Feb 12

Why are some councillors set to vote against transit in their wards?

Councillors Against Transit: How are councillors voting on projects set to pass through their wards?

Councillors Against Transit? Some councillors are set to vote against transit projects that would run through their wards. (The Sheppard East LRT will also skirt the wards of Councillors Del Grande & Moeser.)

Updated Feb 7 2012: The voting chart at the bottom of this post has been updated based on new information. Councillors Moeser and Lindsay Luby are both likely to miss the meeting. Frances Nunziata confirmed which was she was leaning when she called Karen Stintz a ‘traitor’ at council yesterday. And Mark Grimes is Mark Grimes. Jaye Robinson remains the only undecided, and I could see her going either way.

It’s official. As reported by Inside Toronto’s David Nickle:

Toronto Transit Commission Chair Karen Stintz and 22 other city councillors have demanded a special Toronto City Council meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 8, to consider whether to bury the Scarborough-Eglinton Crosstown LRT through Scarborough.

Stintz, who represents Eglinton-Lawrence on council, presented the petition to the city clerk prior to the start of the city’s regular council meeting Monday, Feb. 6.

via TTC chair Stintz calls for special council meeting on Transit City | InsideToronto.com.

Twenty-four councillors signed Stintz’s petition, with James Pasternak and Gloria Lindsay Luby standing as the difference-makers. I expected to see John Parker’s name on the list — he’s been vocal throughout this debate — but he seems to have opted to play it safe. Still, there’s a good chance he’ll vote in favour of the agenda item on Wednesday.

With the majority in place, our attention now turns to the motley crew of councillors who have decided to stick with the Fords even in the face of almost-certain defeat. For some, the motive is easy to understand. Scarborough councillors like Michael Thompson and Michelle Berardinetti have nothing to lose by supporting gold-plated underground transit through Scarborough, even if that support means that other projects lose out. And councillors like Peter Milczyn and Cesar Palacio are so far removed from the projects on the table that they might as well protect their political position and side with the mayor.

But for other councillors, motive is harder to pin down.

Take the councillors in the table above. All of them represent wards that lost out on transit when Rob Ford made his unilateral decision to cancel the Finch West and Sheppard East LRT projects. And yet, even knowing what’s at stake, three of them seem likely to double down on their support for the mayor and vote against bringing improved transit to their constituents on Wednesday.

You can almost excuse Norman Kelly and Giorgio Mammoliti. They’re council veterans unlikely to face electoral consequence no matter what they do. Kelly also has the spectre of a Sheppard Subway to point at. And no one expects Mammoliti make rational decisions.

But for Councillor Vincent Crisanti — still a quiet council newbie with a near-perfect record of Ford support — his vote on Wednesday could easily be seen as a slight against the neighbourhoods he represents in Ward 1. He’s got to know that any talk of underground transit into northwest Etobicoke is pure fantasy. Even the biggest optimist would be hard-pressed to include a Finch subway project in a fifty-year timeframe. He also knows well that the Finch bus route is one of the most crowded and uncomfortable in the city. And he knows that Humber College — a major driver of economic activity in his area — has long advocated for improved transit connections to their campus, something the LRT was set to provide.

Last February, the President of Humber College expressed regret over the mayor’s decision to kill the Finch West LRT project, telling the campus newspaper, “We had a plan in terms of the previous government. Now we don’t have a plan, and we have yet to see one.”

Crisanti has a chance to play a role in bringing that plan to Humber College this week. He’s got a chance to improve transit for the community that elected him. It’s a shame he’s going to pass on it.

Continue reading →

Jan 12

City Council Scorecard: The night Rob Ford lost big

Toronto Council Scorecard

January 17, 2012: Google Docs (Best View) - Download (PDF)  - Download (PNG)

There’s no other way to say it: last night, Rob Ford lost. After two months of spinning his budget as a smart and reasonable approach to improving the city’s financial situation, council quickly and decisively voted to overrule the mayor on a variety of items, adding millions of dollars back into the operating budget to preserve services that were on the chopping block.

This result wasn’t driven by a few lucky motions, but rather by a coordinated approach by a majority of councillors working against the mayor’s agenda. The strategy included careful messaging designed to court middle-aligned councillors, who would end up leading the charge for preserving programs and services. For those involved, the result of yesterday’s meeting was a foregone conclusion.

In the end, what was supposed to be a fractious three-day debate on a contentious budget wrapped up in less than twelve hours. After losing a number of key votes, the mayor was left to give a subdued — and short — press conference, wherein he did his best to save face, claiming he had had a positive impact on the budget, even if the outcome wasn’t what he wanted.

These results are important not only because they stave off what would have been some pretty devastating cuts to city programs, but also because they put the city into unprecedented political territory. Council has now shown a willingness to ignore and overturn key mayoral directives. The question going forward isn’t whether Rob Ford will be a good mayor or a bad mayor, but whether Rob Ford will be relevant at all to the important day-to-day decisions that matter in Toronto.

New Votes

The votes added, all of which were individual motions on item EX14.1 — the 2012 Capital and Operating Budgets:

  • Motion 1, as moved by Councillor Josh Colle, was the centrepiece strategic move of the day. Colle moved to take about $15 million from the 2011 operating surplus — which stands at more than $150 million and will be higher when all is said and done — to preserve TTC service, restore daycare funding, prevent pool closures and retain a number other services. The full text of the motion is here. This motion was engineered so that it could receive enough support to pass, and it did, with votes from councillors Gloria Lindsay Luby, Chin Lee and James Pasternak making the difference. It passed 23-21, sinking any hope the mayor’s team had left of emerging from this process with their pride intact.
  • Motion 5, moved by the aforementioned Lindsay Luby, killed what would have been a foolhardy plan to charge two bucks to use all public pools (indoor and outdoor) in Toronto — read all about it. The scheme would have required new staff to operate, and any revenues would have been tempered by the huge cost required to set up and maintain payment infrastructure. Still, this was another narrow vote.
  • Motion 6 came from Mary-Margaret McMahon, who has fashioned herself as a staunch environmentalist. Her motion preserved three positions at the Toronto Environmental Office that were on the chopping block. It also asked that the city continue to implement its Climate Change Action Plan. (Full text.) Her motion won with support from executive committee members Michelle Berardinetti and Jaye Robinson.
  • Motion 9 served as the motion that stopped the library board from having to make near-impossible cuts to its operating budget. As moved my Raymond Cho (full text), this vote saw 22 councillors recognize that, really, Toronto’s library system has been run really damn well for almost a decade now. (Of note: Pasternak abstained because of a conflict of interest.)
  • Motion 21a revealed just how willing council was to tinker with Ford’s budget. Council voted 23-21 to maintain the Live Green Toronto Community Animators program (text), which sees people work within communities to create greenspace and promote environmental initiatives. Ford-ally Gary Crawford along with Robinson were the difference-makers on this item.
  • Lastly, Motion 21b was Ford’s sole major victory — the mayor also lost numerous other minor votes, including a bid by Karen Stintz to kill the city’s partnership with TDSB for community pools — as Mihvec was unable to muster enough support to stave off consideration of contracting out custodial services at Facilities Management and Real Estate Services.

All told, Ford was on the losing end of  five of six major votes related to his 2012 budget. Council grew the mayor’s operating budget by about $20 million.

Trend Watch

As was inevitable, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon has fallen below the 30% threshold and is now in the “opposition” category.

James Pasternak and Jaye Robinson both saw their Ford Nation percentage decline. Because she’s on the executive committee, I expect Robinson to continually hover around her current level. Pasternak, on the other hand, is likely only a few votes away from statistically joining the ranks of the “mighty middle.”

And, yeah, the biggest trend coming out of yesterday’s meeting? Council’s middle earned that “mighty” label. There was nothing mushy about them.

Batting Average

The mayor hit a sad 17% yesterday on major votes. For this term overall, his success rate is just over 60%.


Questions about the Council Scorecard? Read my notes on methodology. Also, you can email me.

Jan 12

In 2011, Council’s middle got less mushy, more lefty

A selection of middle-ish councillors and how their voting patterns changed over the last six months of 2011.

As a follow-up to this week’s City Council Scorecard Update, here’s a look at how various on-the-fence councillors saw their overall “Ford Nation” score shift between June and December. Remember that the June meeting was the last one before things really got heated — after it came Pride, Jarvis, the Core Service Review, the marathon Executive Committee meeting and a handful of 911 calls.

Of the eleven councillors listed above — all of whom float in the council “middle” to varying degrees — only two grew closer to the mayor’s agenda through the latter half of the year. Of the two, Councillor Moeser is more inscrutable — and quiet — so his motivations are harder to pin down. (But he clearly decided to embrace this administration in a big bear hug.) Councillor Berardinetti, on the other hand, seemingly made a conscious choice to double down on her support for Team Ford, and has been very public in her role as a flagbearer for the administration.

The remaining nine councillors on the list all backed off from Rob Ford as the budget process began. Some, like Gloria Lindsay Luby, Mary-Margaret McMahon and Ana Bailão, saw their score drop precipitously as council started voting on cuts to service.

James Pasternak’s eight point drop is probably the biggest surprise. As a new councillor, he positioned himself as a guy with a decidedly right-of-centre approach. And unlike some of the other councillors on the list, he hasn’t had any high profile public disagreements with Ford policy. But in recent months he’s shown himself to be open to independent thinking and, more importantly, independent voting. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

How does council as a whole look?

For the sake of completion, I’ve also compiled the same table as above showing data for all 45 members of council. There’s not a whole lot to glean from this — does it really matter that, for example, Giorgio Mammoliti’s Ford Nation score dropped from 100% to 97%? — but, really, it’s not like it’s possible to have too many charts or anything.

Does any of this matter?

For a few reasons, I think it does. First, the eleven councillors listed at the top of this post make up, under the broadest definition, council’s middle. They’re the guys you need to call if you’re trying to swing an issue in a certain direction. That so many of them are trending solidly away from the mayor’s agenda is important.

Second, one of the big knocks against the whole idea of Rob Ford as Mayor of Toronto was that he’d never be able to command enough support at council to pass anything. Howard Moscoe famously said that Ford wouldn’t be able to pass gas at council, much less get his agenda through.

That Ford and his team have managed to broker the support they have is a hugely significant political achievement for this administration. But it’s fragile. Teetering on the edge. All it’ll take is one good push.

Lastly, we’re heading into a council budget debate in a week’s time that has real potential to be a total catastrophe for Rob Ford. He was already handed several defeats in September when council voted on various Core Service Review considerations. He lost seven whipped votes during that meeting. He could lose a hell of a lot more next week.

It’s a good bet that a lot of people are doing a lot of scrambling right now to ensure the council votes are in place to get the 2012 budget through without serious alteration. For those of us watching, January 17 is shaping up to be one hell of a show.

Nov 11

Budget 2012: A failure on two levels before it’s even launched

The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle has a terrific feature in today’s paper, providing background on the two-month-long budget odyssey you and I and Toronto City Council are about to embark on.

She leads with a year-old anecdote involving an unnamed source that I’m going to guess was Nick Kouvalis:

Sitting in an uptown restaurant 11 months ago, a top official in Mayor Rob Ford’s inner fold revealed the master plan for his term.

The 2011 budget would be pain-free. The mayor would drain hundreds of millions in surplus and reserve funding left by David Miller and get three huge payoffs for it. One, Ford could deliver an unexpected property tax freeze to curry favour with the voters who just put him in office. Two, he could fill the structural deficit gap without making a single significant service cut. And three — the most important — it would remove the safety net.

via Toronto News: 2012 the doomsday budget? Not so much – thestar.com.

This isn’t surprising news. The talking points memo circulated to Ford-friendly councillors during last year’s budget debate laid it out pretty simply. “By applying all accumulated surpluses to the 2011 budget,” it read, “we unmasked the true financial condition for all to see. The 2012 budget forecast reflects the true gap between the city’s revenues and spending habits.”

In other words, an irresponsible property tax freeze and short-term fiscal thinking in 2011 were a feature, not a bug. The idea was always to make the 2012 budget look daunting and insurmountable, in the hopes that a dire-looking situation would curry public support and the necessary council votes for an austerity-type agenda.

We purposely drained our savings account so we could spend the next year telling everyone how broke we are.

It’s becoming clear that this strategy failed on two levels.

First, despite (apparently sincere) attempts to encourage a very large opening shortfall for 2012, new revenues have crept onto the scene — their presence has been obvious for months, despite denials — and look to have helped bring that shortfall down. In reality, it’s likely to present far less of a challenge than some of the budgets that came across Shelley Carroll’s desk when she was budget chief.

Second, even if there was a fiscal crisis — one as bad as initially claimed — this administration has utterly failed to maintain the public support and the political capital they need to make big, sweeping, cost-saving moves. While some right-leaning and centrist councillors appeared to start the term thinking they could coast simply by hitching their wagon to the new guy in the mayor’s office, it’s becoming clear now that being branded a loyal member of Team Ford could have consequences as we start to approach the 2014 municipal election.

For proof, look no further than Councillor James Pasternak, who squeaked into office with a commanding 19% of the popular vote in his mostly suburban ward. He’s been a fairly hardline supporter of the mayor thus far — more than 80% of the time by my count — but now he’s telling the Toronto Star that he “will not support cuts to many of our social services and arts programs.”

Funny how things change.

What’s next

Don’t get too comfortable. There are still some significant items that could face the chopping block, including some potentially disastrous cuts to the TTC and the Community Partnership & Investment Program, in which the city contracts out cultural, social and recreational services to not-for-profit and community organizations. Small cuts this year can set up further cuts in coming years. Let’s watch close.

Another thing to watch: some in the mayor’s office may attempt to spin a relatively cuts-free 2012 budget as a victory for the mayor. They’ll call it vindication for his campaign pledge that he could cut the “gravy” and balance budgets without service cuts. They’ll say that the left-wing in this city was being premature and alarmist with their messaging over the summer. This will all be bullshit. It’s clear at this point that the mayor’s gambit to craft a 2012 budget in his own ideological image has, in large part, failed.

From here on out, it’s all about the mayor saving face after a very rough first year.

Sep 11

City Council Scorecard: How to save the Port Lands

Let’s try to save the world with spreadsheets. Again. If the people of Toronto want to stop the mayor and his brother from seizing control of the Port Lands and pushing forward with a new vision controlled by private developers, we need five votes.

As with the Jarvis vote in July, the above is a best-guess breakdown of how councillors will vote on item EX9.6 when it comes before council on September 21. Again, it’s important to remember that this isn’t written in stone — some councillors could very well change their mind. Some councillors may even hit the wrong button when voting. It happens.

The first column above refers to item EX45.15, considered by council way back in the halcyon days of Mayor David Miller. It represents the only noted instance I can find in recent history of right-wing councillors attempting to slow or stop work by Waterfront Toronto. In this instance, which took place at the July 6, 2010 meeting of council, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong rose and asked for an amendment on an item related to the Don Mouth Naturalization and Waterfront Toronto’s plan for the Lower Don Lands, a parcel of land within what the larger Port Lands area.

Minnan-Wong’s amendment called for two things: first, that Waterfront Toronto “submit to Council, a Business and Implementation Plan for the Lower Don Lands with priority for Phase 1 (Don River Mouth), addressing capital costs, revenue and expenditures, funding, project phasing and land management.” That language is similar to what we saw in the report associated with the Port Lands item that came before Executive Committee yesterday. The second thing Minnan-Wong asked for was that “no further funding of consultants and studies be undertaken until the funding sources and Business and Implementation Plan are approved by Council.” I’ve included the voting results from the second part of his amendment in the chart above.

More notes on methodology: Councillors who are on the Executive Committee will all presumably vote with the mayor at the upcoming Council Session. The only exception could be Jaye Robinson, who was notably absent when the vote took place in Committee Room 1 yesterday. Watch her closely. Councillors close to or at 100% “Ford Nation” percentage are virtual locks to support this Ford-driven motion, though I’ve left Gary Crawford as a question mark as a long-shot hope. I’m working off the assumption that the traditional left-leaning bloc will all vote against the item, which seems pretty safe. Both Josh Matlow and Mary Margaret-McMahon have tweeted their support for Waterfront Toronto, the latter enthusiastically so.

So, what next? Email or call the councillors identified as undecided or potential swing votes. Their contact information is below. Your voice is especially important if you live in their ward. (But if you don’t, and happen to know someone who does, spend some time informing them of the issue and ask them to contact their councillor.) Consider contacting neighbourhood associations, ratepayer groups and local BIAs as well, and ask them how they feel about a new mall opening up in the Port Lands and the impact that will have on small-scale retail space in the city. CodeBlueTO has a great letter you can use as a starting point for your communications. If you get concrete word on how any councillor plans to vote, please let me know so I can update this chart.

Contact information for councillors

Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10 – York Centre)

Phone: 416-392-1371

Email: councillor_pasternak@toronto.ca

 Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15 – Eglinton-Lawrence)

Phone: 416-392-4027

Email: councillor_colle@toronto.ca

Councillor Ana Baiḷo (Ward 18 РDavenport)

Phone: 416-392-7012

Email: councillor_bailao@toronto.ca

Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 – Don Valley West)

Phone: 416-395-6408

Email: councillor_robinson@toronto.ca

Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36 – Scarborough Southwest)

Phone: 416-392-4052

Email: councillor_crawford@toronto.ca

Councillor Chin Lee (Ward 41 – Scarborough-Rouge River)

Phone: 416-392-1375

Email: councillor_lee@toronto.ca

Councillor Ron Moeser (Ward 44 – Scarborough East)

Phone: 416-392-1373

Email: councillor_moeser@toronto.ca

Aug 11

Budgeting and the art of distraction

Those opposed to service cuts as part the City of Toronto’s 2012 operating budget were reasonably happy when they heard that Councillor James Pasternak, a fairly consistent ally of the Fords, had come out publicly in general opposition to library branch closures. They were even happier when, soon after, heretofore stalwart Ford supporter & TTC Chair Karen Stintz voiced the same opinion. But when Councillor Frances Nunziata jumped on the I-oppose-library-cuts bandwagon yesterday, things started to feel a little contrived. With all these Friends-of-Ford making headlines with their valiant support for Toronto’s libraries, the question has to be asked: were library branch closures ever really on the table at all?

Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan thinks all these “Save Our Libraries” shenanigans may add up to little more than a big distraction:

So where does this leave us? The library system is just one item in the giant inventory of City services (a.k.a. “savings opportunities”) that the municipal government might cut in anticipation of the 2012 budget. And the public’s strong defence of the library system, heartwarming and essential though it has been, has had one unfortunate side-effect: distracting attention from other services that have less vocal or less organized supporters, are less politically favoured, and are much more likely to actually be cut, even though they too are much beloved and much relied-upon by a broad community of users.

via “Look Over Here, Guys!” (Or, How Libraries May Be Safe but Other Services Aren’t) | Torontoist.

This isn’t really a conspiracy theory, despite appearances. The Ford administration’s only strategic move throughout this whole budget consultation has been to hold all cards to the chest and offer little comment on what might get cut. This enables them to wave off passionate defence of services as premature and paranoid, while at the same time continuing to advance the idea that all programs and services are on the table for potential cuts. The consequence of this vague and inexact approach is that engaged citizens have to play their politics like a game of Twister, attempting to cover all the spots on the board they care about.

At linebreaks.com, Mike Smith explores this notion further:

The Fords likely never had any realistic intention of closing libraries. I have little doubt they would if they could. But by trundling it out as a possibility, they make more generalized cuts — staff, hours, community programming, circulation — feel less severe, like a concession. They may even potentially neutralize a certain amount of activism by making people see victory in “reducing” cuts to the ones that had been planned all along.

Well, alright. To be honest, I don’t know if they actually plan it that way. For all I know, blinkered prejudice and bumbling contempt just happen to have the same effect in the end as keenly enacted right-wing strategy. But it’s the effect that matters, and the effect is twofold: expand the boundaries of the possible for yourself, while limiting the same for your opponents.

via So, Rob Ford and Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci walk in to a library… | linebreaks.com.

If I had to speculate, I’d bet that the vaunted 2012 budget shortfall is made up for with some combination of the following: Some 250+ million in unused surpluses from prior years combined with other revenues; a property tax hike at two or three percent; further cuts to TTC bus routes (this may be accompanied by a fare freeze as a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down); steep hike to user fees for city-run recreational programs; the elimination of some or all of the Community Partnership & Investment Program (CPIP) grants; a reduction in hiring for Police and Fire Services; reduction in hours at community centres and libraries; and probably some asset sales, including city-owned old age homes. They’ll also knock a few million off the top through continued administrative efficiencies, continuing a trend started several budgets ago.

CPIP is the one sure-thing in the list. It’s the mayor’s go-to example for waste at City Hall and the cover provided by this year’s convenient budget crisis makes for the perfect opportunity to take a knife to it.

Jul 11

The end of Toronto’s Rob Ford experiment?

This may be a monumental week in the world of municipal politics. The Globe’s Marcus Gee referred to it as a possible turning of the tide while the National Post Political Panel posed it as an ‘unravelling’ of the Fords. Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan penned a very good editorial on the Fords and their tactics, calling this a “particularly bad week.”

However you want to characterize it, somewhere in the midst of an embarrassing CP24 interview, allegations that the mayor gave a child the finger while breaking traffic laws, and a weird incident where the mayor’s brother gleefully stated his total ignorance of one of Canadian’s most well-known literary icons, something changed. The unlikely — and maybe underserved — sheen of respectability that has coated the mayor and his inner circle since he took office last fall may actually be wearing off.

And if I can be cynically smug for a second: of course it is. Anyone who was paying attention would have to know it could end up this way. The Pygmalion-ish notion that we could dress Councillor Rob Ford and his history of gaffes up as a Big City Mayor, one who somehow represents a new post-partisan, post-ideological era with a solid mandate for change, was always tied up in a lot of overly-optimistic bullshit.

It’s too soon to dub Toronto’s Rob Ford experiment over — this week will still likely fade into the past — but I have to think that the consistent bad press, coupled with the high-profile departure from a piece of the agenda by TTC Chair and Ford ally Karen Stintz, will ultimately end up meaning something.

It is important to remember, however, that Rob Ford is and will always be Rob Ford. The real path to change lies not in trying to convince Ford, his brother, and their small inner circle of councillors to somehow see the light on key issues, but instead to exert pressure on councillors like Stintz (or James Pasternak, who also came out against library cuts.) who like to think of themselves as more reasonable — and/or politically ambitious — and convince them that Rob Ford isn’t the guy they want to bet their political career on.

Jun 11

Mammoliti, other councillors face serious audit requests

After making waves with a pretty-damn-serious request for an audit of Mayor Rob Ford’s campaign expenses, Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler turned up the dial last week, debuting a new advocacy group — Fair Elections Toronto — and launching eight additional requests for campaign audits against several councillors and defeated council candidates.

Steve Kupferman with Torontoist:

A group calling itself Fair Elections Toronto is asking for audits of four sitting councillors, whom they accuse of having violated campaign finance laws during the 2010 municipal election.

Comprised of about 25 members and led by activist and Toronto Public Library Board vice-chair Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, Fair Elections Toronto alleges that Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West), James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre), Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre), and Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) all improperly classified expenses incurred during their campaigns as being for “fundraising functions,” in amounts ranging from $4,000 to $17,000.

via Doug Ford, Giorgio Mammoliti, and Other Councillors Facing Calls for Campaign Audits – Torontoist.

The most serious allegations fall against Mammoliti, who is accused of exceeding spending limits by more than 50%. If, over the course of the audit process, it is determined that the Mammoliti campaigning knowingly overspent — listing non-fundraising expenses as fundraising expenses, which are exempt from the limit — he could very well be removed from office.

Knowingly overspending in an election campaign isn’t just a minor administrative error. It’s tantamount to cheating.

The Star’s Daniel Dale has more on the Mammoliti situation:

“When you file an audited financial statement without a name and a date or a title for each one of the expenses claimed, it really stretches my willingness to believe it was a good-faith error,” Chaleff-Freudenthaler said.

Mammoliti said he had done “everything according to the law.” And he lashed out at Chaleff-Freudenthaler and his colleagues.

“We’ve got no concerns at all,” Mammoliti said, “except the fact that we think this is a bit of a conspiracy going on with a few individuals wanting to get to the right-leaning councillors. That’s not really what this structure was put together for. So we’re looking at actually suing the individuals that are doing this.”

via Mammoliti alleges ‘conspiracy’ over audit requests – thestar.com.

When your first line of defence against an allegation is to claim that there’s a conspiracy against you, you know you’re in deep trouble. (A much better line of defence for Mammoliti would have been to produce details, including a date and location, of the fundraising event in question. But maybe that would just be playing into the conspiracists’ hands.)

Fair Elections Toronto’s biggest challenge through this process will be to convince skeptics that their actions are not politically-motivated. That all the sitting councillors targeted for audit happen to be allied with the mayor is difficult to ignore.

But either way, these allegations are serious regardless of motivation. Municipal elections are tooth-and-nail, grassroots efforts, where every dollar spent and every vote cast matters. Allegations that Councillor James Pasternak overspent by a mere $2,500 may seem trivial, for example, until you consider that he won Ward 10 by only 382 votes, garnering less than 20% of the popular vote. A hundred fewer signs or flyers and that race could have easily gone a different way.

Those claiming that these allegations are politically-motivated also have to contend with the fact that Fair Elections Toronto seems sincerely devoted to the idea of reforming the Municipal Elections Act. The Reform page on their site outlines four changes to the Act that would improve accountability and fairness, and justifies the necessity of the current round of audit requests:

Litigating complaints against candidates who, we allege, broke election laws is only the first step in bringing fair elections to Toronto. Fundamental changes need to be made to the Municipal Elections Act to increase accountability and transparency, eliminate the gray areas that candidates systemically exploit, and better reflect the realities of big city elections. As the City of Toronto’s Auditor General reported following the 2006 election, 29 of 45 councillors broke election laws in one way or another. While we have only filed audit requests on the four councillors we believe gained a material advantage from Municipal Elections Act violations, we believe that the culture of non-compliance that was identified in 2006 remains today.

via Reform | Fair Elections Toronto.

Regardless of outcome, the audit process and legal proceedings are expected to drag out for quite some time.

Jun 11

Proud of Levy

From Sue-Ann Levy’s latest, discussing Councillor James Pasternak’s desire to rewrite Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy:

Pasternak said he’s asked the new anti-discrimination policy ensures “no public funds or city-permitted space” is given to a group involved in Israeli Apartheid.

via No hatred at Pride this year | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Sun.

I would think Queers Against Israeli Apartheid would very much support such a policy.

On a serious note: Levy’s column is problematic — it always is — echoing the repeated falsehood that the City of Toronto could withhold this year’s Pride funding if QuAIA did march (on what grounds?), and pushing the viewpoint that it would be simple for Toronto to craft an anti-discrimination policy that would rule out groups like QuAIA.

But she ends with a quick appeal to Mayor Rob Ford, asking him to march in this year’s Pride parade. To “be the mayor of all the people.”

Levy is never more sympathetic than when she does stuff like that. That she does so while followed by a Toronto Sun comment section that tells her to “Keep convincing yourself’s your normal and one day you’ll believe it but it won’t make it true [sic]”  and to “Give it a rest, dyke” makes her stand all the more appealing.

Still, though, she’s wrong about almost everything else almost all of the time.

Jan 11

Local councillor knows little of existing transit plans for his ward

Over at Torontoist, Desmond Cole hits a home run with a piece on Finch West’s transit troubles. Notably, he gets Councillor James Pasternak on the record as having no idea about the specifics of the proposed Finch West LRT line. A project that was, until the Transit City plan was famously threatened, slated to run through his ward:

Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre) […] spoke at length about his opposition to an LRT on Finch, saying repeatedly that the plan would “remove [traffic] lanes from system roadways.” Pasternak seemed genuinely surprised when we insisted that the environmental assesment for the Finch LRT contains no lane reductions, as the roadway would be widened to accommodate the rail line while preserving the existing number of traffic lanes.

via The Transit Crunch on Finch West – Torontoist

Nice one. Pasternak goes on to argue instead for a Sheppard West subway extension for some reason.