Ontario elections and Toronto campaigns

BREAKING: The New Democratic Party, under the leadership of Andrea Horwath, has announced today that they will not be supporting the budget tabled on Thursday. This means that, come June, there will be a provincial election.

I have to say I am a little surprised. According to the news I’ve read, the Liberal government included a number of treats in the budget in hopes of appeasing the NDP—a new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, a one per cent increase for Ontario Works recipients, and an increase in the Ontario Child Benefit from $1,210 a year per child to $1,310—but I guess there is no way to stop an election in a democratic process like ours. If the NDP wanted an election, there was absolutely nothing the Liberals could have offered them that would change their mind, especially since (in their eyes) Kathleen Wynne is just finishing Dalton McGuinty’s term.

At least its only a month-long campaign instead of an excruciating 11-month process. For most in Ontario, the budget and impending election has been on the back burner to the controversial and, let’s face it, much more entertaining Toronto elections. As absolutely everyone knows, Mayor Rob Ford has taken a leave of absence from his political duties and his campaign to seek help for an alcohol problem. This was after he was caught on a video smoking crack cocaine (again), and an audio file was sent to the Toronto Sun in which Ford makes some racist and violently sexist remarks at a bar in Etobicoke.  His lawyer made a statement saying he will be gone for 30 days.

After all of this broke Wednesday night, electoral candidate John Tory stood up and publicly called for Rob Ford’s resignation. And then, everyone remembered that Tory had supported Ford during the last election and throughout his councillor years. This behaviour is nothing new, and he has (allegedly) been drinking and using drugs since he was a councillor. Knowing this, how could Tory have donated to Ford’s campaign and then now, only after he becomes a mayoral candidate, say that he shouldn’t be in office.

Karen Stintz—who was the blunt of Ford’s sexism in the Sun’s audio file—called a meeting on Thursday to address the situation. She said she was “shocked and embarassed”…and then proceeded to use a Fordian line: “The people will decide in six months, blah blah blah.” Instead of addressing the disturbing way Rob Ford (and not to mention the other male patrons at this bar) were talking about women, she decided to take advantage of the camera time to push forward her mayoral campaign. When thousands of women are fleeing abused households, are victims of sexual assault, and overall bullied because of their sex, these are the moments we should stand up and say “this is NOT okay.”

Wednesday night, Olivia Chow refused to comment, saying that, “an announcement of Mr. Ford’s nature deserves a considered response, and we will not prematurely speculate.” A fair response, albeit a bit naive. The next day she held a press conference to say his comments were disgraceful and that he should have taken a leave of absence a year ago. There was no mention of resignation. Just another “it is up to the voters to decide” campaign speech. God those are getting annoying.

Soknacki released a short and simple statement the night of the incident calling for Ford’s resignation. His reaction was swift, if a little underwhelming. But of the candidates, I think his reaction was a) the least hypocritical and b) the right reaction at the right time. He didn’t hold a big press conference or use Ford’s situation as a campaign event. In my opinion, after Wednesday night, Soknacki should be garnering more support. Unfortunately, he has been off the media’s radar for a while. If he doesn’t get himself out there, then it won’t matter if he is seen as the responsible candidate. People will forget him.

BUT, never fear Toronto. There will soon be something to take our mind off of all the scandal and the unsavory municipal politics. You can thank Andrea Horwath for that.

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