After Olivia Chow has spoken, it is the turn of John Tory and Ari Goldkind to address the crowd at the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre.
By: Joe Fiorito Columnist, Published on Fri Oct 24 2014
When Olivia Chow had wooed and won the crowd at the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre, she left and we waited for John Tory. He was running late. Someone in the crowd asked where he was.
The answer: “He’s gone to get his golf clubs.” The humour of the street. But when Tory arrived, his welcome was warm and respectful.
He, too, has an aura; competence and thoughtful concern. He wore a blue suit. His hair was perfect. His wife was with him. He started strong.
He said Doug Ford (open Doug Ford’s policard) wanted to pick people up and take them off the streets. He asked a rhetorical question: “Doug, where can we take them?”
That got applause because, as everyone in this room knows, the shelters are always full and some of them are a horror. But the harder truth is this — there simply isn’t enough affordable housing; people here know that in their hearts, and at least one man in the crowd knows it because he sleeps in doorways.
But Tory does not dwell on what could be a winning train of thought. Instead, he said, “People are concerned about the forces of development.” Oh, gosh, that’s not the language of this room.
He said traffic was a mess on the big streets and on the side streets, and that’s not really the issue here, either, and he could tell he was losing the crowd.
Or maybe just losing me.
An attempt to win the room back: he said it was pathetic that people didn’t get the supports they needed when the big institutions were being closed.
He’s dead right, and everyone in this room knows someone who died on the street.
At this point Tory might have mentioned Edmond Yu, a regular visitor to PARC who was shot to death by police a few years ago; after all, Edmond Place — the affordable housing residence that bears Yu’s name — is right next door. Perhaps Tory was not properly briefed, or maybe he was tired and forgot.
But then, as he was about to answer a question about child care, a woman well known to the room stood up and started talking, non-stop, in a voice louder than Tory’s. She waved a hectoring finger. Her issues are democracy and gender inequality, a rant that all who know her know by heart.
She will not be stopped. She accuses Tory of making jokes about women. No one can stop her. Tory is careful not to react; neither does his wife.
Eventually, the hectoring woman is persuaded to cede the floor and someone tells Tory that PARC serves 77,000 meals a year, but it does so without much support from the city, and how can people function without enough to eat?
Tory says, cautiously, that people need the ability to work, and that there is a need to take a special focus on those people who have issues.
His language is cautious and sleep-inducing. I wonder if, in the end, that’s not a good thing; whipping people up is cheap and easy.
Tory talked about “food flow,” and mobile food trucks, and he praised those landlords, including Toronto Community Housing, who have given plots to gardeners. A risk, that — I don’t often praise TCHC, but I would never praise them in this room.
He is asked about co-operation with the school board; he says relations have deteriorated, and that schools need to be hubs for the delivery of services.
He is asked about co-ops. The discussion was abstruse until Angel, a little dog sitting in a basket on a woman’s scooter, barked. Tory said, “I’ll choose to believe that’s supportive commentary.”
Not snappy, but not bad.
He returns to transit, until someone says most people in this room have a hard time finding enough money to take transit. Ouch.
He said he wouldn’t make promises, but he has had thoughts about special passes, and in the end, he is sent off as warmly as he was received.
Enter Ari Goldkind.
He is happy and sharp in a checked shirt and a tight suit, perhaps too tight; the keys in his pocket bulge. I hope those were his keys. He says hello to Angel the yappy little dog, and that goes over well; this, after all, is his calling card — he’s quick on his feet and self-assured.
He also has the least to lose.
He says, “I’m a criminal defence lawyer. I see, over and over, how many people get a raw deal.” Heads nod. “Every issue, I see through the lens of income inequality.” Heads nod. He says he has issues with the police budget.
He refers people to his website for details of his platform. I’m not sure how many people in the room have easy access to computers.
He is frank about the need to raise property taxes, and the people in the room like that a lot. “We have to spend some money to make this city better.”
When asked about child care, he takes a shot at Ford: “He thinks, when we invest in people, that’s the gravy train. I think the opposite — what’s the role of government but to help take care of people?”
People like him. But they don’t know him. Then this pops out: he says he used to play the tuba.
And then somehow it’s his turn for the hectoring from the woman who assailed Chow and Tory before him. He is at once polite, bemused and embarrassed, as if he’s wondering if it is his fault. It is not.
The hectoring woman is shouted down by the crowd, which has utterly lost patience. She retreats a final time. It occurs to me that she is a litmus test, and that all three candidates have passed.
And so the evening ended.
I wish Ford had had the guts to come. He owed it, at least, to the hectoring woman, to show us all if he could take it or could not.
On my way out the door, I bumped into Victor Willis, the affable executive director of PARC. He was smiling. He said he was glad that at least three of the candidates now know where PARC is, and what the issues are.
At least that’s something.
Article taken from thestar.com