by Barry Weisleder | Socialist Action Canada
Among the 102 candidates in the June 26 Toronto mayor by-election, former city councilor and MP Olivia Chow is certainly not the worst. Among the establishment contenders, she appears slightly to the left of Liberals Ana Bailao, Mitzie Hunter and Josh Matlow. But Olivia, who ought to know better, is treating the electorate to a virtual re-run of her failed campaign for mayor in 2014. It is marked by mind-numbing mediocrity and evasion of clear policies needed to address a mega-city in crisis.
Like the legendary Titanic, Toronto is sinking — in waves of neo-liberal neglect. Its residents are choking on wildfire smoke, traffic congestion, and social decay. The working class majority simply cannot afford to settle for leaders who are content to rearrange the deck chairs on the imperiled ship.
Toronto Star columnist, Bob Hepburn, summed it up well in a June 15 piece: “With no one currently closing the gap on her, Chow is conducting a cautious, safe campaign. Her platform is less detailed than her 2014 platform. It touches all the main issues, but is often short on specifics and costing.”
Housing, for example, is a key issue. Chow’s election brochure pledges “historic investments in housing and stronger protections for renters to ensure everyone has a roof over their heads.” Well, when might that materialize? 25,000 rent-controlled homes over 8 years, only 10 per cent of which would be rent-geared-to income, is grossly inadequate. Venezuela built 2.5 million units to house 5 million people in 10 years. Toronto has far more resources. To save thousands who face death on cruel streets, in dark underpasses and ravines, why not seize vacant indoor spaces in condo towers and office buildings (many ¼ empty), and assign them to the house-less? Why not demand that the city conscript the assets of land developers and construction firms and become the major home builder in town? On this front, from Chow, we hear… only crickets.
The police budget is $1.2 billion. They’re armed and dangerous. No, not Sammy Yatim or Regis Korchinski-Paquet, but the cops. Chow thanks Toronto Police for their service, proposes no cuts, and just seeks more funding for health needs. But from where?
How to pay for neglected community services, for the repair of disintegrating urban infrastructure, to revive a transit system in retreat? How to plug the infamous billion-dollar-plus hole in city finances?
Chow says it is impossible to design a budget a year in advance, given fluctuating interest rates and commodity chain inflation. Still a question that can and should be answered promptly is this: Who should pay? The working class or the corporate elite?
Chow forecasts a modest property tax hike. “Don’t worry,” she said during a meeting with the Toronto Star editorial board when pressed on the issue. Most of her opponents pledge to limit any increase to the prevailing rate of inflation. Some, like Hunter and Matlow, insist that more will be needed. But they are all headed in the wrong direction. They want workers to pay more for the crisis that workers did not create.
Small businesses and resident homeowners – those with property assessed at less than $3 million – deserve a tax freeze. Big business, banks, telecoms, giant retailers, and mega landlords do not. It is time to tax the capitalist class steeply. Again, solely the sound of crickets comes from the political establishment.
So-called ‘practical’ people, those who say Olivia is the best of the big shots who can actually win, ought to keep this in mind. It is what every union member knows: workers get nothing without demanding much more. So, the best policy is to vote for what we need, vote for the socialist transformation of society, which is a darned good way to apply pressure on whoever will wear the mayor’s silver chain of office.
Socialists, who promote a political break from the Liberals and Tories, normally give critical support to the labour-based New Democratic Party. But the NDP does not present candidates, openly and accountably, at the municipal level. And Chow is running as an independent – she is not out to break the big business stranglehold on City Hall.
Elections decide relatively little. In the end, it is mass action that proves decisive, not “strong mayors” pleading with senior city managers and brokering backroom deals with governments of the corporate ruling class. Only the Municipal Socialist Alliance is committed to organizing mass working class political action for good quality, mass social housing, expropriation of giant landlords, taxation of the rich, more parks, not more parking lots, free public transit, de-funding the police, funding community services, for economic democracy, grassroots popular budget-making, and a Labour City Hall.
That platform is clearly represented by Kiri Vadivelu on the Toronto by-election ballot. See the MSA policies at: municipal.socialistalliance.ca
Vote Socialist. Build a grass roots movement for revolutionary change. Kiri Vadivelu for Mayor.