JAIMIE VERNON – BOOT THE MAYOR, SAVE A CITY

Jaimie as King George

I had another blog prepared and ready to roll today about my favourite topic, music, but in light of the last 72 hours of clown car antics from the family of my city’s mayor, Rob Ford, I couldn’t let it go without comment.

On Wednesday the world found out that Mr. Ford has a tumor in his stomach and was hospitalized. We waited on pins and needles as tests were conducted and doctors commiserated. Since then we don’t know much more than that because biopsies take time. Like many people who are not a fan of Mr. Ford I hope nothing but a speedy recovery for him. He’s been through the ringer both politically and personally during his 4 years as mayor. Rob Ford is currently running for re-election and the expectation was that for his own sake he’d step out of the mayoral race so he can focus on his health. This came to pass yesterday.

RobFord

But, in a meme-like “you won’t believe what happened next” moment there was a bait ‘n’ switch twist. Rob didn’t just step down as the incumbent mayor, he announced he was going back to DC_City_Council16.jpgrun in his old Ward 2 constituency in Etobicoke – a position his brother, Doug, currently holds (and took over when Rob became mayor. Confused yet?). But, wait…their nephew, Michael, was running in that Ward. What the hell? So Rob bumped his nephew so he could keep his foot in politics; Understandable given the Ford family’s dynastic hold on that area for decades. They take pride in their 50 year reign there – despite the fact that Canada is a democracy, not a monarchy. Alas, good reader, this was only the first surprise.

Doug and doctorThe real shocker came when brother Doug – the stockboy, the bodyguard, the bully and the mouthpiece campaign manager for Rob – stepped up and declared he was running for mayor on this, the last day of nominations. He almost didn’t make it as his own people screwed up the submission paperwork meaning Doug had to rush to City Hall and declare his candidacy in person…with minutes to spare. All conveniently done in the presence of a salivating media scrum.

grimmsSo now it has come to pass that we now have the brothers Grimm flip-flopping their positions. Rob campaigning from his hospital bed, Doug campaigning out of desperation. Running mate John Tory – kept out of many a leadership role in provincial and municipal politics for years – made it clear in a press conference immediately after the bombshell that it doesn’t matter if Rob or Doug is running for mayor. You’re getting the same ideology – and another 3 years of bread and circuses.

Tory
To this I agree. The mayor’s race didn’t just get more interesting, it’s now a real horse race. Rob’s chances of winning on the back of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation absence at the beginning of the mayor race took the wind out of his sails not to mention all the additional scandals that followed him back to Toronto when he returned. He was done. The polls said so. Even with a margin of error his unshakable fan base barely budged past 27% since June. It’s not enough to win him a second seat.

DougFordBut with Doug in the running – a guy more brazen, more outspoken and a smarter business man – the other candidates are literally shitting campaign signs. I believe Doug will fail. He will hold only a part of Rob’s fan base. He will lose others because he doesn’t have the Fred Flintstone charm that has made Rob a lovable “will he or won’t he?” tightrope walker. Doug has all the charm of that asshole who used to push you into lockers at high school or steal your lunch in the cafeteria. He says he’s about family. I believe him. He’s all about HIS family. The Ford family. They don’t need to be politicians. They have money beyond riches. This is purely about ego. Their number one chant is that they’re there for the little man – addressing plumbing emergencies and answering personal calls from taxpayers. And that, my friends, will be Rob Ford’s legacy – the guy that went on Jimmy Kimmel Live to tell the world that he’s the mayor that fixes toilet. Meanwhile, our city has since crumbled into chaos because nothing was done about the unions, the transit problems, the construction chaos, the collapsing Gardiner Expressway, the poor, the homeless or the rampant unemployment in Toronto.

I am re-running the blog I wrote in November 2013 because it’s still relevant. I still feel the same way. Toronto is my home and the Fords are very much responsible for its current ruination.

i_love_to
I am a Torontonian. I was born in East York at East General Hospital 50 years ago and raised in Scarborough – both originally neighbouring boroughs of Toronto. I’ve always considered these places suburbs of Toronto anyway and it was made official when they were amalgamated into the new City of Toronto in 1998. I worked for the City of Scarborough for 12 years leading up to the annexing of all the Metropolitan Toronto territories (which also included North York, York, and Etobicoke). 44 out of my 50 years have been spent living here. I’ve lived in the shadows of both Yorkdale and Cedarbrae malls, on the eastern leg of The Danforth, and in the belly of Malvern when it was still radioactive but before it became a hideout for drug gangs and a haven for grow-ops. I’ve communed at the wolf den on the outskirts of the Metro Toronto Zoo and gone swimming in Lake Ontario at the foot of the Rouge River.

toronto
I love my city. Hogtown. The Big Smoke. Not just the Toronto of my youth – when the Canadian National Exhibition and Ontario Place flourished – but the one that exists right now with its crowded skyline, crowded roads, crowded malls, crowded streetcars and buses and subways. Because it is alive. It has achieved the promise of its inviting arms. It has risen above its conservative beginnings where you couldn’t shop or buy booze after 11PM or drag a dead horse down Yonge Street on Sundays.

ford1Toronto is not Detroit or London or Shanghai. I’m sure the people who grew up in those places love them just as madly (well, maybe not Detroit…), but a rot has set into the place I love and it’s fueled by greed and corruption and a win-at-all-costs mentality. You would have had to live under a bridge. down by the Don River in a van, to have missed the Cirque du Robeé this week; A 300lb manchild, who keeps acting out publicly, has assumed the guise of our mayor where a jocular bumpkin had once been; A bully whose fortunes have turned against him at the hands of his own foibles; An enfant terrible lashing out at a City that he once tried to save but will ride out on a rail of the subway system he insists we keep pumping money into.

angryvillagers
The villagers have grabbed their pitchforks. The monster’s days are numbered. And all the while, a world outside of our metropolis follows along in wide-eyed wonder at what this mild-mannered (and previously unknown) city will entertain them with next. We are the punch line on late night talk shows. We occupy space in newspapers and news feeds around the world. All for the wrong reasons.

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The City has suffered more public humiliation since amalgamation than it has in all the years since the first surveyors staked out this territory in 1791. We had a mayor (Mel Lastman) that was a furniture store huckster,

who called in the Canadian army after a large snowstorm crippled the city in 1999 and then publicly announced his fear of being boiled in a cauldron on a junket to Africa; We had a mayor  (David Miller) that let the unions hold Toronto hostage not once but twice on back-to-back garbage strikes which left us smelling like all of Manhattan on a Friday afternoon in the summer. He also had the misfortune of being mayor when the SARS epidemic nailed our tourism doors shut and during the North American east-coast blackout.

rob-ford2
Now we’re dealing with a rampaging intoxicated bull that allegedly ingests all manner of illicit substances and women’s private parts on his own time/dime and then heads to work to make decisions on City policy. He’s apparently saved us millions as taxpayers by not spending us out of our various crises – a negative that can’t be proven. He’s now cost us our dignity as citizens.

rob-ford3
The international media has put Ford’s visage and Toronto’s on the map simultaneously. It’s an unwanted beacon of notoriety. Though, the tourist trade might just rebound from people wanting to get their pictures taken at the sites of Mayor Rob Ford‘s various adventures: the parking lot where he took paper bags of drugs from a consort, the tree where he urinated after the handoff, the sidewalk where a woman allegedly threw a glass of a disputed substance at him, the foyer where a cameraman smacked him in the head with a TV camera, the Pride Parade Route where he refused to appear, the Santa Clause Parade Route where he was barred from participating , and of course, his home in Etobicoke where ‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’  punked him and a Toronto Star reporter peeped at him over a backyard fence.

And the highlight of the tour – staggering in the drunken footsteps along Danforth Avenue following the path of righteousness of His Worship during the ‘Taste of the Danforth’ Festival. You’ll be able to see it all in a brand new automobile called The Ford Fiasco TM. [Prostitute, crack cocaine, breathalyzer and 24 of vodka not included].

leafs
I am embarrassed to be a Torontonian today. And it takes a lot to humiliate me more than the true losers of our town, The Toronto Maple Leafs, ever have. We’re so much better than what the world is now seeing on the Ford Follies Insta-Cam every night on the 6 and 11PM news cycles.

We’ve got a world-renowned theatre culture driven by the visionary patron saints of the city, The Mirvish’s, a film festival (TIFF) rivaled only by Cannes and Sundance, Caribana, the Pride ripleys-aquariumFestival, the Jazz Festival, three major league sports franchises (in various states of winning/losing), phenomenal restaurants, high-end fashion and shopping districts, hotels, museums, a brand spanking new Aquarium courtesy of Ripley’s, a space needle that kicks the crap out of Seattle’s called the CN Tower, and one of the greatest music scenes in the world – intertwined around College, Spadina and Queen Streets respectively and highlighted by the annual Canada Music Week and NXNE festivals.

johnny-rocketsOn any given night you can walk from Union Station to Bloor Street along Yonge Street and see a musical at the Panasonic or Ed Mirvish Theatres, shop at the Eaton’s Centre, stop at the Hard Rock Café (where you can see Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ frock and baby booties), catch a concert at Massey Hall or Dundas Square, and eat at any number of restaurants – my kids love the 1950s throwback diner Johnny Rocket’s.

 

The rest of Canada hates us because we think we’re the centre of the universe. Right now, we are…and I don’t blame them for laughing at us. We deserve this mayor. He represents our gardiner-exresswayapathy, our greed and our hubris. It’s too soon to tell if we’ll be humbled by this. The mayor may not smarten up but we better – and vote in someone with moxy, savvy, and smarts enough to rebuild not only our aging infrastructure (we have a highway on the lakefront that is about to collapse) but our reputation on the world stage.

For purely nostalgic reasons or not, I long for the Toronto I was raised in. It worked – for good and bad; I could do without the homophobia that was latent in the 1960s and 1970s, f’rinstance, and the rampant erasure of our architectural heritage. But I don’t have rose-coloured glasses. I can see we are not that city anymore. And we won’t get fooled again. We promise.

toronto1960s
I highly recommend the Vintage Toronto page on Facebook for those interested in the Toronto of old. It’s an ongoing visual history of what has changed in our great city dating back to the 1800s. https://www.facebook.com/VintageToronto

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON – BOOT THE MAYOR, SAVE A CITY”

  1. Excellent comments Jaime!

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