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Avoid rope-a-dopers

October 25th, 2014 · No Comments

A seven-point checklist for councillor selection

There are over 20 registered candidates running to represent Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, as city councillor. It’s a large and diverse pool, and we play homage to all those who have put their names forward, as they contribute to our democratic process and make our city a great place to call home. That said, with such a sizeable pool of candidates, it’s virtually impossible to feature each of their views on the municipal issues. Further, this ward cuts a wide swath through the readership area of the Annex and Liberty Gleaners; roughly from the train tracks at Dupont Street all the way to the harbour, and from Bathurst Avenue in the west to University Avenue in the east. And the list of issues facing the ward is as large as the ward itself. So instead of a round-up on each candidate, we have prepared the following checklist to keep in mind while you consider who should earn your support to be this ward’s next city councillor.

Are they one-issue wonders? Ward 20 has a lot of files that the sitting councillor must carry. So, if the candidate is only on about hot dog carts, bike lanes, or building blimps to get us to and from Pearson Airport, then perhaps you should give them a pass.

Do they understand that Toronto, and the ward itself, is a collection of neighbourhoods, divided in more ways than we can list? Most of these neighbourhoods include main streets, where the intersection of residents and small (and large) businesses matter. Maintaining diverse business strips to serve the needs of residents helps keep our communities liveable. Do they know that business property taxes are too high?

Does the candidate “get” city building? This encompasses a lot of files: transit, congestion, efficient energy management, the Billy Bishop City Centre Airport, the Pan-Am Games, and more. Each of these comes with down and upsides for specific neighbourhoods, but on the whole what’s good for the city is generally good for us all in the long run.

Listen to the loudest voices with a grain of salt. We live in a representational democracy. Interest groups ought not to dictate the councillor’s actions, though they should inform his or her views. The successful councillor should possess courage of conviction. There will be another election in four years. So what. Too many councillors live in fear of that judgment day. This fear renders too many politicians impotent throughout their terms, unable to take effective action for fear of reprisal of the voters. If at all possible, you should select a candidate who is prepared to lead in the spirit of his or her conscience.

Is the candidate a team player (and the team we refer to is Team Toronto)? For the most part the business of municipal governance is not a left-right game, though somehow this has been entrenched as an accepted reality in the city council chambers.

The successful candidate must “play” on both sides to try and get what is best for the ward and for the city as a whole. Sometimes that will mean that a “left-leaning” politician should support private garbage collection, while at other times it will mean that a “right-leaning” one must support building more affordable housing. In each case, it will be because it’s the right thing to do.

The successful candidate ought not to be afraid of change. The only constant after all is change itself. In a city so widely rich in diversity the real challenge is how to embrace it. Opposing it is counterproductive.

In a meeting with business improvement areas, mayoral candidate John Tory noted that “some councillors employ rope-a-dope,” a technique used by former heavy weight boxing champ Muhammad Ali: assuming a protective stance, Ali would lean against the ropes, which in turn would absorb most of his opponent’s blows, eventually causing his opponent to punch himself out. In Toronto, some councillors lean on the bureaucracy, and avoid having to ever take decisive action. Avoid that candidate.

That may be a tall order, but hopefully you choose someone that meets at least some of these criteria.

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