Reprinted from an issue of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations' newsletter The Tenant 2000

What's So Funny About The City Election?

By Kenn Hale, Chair Law Reform Committee, Federation of Metro Tenants Associations

It won't be long before the cold winds of November will be blowing through the megacity. Along with the cold winds will come the blast of hot air from the candidates for seats on the Toronto City Council as they try to pry your precious vote from you. Yes, your election is coming and tenants are nervous.

Now we shouldn't be too hard on the guys and gals who have been trying for the last three years to steer the "new City of Toronto" through the rocks of Canada's strange political waters. Compared to the sleepwalkers in Ottawa who are pretending to run the country and the gang of evil robots known as the Ontario cabinet, they actually look pretty good. Toronto has survived the shotgun multiple marriage known as amalgamation, and the stupidity of Provincial downloading. They have tried to stand up to the landlords in a number of ways, including the Tenant Defence Fund, Official Plan rules to make it harder to demolish your home and a new property standards by-law. And they didn't raise property taxes - at least for about half of the city. Too bad they couldn't do too much about your rent increase!

But don't you really think that a city of two million people could do a little better than Mel? For all his good qualities (name one!), Mel seems to be part of a pack of hucksters that have been running the City for as long as I can remember. You know the guys - "Honest" Ed Mirvish, Harold Ballard (the creepy old guy who used to own the Maple Leafs), Steve Stavros (the creepy old guy who now owns the Maple Leafs), Dave Duvall (the Channel 9 weather guy) and all those bank presidents (who may secretly be quintuplets). Thinking about these guys makes you realize that we are long overdue for a change in leadership - maybe someone who better reflects the diversity of this megacity, and maybe even someone a few years away from retirement age.

But this year, that just looks like wishful thinking. Mel seems secure on his mayoral throne. The only competition to emerge so far is that humourless humorist, that litigating lawyer John Nunziata. And he probably won't even run if it means giving up his day job of pretending to be a Member of Parliament. So, Mel will probably waltz back into the Mayor's office for another three years of business as usual. Does this mean that the whole election thing is just a big joke and you don't have to bother trudging through the snow down to your lobby or down the street to vote on November 13?

No, no, no, no, no! The City Elections are about a lot more than picking the mayor. Your local councillor has a vote on every issue that comes before the council - just like Mel. And with the number of council seats reduced for this election, some of these races for local councillor are interesting showdowns between people who supported tenants over their last three years on Council and people who didn't. Even if there isn't a real race in your part of the City or if you can't really decide which is the lesser of the evils on your ballot, tenants need to vote so that the council will pay more attention to tenant concerns. When the election is over, every politician carefully studies the election results so they know which streets and which buildings came out to vote. And the politicians that got elected are not going to pay very much attention to the problems of the people on those streets and in those buildings who did not vote. They can only lose their jobs in the next election if they ignore the demands of people who vote, and that is what is most important to them.

Everyone who is over 18 and a Canadian citizen is entitled to vote. And everyone is entitled to volunteer for a candidate and help them get elected. It doesn't take a great deal of thought or effort to take part in the election process. But if enough tenants put out that thought and effort, the attitude toward rent increases and repair problems at City Hall could take a dramatic turn for the better. So, even if Mel seems like kind of a joke as Mayor, the problems tenants are facing in the City are not funny. The City election is the time for us to show them that we are serious, even if they are not!

Typists Notes: Kenn Hale was on the executive committee of the FMTA. His wife Barb Hurd at the time and for many years was the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations Chair though they are homeowners, which by the FMTA's own charter made them ineligible for their positions.

You can read here about Barb Hurd as FMTA chair support for the Harris government's Legal Aid Services Act that eviscerated Legal Aid.

While this might seem like a humourous piece, it is common for the group to use tactics like this to attack those who question their actions or their funding. The FMTA's tactics can get very vicious as you can see in this attack piece they did against a poor disabled activist.

Ken Hale is a lawyer who had a bad reputation in many circles with his Toronto Tenant Hotline, but manages to manipulate people and the system and now in spite of that disgrace is now as of 2008, the Legal Director of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.

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