Saturday, October 23, 2010

LAST CHANCE WEEKEND - and My Predictions

... or is it the other way around?

It's Saturday before the Monday vote, and I see signs of desperation in campaigns everywhere.

* An old guy by himself in a purple Smitherman T-Shirt exorting busy shoppers outside No-Frills at Dundas and Lansdowne to vote for George....

* The sudden appearance of 'Ford for Mayor' signs in bizarre locations, outside coin car wash at College/Lansdowne, on vacant offices ... along with home-made signs on hydro poles telling us "Ford is the Man"

* A sudden influx of "newsletters" and announcements of endorsements that appear at first glance to be delivered by The Star or The Villager

* Mailboxes jammed with flyers, cards and notices trying to be seen and read

* Call after call on my home phone as well as my cell phone telling me why I should vote for Joe MacDonald in ward 18 or for Kirk Russell in ward 18... or Smitherman... or - you get the picture.

* The sudden appearance of never before heard Twitter accounts telling us why Kevin Beaulieu or Ana Bailao or Hema Vyas are the greatest

* Tweet after tweet reminding everyone who endorsed whom in this elections (even if the endorsements came at the last minute or from predictably partisan sources like the Liberal Toronto Star or the NDP Spacing or Now sites)

* Candidates standing outside busy subway stations in the cold rain trying to buttonhole voters who rush by heads bowed, their body language saying 'leave me alone'

What a strange thing an election campaign is!

10 months for candidates to get out their platform, be seen and heard. Some 70 debates for the Mayors (with not much new said after the first one) and 8 opportunities for voters in ward 18 to get out and see candidates. I hesitate to call them 8 "debates" because the first 6 were really coming out parties where everyone was oh-so-Canadian and polite. It wasn't until the 7th gathering - the on air live Rogers TV debate, "The Local Campaign" where any fireworks ensued and any attempts were made by candidates to challenge competitors' platforms. The very last debate ended with a vitriolic attack and the words, "...You lying bitch!" after some equally testy moments.

Throughout this campaign, everything has been defined by the MEDIA, not the candidates or the voters' wants. Big news media from the beginning told us there were only a handful of people running for Mayor, and we all watched as they self-destructed or dropped out one by one due to poor polling - usually an indication no one is interested in them. Yet, big news media kept the field restricted as it shrank to what most Torontonians think are choices between disasterous, terrible and least worst.


In the local ward 18 campaign, Ana Bailao bought the election from even before day one. She lined up all her Liberal ducks and donors, raised at least twice the maximum expense limit and proceeded to deluge ward 18 mailboxes with expensive and glitzy multi-colour flyers, brochures, cards and letters. Of all the candidates, she must have done at least 20 mailings per household, judging by the mailboxes at my place. Ana used her big red Liberal machine to its maximum capacity and had kids erecting election signs before the start date/time and made sure her campaign was seen everywhere by the important people. She used the Portugese ethnic card to maximum advantage (possibly even exceeding use of resources, a la Senso) and got everyone to buy in that Ana is the only community activist and city builder worth paying attention to. She is the Goliath in the ward, but it will come with a price when she is elected: favours requires payback. Developers are 'partying hardy'over her positioning and licking their lips in anticipation. If she doesn't win this, I'll be surprised.

The likely second runner-up, Kevin Beaulieu, never really let himself be known to those that didn't already know him. As the NDP 'medium-big' party machine choice, his campaign seems terribly tightly controlled by backroom politicos and co-campaign managers. getting (and proudly proclaiming) both Adam Giambrone and Mayor Miller endorsements likely will hurt more than help him in a divided ward with pockets of real hate-ons for the Miller-Giambrone twins. During the campaign, I've learned Kevin does have a solid grasp of details of how city hall works, and likely some creative ideas of his own, but alas - his soul belongs to the NDP as much as Ana's belongs to the Liberals. If Kevin wins this, I'll be (slightly) less worried for ward 18.

Who comes in third or 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th,11th, 12th (Ward 18 can never say they didn't have choices!) is a toss-up.

While Hema Vyas is liked and loved by the Maytree-cultural-diversity-fixer lobby, as an individual she has not yet stood up to challenges. In a Metro Morning radio interview she admitted to being scared of debates. Not bad in itself as all candidates who are human have a twinge of fear at being in the spotlight, but in my view she has not performed well in challenging situations. Having seen countless council debates, our political representative has to have the warrior beast in them to stand up for the ward and for their principles. She needs a lot of seasoning; a campaign is not just about reading a resume or a list of endorsements.

Frank de Jong is probably the most comfortable campaigner I have ever met. I suppose he should be given his 13 or so runs at office at all levels and his stint as President of the Green Party, but I got a really good sense of him as a person. He really is WYSIWYG : "What You See Is What You Get" - a genuine person comfortable in his own skin and happy with himself. Would he ever get elected, I'm pretty sure voters would re-elect him and be happy with his work. Why he can't break the ice is a puzzle to me.

Kirk Russell is an enigma to me. He seems the dark horse candidate in the race. A serious contender, he went all out with e-signs, campaign office and web presence and was smart enough to get himself a Portugese speaking campaign manager with a lot of street smarts. Yet, although he seems to have a major problem with Ana Bailao (youtube videos calling her a liar, always on the scene when Ana did something scandalous or bordering on it) - he appears to be a fellow Liberal in many aspects of his candidacy. Contrast this with his last minute support of Rob Ford for Mayor (huh ?) and I really wonder what his game plan was. A nice guy whom I admire, but still don't get. Ana Bailao is being mostly slagged for her ties to the development and construction industry - yet Kirk is IN that industry?

Joe MacDonald was a relative latecomer to the campaign and his beginning presence was only felt in the Big on Bloor Festival in the summer. Despite his many protestations that he is not a 'career politician' or part of the big NDP party machine, he is really exactly that. Just because the party chose to back Kevin rather than him doesn't negate that he was in the inner power circles of the Big Bob Rae NDP government. His self-proclaimed credentials tells us he was involved in many party campaigns. What he has contributed to this campaign most positively is an intelligent and experienced-backed knowledge of what it takes to be a political representative. He has honestly spoken about his views and challenged other candidates. What is unfortunate was his attacks on Hema Vyas for not living in the ward she wants to represent and questioning her motives for running in ward 18. It wasn't the challenge, which was fair, it was the way and tone in which he delivered it. He probably lost himself a lot of potential support there. His e-signs were very underplayed with muted purple on white but his website was professional and well done.

Doug Carroll is someone who was clear on the area of the campaign he wanted to contribute to: the process of government and city-building. He is an articulate man with a depth of understanding that at times was amazing. He didn't really campaign in the same way as the election-sign-proven-candidates above, didn't really have a website to speak of, or any campaign literature I saw - yet he still made a significant positive impact on the quality of debate.

NHA LE is persistent, I'll give him that, but not much else. He's run a few times before, getting about 250 votes and although he has real English language communication problems, he impressed me as sincere about his wants for ward 18. I just never got a good handle on what those were. That he lives outside the ward, is a card carying Liberal and proud to have been working and mentored by Tony Ruprecht, the do-nothing Liberal MPP for Davenport makes me automatically reject him. His recent promise to cut down trees on Lansdowne to beautify it was a killer too.

Abdirazak Elmi was about the strangest candidate I've ever run into. Opening his introduction at the last debate with "I have two wives...." says it all. Although I stress that he did at least try - he spent his own money on flyers and delivered them, he could never have won. He lives WAY outside the ward, only jumped in here because it was a non-incumbent ward and Mammoliti had dropped out of the mayor race and returned to the ward he was originally going to run in. He has zero understanding of what is going on in ward 18 and was constantly calling me to ask about how he should campaign. A nice guy, but very confused about elections here.

Joanna Teliatnik is perhaps the second strangest candidate I've run into. She joined at the last minute, lives way out at Kipling and 401 and - told me she was "trying to run a campaign under the radar" when I met her campaigning on my street. Over coffee I got the impression she was a career bureaucrat who wanted to change things, but didn't know how. Why she ran here, I'll never know.

Mohammed Muhit had better get last place in votes! He was absolutely invisible in the ward, although I discovered his email address and that he lived a few streets over from Joe MacDonald in the ward. Zero campaigning, no literature, no show at debates, no response to any news media enquiries. Why?

KEN WOOD - I'll leave it to others to describe or remember me in this election.

All I know is that when I first registered to run 20 minutes before we knew if Giambrone would run in the ward or for mayor, what I wanted was:

1. To See Adam Giambrone out of office (Thanks, Adam)

2. To have an impact on the issues and nature of the debate in the ward

3. To offer a real choice to voters of someone truly independent

4. To contribute to increasing voter response and turnout

5. To test myself to see if I could be more than what I was

Whatever happens on Monday, I hope the results are conclusive and the winner remembers that: