Voting in Ward 18 this year could be one of the more difficult election choices you face if you live in this part of Davenport.
On the one hand, you have the likeable, community-engaged incumbent, Ana Bailão. She’s often seen at any number of community meetings, park dedications, or even where you pick up your local espresso.
At Issue: Ana’s Record
On the other hand, there is her voting record on some key, politically charged issues such as the Scarborough subway, tearing up bike lanes on Jarvis, or eliminating the vehicle registration tax. If you’re a progressive, these are votes that matter.
For bike lanes. Against wasteful spending on subways when a cheaper, more construction-ready alternative exists. Against eliminating the vehicle registration tax, which could fund important rapid transit projects.
These votes helped create the so-called successes that Rob and now Doug Ford are running on as proof of their ability to get their agenda through council.
And yes, Ana voted on the “wrong” side of all these issues.
So I like Ana, but I’m not sure, in the end, what she’ll stand for next, even if she is “committed to our community” in some warm yet amorphous way.
Party Politics and the City
Ana has also closely associated herself with the Liberal party of Ontario. She campaigned for them. They now campaign for her. Her election signs are traditional Liberal red.
The issue is that city politics are supposed to stand apart from the battles of other levels of government. How independent-minded will Ana be the next time a policy has electoral ramifications for the provincial or federal Liberals?
Spacing magazine has carefully documented the manoeuvring by Premier Wynne’s government to get the Scarborough subway extension. For the Liberals, this echoed into a Scarborough by-election that they wanted to win.
Consider the fact that many of Ana’s progressive or centrist colleagues on council, like Adam Vaughan, Mike Layton, Gord Perks, and Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represented downtown neighbourhoods like hers, voted in favour of the LRT. Yet she didn’t.
That said, Ana is a warm, hard-working councillor. Maybe she’s made some mistakes, but she can be counted on to support a mostly progressive vision. Mostly.
There is an Alternative
There are 10 other people running for council in this ward. Many are impressive, but in large part, their platforms are either non-existent or indistinguishable from what Ana would offer.
Then there’s Alex Mazer. I’ve talked to Alex on a number of occasions. He’s personally come to my door at least three times during a general canvass of the neighbourhood. His team is sophisticated, volunteer-driven and has been active since back in January.
Alex’s campaign strongly suggests that he has leadership qualities that could work well on council and with his constituents.
Although he hasn’t openly associated himself with either the NDP or Liberals, he’s been endorsed by prominent members of both parties, and even the provincial Green party.
His platform is fully fleshed out and progressive. He favours an open budgetary process. New homes for those in need of affordable housing. He wants to pursue revenue tools to make sure the city can fund its fair share of new transit projects. He supports using the “Georgetown” GO line, which runs ran through Davenport, as part of a greater expansion of the TTC, adding new stations to serve the local community.
Alex is in favour of the “Minimum Grid,” a bike project and vision that would create 200 additional kilometres of bike lanes, half of them protected, by 2018.
Sure, Ana’s platform supports these items as well, but strangely, it only came out in the last week or so. But more than that, when you’re the incumbent, you have to run on what you already did, not what you say you’ll do the next time around.
Alex has been openly critical of Ana’s votes on the Scarborough subway, the Jarvis bike lanes, and the vehicle registration tax. This puts him in a position where, if elected, he has to try to reverse the effects of those actions.
So there’s no doubt for me that, when votes are raised on critical issues, Alex will support the progressive vision that Ana now says she will as well. He would also bring his unique strengths to bear, based on his experience working in government and in volunteer capacities.
Voting with Your Head
I’m all for voting with your heart, but voting based on gut, emotional reactions to a candidate can get you into whole a lot of trouble (see: Rob Ford).
Ultimately, you vote to support the policy ideals that you agree with. Even if the candidate you choose doesn’t get elected, the winner will scrutinize the results and ask why they lost a certain segment of the voting public.
I’d like to see Alex get elected. If not though, I want to make sure that Ana does not take the progressive vote for granted and thinks long and hard next time a decision comes up on bike lanes, revenue tools, transit projects, or even climate change, an issue that can no longer be ignored.
Toronto’s at a critical juncture in its history. We’ve got to make sure we have strong, visionary voices to help lead us through the next four years.