Month: August 2010

Oddmanic Exclusive: Ford Under Investigation for Sign Violations

Mayoral front-runner accused of skirting election regulations

By: James Di Fiore

The Rob Ford mayoral campaign may be facing some hefty fines after a formal complaint with City Hall saying he violated Toronto election bi-laws when he ambushed the backdrop of Breakfast Television on March 25th. Ford may be facing thousands of dollars in fines for using the signs before candidates are permitted – October 4th, 2010. This is in violation of Municipal Code, Chapter 693-9 under the Subsection entitled ‘Timing’. The Ford campaign is currently under investigation in the matter.

The video shows Ford and his supporters disrupting a live broadcast of Breakfast Television, a popular local morning show, when he and dozens of his supporters marched through the background of Dundas Square in downtown Toronto. When spotted, co-host Kevin Frankish remarked, “Here’s Rob Ford trying for his cheap plug in the background right now..”

If Ford is found guilty of violating the Municipal bi-law, he could face a $205 fine for each sign carried by his supporters, and possibly an additional $205 for every sign deemed to be higher than 2.5 meters off the ground. The video depicts between 50-70 elections signs reading “Ford for Mayor.” A decision is expected by the end of next week.

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Ignoring the youth vote

From the Toronto Sun:

Politicians don’t speak to city’s twenty-somethings

By: Rachel Sa

Mention the municipal election in a room full of twenty-somethings and you’ll hear a chorus of crickets chirping. You may even see a tumbleweed drift by.

The youth vote is notoriously difficult to mobilize. My peers vote in appallingly low numbers. But is youth an excuse?

At 29, I have every reason to be engaged in this election. Like my friends and neighbours, I live in this city, pay taxes, ride the TTC and access services.

So why do my eyes glaze over whenever one of our leading candidates appears? Moreover, why do so many of my peers feel the same way?

Enter 34-year-old James Di Fiore. He’s a senior copywriter and freelance journalist — and he’s running for mayor.

You probably haven’t heard of him. He is one of the 34 candidates vying for the city’s top job, and one of the so-called fringe candidates who remain largely off the public radar as the frontrunners jostle for the spotlight.

Di Fiore caught my attention with his campaign goal: To break through the apathy of young voters. No small feat.

He notes that, in the last election, just one in five voters younger than 40 cast a ballot. Pathetic.

“I don’t think young people have ownership when it comes to apathy” he says. “In fact, it’s the older generations who are apathetic when it comes to reaching out to youth.”

Di Fiore believes one major answer to why the under-40 set remain unengaged is simple: The candidates aren’t talking to us.

“The general consensus is that politicians don’t want the youth to vote. If they did, they would talk to us. If they did, then guys like Rob Ford would be campaigning at keg parties and Rocco Rossi would show up to DJ an event in the entertainment district,” Di Fiori says. “Instead of getting to know us, they’re using tactics that were around when Alf was still on TV.”

Funny, but is it a cop out? After all, this is municipal politics. How sexy can it get? And when you’re not a teenager anymore, isn’t it time to pay attention to some of the “grown up” issues like taxes, development and transit?

Di Fiore believes that engaging youth doesn’t have to be about catering to youth-specific issues, but about how candidates reach out.

“Even the community organizations that try to engage us, they mean well, but they come off sounding like after-school specials.”

The front-running candidates are like Walkmans, he says. Our generation wants the iPod touch.

So, then, is it just about how we package the issues and ideas? I like to think we young’uns aren’t so shallow.

“It goes deeper than wanting new packaging,” Di Fiore says. “We, the youth, are the stewards of technology and innovation — we’re the generation born with the Nintendo in our hands. We have a more heightened awareness of issues like the environment. So we’re creating the ideas and pushing things forward, then we’re not given a seat at the political table.”

It’s that innovation and forward thinking that Di Fiore believes young potential voters crave and are not getting from the frontrunners.

“We can’t keep looking to 20th century solutions for 21st century problems …” Di Fiore pauses. “Oh, man, that really made me sound like a politician, didn’t it?”

It did. But that’s okay.

Di Fiore is realistic about his chances of winning: None. But a win is not his ultimate goal.

“I want to be a catalyst,” he says. “I want young people to vote. If they cast a ballot and it’s not for me, then the greater good was served.”

But the only way to get the politicians speaking to us is to let them know we’re here — and we’re listening.

Toronto Election 2010 – None of the Above

By: James Di Fiore

It has been a strange municipal campaign so far in the process to decide Toronto’s newest mayor. We have seen marijuana charges, a freezing out of Canada’s largest newspaper, Sarah Palin comparisons and charges of racism – and that’s just one candidate.

On paper, you might think this has been a nail-biter; an election with such excitement that the city will be holding its collective breath until October 25th. In reality, the city is asleep.

Here is a quick breakdown of each ‘viable’ candidate in this year’s race for mayor:

Rob Ford – Widely considered the front-runner in most polls, Ford is a slapstick version of former Toronto Mayor, Mel Lastman. I know, crazy eh? Ford’s campaign follies are punctuated by his inexplicable popularity among older folks. His one-trick-pony message of lower taxes and lower spending has resonated among small picture conservatives, but his mouth won’t let him get the kind of lead he needs to prevail. This Chris Farley meets Rush Limbaugh politician can’t afford any more screw-ups, even though the field of other so-called front runners are too impotent to capitalize on his mistakes.

George Smitherman – Dubbed The Invisible Man by this blogger/candidate, Smitherman is either getting a raw deal by the media or just hasn’t been savvy enough to make any real headway. The former Deputy Premier hasn’t quite shaken off the eHealth scandal that cost tax payers over 1 billion dollars, and his lack of bite in the campaign is a surprise to most pundits. He took a lot of flack about his temper before the race began, so perhaps he has been advised to keep it in check. However, since Ford has been able to gain a lead through snide remarks and an unrelenting arrogance, methinks the time has come for ‘Furious George‘ to be let out of his cage.

Rocco Rossi – He might be the nation’s most disingenuous politician. Every time Rossi takes the podium the natural reaction is to dry heave or throw something…hard. His over-rehearsed style and repetitive messaging is more than nauseating, it is simply not working. He has accredited an Einstein quote to his father, habitually speaks to voters like they are pre-schoolers, and even tried to bait Ford on-camera after a rally at City Hall. Rossi used an opener about his parents being immigrants before shouting questions like “Why are you running away Rob?” in that phony, uncompelling voice of his. He is a perfect case study of why lifelong strategists should take a page out of Warren Kinsella’s handbook and never, EVER run for office.

Sarah Thomson – The lone female candidate in this year’s race, Thomson redefines the term ‘shell candidate’. Her self proclaimed image is that of a fiscal conservative who also happens to be hip with environmental issues, but dig deeper and you find a woman whose business experience is exaggerated and whose political leanings are akin to the Tea Party south of the border. Thomson has a Clintonian way of explaining how she is the co-owner of a neo-libertarian web site whose address is the exact same as her campaign headquarters: “I have nothing to do with it.” Bravo. Unfortunately for her, yet fortunate for Torontonians, her message is delivered in a style that reeks of steadfast memorization and without any natural flair for the issues.

Joe Pantalone – David Miller’s spendthrift sidekick over the past 7 years has had a difficult time connecting with anybody during the campaign. Not to sound politically incorrect (but what do I care?), Pantalone’s accent is sometimes difficult to decipher and is often more front and center than the actual issues. He’s a backdrop personality whose experience works against him, especially now that David Miller is being portrayed as an incompetent lefty who turned Toronto into Flint, Michigan.

The choice for mayor this year has proven to be not just sparse, but embarrassing. The youngest voters (ages 18 to 35) represent over a third of the city’s overall population, yet these candidates spend their days pandering to seniors and hurling insults at each other. Their strategists have clearly advised them to not bother with youthful voters, likely citing apathy as the unconquerable obstacle among the most savviest demographic. They might be right, or they might be blowing an opportunity to tap in to the only group of voters that could help one of them take the keys to City Hall.

Stay tuned for Part 2: The Fringe Candidates coming soon…

Rob Ford our Very Own Rush Limbaugh

By: James Di Fiore

In Canada, many of us pride ourselves on being progressive; a less animated, more civilized version of American politics is usually the standard. Our news contains less sound effects, our politicians have less money and our citizenry are less vocal. In fact, the old adage is that our collective identity is mostly comprised of making sure people know that we are not, in fact, American (place neo-conservative outrage here).

In the 2010 Toronto Mayoral Election, one man appears to be looking south of the border for cues in his quest to take over the mayor’s chair. Councilor Rob Ford is the front-runner, leading a pack of barely-on-the-radar politicians who collectively can’t muscle a formidable challenge to the outspoken, often belligerent Ford. His style of speak now, think later is a testament to the same circus some of us have grown to either love or loathe about our neighbours to the south. In America, politics is a blood sport, with both sides of the aisle choosing a methodology of over-the-top mudslinging and verbal attacks comparable to Bronx-style hip hop battles between two rival crews. And while the punchlines flung in politics are without the cadence and rhyme schemes prevalent in hip hop, effects from the verbal barbs can be just as damaging.

Ford’s pattern of dishonesty reminds this blogger of one of America’s most polarizing, controversial figures – radio broadcasting legend Rush Limbaugh. Aside from the mutual-yet-differentiating situations with Oxycontin, Ford and Limbaugh share an over-the-top, loudmouth style where the spectacle often outshines the practical. They speak to their bases in an unapologetic, unforgiving tone, usually railing against progressives and liberals in a venomous verbal assault that receives coverage for their entertainment value. Missing from their rants, and this is the crux of the problem, is factual evidence to prop up the conjecture. Simply put, they just sort of say stuff and believe context is flexible.

Ford is Toronto’s best improvisational politician – not because he possesses a brilliant mind or untouchable style – but because he never looks back after flubbing a line in the public arena. His reactionary pattern of freestlying responses when under the gun is legendary, often ending with an admission that his off-the-dome answer was not an honest one. His list of foibles and fuck-ups is a vast sea of buffoonery unparalleled in Toronto…maybe even Canada. He once offered to score Oxycontin off the street for a man who said he needed the drug to help him cope with an illness. When confronted about the situation, Ford claimed he only said it to get a stalker off the phone.

When asked about his now-famous, alcohol-laced rant at a Maple Leafs hockey game where he stated the following – “Do you want your little wife to go over to Iran to get raped and shot?” – Mr. Ford said he wasn’t at the game to begin with.

When asked about an arrest in Florida in 1999 for pot possession, Mr. Ford denied it ever happened.

In every ordeal, Ford has backpedalled, grudgingly restating his answers after his dishonesty has been uncovered. His saving grace is his loyal following who appear to not care about putting a blatantly dishonest politician in office. Toronto’s national reputation for being the most Americanized city used to be dismissed by Torontonians, but Ford supporters continue to push the city into a ’51st state’ setting where voters are eager to eat bumper sticker statements and ignore the blatant shortcomings of the politicians who represent them.

If Ford was your new neighbour and someone had sent you his track record when dealing with co-workers, hockey fans, Italians, Chinese people, women, homeless people, reporters and his very own spouse, you wouldn’t let him anywhere near your child.

But apparently, letting him into the mayor’s office is just peachy, leaving just one question: Where is KRS-ONE when you need him?

Pot Bust Exposes Ford’s Dishonest Side

By: James Di Fiore

From the Toronto Sun:

“He put the incident so far behind him, he said he was caught off guard and adamantly denied having been charged when first approached by the Sun.

“No to answer your question,” Ford said.

“I’m dead serious. When I say no, I mean never. No question, Now I’m getting offended. No means no.”

And just like that, for the first time in the Toronto Mayoral Campaign, Rob Ford is caught red handed telling a bold-faced lie.

According to The Toronto Sun, Ford was busted for marijuana possession in Florida in 1999. Now, for most Torontonians, pot is not a big deal; but Ford doesn’t represent most Torontonians. His base – a mostly older, mostly conservative, mostly suburban crowd – are not the most progressive bunch. They likely still see pot as being akin to cocaine or ecstasy, so Ford initially reacted by claiming the story was bullshit. When pressed further, Ford backpeddled.

“I completely forgot about it until you mentioned it right now,” he said.

“You think I’m BSing you but I’m not. It completely, totally slipped my mind.”

Uh huh…right. For a candidate who has built a reputation of being a straight-shooter; an honest, grass roots politician in a sea of corruptness, this will not bode well for the 10 year councilor. His apparent memory lapse is great fodder for the long term memory effects on pot users, but any voter with half a brain can see that Ford was desperate and told a lie hoping it would all blow over. He was caught off guard and made a split second decision, one that has cost him some credibility.

However, as we have just seen with the immigration comments Ford uttered at the last mayoral debate, his opponents do not seem to have the political scruples to take advantage of the gaffes supplied by the front-runner. Rocco Rossi, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone have allowed Ford to turn this election into a cakewalk, unable to score any political points and allowing Ford to coast on his undying message of lower taxes and decreased spending. While Ford will try and spin this into a simple case of admitting his arrest while ignoring his initial dishonesty, the other main candidates will desperately try to portray Ford as a man who is showing us his true colours. But, as we have already seen, none of them have the ability to sell it.

This is the main storyline of the 2010 election in Toronto: One guy speaks like your average Joe and leaves himself open for attack, and the rest of them can’t shoot straight. While Torontonians crave a discussion about actual issues and accountability, this election keeps feeding us distractions and follies. Hell, even the scandals are boring. It would be nice to have a race where opponents were formidable enough and authentic enough to give us a show when opportunity arises, but sadly this is just not the case.

If only Sarah Thomson’s real name was Mary Jane. Stay tuned…

Ford’s Remarks Still Won’t Rally Rossi Campaign

By: James Di Fiore

For a seasoned politician this should have been easy.

After Rob Ford pontificated about immigration during the last Toronto Mayoral Debate, a senseless comment meant to rally his base of suburbanites, you would have thought Rocco Rossi was finally ready to create some political capital. Unfortunately for Rossi, nobody seemed to notice. At least not in person anyway.

With the #voteTO feed on Twitter alive with comments regarding Ford’s controversial statement, Rossi announced he would be holding a downtown rally to counter the notion that City Hall somehow determines immigration policy. Easy peasy. But, as has been the case since Rossi began his mayoral run, his lack of intrigue once again took center stage.

Rossi is just not very engaging. His delivery seems over-rehearsed, a painful-to-watch spectacle unmatched by every other candidate. Well, we’ll give Sarah Thomson a close second. The lone female candidate appeared as Rossi’s surprising co-star, awkwardly taking the podium (adorned with a ‘Vote Rossi’ place card) and once again stating her 25 years of business experience in an all-too-predictable-yet-thankfully brief statement. Note: Up until this point in the campaign, Thomson has said over and over again that she has “24 years of business experience.” So, either this campaign has been going on for a lot longer than we thought, or Thomson has some basic math issues.

It could have, no, should have been a watershed moment in a race that has many voters discouraged at the lack of clear vision displayed by each and every  candidate. George Smitherman, who doesn’t seem to even want to run anymore, is nowhere to be found, plummeting in the polls and in overall public opinion. Meanwhile, Rossi’s campaign team seems stuck with a polywonk candidate who looks like he should have remained a wizard behind the curtain rather than a serious contender running for office.

Rob Ford is a lucky politician. His outspoken demeanor means he also tends to misspeak, usually a critical error in campaigns of this magnitude. But this time he is up against the gang that can’t hit back, or hit at all for that matter. The lack of credibility, nuance, style and rebuttal is palatable, and each candidate has their own customized method of completely failing to run a solid campaign. Even Mel Lastman would have taken the portly front-runner to task, a sad and ironic reality given the similarities between him and Mr. Ford.

If it continues like this, Toronto will be waking up on October 25th ready to push a Ford all the way to City Hall, and Rossi, Thomson and Smitherman might as well be directing traffic.

Ford’s Immigration Comments Seduce the Uninformed

By James Di Fiore

From the Toronto Star:

“Ford said that if Smitherman cared about Jewish Torontonians, he wouldn’t have supported new public housing in Lawrence Heights. Ford said some 5,000 Jewish residents from that neighbourhood had written him letters opposing the development.

It is statements like this one that make some people bristle at the thought of Rob Ford becoming mayor. Arguably, Ford is the most straight-talking candidate in the field, and unfortunately his honesty comes with a harsh reality – Ford doesn’t seem to mind the primitive, tribal-centric views of some of the people in this city. In fact, he relishes it.

During last night’s debate, Ford made the mind boggling assumption that immigration could be shut off for a while until Toronto’s fiscal realities were dealt with.

““We can’t even take care of our own 2.5 million,” he said. “We should take care of the people we have now before bringing in more.”

These kind of bumper sticker statements resonate with some voters. Curiously, Ford neglected to mention that this position was impossible to execute, preferring to get a smattering of applause than to actually explain how he would stop immigration. This tactic, perfected by Tea Party folks in the States, works to seduce the electorate into thinking in Utopian terms rather than realistic policy goals.

Ford’s ability to pander to a mostly white, mostly suburban audience means he is likely losing the battle to attract a more urban, multi-cultural voter in this election. The lack of depth demonstrated in his opinions on immigration can work however, feeding a segment of the electorate unconcerned with legislative realities that make it impossible for Ford to follow through on shielding Toronto from accepting possible refugees like the Tamils who arrived in British Columbia last week.

Unfortunately, Torontonians who want to be properly informed have to rely on the ineffective rebuttals by George Smitherman, Rocco Rossi and Joe Pantalone, all of whom fall short of engaging voters or properly chastising Ford for living in a dream world where the mayor’s office is actually an arm of the federal immigration department. Sarah Thomson, the candidate proven to lean farthest to the right, has become so irrelevant that most voters have tuned her out, leaving Ford the only choice for staunch conservatives in the city.

And while all candidates continue to pander to seniors and baby-boomers, once again the under 40 voter is left out in the cold. Their lack of interest in this election and overall apathy to all things political enables Ford and his team to rally ahead. Just what they are rallying towards remains to be seen.

Sarah Thomson – The Palin Discoveries

A few months ago I answered an online ad from a web site seeking a new editor. I sent them my blog which contained more than a few posts about embattled then-Mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone’s sex scandal and the Toronto Transit Labour Leader Bob Kinnear’s arrogance towards Torontonians. I was called in for an interview a few days later.

The web site was http://www.libertaspost.com, a stringent, right-wing site claiming to be a place for all things Libertarian. It also claims to be a representation of all political voices, but take a look at the blogroll and a certain air of neo-con comes wafting through the screen. The office is located at 3 Church Street, Suite #300. It is the same office as the Women’s Post, the all-women magazine owned by Toronto Mayoral candidate, Sarah Thomson.

Normally, this kind of thing would not be newsworthy in a Toronto mayoral election. After all, Thomson has no chance of winning as the three front runners are digging in and consistently lead the pack of 35 candidates. Rob Ford, George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi are doing battle while Thomson struggles to get air time. While she is relatively unknown, she has lofty environmental policies that seem to dwarf the ideas of every other candidate combined. Her positions on the environment are so impressive, they are almost unbelievable. Yep, go with that last thought.

Her web site might be the most right-wing online presence in Canada today. That’s fine on the surface as all political leanings should be unfettered when it comes to free speech, but Thomson has been engaging in a clear strategy – target the left-leaning environmentalists while keeping her ultra-libertarian roots a secret.

For example: Thomson’s web site, after a simple search, is in love with another Sarah south (northwest) of the border. Yes, Sarah Palin is from the same political ilk as Ms. Thomson. They are part of a new breed of right-wing politician – cozy up to the folks that will get you elected, but do it dishonestly.

You won’t find Thomson’s links to Libertas Post on her campaign web site. I tried calling them but the campaign did not want to comment. For a candidate to present herself as a viable, all things for all people candidate, it is beyond dishonest that Thomson be allowed to hide her true leanings in plain site, especially when her campaign strategy was to target the very crowd that would likely despise her the most.

And while she didn’t have a strong chance at winning the election, she should now withdraw her candidacy. If she had conducted an honest campaign from the get-go none of this would matter, and she might have been a more formidable candidate. But, to shield voters from her true identy, Thomson shows herself as a politician who can’t be trusted with the keys to City Hall.

If Wyclef Were President

Haiti is a place where the rule of law is consistently trumped by the rule of foreign economic influence. Even former President Bill Clinton, when pressed to talk about some of his regrets during his time in office, named Haiti policy as his number one regret.

“It was a mistake … I was a party to … I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did – nobody else,” Clinton said to the US Foreign Relations Committee back in April.

While there is nothing too surprising about a former world leader taking some responsibility when it is far too late (still waiting on Bush Jr. to own up for some of his colossal blunders), it would be nice if a leader would take responsibility while still in power. Or better yet, not create detrimental policy to begin with.

So when Wyclef announced his intention to run as President of his native country, many began to question his qualifications as a world leader. His charity’s financial irregularities became the rebuttal to his political aspirations, and this might be the most valuable timing since Laryn Hill’s verse on ‘How Many Mics.’

“If you make a mistake you have to admit that it’s a mistake. The taxes weren’t filed on time, so what do I do? I said, find me the best accountant because this foundation is going to the next level. So we brought in RSM McGladrey, and now everything is being filed on time.” Jean gets to answer for his mistakes before the election, rather than pontificating on them after he leaves office, provided he wins of course.

And if Arnold Schwarzeneggar can be a governor and Al Franken can be a senator, there is no reason why a hip hop icon can’t be President.

If Wyclef was President…..who knows? Is he a socialist? In Haiti, hopefully. The last thing that country needs is a capitalist who panders to the whim of foreign powers. (cue the right wing scoffing).

Let’s hope his track “If I Was President” isn’t prophetic.