toronto star

Open Letter to Jason Kenney

A public appeal to help save the Martinez family from almost certain demise

Mr. Kenney,

I write you today with worry and a heavy heart.

You know the case the headline refers to, so I will not reintroduce you to the particulars of those involved. What I would like to discuss is your deflection to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as if you have no power to help influence the decision to deport this family back to Columbia.

We both know that you are well within your rights, and certainly within your mandate, to protect potential victims from harm’s way if it is determined there is a possibility of violent retribution towards individuals seeking asylum.

Please take a moment and think to yourself what the headlines will say if this family is indeed killed by murderous henchmen from the organization known as FARC. Inevitably, it will fall on your desk and rival parties will no doubt lay blame at your doorstep, and rightfully so.

Your hands are not tied, and there is still time to allow the Canadian embassy in Columbia to send the family back. Be innovative and brave…stand up for these people who are clearly not a mennace to Canadian society. By doing so you may save their lives and becomes a real statesman to boot.

No disrespect, but right now you seem callous and arbitrary. This could change quite easily if you do something to help.


James Di Fiore

Ideologue of the Week – Rondi Adamson

Canadian Ann Coulter wanna-be exemplifies the incorrigible right wing

 By: James Di Fiore

Mostly obscure, staunchly far-right and completely unwilling to break away from dogma, Canadian writer Rondi Adamson is this nation’s version of Ann Coulter, minus the best selling books and television appearances. Her rantings are unwavering and sloppy, as if sloganeering her ideology were enough to keep her fledgling career afloat. She is typical in her undying efforts to brand Canada as subservient to the United States, openly expressing her distaste for the Chretien government’s decision to stay out of Iraq in 2003. Thousands of dead soldiers later, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dead civilians and her view has not changed. While pro-Iraq War personalities like Christopher Hitchens paint a somewhat reasonable case for attacking Iraq, one-dimensional writers like Adamson recite tag lines and stick to Bush Doctrine one-liners as if it were a religion.

After several online conversations with her I have concluded that hidden underneath her gaunt frame is a pull string, allowing her to recite unthoughtful and predictable talking points that could have, and likely were, plagiarized from Ms. Coulter herself. Among the more primitively expressed tid bits from Adamson are her notions that the Sun News Network’s most relevant facet is the attire of their female anchors; that Israel is the world’s greatest democracy (when she is questioned about Israel, she claims that she receives 1000 emails a week, an obvious fib meant to bolster her dwindling popularity), The United States is the best country ever while Canada is to be viewed as Canuckistan; that Liberal Studies are akin to recruiting Maoists and hippies; and finally, that American soldiers who flee to Canada are uniformly dishonest if they claim any wrong-doing whatsoever by the American military. Those miscreants should be deported immediately and tried for treason, according to Adamson.

Unfortunately, this blind ideological stance on everything neo-conservative is not uncommon among Canadian right wingers. Adamson is just a case study. She personifies a political paradox where debate and civil discourse are only relevant when participants are discussing methods of how to enact extreme right wing views. She tries to describe herself as a fiscal-conservative/socially-liberal hybrid, but the only evidence of a socially-liberal bent is her vegetarianism and affinity with animals.

Adamson longs for Canada to become either the 51st state or a carbon copy of its American masters. She believes criticism of Israel is the equivalent to hanging a Hamas flag in your den, and like the Tea Party, she loathes President Obama. She refers to Obama as the Great Windbag (projecting?) and is incapable of rationally discussing any issue brought forth by the president. When conservatives moaned about liberals experiencing Bush Derangement Syndrome, I wonder if they knew they would manifest an accelerated version of the disease as soon as their boy left office. Adamson’s vitriol is so manic, she even expresses rage at the way Obama pronounces the word ‘Pakistan’. Apparently the correct pronunciation is much too Arab for her liking, and she presumably longs for the days when things were simpler, when weapons of mass destruction were ‘nucular’, and when young Canadian men and women in uniform were killed in scores. One wonders if her skeletal frame could even muster the required strength to hold an assault rifle, but her mouth appears just the right size to muzzle the barrel of military generals in scores.

All that and an apparent insatiable appetite for Italian soccer players makes this atheist neo-con (and a crazy cat lady to boot) Canada’s prime example of nutty political extremists. She has blocked me from Facebook after I dared to question Israeli military policies, calling me snide while applauding the violent, profanity laced comments made towards me by FOX News contributor and right-wing conspiracy theorist, Matthew Vadum. Vadum is the genius who stated that community organizing leads to trading crack-cocaine for votes. Here is the message Vadum sent to me after I was blocked by his best gal pal:

You’re a fucking loser. You’re no friend of hers. Leftist piece of shit. Go play in traffic.

But hey, let’s not be too hard on Adamson. She is nice when you agree with everything she believes in or when you talk about feral cats. At any rate, she is Your Daily Oddmanic’s very first Ideologue of the Week. Congratulations Rondi!

The Toronto Election 2010: An Analysis From the Fringe

The 11th hour recap from a guy who won’t be Toronto’s mayor on October 25th

By: James Di Fiore

The night before the election and I did what any fringe candidate would do. I went grocery shopping.

It’s been a crazy ride. Nobody expected me to win, which is probably a solid prediction, but I really can’t complain. I walked to the neighbourhood Metro with a thousand thoughts and flashbacks dancing in my head. I registered in August even though I told everyone I was going to register on January 4th. OK, that was actually pretty funny. But even though I waited so long to register, I was still able to garner a fair amount of press, especially for a fringe candidate.

Several people have told me that I am not qualified to be mayor. They might very well be right, but if you look at what qualifies a person to hold public office, and the general consensus is that most lifer politicians are generally untrustworthy, then I am certain I am different from the cast of characters vying for the top job in 2010. On paper I am a freelance writer and an events producer, but I have never misused public money, I have no criminal record (much to the surprise of anyone who went to high school with me), and I do not have trouble getting along with my professional peers. And since my entire campaign has been directed towards the daunting task of eroding voter apathy among young people, I think my qualifications are sound. I may not win this election, but I am one of many young Torontonians who have made it our mission to shine a spotlight on the one item that defines politics today – young people, the largest demographic in the city, have been left out of the process.

On October 18th, Calgary residents went to the polls in their own mayoral election. Ric McIvor, often compared to Rob Ford, was the right-of-center front runner in all of the polls. Barb Higgins, a former local news anchor, was polling a close second, and a political novice named Naheed Nenshi was a distant third, polling at a paltry 18% just three days before the election.

On September 30th I traveled to Calgary to attend an event and met with McIvor and his campaign manager to talk about the youth vote. I was given a surprising response when I asked what he thought the turnout among young people would be.

“We don’t really try to reach young people. They don’t vote, so why bother?”

Nineteen days later McIvor lost the election to Nenshi who credits the mobilization of young voters as the key ingredient to his victory.

Toronto does not have a Nenshi, and contrary to a sparsely held belief, Joe Pantalone does not resonate with young Toronto voters. Incidentally, Pantalone will still receive a higher percentage than the current polls indicate as there is a movement of anti-strategic voting taking place as you read this. People are growing exhausted at the political construct and the media alike. Toronto is being dictated to by pundits, smarmy journalists, political lifers and their handlers, all caused from a  subliminal consensus that has convinced them of the following: Rob Ford and George Smitherman are the only two politicians who can win this election.

Even the polls are showing a lack of depth as it pertains to critical thinking and execution of facts. EKOS, an otherwise reputable firm, recently admitted to using an automated dialer to conduct a poll that claimed Ford was ahead of Smitherman by 9 points. Of course, these robocalls cannot distinguish between the target receiver of the phone call or a 12 year old child. Additionally, this poll was conducted over a period of 9 days, an eternity in election time when many people change their minds about their choices more than once.

The Toronto Mayoral Election of 2010 is a first of its kind for the people of this city. We are seeing tactics normally reserved for American political races (Rob Ford has also used robocalls to reach thousands of voters) as well as a media who have become cheer leaders for particular candidates not just in their editorials, but in their so-called balanced reporting. So blatant has this year’s biases been that many readers have called for the termination of journalists who have openly endorsed a candidate, not because it hasn’t been done before, but due to the uniformity of opinions in the columns of their colleagues. Like it or not, the media is not only editorializing the election but shaping the outcome. Writers from The Sun took Rob Ford. Star readers think Smitherman is their guy. The National Post also selected Ford, and The Globe and Mail held their nose and took Smitherman. NOW Magazine still doesn’t matter.

And we sit here, looking at suspect poll results, sifting through each newspaper and countless online publications, listening to the incessant sloganeering of each campaign and gasp at how our electoral process devolved into something so blatantly artificial. A glimmer of hope can be found in the 34 candidates who are not projected to make the top three. Fringe candidates, while endlessly marginalized, include a handful of people who have surprised the media and turned more than a few heads in the electorate. What a statement it would be if these candidates collectively stole 25% of the vote. And while I include myself in that figure, the bigger picture is the libertarian idea that the individual still has the ultimate say over how he or she exercises their self given right to vote for whoever they please.

I don’t know how many votes I will receive, and frankly I don’t really care either. During the process of registering, campaigning, encouraging young people to vote, debating the mainstream candidates and writing about this election, I have learned one invaluable lesson: it is much better to be engaged in the political process, however flawed it may be, than to sit idly by and wait for the results determined by the mechanism itself.

On the way out of the grocery store I ran into Olivia Chow who was handing out leaflets for her son, Mike Layton, who is running for council in Chow’s old stomping grounds of Trinity-Spadina. We know each other from when I voted three times in her riding back in the federal election of 2004. I asked how Jack was doing in his cancer battle and wished Mike good luck in the election before sauntering away with my groceries. It was a fitting way to end my engagement in this exhausting political season.

Happy voting, and don’t believe anything you read in the paper today.

A View From the Fringe

A fringe candidate’s experience debating the Toronto Mayoral front-runners

By: James Di Fiore

Who was that guy sitting beside Rob Ford, looking like the Mini Me version of Rocco Rossi? That was me, James Di Fiore, and I was asking myself that same question as the Mayoral Arts Debate commenced.

I arrived at the Art Gallery of Ontario where high brow members of the city’s creative community, representing the crux of cultural validity in Toronto from several arts-related sectors, milled about, sipping wine and fraternizing.

Three representatives walked Joe Pantalone, George Smitherman, Rocco Rossi and myself into an secluded area of the Member’s Lounge to go over the particulars of the debate. Rob Ford was missing, so we waited a couple minutes longer for the front-runner before making our way to the elevator that would take us to the the 450 people waiting for someone to champion their livelihoods, their scenes. When we took our seats in front of the audience Mr. Ford was still nowhere to be found, then finally appeared out of thin air as AGO Director Matthew Teitelbaum was making his opening comments.

Our moderator was Jim Fleck, a last minute replacement for one-time mayoral hopeful John Tory. He was both gracious and consistent in the way he handled the candidates during the evening, and when he introduced me first my butterflies waved their wings, to say the least.

On paper my experience sounds great, but as he introduced the others I noticed a line being drawn between my lack of political experience and their lifelong achievements. So I decided I would not try to fit in, nor emulate these politicians. Being myself was the only option, and one that eventually paid dividends.

Lead with a joke, I told myself. I scanned the two other Italians on stage and let rip what I thought was a decent, self deprecating effort. (I am short…and bald…with glasses)

“As most of you can tell by my appearance, I’m related to both Joe and Rocco,” I managed. Thankfully, the crowd reacted with some laughter and a brief applause. So far, so good.

The debate progressed with candidates vying for crowd approval, civil discoourse be damned. It was during the first real bickering session, this one between Joe, George and Rocco, when I leaned in towards Mr. Ford and quietly asked “Are they always like this?” Mr. Ford smiled, shook his head, leaned towards me and said “All the time…always…this is why nothing ever gets done.”

Listening to the candidates throw barbs at each other is bad enough, but to be in such close proximity to the bickering was eye opening, if not amusing. While I am miles away from Mr. Ford on policy concerns, it was still an honest snapshot of the candidate I had been trashing for months.

As the debate progressed I began to accept that I wasn’t a seasoned spin master (flubbing a question regarding city planning), but I was articulating my views, inexperienced voice and all.

Closing statements…and I felt unprepared. I improvised my way through 60 seconds of dialog, the voice of my girlfriend ringing through my head – “stay on message, stupid”. It worked, and the audience gave me a rousing applause.

I felt pride and relief when it was over. I was unsure if I was well received and heard, or if I was simply viewed as just a token candidate. The graciousness of the crowd made the experience a memorable one, and the up-close-and-personal sides of the main candidates gave me a new respect for the lives they keep. I shook hands with each candidate, except for Mr. Rossi, who gave me a Euro-Italian two cheek kiss in front of the stage. Mr. Rossi won the debate in my mind, outclassing and outperforming his competitors. He has since dropped out of the race after a  poll showed his support was just 4%. Salute, paison.

To my surprise, The Globe and Mail declared me the winner a couple days later. It was a surreal experience, and important to add that the mainstream candidates had participated in over 70 debates up to that point. That’s right, 70. Here I was, a fringe candidate beaming with pride over the one and only debate I appeared in, and doing my best to make the most of it.

I still have no shot at winning the election. Hell, I might not finish in the top ten, but the view from the fringe could be a whole lot worse.

An Open Letter to George Smitherman

Dear Mr. Smitherman,

Toronto is where you have called ‘home’ for your entire life, so it is hardly surprising you would want to become its Mayor. You have been a stalwart pioneer of sorts, becoming the first openly gay politician elected as a Member of Provincial Parliament, and the first openly gay cabinet minister to boot.

Sadly, you have no shot at becoming Toronto’s very first openly gay Mayor.

When this campaign began you were considered the front runner in several polls. As the months ticked by however, your eHealth albatross proved to be the weapon of choice for your opponents, most noticeably Rob Ford. And while you have repeatedly taken responsibility for your role in the 1 billion dollar debacle, as well as rightly pointed out the roles of other politicians who also share the blame, that albatross became much too heavy for any mayoral candidate to carry. It is now ingrained in the public consciousness – Smitherman = 1 billion dollar loss of Ontario taxpayer money. As you know, politics can be cruel, but if you stood outside yourself for a moment and imagined someone else trying to shed that label you would see what the rest of us see (excluding your base of steadfast supporters) – a man with exactly no shot at becoming Mayor of Toronto.

Don’t take it personally. eHealth is your Howard Dean scream, as it were. It is your accidental branding in a game that can change overnight, provided you have an accomplishment that can overshadow the setback. Unfortunately, the campaign is almost over and the time for tangible accomplishments has long expired. You can’t  create policy that will un-brand you, so to speak. You can’t crunch numbers, hold them up and say “See?! See?!?!” in an attempt rightly discredit Rob Ford’s alien math when it comes to budgets and taxes.

So, what to do….what to do…

Drop out of the race. Yes, the time for officially withdrawing has come and gone, but you can still do the right thing. This just wasn’t your year. The words ‘too soon’ might as well be emblazoned on your forehead. That Furious George thing would have actually helped you if eHealth did not exist. Toronto, clearly, has an appetite for a fiery politician, but it just isn’t you. It just isn’t Sarah Thomson, and it certainly isn’t David Miller sidekick, Joe Pantalone. As much as it hurts you to hear this, and despite what the polls may say, the only candidate who stands a chance at defeating Mr. Ford is Rocco Rossi. I know, it’s crazy. He’s polling lower than you, had trouble resonating with voters and has an unsettling smile, but he has been consistently polling as the person voters would select as their second choice, meaning he is the only candidate left who can save this city from becoming Lastman 2.0.

Even when you drop out, it still is a long shot Rossi can pull it off. He will need to scare the shit out of Torontonians, asking them to imagine Mr. Ford at the helm, a lame duck Mayor from day one who can’t build consensus and will be barking his elementary orders from the king’s seat, a picture too disturbing for voters to allow. He will also have to convince your supporters to rally behind him, no small feat given the ideological differences between you two. This, by the way, can also only be successful if Rossi can shrink voter apathy, especially among young voters. If turnout can swell to 50% Mr. Ford will not become Mayor. Bet on it.

Take that love you no doubt have for this city and put it ahead of your political ambitions. You still have time to make your mark. It’s not like this eHealth thing will stick to you forever a la Bob Rae and social contracts. You got time to rebrand yourself. Take that time and help Toronto escape the clutches of Chris Farley…please.

And no, Mr. Rossi did not encourage or suggest I write this letter. In fact, I don’t think he likes me at all after the beating I have given him in my blog. This is just an honest effort to keep a buffoon out of office.


James Di Fiore

Toronto Mayoral Candidate (who knows he can’t win…bummer, I know)

Political Posturing

Candidates gambling through dead ideas and quiet alliances

By: James Di Fiore

Labour Day has always been the unofficial start to what is often referred to as the ‘real campaign’ during municipal elections. Policies dreamt up months earlier are either tossed aside or proudly announced, depending on the mood of the electorate, the poll numbers and the advice from campaign strategists. Politicians roll up their sleeves, taking more risks and hoping those risks pay dividends.

So while it was not surprising to see Rocco Rossi announce that he had an upcoming policy announcement (redundant much?), the peculiar and downright recycled idea of extending the Allen Expressway by tunneling underneath the city from Eglinton to the Gardiner was desperate at best. In short, Rossi’s campaign appears to believe he and George Smitherman are on a path to split the vote, vaulting Rob Ford into the mayor’s chair at City Hall. So instead of creating a vision unique to his campaign, Rossi gambled and is now swimming in political quicksand just 5 weeks away from the election.

Smitherman, whose stagnant campaign has surprised even his most unforgiving critics, has the rare opportunity to position himself as the only realistic opponent to Rob Ford, but his first ad after Rossi’s blunder had a spelling error. You can’t make this shit up. It writes itself in what will one day be regarded as the most farcical election in Toronto’s history…guaranteed.

Meanwhile, Rob Ford continues to pull the string on his back, making the exact same few statements about spending cuts and transparency as he has throughout the campaign. Coincidentally, Ford’s unchanged messaging is mirrored by his poll numbers which have plateaued at around 35%. His supporters, who have been the most vocal of any candidate, were cemented long ago in the outskirts of the city and will likely not increase unless Ford extends an olive branch to the downtown population. Even if Ford does unveil a more inclusive platform, it is unlikely his numbers will grow due to a genuine dislike downtowners seem to have for the frumpy front-runner.

Sarah Thomson is also struggling to increase her support. In fact, the lone female candidate has now taken up her own renditions of Ford’s key talking points in an effort to reach the right-leaning citizenry that have thus far ignored her platform. Thomson, who positioned herself verbally as a social conservative, spent most of the start of her campaign cosying up to Toronto lefties through her environmental initiatives, abandoning her neo-conservative roots in the process. This deliberate attempt to disguise her true colours cost her credibility among informed voters while coming off inauthentic to everyday Torontonians. Her parroting of Ford’s positions on wasteful spending have become so obvious lately that one wonders if she will drop out of the saturated race and throw her support behind the Ford campaign, perhaps securing a spot in his administration should the current numbers hold.

Finally, Joe Pantalone is still in the race. Expect nothing notable from Miller’s concierge between now and October 25th. It would be nice to expand on Joe’s campaign progress, but the tiny City Hall lifer just doesn’t resonate with voters.

In the end, this election will be decided on how the vote is split, and whether or not candidates without a chance of winning will be stubborn enough to stay in the race. Time will tell…

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.

Ford stonewalling City over election signs violations?

Front runner not answering questions from municipal investigators

By: James Di Fiore

Rob Ford, accused of violating Toronto’s comprehensive election sign rules in the 2010 municipal election, has not returned the phone calls of investigators who have questions regarding the candidate’s March 26th rally. During the rally, caught on camera by the popular local show Breakfast Television, dozens of supporters are seen holding elections signs with ‘Ford 4 Mayor’ emblazoned on both sides. Ford, who is not personally holding an election sign, appeared to be navigating through a gray area of municipal by-laws that would actually see his supporters fined if the signs are found to be in violation.

Also unclear is whether or not Ford’s campaign supplied the promotional materials in question, an interesting facet given Mr. Ford’s second career as an owner of a company that manufactures signs and labels. If his business was the supplier, Ford would then be in clear violation of breaking election rules and forced to pay any resulting fines after a thorough investigation. Just one problem – Ford isn’t talking.

According to Stephen Moss, a Municipal Licensing and Standards Officer, Ford’s campaign is not yet cooperating with investigators.

“Our office put in a call but was only able to speak with a manager,” Moss said. “We haven’t received a response to our inquiries.”

Moss added that the statute of limitations for this type of infraction is 6 months, which means the city has just over 3 weeks to get Ford’s camp to answer questions. Moss added that candidates and their campaign staff are not compelled to answer questions from investigators. Moss also stated that Ford’s supporters may also be fined for violating a municipal bi-law that forbids anyone from promoting a candidate by holding or placing signs on their property or in public space.

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.

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.