Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Do I Care?

I haven't lived within the boundaries of Metro Toronto since 1998. The last Toronto election I voted in was also the FIRST Metro Toronto election after the "megacity" was created. Since then our family has moved around, but for the most part we've been within the boundaries of the Greater Toronto Area (some "greater" than others).

So you might wonder why I care about who was elected Mayor of Toronto. Here are a few reasons:

  1. I may not live there anymore, but I really do love Toronto. I love wandering around downtown. I love Queen West and the Beaches (wait, the Beach?). I love the entertainment district and all of the mega-musicals put on by Mirvish Productions and Dancap, among others. I love the smaller theatres like Passe Muraille, the Factory, Soulpepper and CanStage. I love the fact that I can walk all over downtown Toronto in the middle of winter without a coat using the PATH system. I love watching baseball games at SkyDome (I will never admit that it's no longer called SkyDome, so don't even try to make me.) I love the Toronto Islands. Most of all, I love the people - well, most of them, anyway. So I don't want to see a loudmouth politician screw up "my" city. I also don't want any Lastman-sized international embarrassments (African cannibals, anyone? How does that compare to wanting someone's wife to be go over to Iran and be raped? Hmmm...)
  2. The truth is, what happens in Toronto affects the whole province to a certain extent, most notably the 905 area (for those not familiar with Toronto, this is a horseshoe-shaped area outside of Toronto thus called because of their "905" area codes.) If not a majority, then a lot of 905-ers are commuters. We may start our mornings in Oshawa, Pickering or Mississauga, but we spend our days firmly in the 416. Gridlock and public transit are issues that don't just affect Toronto residents. 
  3. Again, because so many 905-ers work in Toronto, if you mess up the economy of Toronto, you mess up the economy of a much wider area. Even if you don't take into account the commuters, products and services are regularly traded amongst the cities of south-central Ontario. The economy of the country's largest city has a ripple effect across the whole area, at minimum.
  4. I was talking to someone last night who works in social services in Toronto. The look on his face when told Rob Ford was elected said it all. Outside of the Great Depression, this may be the worst thing to ever happen to the poor, under-privileged, and mentally and physically-challenged people in Toronto's history.
  5. Why is it that the right wing is so against funding for arts organizations? My guess is that most of them can't read a book or have the attention span to sit through a play, but that's just my (somewhat biased) opinion. Arts organizations in Toronto are surely quaking today. Hopefully many of them have been making plans based on this possibility, because they can be sure sure to lose most, if not all, of their funding if Ford gets his way. It amazes me how people think this is such a huge waste of their tax dollars. Do you know how much Toronto currently spends per capita on the arts? THIRTEEN DOLLARS. Yes, that's right: $13 of your hard-earned money goes to support the arts. How much do you spend on coffee in a week? Or on take-out meals? Or anything else. You can't afford $13 per year to support thousands of artists and workers in arts organizations that bring in millions of dollars to Toronto's economy not only through ticket sales, but through hotels and restaurants as well? An article in the Star says that Pantalone and Smitherman both hoped to raise that spending to $25 per year. San Francisco, to compare one city to another, spends $86 per year on the arts. Yet Toronto, for example, is the third-largest centre for English-speaking theatre in world, behind only New York City and London.
  6. Toronto will host World Pride Day in 2014, just a few months before the next mayoral election. Can anyone picture Rob Ford riding on a float in the Pride parade? Me neither. With the cuts that he surely wants to make to their funding, the entire experience will likely be embarrassing. However, I have faith in the Pride Week organizers, and I'm sure they'll find a way to get around the whole "bigoted mayor" thing.
I am not completely terrified of Rob Ford as mayor - just yet. I admittedly do not know much about those who have been elected as councillors, and so I don't know how much of his mandate he will really be able to pass. It could be - as many have speculated - that we'll have gridlock until the next election. Not that four years of a stalemate is a good thing, either, as we've seen in our years of minority federal governments, but at least it may mitigate the damage Ford will likely do. With any sort of luck, we can all just look back on the Rob Ford experience in four years as an amusing anecdote, and let the grownups go back to running the city.