The Nicer Side of Politics


Candidates should not be judged by the content of their supporters’ characters

By: James Di Fiore


Believe it or not, there is a genuine person behind the candidate you have strong disagreements with. In Toronto’s Mayoral election, a race that has seen no shortage of name calling, controversy and verbal attacks, sometimes politics can be put aside for a few moments of civility.

I have made no apologies for being both a candidate and a pundit in the election. Air-time is elusive for so-called fringe candidates like myself, and driving traffic to my own outspoken opinions of my fellow, more recognizable candidates is not only satisfying, but unique to my campaign. I spare nobody and feel obligated to speak on behalf of young people who are fed up with old-guard politics. That being said, I can certainly see why a few of the main 5 candidates are attractive to voters.

While much of my venom has been playfully spat on perceived front runner Rob Ford, I have also taken a few jabs at Rocco Rossi, whose campaign was sputtering until he announced a new policy platform that would see elected officials recalled if they did not live up to their campaign promises. I actually like the idea and believe it was probably the first act of Warren Kinsella, the Liberal strategist who volunteered his consultation services to help spark Rossi’s poll numbers. Kinsella, who resigned his position as Chair of the federal Liberal War Room in 2009, is one of politics’ more ruthless thinkers. His last two projects involving candidates saw short-term Liberal leader Stephane Dion, and the often discussed struggles of current Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. I tend to wonder if Kinsella’s status as punk rock hobbyist hasn’t deafened his skill as a strategist, but that remains to be seen. It does bring a certain ammunition to Rossi’s campaign that will prove to have little to do with positive politics, however. Just ask the Smitherman campaign.

Two weeks ago I accused Rossi of having a style that felt overly rehearsed. I still believe he has trouble convincing voters he is authentic, typified when he attempted to corner Rob Ford in the days following the now irrelevant comments regarding immigration. After spending time with Rossi at his campaign office last week, I walked away with my first glimpse of the man behind the microphone; he was generous with him time, engaged in the conversation and personable. We still have all the same differing opinions, but this wasn’t about politics. I didn’t see the smarmy guy I was used to seeing on television who came off phony and cringe-worthy. I immediately wanted to speak with Rossi’s media handler, but instead I shook his hand, took a photo and thanked him for his time.

I believe the same would be true if I had one-on-ones with Ford, George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone or Sarah Thomson. There must be an authentic, casual and even affable person underneath all that image work. I met Sarah Thomson once at an environmental function and she was pleasant, but in full shmooze mode. Same with Smitherman. I have not yet met Pantalone and have only exchanged emails with Ford, but there’s still time.

One thing hard to ignore is the unwavering support each of these candidates seem to have in their prospective camps. If you visit their Facebook pages and interact with them as I have, be prepared to taste the wrath of fans who not only believe in their candidate, but who also excuse their actions with as much vigour as they use when slamming the competition. And if it is pure hatred you are looking for, check out the comments section of any major newspaper, where only venom is posted these days.

Personally, I will continue to call out all of the candidates, both due to my natural urge to shine a spotlight on the facets of elections that some journalists and citizens take for granted, and because I am a candidate without the resources and cash of the front-runners.

And while this would not help me decide who to vote for if I wasn’t running – in the end, I’d be happy to sit and have a beer with any of them.

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