in Toronto would support ranked balloting. The province is in charge of such legislation and would need a request from City Council to make the change. Sadly, our own councillor voted against studying the use of ranked ballots and effectively (with a group of other councillors) killed the possibility for the near future.

At council meetings, our councillor along with a cadre of nodding deputy mayors is obliged to vote the Mayor Tory line on most matters since she is Council Speaker and wants to keep her prestigious job. Sadly, this means that she and the rest of the Tory bloc often vote against the interests of Ward 11. The councillor cannot serve two masters effectively and it would probably be better for Ward 11 to have a councillor with no such conflicts.

Voter participation:

As the saying goes, all politics is local. We are lucky enough to have local politicians who consult with the people on a regular basis on matters of importance. If we do or don’t like what’s going on, we need to attend the meetings and express our views. Shy folk can send emails or write letters but it’s vital that people express their opinions because no matter what the issue, you can be sure that corporate interests have already made their cases strongly and often.

Lastly one final thought: we need a better turnout for elections. In 2014, fewer than 51% of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

From garyvarvel.com

Part 5 of this series (The Planning Process) may be a couple of days what with Christmas festivities and all.

 

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.

Doug Ford campaigns in Weston

Doug Ford made his first campaign stop at a fundraiser for the local Frontlines organization, according to John Nunziata. Ford is a close ally of the Nunziatas—who are both running for city councillor seats.

Frances Nunziata endorsed Rob Ford in the last municipal election, and Ford nominated her for council Speaker.

This time around, Frances Nunziata has not (yet?) endorsed a mayoral candidate. (She did not respond to my request for comment.) Last night, however, she campaigned with Doug Ford and her brother in Ward 12.

(From L to R) John Nunziata, Doug Ford, someone I don’t know, and Frances Nunziata

Thanks to Melissa for the tip.

 

 

Ford endorses Nunziata

Mayor Rob Ford no longer has his radio show, or television show, or the support of the “biased media”¹, but he’s never allowed a little thing like support to stop him from doing whatever the id demands. So now he and his brother have taken to “the YouTube” (Doug’s words), to communicate their idea directly to their supporter.²

This week, the Fords released six videos. In one of them, Rob Ford lists the councillors he wants defeated—and the ones he thinks shouldn’t be. Frances Nunziata, our councillor, makes his short list of core supporters: she is one of only four he thinks deserves reëlection.

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¹ These are Doug’s words. I know you know, but the “biased media” argument is the last refuge of a nutter. We’re witnessing the final thrashings of a man dragged into the light. Look at the backdrop of the video. It’s a wrinkly vinyl sign. My god; it’s Shakespeare. Ford had to hide under a vinyl sign in his final days—it is his family standard and his father’s blanket.  Listen to the video. They sound like they’re far away and echoey. Ford Nation is produced by Wayne’s World local access cable—if Wayne were bereft of wit and irony.

² Sons should call their mothers.

Nunziata votes to censure Mayor Ford

Frances Nunziata, our councillor and the Speaker of Toronto City Council, rebuked Mayor Ford today. She joined an overwhelming majority of city councillors who asked the mayor to take a leave, apologize to the city, and cooperate with police. Frances Nunziata has been one of Ford’s most steadfast friends and loyal supporters.

Nunziata also had a tough day as Speaker. She drew the fire of Robyn Doolittle, the reporter who broke the crack story, who said, “Councillor Frances Nunziata is widely disliked in the role of speaker. Councillors believe she lets the Fords off and is partisan.”

She was also criticized by twitterers and redditors for not quieting down the Fords quickly enough on a number of occasions. At one point  sure to make the evening news, Doug Ford repeatedly demanded of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong—the instigator of motions against Ford—whether he had ever smoked pot, as if that were equal to Ford’s crimes.

Doug Ford’s shouting about pot went on and on while people yelled “Frances! Frances!” presumably begging her to use her powers as speaker shut him up. Yet whether she did him a favour or disservice by allowing him to continue is debatable.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Ford twice moved quickly—and, if you ask me, a indecorously, if not aggressively, toward Minnan–Wong, and at one point blocked his way. Nunziata tried, unsuccessfully, to get Ford to apologize. He refused at length. When he said in protest and only to Nunziata, “Madam Speaker, I’m sorry…”, she cut off his microphone and said, “Thank you, Mayor Ford…. That’s all I wanted you to say.” Even he laughed a little at having  the rug pulled out from under him.

 

Weston Library facing cuts

The Weston and Mount Dennis library branches will have to cut service hours if City Council accepts the recommendations of the city’s chief librarian. Both the Weston and Mount Dennis branches will be asked to close for an additional 2.5 hours every week.

The cuts have been ordered by Rob Ford, who told every city department to cut 10% of its budget. Not all libraries, however, are being told to close early. Of the 98 libraries in the city, 29 dodged the axe.

Despite Doug Ford’s stated willingness to close library branches, none of the libraries in the riding of the mayor’s brother are facing service cuts. Both libraries in Frances Nunziata’s riding are, however.

Rob Ford promised in his election campaign that “services will not be cut, guaranteed”. Cutting service will only solve part of the library’s budget problems however; collections will also be reduced.