Today marks a over a month since the results of the Toronto Municipal Election were realized. Within the first few moments as the finality of the whole process hit me, I knew there would need to be a cooling off period. This would allow for clarity in my conversation about what this election meant, how the process changed my life and of course to share my thoughts and feelings.
I will separate my thoughts about the election into three parts: My city, my ward, myself. Each will be my reflection of a segment of the election including my emotional responses. I will keep the facts and figures to a minimum; it won't be that kind of wrap-up.
There is a valid reason for the time-lapse between part 1 and part 2. When I first began to contemplate the idea of breaking down the election into three parts, I thought that the part about the 'truths about me' would be the hardest section. I thought I would quickly narrate through the first two parts. I spent several days on the first part about my city. When I began to type for part two, I realized that it would likely take a lot longer and be more guarded in my candor.
I have typed and deleted parts and the entirety of this wrap-up because of what I might say. In the end I decided to keep true to my personal reasoning to explain my views of the election. Enjoy.
The Truths about Ward 3
In August I spent a week vacation from work (which also included my birthday) to get out into my ward. The days were long and subsequently left my body feeling in disrepair. My feet hurt from the long days literature dropping and speaking with many residents who would listen. I had some amazing conversations about government roles (on multiple levels), on our issues and the need to have open and honest conversations about how to fix them. I felt I honestly had a chance (however small) to actually win the election and represent our ward.
On September 3rd I knew that despite all the hard work, I likely wasn't going to win the councillor race.
TRUTH: My Opponents
If you are hoping that I take this opportunity to dish the juicy details about my opponents, you will be disappointed. My campaign avoided the negative style campaigns that some candidates across the city were waging on their opponents. There is no need to attack opponents; hopefully a well informed electorate will be able to come to their own conclusions. The sad fact though about negative campaigns - they work. There are studies that prove this fact; unfortunate.
I could do a breakdown of my opponents campaigns and what I thought worked and what didn't. I could give facts and figures and use charts and graphs to show their strongholds and who their potential supporters were. I could analyze their literature, their websites, their speeches, their message. I could do all of these things but in the end - what good would it do? It would feed potential opponents my paradigms and ability to analyze data. It would demonstrate a level of immaturity that needs be removed from elections. This wrap-up isn't about venting and throwing a tantrum. Nor is it fodder for my opponents in any future elections if I decide to run.
The truths I will discuss in regards to my opponents is the reality of the eventual loss for nine of us. First some facts:
- First day to run: January 2nd
- Last day to enter race: September 12
- Months candidates entered the race
- 3 in January
- 1 in February (Moi)
- 2 in April
- 1 in June
- 3 in September
- Candidates who attended all public meetings/debates
- 3 attended ALL
- 2 did not attend ANY
- Candidates with campaign offices
- Candidates who were running for the first time
- ALL 10 candidates
- Candidates who knocked on my door
- Candidates I expected to beat (if I didn't win)
- 5 or 6
Does it matter where any of the candidates finished if they didn't win? I thought about that for the last six weeks and I decided it really didn't matter. You cannot govern from second place, so why would it matter if you came in tenth? I do wonder how many candidates actually thought they had a chance to win? Or better yet, I wonder how many actually wanted to win!
This is where the tight-rope act begins. I have a lot to say about the different campaigns and how it reflected how the eventual pecking order finished. I would even include my own campaign and how I understand how I finished seventh. Like I had stated before, it brings no benefit to do so. This doesn't mean that in the future I will not divulge details of my analytics.
TRUTH: About Ward 3 political paradigms
There are many truths that I am not sure about from the election results. Looking at the results and the overall political paradigms, I wouldn't expect a huge majority of residents to vote conservative. With a liberal MPP who was voted in with a majority of local residents and a close 2011 federal election, I did expect centre-left candidates to do better.
This made me realize an error of my campaign in trying to be both a representative for the ward but also a steward for the city as a whole. The two paradigms are vastly different with the occasionally heard "we should de-amalgamate back to just Etobicoke - we were better off". I believe that Etobicoke-Centre was different before amalgamation.
I would beg to differ about Etobicoke being better off as a whole. I advocated for the need for transit to Northern Etobicoke because based on location and bus ridership figures - it needed upgraded transit. From a defunct Kipling LRT from the 1970's & 80's that would have connected to Pearson than over to York University; to the Finch LRT vs Subway debate that has only proved the need for transit upgrades - still there is nothing.
If one were to look at how Ward 3 voted in reference to mayor, it was not what I would have expected.
- Olivia Chow received 2788 votes
- Doug Ford received 9466 votes
- John Tory received 10160 votes
- everyone else (50+) received 472 votes
The divide is very evident in the whole "building versus house" debate with the biggest concentration of votes for Ford and Tory in drastically different polls within the ward. Does this show political ideologies or a connectedness to political messaging?
The mere fact that so many residents would vote for Doug Ford completely surprised me and definitely showed I didn't have a chance this election. The promise of subways that didn't cost a penny or the oversimplification of the very complicated and enormous city budget were catchy. This isn't what running a city is about - giving skewed Coles Notes about city governance and expecting everything to change... I bit my tongue. I can now understand why both low income and high income families would vote for a Ford. Low income families believe the messaging about being the common person, of which the Ford's are not. The high income families see the right messaging about maintaining taxes which otherwise would affect them greater financially. The best of both worlds collide. Great messaging, a case study on simplification of politics in general. I could not support, nor will I support a Ford for mayor in the future. I harken to a quote from the movie Gladiator:
He will bring them death, and they will love him for it.
During the election I stayed away from picking a mayor to support. This was both a help and hindrance to a campaign based on policy. Why - because in the end voters didn't care so much about the policy, they worried about the politics. Residents wanted to vote for the right catch-phrases "No new taxes" "Eliminate the Municipal Land Transfer Tax" "I will keep everything the same". That is where the catch is - status quo. It goes beyond the incumbent effect within municipal politics since our ward had no direct incumbent. Residents wanted to know that the voting strategy and political direction they had voted for in prior elections was to be continued. I did not offer this.
TRUTH: About Ward 3 Residents
I can convey a level of gratitude to several residents that helped out during the campaign. Speaking with neighbours about the hard choice to enter the race always invigorated myself. They felt engaged in the process rather than hearing that 5-second speech about why I deserved their vote. I avoided promises and occasionally had complete conversations with residents that whole-heartedly disagreed with my platform.
I also understand that a few factors that swayed voters this election . The most obvious is ethnicity. Given the breakdown of ethnicity within Ward 3, there are several large and active groups. This has always been a factor in many elections around the world but I didn't see its affect in Etobicoke Centre - Ward 3 until this election. Despite when a candidate entered the race or the platform; last names mattered. I also felt the effect of having a Maltese last name as I met several who knew instantly my name's origin.
Residents of Ward 3 have many different needs that hopefully will be addressed. Our ward is one of the oldest in terms of average age and number of seniors. They worry about rising costs and being able to stay in their home. Promising to maintain a low increase in property tax while also attempting to remove the land-transfer tax seems opposed realities. Penny pinching on programs that could help children and young families engage in the community also seems strangely contrast to the needs of the ward. The status-quo only works for those on top of the mountain, not those buried under the weight of the bullshit.
TRUTH: Needs of Ward 3
Several candidates from other wards and I spoke often about the election. I had mentioned that my ward didn't have any of the following: A subway station, a mall (not strip mall), enough restaurants and proper usage of parks & community spaces. When people spoke about Etobicoke, they thought that Cloverdale Mall or Kipling Station or even Eatonville Public Library were within the ward. Although close, they weren't directly in ward, leaving a few plazas, several bus routes and the small Elmbrook Library.
I advocated for a better usage of Centennial Park for all seasons. This would include better bus routing that would allow more residents the ability to access in a timely manner. With many fields, picnic areas, an arena, a ski hill, a FREE conservatory open all year round... why isn't it a central hub for Etobicoke?! An agreement between some of the festivals that run within Centennial should also arrange special event buses to Kipling Station, to alleviate the traffic in the area that is always overwhelming.
Ward 3 also needs to not be afraid of the changing planning in Toronto. There is really no anticipated growth in the ward because of the lack of development space compared to other wards. The few condos scheduled to be built have been too tall for the area and rightly opposed by residents. In the long term though, growth will come, the landscape of the neighbourhoods will likely morph into more townhomes or six story buildings that are actually a good height for population density. I do hope that any growth also spurs more businesses to root themselves into our area as well as allowing businesses currently here to thrive. Having jobs that are local is key for youth looking for experience as well as connecting neighbours with their neighbourhoods.
TRUTHS: Stephen Holyday
Before you anticipate my motives here, I wanted to speak about the eventual winner of the Ward 3 Council seat. During the election Stephen was personally attacked because of his father. Yes it comes with the territory when you enter a field that a family member has dominated for years but shouldn't be the fodder for your attack on a person. My opponents that attacked Stephen should have done so on his policies or platform or something relevant. Residents know a negative attack when they see one!
Stephen almost won the election on the advanced polls. This is important, this is significant.
Stephen and I have different views on a lot of policies and the overall direction of Toronto. These differences do not make us enemies because the concept is preposterous; the concept of enemies in politics is simply an easy marker to divide. I have met Stephen and he does seem genuine about wanting to represent the ward. He may maintain the mandate his father had for the decades he represented but I hope he realises the need to invest in our community rather than nickle and dime savings.
I will give Stephen credit for his win of the election and the hard work he put into it. It is disingenuous for any candidate to start speaking about running in the next election either. How do you construct a platform of good policy when the city isn't aware of what the next four years will look like? This is the moment to realize like I said "you can't govern from second place" but you can still be active in helping bring change.
Whomever decides to run in the next election to even consider defeating the now sitting councillor will need to decide the probability of winning. I am sure that there won't be ten candidates who will run because as seen in other races around the city, the benefit is always in favour of the incumbent. I hope candidates who run in 2018 also do it for the right reasons, to be a representative of ALL residents of Ward 3.
TRUTHS: In closing...
In closing I just want to amplify my appreciation for those who have supported my campaign in 2014. A resident like yourself can decide to make a difference, even if unsuccessful. I look forward to being an active member of our community and hope that many of you will do the same. Not every change needed can come from politicians!
I chose to run in Ward 3 because I live here and am glad to call it my home.
END OF MUNICIPAL ELECTION WRAP-UP PART 2