Sunday, June 1, 2014
It’s hard to watch mayoral candidates bicker amongst each other when there is a city to fix. In the last few weeks the mayoral race has proven that it can still remain a perplexing sideshow even in Rob Ford’s absence. We have now reached the point where ideas are being replaced by attack ads, and large amounts of money are being spent to purchase sufficient voter attention to win the election. The candidates are not talking about truth. They are focused instead on character assassination for their opponents and overexposure for themselves.
Some may say, “Well, Ari, that’s politics.” And it may be politics, but it is not progress.
Currently Ms. Chow is attacking Mr. Tory with full force and with little comment from himself or from the media. Frankly when I observe these volleys I see such little difference between Mr. Tory and Ms. Chow, I find it easier to refer to them as a single entity, which I call “Chory.” Sure, their campaign colours might be different, and their position on one type of mass transit over another might change, day-to-day, in order to remain opposed to each other, but really, they are the same person: a wealthy and well-funded career politician, stopping at nothing in order to get the title of “Mayor” engraved on the résumé, as a stepping stone to loftier ambitions – such as Prime Minister or Governor General.
The thing is, there are cities out there that have already made great strides in terms of developing intelligent transit systems, creating employment opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. What I admire about these role model municipalities is the way they have turned around and faced forward, rather than continue to bury their heads in the sand of an archaic political process. They have chosen to invest funds in their future rather than lean on a retrograde crutch of “saving taxpayers’ dollars” or on the old saw-horse of beating an enemy down rather than sprinting ahead. The leaders of these cities have seen that there is far more to be gained by opening up their town to the world as a centre of progress and commerce than to wallow in a never-ending, swirling pit of negativity.
I joined this mayoral race for one reason: I love this city and I want to see it, and the people in it, thrive. I am the first one to admit that I do not have all the answers. I cannot tell you how much it would cost, to the dollar, to build any specific mass transit line. But no-one can. How many times have you read stories about cost-overruns on mega projects – incidences where campaigning politicians promised the moon and the stars for the price of a song, only to put the public on a big sharp hook once the deal went sour? I’m not going to do that. My day job involves finding out facts that help make tough decisions that serve society. When it comes to rolling out initiatives that will help the city grow, I plan to learn all the facts, and to work with the experts, the ones we already have, plus those who can impart knowledge from their own success stories around the world.
I have had to work hard for every dollar I have made in my working life, from a souvenir seller at the SkyDome, to my current job as a lawyer. I was not born with a silver spoon, I had no coat-tails to ride or inheritances to prop me up when I stumbled. Yes, I can call myself moderately successful, but that achievement came from focus and hard work combined with an awareness that a money supply is never infinite. Wealthy career-politicians feel they can simply dip into an eternal pool of dollars to fund their campaign, and later to pay for their pet projects. For them it’s a carte-blanche kingdom. For me, I see the role of mayor as a coordinator of practical ideas, chief driver of a city’s greatness, and a sober assessor of prudent investment.
While Chory and the Fords continue to lob their vitriolic spitballs, I will continue to focus on these things:
1. Asking you what you actually want for this city;
2. Identifying what is already great about this city and seeking ways to magnify and repeat those achievements;
3. Looking at what needs to be fixed, and seeking out the expertise and the plans to make the fixes happen, carefully and responsibly, recognizing at every step that the money being spent actually belongs to the people of this city.
Career politicians spend a great deal of time and energy wrestling each other and insulting each other for the chance to sit on the king’s throne. But once they get there, there will be far fewer public appearances, charity walks or parade marches. They themselves will pull the clamshell towers of City Hall closed, leaving the voting public as always, out in the cold.
I will freely admit that I too have lobbed challenging tweets and comments at these candidates. But I would hope it is apparent that my comments are there to seek truth and to question the interminable torrent of vacuous promises and outright fabrications that these candidates seem to spew without any sense of shame whatsoever.
There is so much good in this city, so much potential to become even more of a global role model for innovation, technology, social justice, commerce and fun! But politics, just like business, should be about building a better mousetrap, finding a better way rather than simply belittling your opponents into submission or lying your way to the top. Victory should go to the most deserving candidate, not the most famous or infamous one. And that victory, by the way, belongs to the voters. Voters are the customers, the stakeholders and the reason that politicians get to exist. And that should never be forgotten.