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October 13, 2010

The Canadian Charger endorses Smitherman for Toronto mayor

The Canadian Charger

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While much of the Toronto media has pretty much anointed councillor Rob Ford as the next Mayor of Toronto, the Canadian Charger interviewed Toronto's Ali Mallah to answer two questions: who it should endorse and why.

“If people of conscience unit and vote strategically, Ford can be beaten,” according to Canada Arab Federation Vice President Ali Mallah. “It's a two-man race, between George Smitherman and Ford. If the union (CUPE) and part of the left switch, Smitherman could be mayor.”

When asked by the Canadian Charger who deserves to be the next Mayor of Toronto, Mr. Mallah initially responded: “None of them,” and added, “The days are gone when we had principled politicians. They're all opportunistic now.”

However, he later softened his tone indicating that there are candidates who would be better for the city than others.

He said Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone certainly has the capability to run the city, but he carries the baggage from outgoing Mayor David Miller's term, and Mr. Pantalone just doesn't have the personality needed to be successful in this race.

“Unfortunately, he has not generated a lot of support to be able to stop Ford.  For whatever reasons, he is doing badly in the polls and in this campaign we need someone who can ignite a lot of buzz and action.”

He added that councillor Joe Mihev (Ward 21) – who initially supported Mr. Pantalone's candidacy - is a caring guy who defends social programs and community issues. Now in an effort to stop the Rob Ford juggernaut, Mr. Mihev is endorsing Mr. Smitherman.

Mr. Mallah trumpeted this strategy because he said, “Rob Ford in no way deserves to be Mayor of Toronto. He has extremist views; he's anti-immigrants; he lacks the courtesy to be leader and he's not a consensus builder.”

Mr. Mallah cited several examples of Mr. Ford's behaviour during his term on council to illustrate what he means.

“He almost got in a fistfight at a hockey game. Then he lied about it and later admitted it ... He's made some rude comments about Italians, Somalis and gays and lesbians.”

Mr. Mallah also feels that Toronto needs a leader who can represent all of Toronto, a city where he says 52% of the voters are not white; and Mr. Ford's extreme right-wing agenda is exclusive, not inclusive.

“He wants to privatize city services such as garbage disposal and he consistently votes against community projects such as parks, swimming pools and after school programs. His agenda is mini - Stephen Harper.”

Indeed, in April, Mr. Ford put forward a motion to reduce funding to the Community Partnership and Investment Program (CPIP) by 10 per cent.

The CPIP distributes funds to 226 community groups, including the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre. It also funds the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club and dozens of seniors’ organizations. The motion failed, but if passed would have carved $4.67 million out of the CPIP budget, not cut funding altogether. Last year, Ford also (unsuccessfully) voted with 15 others to freeze CPIP funding at 2008 levels, cutting $2 million.

In 2009, Ford tabled a motion to not build two new libraries and expand 13. It failed. This year, he moved to cut staff levels at all city agencies, boards and commissions (except the Toronto Police Service) by 1 per cent. The city’s libraries fall under that umbrella. That motion also failed. If it had passed, it would cut $20 million from a wide variety of agencies, not just libraries.

Mr. Mallah notes that even those on the right of the political spectrum are opposed to Mr. Ford. 

Toronto businesswoman and recent Mayoral candidate Sarah Thompson recently dropped out of the race to support Mr. Smitherman, in an effort to prevent Mr. Ford from becoming Mayor. This is all the more surprising considering Ms. Thompson recently received a ringing endorsement from right-wing ideologue Conrad Black – who never seems to miss an opportunity to gush over an attractive woman – in the National Post.

Meanwhile, Mr. Smitherman, a former Ontario Energy Minister in the McGuinty government, known for promoting green energy issues, is promising to create a panel to restore transparent, accountable decision-making at city hall.

Mr. Smitherman's campaign press release says he would ask the panel to make proposals on four areas: restoring local decision-making, considering how Toronto works with the surrounding regions, more transparency in budgeting and better, consistent planning for all parts of the city.

“The amalgamation of Toronto in 1998 made one city; and while that may have created opportunities, it has also created challenges,” Mr. Smitherman said in his press release.

“We need to know how City Hall is spending our money. We need more planning and less off-the-cuff decision-making about development proposals. Planning should mean there is a plan.”

See also:

http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=596

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