January in Toronto is normally a pretty grim month, made grimmer because the entire population of North Bay descends on the Big Smoke for the parade of stock reduction sales going on at every retail outlet. The weather is cold, sensible locals are thinking about how much nicer it is the Caribbean, and the politicians are at their grinding worst, calculating which programs can be cut without cutting strips off their own asses.
Not this year. The only Caribbean country most people can remember the name of is Haiti, and nobody is thinking straight about that (as illustrated here ). Meanwhile, a horde of local politicians are butting up at the smoke pump in preparation for a run at becoming Toronto’s next mayor, and the city is filled with posturing federal MPs with nothing to do but strut their righteousness indignation over Stephen Harper’s proroguing of Parliament. The Premier, Dalton McGuinty, announced a $7 billion deal with Samsung that is supposed to put us on the front lines of green power production, seemingly not having noticed that every other country in the U.N. with a GNP greater than $7 billion has a similar deal in place, and every single-issue activist in Ward 19, where my cousin Luigi lives, is thinking of running for city council now that veteran Joe Pantalone has unwisely vacated his seat to run for Mayor.
In the middle of this, there’s been an outbreak of pedestrian squashings in the city—14 people dead so far, and television news crews homing in on every new pedestrian/auto interface in the hope that they can get a scoop on the next addition to the total. Meanwhile, every nitwit in the city has both a theory about the cause and a program proposal to stop the carnage: everything from banning pedestrian use of I-phones to banning jaywalking to tethering the elderly to their walkers. The silly season has arrived seven months early.
The silliest of the sillies, as far as I can see, is the lineup for the next Toronto mayor. The current front runner is said to be George Smitherperson, the joint candidate for the Gay community and the Hells Angels. Smitherperson is widely believed to have once been one of Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet intimates, whatever that means. If he wins, he’ll be the first openly gay mayor of a major Canadian city since Winnipeg’s Glen Murray, who just happens to be running for Smitherperson’s vacated legislative seat, no doubt wanting to become intimate with Dalton, too.
A few years ago I met Smitherperson in, ah, person. I saw this skin-headed guy skating around the arena where I was teaching my niece to skate, trying to pick up, I guess, votes. At one point, he boarded me, and introduced himself. “Hi,” he said. “I’m George Smitherman.” “Good for you,” I said. “You any relation to Steve Smitherman, the guy who plays for the Cincinnati Reds?”
Smitherperson’s main opponent seems to be Rocco Rossi, the former national director of the Liberal Party of Canada, a post at which he taught Michael Ignatieff how to stick his thumbs up, appear to be constructed entirely out of spruce, to grimace awkwardly whenever a camera is present, and to stay on message even when no coherent message exists. Rossi’s other claim to fame was as John Tory’s campaign director for Tory’s failed 2003 municipal election. Given his campaign platform, which is to sell off the profitable city-owned electrical utility, Toronto Hydro; to kick municipal staff whenever possible, and to save the city $13,000 by cutting his own salary 10 percent, one wonders if it was his suggestion that John Tory campaign as Provincial Conservative leader in the last Provincial election on a platform of making private school tuition tax deductible.
To Rossi’s right, is George “Giorgi” Mammoliti, who has the support of his mother and the remaining four members of Markham’s lately-amalgamated Beer and Porn Institute and Rob Ford fan clubs. Mammoliti wants to put all the hookers into a ghetto so his friends will know how to find them, legalize gambling, and give the Toronto Transit Commission assets to the corporate sector.
On the left side of the political slate is, well, leftists fighting amongst themselves and shooting themselves in the foot. First, veteran Ward 19 councillor Joe Pantalone declared his candidacy, thus giving voters on the left side of the spectrum at least some alternative to Smitherperson. Now, there’s post-teen Adam Giambrone from Ward 18, who was an up-and-coming councillor before his tenure as Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission slue-footed him into a cascade of public relations disasters. Giambroni then uploaded an embarrassing dance-and-make-a-fool-of-yourself video onto YouTube, then declared that he wants to be mayor, too, thus ensuring that the city will be deprived of two left-of-centre councillors, and that Smitherperson will be the next mayor of Toronto.
I suppose one has to write off this piece of classic left-wing self-immolation as the product of some sort Council hallway pissing match between Pantalone and the wet-behind-the-ears Giambrone, but Christ, isn’t there someone in the NDP with enough clout to read the riot act to these guys? Pantalone is an experienced councillor with a decent track record. He should have the left behind him to take his shot at the job that turned David Miller into an anorexic, while Giambroni is a kid who ought to be biding his time for a couple of terms while he builds his constituency and can walk into the Council chambers without a towel over his shoulders.
The outcome as it now stands is going to be Mel Lastman with a mean streak and better gay pride parade funding for the next few years. What else poor Toronto will get, I shudder to think about.
February 1, 2010 950 words