In Tuesday’s Sun: why everyone should vote for Joe Cressy

Conventional wisdom says the New Democrats are going to lose plenty of seats to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the 2015 general election.

Conventional wisdom also says the NDP are going to lose their official opposition role – to either the Liberals or the Conservatives – and be returned to their traditional role as the third party in the House of Commons.

Conventional wisdom evidently hasn’t met Joe Cressy yet.

Joe Cressy – who you might not know much about, but will soon enough – is a handsome young fellow seeking the the NDP nomination in the Trinity-Spadina riding in Toronto. He is not just one of the most organized and committed guys I have ever met in politics – he is also the most likeable.

Oh, and this: If NDP leader Thomas Mulcair had a national army of guys like Joe Cressy, he’d have the biggest majority in the history of Canadian democracy.

Now, Joe is going to be mad at me for saying this kind of stuff, but too bad. Over the past year or so, Joe and I have become – full disclosure – very good friends. We got together to volunteer on a potential municipal election campaign and, despite our alleged ideological differences, we hit it off big time.

His mom told me once that she would prefer I call him Joseph. So, periodically, I do so. When I do, Joe winces. To everyone in Toronto politics and media, you see, he is just Joe.

No one knows if the guy called Joe is going to win the NDP nomination in Trinity-Spadina, which has been held by the party for many years. But it’s a pretty safe bet he will. The New Democrats very much want to hold the downtown Toronto seat in a byelection that is expected to come sooner than later.

If Joe is the NDP candidate, he will win. He is assisted, in this regard, by his opponents.

The Conservatives are only protected in Trinity-Spadina by endangered species laws. The Liberals, meanwhile, have made a bit of a mess of the riding.

Here’s why. When he won the Liberal Party leadership, Trudeau promised he would not intervene in riding nomination battles.

In the view of not a few Liberals, Trudeau didn’t keep his word. He certainly seemed to make his preference known in another Toronto riding, Toronto Centre. Then, last week, he much more directly intervened in Trinity-Spadina, saying he would not permit a woman who had run there twice before to run again.

The woman is married to a man who formerly held the riding for the Liberals. Apparently the man used angry words with some young Liberals, and so his wife is being denied an opportunity to participate in the race.

As someone who has used angry words with young Liberals since the dawn of time, I found this claim highly suspect. I also found the notion that a woman would be penalized for the alleged sins of her husband to be more sexist than anything heretofore seen in Canadian politics, and that’s saying something.

But back to Joe. His departure from the municipal campaign we were both working on is a big loss.

But, bottom line, this guy has got it. He’s the kind of person we need more of in Parliament.

I’m a dirty rotten Grit, but if I lived in Trinity-Spadina, I’d sure vote for Joe Cressy.

If you live there, you should, too.


In Sunday’s Sun: the pendulum swings back

Are progressives on the march?

Some days, it sure looks that way. From the European Union to the Americas, progressives – Liberals, Democrats, New Democrats, Liberal Democrats – increasingly seem to be pushing back the blue conservative tide.

It wasn’t always thus. Less than two years ago, I wrote a little book called Fight The Right. (It makes an excellent Christmas or Hanukkah present, by the way.) The subtitle of Fight The Right was “A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse.” And that was the book’s central theme – that conservatives, from Europe to the Americas, were increasingly winning elections.

A couple years ago, conservatives were on the ascendancy, for all sorts of reasons. They were better funded, thanks to their well-heeled big corporate backers. They were better organized than at any time in their history. The corporate, rightist media adored them. The politics and economics of the era seemed to favour them, too.

And – up here in the Great White North, at least – there was plenty of division and disunity on the left, and lots of splitting of the vote. The right was taking advantage of that, election after election, and coming up the middle to win.

Two years ago, there was a rising right-wing tide everywhere. From Rome to Riga, from Maine to Miami, from Whitehorse to Witless Bay, conservatives were the team to beat. Most of the European Union was governed by the right, with nearly all of the EU’s 28 member states being ruled by conservatives.

In Canada, conservative parties ruled the roost in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and of course nationally. There were (then popular) right-wing municipal bosses, like Rob Ford. And, down in the U.S., the Gallup poll was reporting that just about half of all Americans considered themselves conservative – or very conservative.

Only a tiny percentage of Americans – a miserable 20% – called themselves “liberal.”

Well, that was two years ago. Times are a-changin’, to quote the bard.
In the U.S., despite facing a Republican challenge financed with billions of dollars, Barack Obama came back with a convincing victory. In the European Union, many of those conservative leaders – in Italy, in France – are gone.

And, here in Canada, Conservatives can’t seem to chip away at the popularity of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Despite spending buckets of dough on attack ads, and despite lots of nasty politicking, Trudeau has maintained a healthy lead in the polls for many months. The NDP’s Tom Mulcair remains competitive, too.

And that’s just the temporal world. Even on the spiritual level, it seems like progressives are winning the day. A year ago this week, Francis became pope – and he immediately became the world’s most influential progressive leader, challenging the Roman Catholic Church’s orthodoxy on everything from capitalism to gay rights.

Pope Francis has been a revolutionary, in virtually every sense of the word. He has hammered the greedy excesses of capitalism in apostolic exhortations. He’s suspended bishops who are more into those who have bling, rather than those who were broke.

And, just recently, the pope was featured in glowing stories on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine – did you ever think you’d live long enough to see a pope on the cover of Rolling Stone?

Rumours of the left’s death were premature, to say the least. My own prediction of a right-wing hostile takeover wasn’t entirely accurate, either. The ideological pendulum – which had been careening off to the right – is now swinging back to the centre, and the left.

There’s all kinds of reasons for why that may be. Post-recession jitters have faded. Stimulus spending worked. Austerity measures are increasingly unpopular. Voters are just plain sick of conservative policies and politicians.

Whatever the reason, one thing can’t be disputed: progressives are getting competitive again, from the Vatican to the EU to the Americas.

And those on the right? Check your rear-view mirror.

That’s the lefties you see – and we’re getting closer.


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.