Toronto City Elections analysis: Where should the Greens Target their Efforts?

Toronto Election

As my regular readers will know, I have long been a proponent of mixing Green Party politics with municipal electoral politics. If we are going to make progress on building livable, and sustainable communities, not surprisingly, gaining political control, and/or influence over the local elected offices is of extreme practical value. There’s also the more pragmatic, and hard nosed aspects of organising an effective local ‘ground war’ for the next Federal, or Provincial election. Having friends and allies on the local council is very nice indeed when you’re gearing up to contest your riding in a National Election.

I will state categorically that I am pretty clueless about municipal politics outside the boundaries of Toronto. I will also state that I am NOT clueless about Toronto municipal electoral politics. I will apologise if some of the assumption that I abstract from my experience in Toronto don’t actually apply to your local municipal scene. Sorry, but there still could be some nuggets to glean from this post.

1) Local elections have low turnouts: Issues actually matter locally. Why? Because the turnout is abbysmal, many, or most people won’t bother, unless they either really really care, or are really really pissed about an issue. The key to local electoral success is less about converting electors into supporters, and more about simply motivating those supporters to get out and vote. Having significant numbers of motivated supporters identified, and ready to tap into is of utmost importance.

2) Incumbents almost always win: Every incumbent has a portfolio of projects, and local initiatives that they champion. The fact is that the counterparties to these initiatives don’t want to roll the dice with a new councillor. They want their incumbent re-elected so (s)he will fulfil their promises. That motivates a lot of people on a piecemeal basis. Then there’s the other half of the voting municipal electorate, who will do their civic duty and vote, but don’t have a clue who to vote for until a familiar name appears on the ballot in front of them. ‘Better the devil I know’ syndrome kicks in for a nano-second, and another possibly worthless incumbent is returned to power.

3) It takes volunteers to win locally: To win locally, you have to canvas hard. It takes face to face opportunities to win over a doubting electorate, and that means volunteers wearing out shoe leather.

While every EDA should take the opportunity to gather resources, lists, and data, a careful analysis of your 2 municipal Wards will determine if you’re going all out for municipal victory, or if you’re simply being opportunistic. If you have a large concentration of  identified GPC supporters in either one of the two Wards, you have a significant political asset. If you have a large volunteer base in your’ EDA, and they’re up to fighting a municipal campaign, then you have a significant political asset. If the incumbent is not running again, then you have a significant asset. If two of the three are true, then you need to start your candidate search now. If you have all three, then your’ EDA is the odds on favourite to be annointing the next City councilor in that Ward.

So let’s take a look at the public record, and see which Toronto Green EDAs are sitting in a pretty position. The most useful information available right now pertains to which Incumbent is not running again. I trotted off to the Toronto Votes site, and reviewed the list of registered candidates. There are a total of 17 councillors who have not yet registered their candidacy for re-election, and XXX of them have made announcements that they have other fish to fry. Some are still ‘maybe’s’, like Rob Ford, who claims he is considering a run for Mayor. ( Yes, he’s the lout who was shouting drunken obscenities at a Leaf’s game, and then tried to pretend it never happened. All I can say is, please do humiliate yourself by running for Mayor)

Incumbents not yet registered:

Rob Ford, Ward 2. ED: Etobicoke North. Considering a run for Mayor.

Doug Holyday,  Ward 3. ED: Etobicoke Centre. Vague Rumours about running for Mayor.

Gloria Lindsay Luby, Ward 4. ED: Etobicoke Centre. This article implies she is running again.

Mark Grimes, Ward 6. ED: Etobicoke Lakeshore. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Giorgio Mammoliti, Ward 7. ED: York West. Running for Mayor.

Maria Augimeri, Ward 9. ED: York Centre. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Mike Feldman, Ward 10. ED: York Centre. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Frank Di Giorgio, Ward 12, ED: York South-Weston. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Adam Giambrioni, Ward 18, ED: Davenport. Running for Mayor.

Joe Pantalone, Ward 19. ED: Trinity Spadina. Running for Mayor.

Michael Walker, Ward 22. ED: St. Paul’s. Relatively high profile challenger, but will Walker run again?

David Shiner. Ward 24. ED: Willowdale. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Kyle Rae, Ward 27. ED: Toronto Centre. Retiring, Run Chris Run!

Case Ootes, Ward 29. ED: Toronto Danforth. Retiring, Pitfield running though.

Sandra Bussin, Ward 32. ED: Beaches East York. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Denzil Minnan-Wong, Ward 34. ED: Don Valley East. Maybe Running for Mayor?

Many of those not yet registered are right wingers, hoping to carry the knuckle draggers flag for the Mayoral race. The quasi suburban ring around Toronto proper is not very fertile ground for the GPC, or for progressive`s in general. That could, and should be changed, but I would suggest that sucking oxygen from the city centre candidates, in order to run a Quixote campaign would not be a good use of scarce resources, at this moment in time.

Criteria 2 for a good target is that there should be no incumbency effect. There are 5 Federal electoral districts so far where this criteria is met. Toronto Danforth, Toronto Centre, Trinity Spadina, Davenport, and York West. I should caution you though. There is every probability that Mammoliti for example, will discover that his Mayoral bid is a total lost cause, and will pull out of the Mayoral, and register for his current Ward’s council race. A little tarnished perhaps, but still the odds on favourite by a chunky margin. Given that York West is not particularly fertile ground for the GPC, or GPO, that’s not the best place to pin our hopes.

Criteria 1 and 3 kind of go hand in hand. Those Electoral districts that have a good corp of dedicated volunteers, also tend to have big lists of identified supporters. I wouldn’t want to divulge any actual numbers publicly, but Toronto Centre, Toronto Danforth, Davenport, and Trinity Spadina are all heavy hitting Electoral districts. I would put them all in the top twenty Green Party EDA`s in all Canada.

Chris Tindal from Toronto Centre has already declared for Ward 27, and with real support he will be elected in October. That’s not a joke, it’s for real, so spread the word.

Trinity Spadina contains University of Toronto, and some of the grooviest neighbourhoods in Toronto. It will also be hosting the Green Party’s BGM, and possibly the Leadership vote for the Green Party in August. Guess what? That’s right when the Municipal Campaign will be getting hot, and Toronto news coverage will be very hard to get for municipal candidates. It won’t be so hard to get for Green Party municipal candidates though, so hopefully the team organising the BGM will take note, and build this into the schedule. An extra hook to flood the convention with Toronto media, no?  The Toronto Greens would be well advised to craft a media plan to take advantage of the fact that they will be newsworthy, right when it counts the most. Trinity Spadina needs a high quality municipal Candidate for Ward 19.

Toronto Danforth has a very well organised, and active EDA. I will bet that somebody is out canvassing as I write. They have a number of members who would make good candidates. They have the ID’d supporters base, and more importantly, Allies, and issues based data to work with. They might not be a shoo in like Chris over in Toronto Centre, but they should grab the bull by the horns, and go for it. I don`t know if Adrianna Mugnatto-Hamu can afford to run municipally, as she is the nominated candidate federally, and there may be a federal general election intervening, but she should be weighing her options.

Davenport is interestingly enough the home riding of Frank DeJong, long-time leader of the GPO, probable leadership candidate for the GPC, and presumably well known in his home turf. I will talk about anecdotes and rumours for a second. Frank is rumoured to be very hesitant to run for GPC Leader against Elizabeth May. Since it`s entirely possible that Elizabeth May will run for the leadership of the GPC again, especially if the leadership race preceeds a federal election, maybe Frank should consider a run for an office that brings real power with it. As a sitting councilor, he would have a lot more heft in a GPC leadership race, and it might give him the edge he`ll need to beat my preferred candidate. Or maybe he`ll decide that it`s nice to earn some sort of decent money, have free admission to city facilities, and a good shot at a very generous pension.

So there’s my two cents worth. Davenport, Toronto Danforth, Trinity Spadina, and the big one, Toronto Centre are all a great focus for Toronto Greens looking for an election to wage this summer. Don’t despair if you’re in a different EDA. You should still be speaking with candidates, inviting them to speak at your events, and winning them over as electoral allies. If you find a local candidate that you can comfortably get behind, join their campaign, and start learning about really local local issues. I guarantee that you will make friends and allies that will stand you in good stead in future elections.

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