Tag-Archive for » Toronto «


X’mas Parade (I’m Rob F**King Ford), originally uploaded by PeacefulHeart.

It’s all but certain that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is going to spend the next three years tripping over landmines laid down by his own hyperbole, clumsiness and lack of forethought.  His Worship has done rather a lot to erode the goodwill of his supporters and, according to the Toronto Star, is now alienating the swing voters [1,2] on City Council.

I understand the Star‘s distaste for the current mayor; following his first term as mayor of the amalgamated city, I had an overwhelmingly negative view of Mel Lastman (and what I judged to be his appalling lack of vision and competence).  In the 2000 municipal election, I voted for one of Mel’s opponents; the tranny rather than the troubled hippie, mainly because I judged the hippie to be an unserious fringe candidate—and if one is going to vote for an unserious fringe candidate, that person should at least be entertaining.

As I said, I understand there will be opposition; what is less easy to understand is the Star‘s analysis.  Writing for Openfile.ca, John Michael McGrath looks at the newspaper’s methodology and finds it wanting:

If we go to the Ford Council Scorecard (an always-useful resource for council-watchers), we see just how broad a group these [eight swing-vote] councillors are. Moeser has voted with Rob Ford more than 80 per cent of the time, while Bailão (Ward 18, Davenport) has voted with the mayor only 30 per cent of the time. That’s a huge range, which makes the idea of a “swing” bloc questionable.

— McGrath, John Michael.  “Ford losing the swing votes on council, but what’s a swing vote anyway?”  Openfile.ca, 21 December 2011.

McGrath posits that the swing councillors are more properly those whose votes accord with the mayor around 40-60% of the time, rather than the 30-80% range the Star uses.  In which case there are just three swing voters—not the Star’s eight—on a council of forty-four.

It’s a short piece, but well worth the read.

Category: Media  Tags: , ,  Comments off

Slow learners

Toronto mayoral candidates appeared at a debate focused on faith issues on Monday, May 10, 2010. (CTV News)

Some people can watch an event unfold before them and fail to comprehend its import. But to see an event unfold several times, have it explained to you by the municipal affairs columnist for the city’s largest-circulation daily, and still fail to grasp the essentials—that level of obtuseness can only be found in politics and political punditry.

Here, for example, is the Toronto Star‘s Royson James explaining why Rob Ford’s mayoral campaign continues to gain traction:

They call him names. They mock him. They tell anyone with a microphone and a pen that the rambunctious councillor is a buffoon with foot-in-mouth disease, a one-trick pony incapable of competing in the sophisticated world Toronto must navigate.

As if the voters don’t know this already. Ford’s been a councillor for 10 years. His file of verbal indiscretions is thick and well worn.

In fact, with every effort like George Smitherrman’s launch of the FordonFord.com website, intended to showcase the celebrated gaffes of the councillor from Etobicoke North, Ford gains in popularity.

The Toronto electorate, circa 2010, is not looking for a silver-tongued prophet with a vision of an ascendant Toronto. They had one for seven years and are decidedly unhappy with the result. That’s the reality. And any reasonably skilled candidate for mayor, especially an outsider or someone looking to change direction at city hall, should have been able to capitalize on this gift.

— James, Royson. “Despite attacks, Rob Ford’s simple message takes hold.” Toronto Star, 18 August 2010.

It’s not rocket science, in other words. James is giving Smitherman, Rossi et al a freebie here. The voters are indicating that they hear Ford’s message and like it. One can tear down the messenger, but if the competing message isn’t particularly appealing, people aren’t going to get on board with it. Ford’s congenital oafishness isn’t news to the electorate; spending one’s time and money pointing it out, yet again, doesn’t deflect voters who have already decided it doesn’t matter to them.

The truly, epically stupid thing about this mayoral election is that there is no mystery to Ford’s supposedly inexplicable rise. If his prospective opponents were taking notice, Rob Ford’s modus operandi was laid bare four years ago by Eye Weekly writer Edward Keenan.

This, he says, is his favourite part of his job: “I love my constituents. They are second only to my family in my heart.” By that standard, there’s been a lot of loving in his day so far: 8:30am at a roach-infested apartment on Kipling to mediate a landlord-tenant dispute; 9am and 9:30am at two places on Bergamot to deal with more tenant complaints; 10:30am on Golfwood Heights to help a guy whose backyard is being flooded by a city-owned drainage ditch; 11am down the street on View Green to meet a woman upset that the crossing guard has moved down the street from the end of her block. Later, he’ll chat with a man who wants Urdu language books at the local library and meet staff from three different city departments at the home of a man with multiple complaints about the state of his neighbour’s property.

Sometimes Ford can get his constituents’ complaints resolved and sometimes not. Either way, he feels this — not the blustering at city hall — is his job. “I always tell my constituents, ‘Call my office first; I will find the right people,'” he says, “They’re hard-working people, so I try to go to bat for everyone.”

He returns every call to his office personally, often within hours, and usually he’ll make a trip out to see anyone with a complaint, bringing city staffers with him.

…Rob Ford may be a raving lunatic, but he’s a raving lunatic who will come to your home and stand in the rain to ensure you get 15 minutes with the city staffer who can help you. And that, as anyone who’s tried to navigate the city hall bureaucracy will know, is no small thing.

…A deep thinker he is not, and that could be a problem for his opponents. Rob Ford only has two priorities: saving money and serving constituents. Crazy as he appears, those happen to be popular priorities. Besides, he doesn’t need to think; he’s out impressing the voters every day with his actions.

The people who want to beat him might want to start thinking about that.

— Keenan, Edward. “The Rob Ford problem.” Eye Weekly, 27 July 2006.

Rob Ford may be, as James says, a buffoon—but as Keenan makes clear, he is a buffoon that helps the Ordinary Joes in his ward get things done. And that is a legacy that his mayoral opponents may find hard to match, much less beat. It’s something they should have been working on for themselves at least four years ago.

Category: Aut disce aut discede, Current Affairs  Tags: ,  Comments off

World-class means world events

Editor’s Note:  The title of this piece was altered, upon reflection, from its original—”For the whiners”

Toronto’s a big city.  Big cities occasionally host big events and big personalities.  New York manages to have UN General Assembly meetings all the time and host world leaders without the city descending into chaos.  This is our first time, but more will come; this is what happens when you reach a certain level of wealth and renown.

If one doesn’t wish to be interrupted by the visit of world leaders, one might consider living in a smaller urban centre; i.e. the suburbs.  To live in large urban metropolis and complain that big-city events happen there is to miss the point on a cosmic scale.

For the wags suggesting web conferencing as way around these physical meetings, let’s think about this for a moment.  The physical meetings permit off-the-record discussions amongst many leaders and their advisors.  Web conferencing by definition will leave a record, and leave it in many places all across the globe in various ISPs and networks.  How many world leaders are going to candidly suggest something if any random sysadmin jackass from a foreign country can excerpt their traffic and dump it in his country’s media?

Most of us have experience with ordinary civil web conferences; which go over the civil internet and have some not-very-elaborate security measures.  Nobody much cares what the marketing department of MiniWidgetCo in Podunkville, YourCountry is up to, after all, which is why hackers never interrupt the tedium of your average office’s web conference.  But an awful lot of people might be willing to get their mitts on the thus far off-the-record remarks of world leaders candidly discussing major issues.  So right away you know that this notional G20 web conferencing is not going to travel over the ordinary (and easily degradable) civil internet.  It will go over a separate secure link, like the videoconferences that US unified combatant commanders have with the White House.  And that traffic, my friends, goes over SATCOM.

So what would a secure SATCOM connection that can provide live audio-video feeds to a multitude of spots on the globe end up costing?  Fortunately we have some idea because the US Dept. of Defense has built just such a system; it’s called Wideband Global SATCOM (formerly Wideband Gapfiller Satellite) and its program cost (including R&D) is estimated to have reached $2 billion for its 3-satellite constellation.  Now we won’t have to re-invent the wheel, so let’s assume we’ll buy three Boeing 702 WGS birds at USD $400 million each; or 1.2 billion just for the hardware.  Keep in mind you’ll have to replace this hardware every few years as it fails or runs out of gas (manoeuvring to avoid debris, solar storms, and so on).

Then we’ll have to get these WGS birds into space somehow—why not use the Delta IV launcher that USAF uses to put its WGS birds on orbit?  Each launcher costs between USD $140-170 million, and we’ll need three—so that’s $420-510 million.

Now you’ll need a place to launch it from.  Oh, your country doesn’t have a launch facility?  Well, it costs USAF $400 million annually to maintain Vandenburg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 6.  You could build one of your own for several times that, or maybe just chip in on the rent.

Now, does your country have a facility to track and monitor orbital assets?  No?  DND’s Joint Space Project (a contributor to the United States Space Surveillance Network) used to have a budget of CDN $1.2 billion to monitor Canadian space assets and preserve our space situational awareness.  That budget has fallen in recent times to $625 million, but it’s still a big chunk of change.

And we have not even begun to examine the program costs of building ground stations to handle this secure SATCOM traffic, plus retrofitting various governmental buildings, facilities and residences with the ability to handle it.  Nor have we introduced the salary and entitlement costs of all the personnel required to work on, maintain and secure these programs, their hardware and their facilities.

When you think about all of that, $1 billion for an event we likely won’t host for another decade is not too big a deal.  And certainly not untoward for a city that constantly likes to assert it is “world-class”.  World-class means world leaders come to visit every once in a while; deal with it.

Category: What Really Grinds My Gears  Tags: , ,  Comments off

G20 Festivities

To Serve & Protect, originally uploaded by jen takes pictures.

Like many, I was a little bit cheesed off about the secretive way in which the provincial government expanded police search and detain powers prior to the G20 summit.  But now I am wondering why they didn’t also throw in a few billion bucks for a secret law enforcement project, like a platoon of ED-209s or a Blue Thunder prototype.  Something that might actually be useful downtown right about now.

Category: Culpae Poenae Par Esto  Tags: , ,  Comments off