by Barry Weisleder
Voter turnout in the Toronto municipal election on October 22 was an abysmal 41 per cent, nearly 20 per cent lower than four years earlier. A big factor was gross interference, in campaign mid-stream, by the Conservative Doug Ford Ontario government. It reduced the number of seats on Toronto City Council from 47 to 25. Many voters, confused by changed ward boundaries, and not knowing who were the local candidates, simply stayed away from the polls.
An equally important factor was the political disarray and the lack of inspiration. There was no organized working class alternative to the main candidates backed by the big landlords, property developers and the banks. The labour-based New Democratic Party did not field a slate. Toronto Labour Council and the fake-left Progress Toronto outfit backed an array of so-called progressives – a motley crew of ‘independent’ Liberals and NDPers, headed by the Liberal Jennifer Keesmat who ran for mayor. Not a socialist among them. Falsely they claim credit for knocking off ultra-conservative Giorgio Mammoliti, along with right wingers Christin Carmichael Greb and Frank Di Giorgio. The latter two were beaten by a Liberal and a Conservative respectively. So-called ‘non-partisan’ Libs and Tories have a comfortable majority on council now. Such is Progress, eh?
Keesmat, former city chief planner, was trounced by incumbent mayor, big business-backed John Tory, who is now surrounded by a pro-cutbacks, anti-labour city council. His former arch-foe Doug Ford facilitated this outcome by legislating larger wards and the over-representation of conservative-voting suburbs.
Score Round One for Thug Ford. He bullied his way forward, stood up to court challenges (he even threatened to use a constitutional over-ride clause), and saw through the feeble plaints of the union brass and Liberal elites. Ford set up Toronto for the next big wave of cutbacks and privatization measures. Toronto’s subway system may be the first city asset on the auction block. The sale of individual social housing units, a Keesmat idea that Mayor-elect John Tory admires, could follow.
Disgustingly, white supremacist Faith Goldy came third in the mayoralty race, tallying 3.4 per cent. One of the few bright spots was the fourth-place finish of Seron Gebresellassi, a leftist lawyer of Eritrean heritage who scored 2 per cent. Her call for Free Public Transit redefined the debate. Socialist Action candidate in Ward 1, tenants’ organizer Peter D’Gama, received a small vote. But the SA platform circulated widely across the city. It showed what a socialist vision of the future looks like and it exposed the lie that it is illegal to put a party label on city election signs and literature. What now? Indeed, now is the time to take stock of the failure of liberal reform, class collaboration politics. It’s time to chart a course for a Workers’ Agenda. The fight for a Labour City Hall should be headed by a re-purposed Toronto NDP. Or it should be the creation of a coalition of socialist parties and social justice movements. The Left needs to get ready to take on John Tory and big business control of city hall in 2022 — because conditions of growing inequality, homelessness, pollution, transit grid lock, cop violence and urban decay are sure to get worse.