I Believe in Toronto
As a temporary exile from the Centre of the Universe I don’t get a vote in this week’s upcoming municipal election. But I do have a stake. Toronto is my home, it’s where my heart lives and I intend to return and live the majority of my life there.
So here’s what I believe about Toronto. I think Toronto’s rampant cosmopolitan diversity is one of its greatest assets. I think Toronto’s green initiatives, transit system and increased bike lanes are great and I love all the parades and festivals that ‘clog’ the cities streets. They remind us that cities are built for people, not for cars. I believe you get what you pay for. That means, to get all that Toronto offers you need to pay taxes. If the city is short on money we need to cut waste and raise taxes, not simply fire everyone and sell off the city for scrap.
I don’t believe all politicians are crooks and that government is nothing but a constant flow of kickbacks and corruption. Some corruption is inevitable, but it can be tracked and rooted out, most people go into politics to change things for the better. So we need to support the right people going into government, not make politics so partisan and painful that only the most arrogant and greedy will put up with it.
So it’s probably not surprising that if I lived in the T-dot right now, I would not be voting for Rob Ford since he disagrees with all of the above. Would Mayor Ford destroy Toronto? No. Toronto is bigger than that. He sure wouldn’t make it better, he sure wouldn’t improve the level of discourse in local politics but Toronto would survive no matter who wins on Monday. Toronto has always been about hope, about dreaming big and following that dream. That’s why people go there, dreams can be made reality in Toronto if you are willing to work for it. Ford doesn’t believe in dreams, he only believes in himself and anger.
BUT…Toronto is also about sanity and pragmatism. It may not be as exciting as Montreal or as laid back as Vancouver, but Toronto does what it has to do to get the job done. Sometimes, that means you don’t get everything you want, but life is about tradeoffs and choices. Toronto is faced with such a tradeoff right now. Does it support Joe Pantalone, the heir of David Miller, and his progressive agenda. Or does it support Smitherman’s vague centrist l(L)iberal approach, safe but not exciting. Or does it go with fear and anger and irrationality. Tough choice.
Luckily or unluckily, our horrendously unfair winner take all voting system makes the whole process simple, if a bit unappetizing. If you are truly progressive you need to vote for Smitherman to avoid having Ford win.
Joe Panatlone’s supporters say:
“I say to my progressive friends, ‘Vote for what you believe in,’ “ said New Democrat MPP Rosario Marchese. “Because you’ll be unhappy the next day to have voted for someone that you think is the least-worst of the alternatives.”
So here’s the thing, you’re right, it will leave a bad taste in your mouth the next morning.
Its kinda like drinking medicine that tastes horrible but will stop you from getting really sick for a week. After you’ve drink it, you feel disgusted and vile. You wish you’d just drank that chocolate milk that you actually wanted. Sure it wouldn’t make you better, and you’d be sick as a dog for a week, but at least you wouldn’t have this awful taste in your mouth for what, like, 10 whole minutes.
So I understand. You have something you want, someone you believe in and he’s not going to win. He’s not Naheed Nenshi, there is no purple revolution for Joe Pantalone. Maybe there could have been if there’d been three candidates all along and he was more charismatic, but it’s just not there. People are telling you to vote for someone you dislike to avoid electing someone you really dislike. It sucks, it’s unfair and it’s the democracy we have right now, such as it is.
I know how you feel because every federal election I feel the exact same way about voting for the Green party in my tight Conservative/Liberal riding. I want to vote with my heart. But I choose to look at it rationally, to accept the system we have, as bad as it is, and work within it. The system does not reward honesty or voting with your heart. It rewards the candidate with the most votes. Even if they don’t get very many votes, he with the most wins and all others are losers. Its unfair, its stupid, it has to change. But it’s not going to change before monday, so you’re stuck with it for now.
So when you vote, think about what you want. Do you want to send a message? A message that will be heard briefly and then forgotten, a message that this losing candidate had your support. Or do you want to actually influence who will be the mayor of your city? If you really don’t care at all which of them wins if it’s not Joe, then it doesn’t matter, vote for Joe. BUT, if you have any preference for Smitherman over Ford and if you agree that Joe can’t win (which he can’t), then the only rational choice is to vote strategically. You don’t have to choose to be rational of course, it’s a free country, and proclaiming you prefer to make irrational decisions with your gut seems to be quite the in-thing these days.
Just ask Rob Ford.