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Toronto election – more of the same

By: 
John Bell

October 23, 2018

In an election marred by the manipulations of the Ford provincial government, cutting the number of wards almost in half, voters turned out in small numbers. The results – incumbent John Tory was easily returned as mayor.

His leading opponent, Jennifer Keesmaat tried to position herself as the left standard-bearer, but never galvanized support. Her positions, like fighting a housing crisis with policies like rent-to-own housing, made no sense to voters. Her definition of “affordable” housing as 80 % of market rent, where market rent for a 1 bedroom is topping $2,000 monthly, was too anemic. And tearing down the crumbling Gardner expressway might be a good idea, but it hardly tapped into voters’ major concerns.

Disturbingly, neo-Nazi Faith Goldy came third, with more than 25,000 votes, about 3.4 %. Her campaign was given a boost by the openly racist Toronto Sun, and tacit support from Toronto Police, some of whom posed with her for pictures. Some of those votes might just be protest votes, but her campaign was explicitly anti-immigrant, and especially Islamophobic. The result will give more confidence to far-right organizing, and make life more dangerous for Muslims, Jews and people of colour.

One bright spot was the strong campaign of human rights lawyer Saron Gebresellassi, who impressed in debates with strong positions for affordable transit and housing. She also challenged the ideas that addressing crime means more money for policing – in fact she proposed financing public services by taking money away from the massive police budget. Knowing she had no chance to win, she declared she was in the race to give voice to young women of colour. Despite the fact that most “left” votes went to Keesmaat, Gebresellassi garnered almost 15,000 votes (2.01 %).

Council

Despite the chaos created by Ford’s meddling, the election resulted in status quo on council. The expanded downtown wards brought back left-of-centre incumbents Joe Cressy, Mike Layton, Gord Perks, Kristyn Wong-Tam and Paula Fletcher. And the suburban wards brought back right-wingers like Michael Thompson, Mike Ford and Mark Grimes. If Doug Ford’s cut of wards was meant to destroy the left, it failed. The makeup of council is much the same as the outgoing one, on a smaller scale.

Some defeats were welcome. Racist scumbag Georgio Mammoliti ran as “Doug Ford’s Choice,” and was turfed after a campaign that has to be described as thinly-veiled fascism. Tiresome crank Norm Kelly is gone.

Long time left councillor Joe Mihevc lost to centrist Josh Matlow. Why Mihevc prominently featured an endorsement from John Tory is the question; Matlow’s vocal sparring with Tory over subway overspending was probably the secret to his success.

GTA Votes

In Brampton, the improbable return of Patrick Brown saw the recently-disgraced Tory leader defeat incumbent mayor Linda Jeffry. Jeffry had been a strong defender of the Muslim community when it came under attack from bigots, but no doubt lost because she had been in a losing fight with the provincial Tories over transit funding.

These elections were marred by open campaigning by Nazis. In Mississauga, white-supremacist Islamophobe Kevin Johnston came second, with 13.6 % of the vote. But in Hamilton, despite numerous articles in The Spectator giving him a platform, long-time Nazi Paul Fromm got only 552 votes.

This warning on the right underlines the need for a bold left alternative to the failed policies of Tory. That alternative was largely not on offer in this municipal election. But the successful campaign by Vancouver’s COPE platform (which elected city councillor Jean Swanson on a bold campaign for housing) shows that such an alternative can inspire and mobilize grassroots movements and deliver electoral success.

 

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