Friday, October 22, 2010

Figuring Out Whom To Vote For is Hard

I figured out my choice for mayor weeks ago. While I was intrigued by Sarah Thompson, I was less impressed with her after seeing her in a few debates. Joey Pants seems like a hell of a nice guy, and I can support most of his platform, but it's clear he's far out of the running. In some elections I would still vote for him, but not this time. I find Rob Ford so intensely objectionable that I am quite upset at the thought of him being our next mayor, and representing Toronto. His statements about HIV, Asians, bicycle riders and the homeless astonish and horrify me. I think he is a rude, ignorant loud mouth who is completely unqualified to be mayor, and I'm shocked at the level of support he has gathered.

So I'm voting for George Smitherman for Mayor, and not even holding my nose to do so. I think he is a smart, capable man who will represent Toronto well and do his best to improve things in the city. I think he deserves some of the blame for the eHealth mess, and I think he has gone far enough in accepting responsibility for that.

So that's the easy choice. I still have to figure out who is the best choice for City Councilor and School Trustee. In my ward there are 10 candidates for Councilor and 6 candidates for School Trustee. It's much harder to learn about these candidates, with little or no TV coverage, and not much in the newspapers either. I've had a few come to my door, and I've looked at their web sites. Some of them have robo-called me, which I don't enjoy. That has helped me narrow down my choices to 2 or 3 in each contest, but I haven't been able to settle on one candidate yet.

Last night I attended a Town hall meeting with all the City Councilor candidates for Ward 10. It was held at B'nai Brith seniors residence, so the audience was mostly older Jewish people, which tilted the conversation towards their concerns. The meeting lasted only an hour, so with 10 candidates there was only time for opening & closing statements and a couple of questions, which focused on affordable housing and city funding of events that are perceived as being hateful towards Israel. Each of the candidates made a point of claiming their "Holocaust points" with the audience, citing their parents or grandparents who either perished in or survived the Holocaust. I found that pretty distasteful, though maybe with this audience it was important for them to do. Nancy Oomen was the only obviously non-Jewish candidate (I'm guessing the other 9 are all Jewish, though I'm not certain of that), and she tried to keep pace by telling us that she was raised in the Netherlands, which tried to help the Jews during WWII, and was an environment tolerant of all races and religions. I can see the importance of showing a community that you can represent them, but all the pandering went too far for me. There was some bickering over the time each candidate got to speak, and an elderly man made a fuss over the lack of Russian translation, disrupting the meeting for a few minutes.

At the end of the meeting I managed to ask my top 2 Councilor picks who they support for mayor. Brian Shifman wouldn't answer the question, except to say that he can work with whoever is mayor. That's nice, but I still want to know who would be his choice. James Pasternak was good enough to tell me his choice, but since it's Ford I'm now far less impressed with him. So probably Shifman gets my vote, though I may be disappointed enough in his smart political move to refuse to name his choice for mayor that I may vote for Eric Plant, who seems like a sharp young guy, but is unlikely to crack the top 3. My guess is the race is among Oomen, Pasternak and Shifman.

For school trustee I'm still unclear. I'm in Ward 5 (and why are there different ward numbers for Councilor and School trustee?). I'm probably stuck between Robin Shugar and Howard Kaplan, but I don't feel like I really know either well enough to be sure. Shugar has lined herself up with Pasternak, and has robo-called me a few times. That may be enough to shove me to Kaplan's side. It's sad that I'll make this decision based on so little real data. I'm not likely to go out of my way enough to track down the candidates for a live conversation, and I haven't been able to find any all-candidates meetings for this race.


  1. I was also at the event. I find it hard to believe that you would punish a candidate for being honest, given the mayoral candidates available. We want honest people at City Hall, unlike those hiding their backers.
    There are things you ought to know about Shifman (and Kaplan, if you are interested, who is a real bad egg for our ward, and extreme left wing, and I mean extreme, when you look at his history and backing. That's OK, if you want to vote extreme left wing). Firstly, I met Shifman campaigning on TTC property at Downsview, which is against election rules. When I asked him if he was allowed to do so, he said that they are not going to move him. He meant the union employees downstairs will not move him, which fits in with support for him from the Toronto Labour Congress. I don't like cheats.
    Secondly, like a good politican Shifman would commit himself to only 2 items on the night. One of which was the Wilson Heights ramps being kept open, however, he was in favour of Moscoe's plan to destroy Allen usage. Thus, keeping the ramps whilst generating congestion by limiting the Allen to 40 kph, unsynchronized traffic lights, priority bus lanes, bike lanes and pedestrianized zones is utterly useless. His other tenet was that he wants the subway extended, but everyone of the other candidates also want that, and the 44 councillors will decide that in any event, not just Ward 10. Coupled with an endorsement of the Green Party leader, it is clear that he will not be adding to our quality of life in Ward 10, especially as he had told me he was for the great density on the Downsview lands with insufficient roads in order to promote use of public transit which is not yet in place! Finally, he had the most material there. I am not sure who is funding him or the associated agenda, but his quantity and quality of material was certainly not a run of the mill candidate's provisions. I am concerned about him, and given the performance of Thursday night, we could have anyone but Mr. Shifty Man and the bully Zaretsky represent us.

    I especially despised the personal attacks on Pasternak and Oomen, and the moderator should have evicted Zaretsky. Oomen was clearly shaken by the aggression, and it was unfair for Pasternak to have to repeat his summation whilst things were quieting down after the elderly "gentleman" caused a ruckus. I felt sorry for Oomen and Pasternak and the moderator should have protected them with proper decorum imposed.

    Personally, given his history of public service and open platform means I will probably vote for Pasternak. And especially because he answered your question honestly.

  2. Smitherman proved his capability? LOL. When Smitherman was the Minister of Health, there was the eHealth fiasco over which he had control and cost Ontarians approximately $1 Billion for a system that does not work. On October 21, the Ontario Auditor-General released a report finding great fault with the sole-sourcing of contracts at the Ontario Ministry of Health, leading to over-priced and inefficient service when Smitherman was Minister of Health. When supervising the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission, we had numerous scandals with the lottery sellers stealing prizes from the rightful winners and no investigation, never mind action, was ordered by Smitherman. Smitherman was Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's deputy, a man who promised no new taxes in his manifesto and literally on the day he took power instituted a health tax of nearly $1,000 per year per person. He called it a fee, not a tax, so that was alright with the electorate when re-election came round. We also have Smitherman's time as Ontario Energy Minister pushing for green energy with solar energy rebates to big businesses who can afford to put in such panels (i.e. Ikea) at over 5.5 times the cost of current electricity costs. When Smitherman was Barabara Hall's deputy, it is reportedly a time when Smitherman was a "party drug" addict for 5 years, whatever a party drug is. Whilst we may forgive that faux pas of 5 years, do we really need to forget that someone who represented the city's interests during that period was high?

    In summary, Smitherman has proved his incompetence at various levels of provincial and municipal politics. He is a career politician and has had no accountability for his failures. To me, he appears to have rightfully earned the nickname of "Slitherman". Can Toronto afford another incompetent mayor for 4 years and still retain a decent quality of life?

    There should have been an anyone but Slitherman campaign.

  3. Anonymous @ 9:14am:
    I did appreciate Pasternak's honesty in answering my question about his choice for mayor. I just feel so strongly that Ford is a really terrible choice that it makes it difficult for me to vote for him knowing that.

    Shifman's political move in refusing to answer does bother me, and is a strike against him. I agree we want honest people at city hall, which is why Rob Ford's repeated episodes of lying are part of what makes him unsuitable, in my opinion.

    I do lean fairly far to the left, and the endorsement from the greens is a plus in my mind. Breaking the rules and trusting the union for protection are definite negatives though. And my understanding is that the Wilson Heights ramps are already safe, and Shifman ought to know that.

    Anonymous @ 10:25am:
    Well, you seem as dead set against Smitherman as I am against Ford. I agree he deserves some of the blame for eHealth, and I believe he has accepted that and learned from it. I'm OK with the Liberal's choice on the health tax, given the mess the Harris government left them. I believe Ford will be as bad for the city as Harris was for the province, and for most of the same reasons. And that was really, really bad. McGuinty hasn't been perfect, and the Liberals are in a bit of tailspin lately, but their performance can't be compared with the disaster that was the Harris Tories.

    I hadn't heard the other gossip about George; if true maybe it balances out the drunk driving charge that Ford lied about (except for the lying).