Why I want Olivia Chow to be Toronto’s next mayor


Back on November 27, 2012, I picked up a copy of Sing Tao. That’s the front page, up above. I’ve kept that paper ever since, hoping to get Olivia Chow to autograph it for me, after she becomes Toronto’s next mayor.

Why do I want her to win the mayoralty race? Well, you guys know I love Top Ten lists. So here are my Top Ten Reasons Olivia Chow Should Be Toronto’s Next Mayor.  Clip and save.

  1. Olivia’s the only one who can beat Rob Ford.  For months, polls by reputable firms like Ipsos have shown one thing: only Olivia has enough support to beat Rob Ford.  He may have smoked crack, and lied, and drove while drinking, and hung out with (and employed) criminals, and embarrassed Canada around the world – but he still has many people who’d vote for him. Olivia is the only mayoralty candidate who has more support. If you want to get rid of Rob Ford, she’s the only one who can do it. Period.
  2. Olivia’s a winner.  Unlike John Tory, Olivia wins.  A lot.  She won when she ran to be a school trustee in 1985.  She won when she ran for Metro Toronto Council in 1991.  She won when she ran for a seat in Parliament in 2006.  She’s had many victories, over the years. Her ability to put together a winning campaign is well-known – and, in this campaign, she’s got the biggest and best-organized campaign.  She’s got lots of Liberals and Progressive Conservatives supporting her; she’s got a fundraising machine (led by a Liberal); she’s got on-the-ground presence in every corner of this city.  Olivia’s ability to win is critical in 2014: to beat Rob Ford, we can’t waste any votes on lost causes.  We need to rally behind the one credible candidate who can beat Rob Ford.
  3. Olivia hasn’t been tainted by City Hall’s messes in the past four years.  And, let’s face it: Rob Ford isn’t the only thing wrong with City Hall.  For a long time, now, Canada’s largest municipal government has been a mess: it’s a place of division and disunity and disputes.  Much gets said there, but little gets done.  Ask yourself that age-old political question: are you better off than you were four years ago? For most of Toronto’s citizens, the city has become unliveable and unaffordable.  We need the kind of change only an outsider can bring.
  4. Olivia has the right kind of experience.  She’s been away from City Hall’s serial disasters of the past four years – but she has the right kind of experience governing.  Olivia was a councillor when Mel Lastman was mayor.  And she was a key member of the Lastman-era budget committee that balanced the budget for half a decade – and who helped to freeze taxes more than once.  Ask anyone who was there when she was: Olivia can work with everyone, on all sides of the spectrum, and deliver results.
  5. Olivia knows how to work with others. From Mel Lastman (balancing budgets at City Hall) to Stephane Dion (bringing together progressives to defeat Stephen Harper) to even Jason Kenney (working to support David Chen, and to rework legislation to protect law-abiding businesspeople) – Olivia’s approach is well-known.  She’s prepared to work with anyone, anytime, to advance the interests of her constituents, and the people of Toronto.  Olivia isn’t doctrinaire.  She doesn’t like dogma.  Unlike Tory and Stintz – who can’t ever resist taking partisan shots on behalf of their chosen political party – Olivia knows how to bring people together of every stripe (I know; I’m one of them). 
  6. Olivia gets Toronto – she knows all of Toronto.  I’ve seen the polling – lots of it.  I’ve seen the research done by reputable firms.  The citizens of Toronto – young and old, old and young, Left and Right, downtown and in the burbs – essentially want the same things: they want a city that doesn’t cost too much to live in.  They want to be able to get around without a lot of hassle.  They want safe streets, and the services their tax dollars pay for.  They want our diversity protected and enhanced. And they want a mayor who is as honest and frugal and as hard-working as they are. That’s Olivia’s record – and that’s what she’ll deliver.
  7. Olivia never supported Rob Ford.  All of the other candidates – and particularly John Tory and Karen Stintz – did.  Tory gave the Fords thousands in campaign donations, considered a role in their “administration,” and he defended them daily for four years.  Stintz took a fat patronage appointment from Ford, toed the party line, and she swore she’d never run against him.  Olivia, meanwhile, could never be called one of Rob Ford’s enablers.  She never supported him, or his dishonest agenda.  She believes his approach – and his mayoralty – isn’t what Toronto needs.  She aims to change that.
  8. Olivia believes Ford’s fiscal claims are a lie.  Rob Ford won election, infamously, by promising to derail the gravy train.  Instead, his mayoralty has become a train wreck. Ford promised no service cuts – but, under his rule, he has slashed nearly $100 million from bus routes, libraries and snow removal.  He promised promised more police officers – but now there are 300 fewer officers on the street (and quite a few of them are still investigating him). He promised to cut taxes and make Toronto more affordable – but then he hiked TTC fares and user fees.  He promised to create jobs – but, under him, the jobless rate has soared to ten per cent (and it’s over 20 per cent among young people).  Tory, Stintz et al. all say they support Ford’s “fiscal agenda” – well, his agenda is a joke.
  9. Olivia is all about family – and helping Toronto families succeed.  Olivia lives with, and supports, her mother.  She’s done so for years.  She cares for her father, who is ill – and, before that, she cared for her husband as he fought cancer.  And, now she she’s a proud grandmother.  Olivia belongs to the “sandwich” generation – that growing group of people who care for their parents, as well as caring for their kids, and their kids’ kids.  She isn’t wealthy.  She knows the value of a dollar – she had to work in all kinds of jobs to help support her family.  She wasn’t born with a multi-millionaire’s silver spoon in her mouth, like Ford or Tory.  Olivia knows what Toronto families need, and what they experience – because it’s her experience, too.
  10. Olivia is awesome! Look, I’ve been on the other side of the partisan divide from Olivia for years.  I’ve been part of campaigns that have worked overtime to defeat her team.  When I met her – when we both were supporting David Chen – I was impressed.  And, a few weeks ago – when me and my gal got engaged – Olivia Chow was the first to welcome us into her home (Jack’s home!), and pay tribute to us, and give us something very nice.  Us! The take-no-prisoners Liberal war room couple! That, as we’ve learned, is how Olivia Chow is.  She will work with anyone to make a great city even greater – and she will work very hard to rid Toronto of the scourge of Rob Ford, once and for all.

She’s the only candidate who can defeat Ford and his bogus claims.  Because she’s a proven winner, with the right experience, and a recognized ability to work with others.  Because she’s been away from City Hall’s messes over the past four years – and because she’s never been part of Rob Ford’s “agenda.” Because she knows Toronto best.  Because she knows how to help Toronto families get ahead.

See that picture up there? If this election campaign is about anything, it’s about who can boot Rob Ford out of office.

And Olivia Chow is the only candidate, as of today, who can do that.


In Tuesday’s Sun: hit Putin where it hurts – in the bank account

Dear Barack Obama, Stephen Harper et al.:
We sense Vladimir Putin is making you angry. Even worse, we sense that he is – once again – making you look like a band of powerless eunuchs.
As he did over Syria. As he did with Edward Snowden. As he did with his gay-hating laws leading up to Sochi. As he even did with that female punk rock band, Pussy Riot – when he defied popular culture deities like Madonna, U2 and Bruce Springsteen.
Putin has made all of you – all of the civilized world, in fact – look pathetic.
Every time he does something outrageous, we raise our voices in protest. And, every time, he keeps on doing what he is doing – laughing at us. Ignoring us.
With his invasion of the Ukraine, he is repeating his tried and true formula. He is expecting the West to act like we have done in the past. That is, say much, but do very little.
We know you don’t want a war with Russia. No one does. But, if any of you were in any way intelligent, you’d simply ask your own citizens for advice.
Because average citizens already know how to bring Putin to heel.
Go to L.A. or the Big Apple. Go to London or Paris or Palm Springs. In each of those places, you’ll hear the same thing: the local language, to be sure.
But the second language-of-choice? It’s Russian.
Those places are overflowing with the new Russian bourgeoisie. They are loud and boorish and easy to spot. And they have money. Lots of it.
Most of them owe their newfound largesse to Putin. They give him their allegiance, and he in turn bestows upon them riches.
They then – pay attention, here – invest those riches in Western banks. Not Russian banks. There was a flight of capital from Russian banks about six years ago. Ever since, the new Russian moneyed class have parked their riches abroad.
In the West.
You can deny visas to powerful Russian officials, to be sure. You can expand the U.S. Magnitsky Act, and cause discomfort to some of those same officials.
You can (and should) revisit Obama’s decision to “reset” relations with Russians, and go ahead with deployment of ballistic missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. You can (and should) kick him out of the G8, and abandon plans to attend a meeting of world leaders in Sochi in June.
But Putin has probably anticipated each of those things. He’s a canny little bastard, after all. What he has not anticipated – and what he cannot contain – is the panic that will grip the new Russian oligarchs when their bank accounts in Miami and London are frozen.
And don’t just stop there, either: bring down a regulatory hammer on the property that Russians have snapped up in the West. Squeeze them until they squeal.
There’s a reason, world leaders, why there was a bloodbath in Russian markets on the day the Crimea was invaded. There’s a reason why there was a massive sell-off in Russian equities, and why the ruble plummeted to an all-time low.
The reason is this: Putin may WANT a new Cold War. But the people who prop him up, the new Russian overclass?
They can’t AFFORD one.


So, PKP.

I’ve never met him, I’ve never seen him, I’ve never heard from him.  That’s the way I like my media moguls: totally invisible.

In my years at the Sun – on air and in print – no one has ever told me what I could or couldn’t write.  Not once. My experience at other Canadian media outlets, however, has been quite different.  A sampling:

  • In 1988, at the Ottawa Citizen, Keith Spicer refused to publish a thing I did suggesting that the Free Trade Agreement would place our healthcare system at risk.  “We have to be nation builders,” Spicer said in a note to my editor.  My editor showed it to me. He actually wrote that.
  • In 2001, again at the Citizen, Scott Anderson dropped my freelance politics column because I was “too Liberal.” I pointed out that Izzy Asper (RIP) had hired me because the paper needed a Liberal. Anderson, who never met a managerial fart he couldn’t catch, was undeterred.
  • In 2007, I quit my media column at the National Post because (a) they refused to let me say positive things about human rights and (b) they absolutely refused to let me print anything positive about the Toronto Star or the CBC (I have the emails to prove it). Even though they are, you know, big on free speech and all that. Um.

Anyway.  Based on what I’ve read about his riding, Peladeau stands a pretty good chance of being elected to the National Assembly next month.  At that point, his media days are over for a long time, perhaps for good.  At that point, he’ll have even less influence over what I and others say than he does at the moment.  Which, as noted above, is presently the square root of f**k all.

And if he loses? Well, then he goes back to doing what he did before: which is, still not telling me what I can and what I can’t write. (Including the anti-separatist screed I had in today’s paper. Here.)

Let me conclude with the title of  a chapter in Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics: to wit, “the media is a special interest group.” That is, the only people who think the media is a pillar of objective thinking is, well, the media.  The public sure as Hell don’t think that. They never have.

And that is JWK on PKP.



Isn’t that a nice illustration? The Internet is fun.

Anyway. Hit 15,000 Twitter followers sometime over the weekend. If (a) I didn’t have a lingering Man Cold and (b) Winter 2014 didn’t go on and on and on, I would celebrate or something.

Instead, I will leave you with this unrelated, linkless thought: media barons aren’t taken down by the media. They’re taken down by the people.


We get letters: this morning’s death threat

From “Chris,” email Roadhammer_@live.ca, IP He’s somewhere in Nova Scotia, looks like.

I know you won’t approve this, but you still have to read it.

I hope to HELL that some illegal with a firearm shoots you, takes your wallet and then robs your house because he now has your address. Maybe he will take a family member hostage.

THIS is why I own firearms.

Of all the shootings in the U.S., how many are from legal firearms owners?

You’re just a left wind metrosexual who does nothing but run their mouths and force their beliefs onto others.


In Sunday’s Sun: whither thou goest, Quebec?

[This is a reworked/expanded version of the post I wrote a few days ago. Quite a few of you claimed to like it, so I worked it into 625 or so words. Cheers, W.]

Now that Quebec’s separatist government has called an election – and now that there is a very real prospect of the Parti Québécois seizing a majority in the National Assembly – strap on your seat belts. We’re in for another bumpy ride, Canada.

In recent years, of course, it has been become de rigueur for the commentariat to declare that the separatist movement was “dead.” Some of us vehemently disagreed with that assessment. When your politics are entirely about identity, and long-nurtured grievances and humiliations, you never give up.

Separatist longing is unkillable, because logic has nothing to do with the desire for a separate nation. If it did, we wouldn’t be hearing – once again – about the likelihood of another Quebec referendum. It is a matter of the heart, not the head. Party platforms come and go; dreams don’t. They’re eternal.

Politically, the circumstances favour the separatists. If you survey the political landscape, and take a hard look at all the players, you’ll see why.

· Quebeckers aren’t bullish on Canada: Statistics Canada notwithstanding, most Quebecois (like most Canadians) do not believe that a robust recovery is underway. They know (as this writer suggested on this page last week) that they are still only a couple paycheques away from living on the street. To Quebec voters nervous about their economic prospects, Canada does not seem to be thriving any more than Quebec is. Pauline Marois’ argument is dishonest, but compelling in its simplicity: economically, we derive no benefits from Canada – they are pulling us down. Why not try some economic independence, for once?

· Canadians aren’t bullish on Quebec: As a smart Conservative friend told me at lunch this week, it is a fact that Canadians themselves cannot be counted on to automatically rally in support of a united Canada, as they did in 1980 and 1995. Instead, they can be expected to respond with anger and/or indifference to the sovereignty issue again being revisited. Maybe. But he is certainly not wrong when he observes that Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair do not possess any of the populist political skills of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien to rally average Canadians. And none of them, my friend observed, has ever fought a referendum before.

· The federalist giants are gone: The great separatist-slayers of the past – Chretien, Trudeau the Senior – have left the scene. They have been replaced by a passionless, Western anglophone Prime Minister who is reviled in Quebec; a novice Liberal leader who lacks any real support off the island of Montreal; and an NDP leader who clearly sympathizes more with sovereignty than federalism. Who, then, will speak for Canada, in the coming confrontation?

· The federal political parties aren’t ready or willing: The political culture/stature of each of the federal political parties isn’t what it was. Conservatives quietly wonder if Canada wouldn’t be better off without Quebec. Liberals have zero strength on the ground in Quebec. And the New Democrat caucus is mainly made up of former crypto-separatists. Not good.

· To many Québécois, Canada herself is a myth: Over the years, all of the symbols of Canada – ranging from things as simple as Canada Post offices to the flag – have been disappearing in Quebec. Quebeckers, therefore, can’t be condemned for wondering what their federal taxes pay for. Watch their newscasts: their world does not extend past the Ottawa River. Canada is an illusion, to most of them.

None of this is to say, of course, that the separatists are without their own problems. Marois, in particular, is no populist firebrand like a cane-wielding Lucien Bouchard was. She is no Rene Levesque.

But politics, like comedy, is all about timing. And, presently, the timing favours the separatists.

Thus, my prediction: our preoccupation, in the months to come, will not be Crimea or Syria or Iran or the Central African Republic.

It will be Quebec.