adults in charge

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About Toronto

there are now things to discuss

It has been awhile since I have had any reason to write about my home city of Toronto. The same nonsense has been going on. Conditions have been getting worse. 

The latest destructive interference from the province has been the creation of a ‘strong mayor’ in the city, who can override city council, but only when the province directs. This plan for direct rule of the city by the province was complicated by the sudden resignation of our ‘strong mayor’ when caught out getting over friendly with a female city staffer. Now we have a by-election for the mighty mayor.

The apparent apathy toward all this abuse of power and incompetence in government is distinctive. It is starting to filter through more people’s skulls that the problems in Toronto will not be solved by any legal or electoral processes, or any kind of do-gooder activism. The problems of Toronto are deeply rooted in Canadian culture, history, and in the crisis now reaching climax globally.

These problems will be solved by an outright revolution. However, I am not going to discourage people from voting or engaging in activism. This is not useless activity as long as those engaged in it understand the context and criteria for any decision and action.

I have lived in Toronto a long time now. It was a good place to come to when I arrived in the 1990s. I got away from the Crypto Nazi nonsense of my home province and quickly became established.

I have lived pretty well here, and still do. However, much of what I liked about Toronto when I came here has gone rotten since then. It would no longer be a good place for someone needing a refuge and a new start.

I am still fond of the neighbourhood I live in and will be here for a long time. I like my local representatives. Yet I have scarcely followed the local politics lately.

I no longer even attempt to involve myself in any community or political activism. This is not only because of The Syndemic or my growing infirmity. I am very much in “I don’t want to waste my time and energy” mode.

I do not like the word ‘apathetic’. It does not really describe my present state or the state of the body politic of Toronto. People are mostly quite busy about things they feel they can do something about.

Torontonians are not happy with the way things are going, but have no idea what to do about it. Much of the city’s problems are seemingly beyond the reach of local government. Until lately, the growing disfunction of city government has not effected most people personally.

Now, this disfunction is starting to bite. The syndemic and growing economic breakdown are the ultimate cause of the rapid deterioration of quality of life in the city. Yet some places are coping better than others and Toronto is not coping well.

The real cause of the trouble is with the national and provincial governments. But when things start going bad, people look to their local governments first, as they should. Toronto city government is failing wretchedly.

The first sign of failure is the inability to deliver basic services. The transit system is breaking down. Snow clearing failed this spring. The hostel system is failing.

City council is paralysed. The latest destructive interference from the province has made sure it remains as the province wants. That is, unable and mostly uninterested in delivering what the public wants and needs.

Attention will be distracted for several months by an unexpected mayoral election. Six months ago, no one would run against the incumbent mayor. Some mysterious entity decided he was invincible, despite being very unpopular.

Now, we have dozens of candidates for the office of mayor. Most of them are spectacularly unsuitable for the office, or any other public office.

There are two or three who have some business even dreaming of being the mayor, but they are caught in this degrading ‘beauty pageant’. They have to try to distinguish themselves from the clowns. This spectacle should be enough to convince any intelligent person of the inadequacy of electoralism.

To complete the context of this topic, it is necessary to see how conditions have deteriorated to this level. It seems to have begun with the forced amalgamation under premier Harris. Since then, the body politic of Toronto has failed utterly to reverse the damage of the Harris years, or do anything to insure nothing like it happens again, or respond effectively when it did happen again with Ford.

There is some debate about the exact cause of this ineffectiveness. Difficulty with asserting local and public interest against power is a well known Canadian trait. But many other localities in Canada seem to do it better than Toronto.

It seems this characteristic goes back to the earliest times of English Canada. Many of the old loyalists were from Quaker and similar pacifist sects.

These people were not much interested in government. They were generally contemptuous of politics. They had the idea they just wanted to be left alone.

When they had to interact with government they adopted the “speak truth to power” attitude. This can work somewhat if power feels like listening. However, in the age of neoliberalism this attitude is a complete dead end.

As well, many say Toronto’s problem is being a landing pad for new immigrants. Many people are new to the country, focussed on getting established, and unwilling to rock the boat.

However, most people who have observed the activist political scene in Toronto have noticed that high immigration also causes a different problem. We attract many very radical, ideological leftist people. Rather than give energy to ‘left’ causes, such people tend to destroy action potential.

This will be a strange concept to many people unfamiliar with the dysfunctionality which tends to develop whenever any ‘left’ initiative is launched. These quickly become infiltrated by ‘more radical than thou’ types. Their little ‘correct line’ groups will fight each other for control and destroy initiative.

I have long held the view that the real revolution will get underway when real people, with real talents and experience of the real world, get fed up with the way things are and become radicalized. Then the ‘super radical’ types, and the secret police infiltrators, will be easily pushed aside. This process is well along in some countries, is getting going in some western countries, and may even be starting in cautious Canada.

Another cause of the ineffectual public in Toronto is that suppression is more intense here. This is the financial hub of the country. It is also the head office of most of the world’s mining industry, the source of the most vicious neoliberalism on the planet.

This very arrogant elite works in the downtown towers of Toronto. They go home to the suburbs. They are very good at forcing government to suit them.

Also, Toronto is a key city within an economic empire. We are ruled by capitalism. Much of the apparent political contestation is really about competing interests and ideologies of oligarchic capitalist factions.

Cities are a threat to empires. They are where new ideas come from. Capitalists have to live and work in them but they want civic government sharply limited and public interaction suppressed to the maximum.

Toronto is The Big City in Canada. So it is a special focus of this ‘anti urbanism’. The rest of the country is encouraged to despise Toronto as the source of that which it is actually more a victim of than most places.

The whole world is living in the same reality as Toronto. There is a breakdown of a global system which has been in place since the world war. The old ‘unipolar’ world is messily giving way to a ‘multipolar’ world.

Once upon a time, the unipolar world worked adequately, at least for the countries of the west, such as Canada. Since the 1990s this globalism has been breaking down and the global financial oligarchy has been fighting harder to stay in control. The Toronto public has been especially ill equipped to assert its rights in this age, and has been hard hit.

In a few places on the planet the globalists were never able to gain control. These are now well armed and able to resist imperialism. In other places independent oligarchies are asserting themselves, setting up their own ‘poles’ in the ‘multipolar world’.

But all over the globe, people are learning to create real grass roots revolutions and create governments which serve their interests. You will not see them much on television news. If you do, it is really a ‘color revolution’, organized by agents of imperial powers. When real revolutions succeed, they will be shown on ‘The News’ as tyrannies.

We have now seen several successful revolutions, which created social democracies. In other countries, this example is being followed and we should soon see more social democracies in the world. It is outside the scope of this piece to prescribe how a successful social revolution against globalism would look in Canada.

However, Quiet Canada will be one of the last places on planet Earth where oligarchy is replaced by social democracy. We will eventually learn from other places, and begin to understand that we are in an oligarchy, not a democracy. Electoral politics is about oligarchy, not democracy.

While these developments slowly roll out, Toronto will continue to be subject to attacks from above, and a deteriorating quality of life. The public will gradually learn to organize to defend its interests and its vital services. There is a growing realization that there are no legal or electoral solutions for the mounting problems, yet the existing legal and electoral structures will have to be dealt with, and used to advantage where possible.

Such is the context for Toronto the Good as we go into the by-election. What are the criteria for deciding if it is worth paying any attention to the vote and if so, what candidate to support? It still matters who gets into political office.

A good councillor or member of parliament can do a lot of good for the district. He or she can bring resources to the community and act as a rally point for opposition to things harmful to it. It must be understood that all political representatives are stuck within a representative system and limited in what they can do.

Thus we should try to get a representative who is less interested in party politics or getting along on council, and more interested in constituency work. NDP, or ‘left’ candidates, are usually good at this. That is the only reason the otherwise ridiculous New Democrat party has any presence.

This same principle applies to mayoral elections. A good, ‘left’, ‘public interest’ mayor would be very good for Toronto. For some mysterious reason we have not had one since the “amanglemation”.

It would be helpful to have a new mayor who is not tied to any political party or to any faction in city hall. The focus must be on what improves city government and helps deliver services to city people, especially the more vulnerable. A mayor who “plays nice” with city bureaucracy, corporate lobbyists, and the provincial government is not much good for the city.

Of the various candidates for mayor, Councillor Josh Matlow seems the closest fit to this ideal. He is the best kind of leftist; one who starts out as centrist or apolitical and leans leftward as he learns more about how things really work. So I am supporting Matlow for mayor and urge people to help him get elected.

However, no one should think he will solve all the problems of Toronto. Nothing will do that until there has been a tear down and rebuild of institutions in Toronto and all over Canada.

Therefore, once the vote is done, start working on building the powerful social force which will ultimately get that job done. I will soon blog some more about what really needs to get done and how.

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