Torontonians Electing Career Politicians is How the Current Status Quo Stays Alive

“Change doesn’t always mean progress, but the status quo is not always the best result, either. It is merely the most convenient.” – Harsha Bhogle, Indian cricket commentator and journalist.

102 candidates are running to be Toronto’s 66th mayor.

Which of these candidates…

Looks like a mayor?
Talks like a mayor?
Listens like your neighbour?

It may be just me, but I have trouble trusting anyone seeking government power, whether federal, provincial, or municipal. Therefore, I view what any of the current Toronto mayoral candidates say or promise with skepticism, if for no other reason than the promises being made by all 102 candidates have been made many times over in previous elections. Mayoral candidates, as well as candidates for city council, have been throwing around, since Toronto was founded on January 1, 1834, promises that if elected, they will change the status quo… and here is Toronto today, with its existing state of affairs, for better or worse.

In 2022, when John Tory was running for a 3rd term as Toronto mayor, there were only 31 mayoral candidates. Now that Tory is not running, there are 102 candidates. Seven candidates (Ana Bailão, Brad Bradford, Olivia Chow, Anthony Furey, Mitzie Hunter, Josh Matlow and Mark Sauders) are considered leading candidates by the media and pollsters. None of the seven ran against Tory in 2022 or the 2018 elections. Suddenly all these candidates, who didn’t run against Tory nine months ago, are “concerned” about Toronto. To be blunt, the seven leading candidates and all the candidates who didn’t run against Tory in 2022 are opportunists. (SURPRISE!)

Anyone seeking political power is an “opportunist” to some extent, even those who seek to use their power for new initiatives or to correct the injustices and social ills they perceive. 

Regardless of how much a Toronto mayoral candidate shouts, “I’m not the status quo!” they are still offering Torontonians some form of “status quo.” Like Baskin Robbins offers a variety of ice cream flavours, the Toronto mayoral candidates, especially the seven leading candidates, offer a wide variety of self-serving status quo that will serve their self-interests (to obtain political power) and the self-interests of a large number of voters. 

Speaking of “self-interests,” nothing has spoken more loudly about protecting one’s self-interest (to hold onto political power) than the fact that none of the high-profile candidates—actually the majority of the candidates—have talked about where they stand on ranked ballots, whether they support term limits, how they will use their veto powers, or except for a few candidates who stated they will raise property taxes, a cliche status quo strategy for increasing the city’s revenue, how they plan to deal with Toronto’s almost $1 billion budget deficit.

The irony is not lost on me that many candidates say Toronto is unaffordable and then say property taxes need to be increased, as if higher taxes will not increase the cost of homeownership or not be passed on to renters, thus making Toronto even more unaffordable.

Left-leaning vs. right-leaning status quo

Left-leaning candidates have their status quo (e.g., increasing taxes to fund more government services). Right-leaning candidates have their status quo (e.g., reducing government services to avoid tax increases). It would be naive not to think that the mayoral candidates running serious campaigns do not have self-serving agendas. Great politicians leverage the adage, “You scratch my back, and I will scratch yours,” knowing voters with a keen sense of their own self-interest vote for the candidate whose platform promises, if they are to be believed, are most aligned with their self-interest. 

Increasingly, love, in its most general and drawn-out definition, exists only when the other person serves your self-interest. Astute politicians know this.

BOTTOM-LINE: Voters vote for the candidate who offers a status quo that is in their best interest.

A person’s perspective influences their desired status quo.

How someone defines the status quo is greatly influenced by their perspective. A person’s perspective is shaped by their location and experiences. The view of Toronto from a barstool in Sneaky Dees on a Friday night, while sitting on a bench on the Guildwood Inn’s lawn, while jogging along the Beaches Boardwalk, while watching TV in a Regent Park apartment, or while eating Szechuan Express’s crispy ginger beef in Sherway Gardens food court would hardly offer a definitive definition of the “Toronto experience,” yet for many it is.

In many European cities, bike lanes are part of the status quo, and Toronto cyclists want bike lanes to be part of Toronto’s status quo. On the other hand, removing bike lanes is in keeping with a dated status quo still desired by drivers (it would serve their self-interest) since bike lanes take up road space and appear to be underused. Which status quo would you choose if you were experiencing Toronto as a cyclist versus a driver? 

In many American cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Baltimore, a new status quo was adopted when the police were defunded in order to increase social services funding. This is not a status quo that victims of crime and people who feel unsafe want in Toronto. Therefore, they tend to support candidates who promise to increase police spending.  

Political success is based on selling your status quo to as many voters as possible.

Olivia Chow does not stand for anything.

According to polls, Olivia Chow is expected to become Toronto’s next mayor. I believe the reason Olivia Chow is leading, and by a large margin, is not because she stands for something. Chow’s popularity stems from the fact that she has spent her entire political career challenging the status quo (READ: promoting her version of status quo) the right cherishes, which has not served the self-interest of many Torontonians for quite a long time. This is why the very pointed anti-Olivia Chow campaigns—vying for the “anyone but Chow” votes—Bailão, Bradford and especially Saunders have been running have worked against them.  

Here is the rub; except for Furey, all the forerunners are career politicians who have had time to demonstrate that they can bring about the changes they promise. They are either lying to themselves or just to voters. Change does not come from stagnation. It requires new vision, energy and presence. None of the leading candidates, in fact, most of the mayoral candidates (I can think of a few exceptions, Bahira AbdulsalamDarren Atkinson and Sarah Climenhaga come to mind.) offers any meaningful change other than proposing their status quo be implemented—to continue, and enhance, the current right-leaning status quo or to go back to the left-leaning status quo Toronto had under Barbara Hall and David Miller.  

Distancing themselves from their political past

It is mildly amusing how the sitting councillors now running for mayor (Brad Bradford, Josh Matlow, Anthony Perruzza) are trying to distance themselves from city hall and their record. They had years to make things right, or at least show they were “trying” to make things right. Now that their former boss is gone, suddenly, they have “solutions” for all that ills Toronto. I question voting for a current sitting councillor who suddenly has all the answers. Is it not better to have them return to their jobs and see what they do to prepare for the next Toronto election, which is just three years away in 2026?

Current and former city councillors (e.g., Oliva Chow, Rob DavisGiorgio Mattoliti), along with former Ontario MPP (Mitzie Hunter) and former Liberal MP (Celina Caesar-Chavannes) and former Toronto Chief of Police (Mark Saunders), seem to have forgotten and hope voters will forget, that they were, or are, part of the city and provincial government and therefore were part of the problems they are now trying to convince voters they will now fix. There is one thing you can be sure of, candidates running for office will make, regardless of their politics, experience (if any), or the status quo they are trying to sell… promises, promises, promises.

Except for Anthony Furey, the forerunners have had years to demonstrate that they can be the kind of mayor Toronto now needs, someone who is fiscally prudent (READ: Respects the taxpayer’s money.) and has the political diplomacy to work well with Doug Ford’s temperament. 

It would be nice if voters educated themselves on a candidate’s background, with the understanding that past behaviour is indicative of future behaviour. Social media makes it easy to thoroughly research candidates and grasp what kind of representation to expect from them. 

All you see around you, the good, the bad, the ugly, the Toronto that is, was created, for the most part, by politicians. If you like what you see, then vote for one of the career politicians (lots to choose from). Regardless of which career politician you vote for, the three issues that are top of mind for most Torontonians, housing affordability, crime, and public transit, will continue to be of increasing concern.

  • Immigration to Canada makes it almost impossible to build housing fast enough to accommodate the influx of people moving to Toronto. 
  • It would be naïve to think massively populated cities like New York, Chicago, London, Paris and Toronto, the 4th most populous city in North America, will never have crime. 
  • The mayoral candidates do not seem to understand, let alone empathize with, the logistical nightmares associated with moving a constantly increasing population via mass transit, not to mention continuously building and maintaining infrastructure.  

However, if Torontonians do not like what you see or where Toronto is heading (My read: ‘San Francisco of the North.’),they should consider voting for a candidate whose status quo has yet to be tried, which may “somewhat” change how Toronto looks and feels like.

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Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan

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