The City of Toronto has studied burning garbage — apparently candidate Stephen LeDrew has not
I’ve been on about this on the blog (check it out at eyeweekly.com/election2006) but the vast influence of my internet audience has not yet altered the terms of the election debate, so I figured I’d commit this to paper, too:

Stephen LeDrew, alongside many, many conservative-ish council candidates, keeps proposing that we should “investigate” or “take a look at” or “study” burning our garbage rather than buying the Green Lane landfill (or any other landfill). Here’s LeDrew, for example, in a press release from last week: “I will commit to diverting 80 per cent of waste from landfill and exploring clean and cost-effective waste-to-energy solutions for the remaining 20 per cent.”

(Nota bene: “waste to energy,” “advanced thermal technology” and “gasification” are all words that mean incineration, just so we all know what we’re talking about.)

It sounds so reasonable when they suggest we should study this option. Who wouldn’t want to investigate all the options? Why is David Miller such a closed-minded hard head that he’s against investigating possible solutions? Right?

Except that, as Geoff Rathbone, director of policy and planning with the city’s works department, confirms, we have already studied and explored waste-to-energy solutions, and in fact we’re continuing to do the groundwork required to build such a facility.

To wit: the city convened a committee made up of experts on waste management and local citizens and activists to study all available options for diverting waste from landfill way back in February 2003. That group (whose name is longer than a Rex Murphy adjective — the New and Emerging Technologies, Policies and Practices Advisory Group, for the record) met for nearly two years, at no small cost to the city, and studied all the new technologies on the market. Their final report is available online at http://www.tinyurl.com/y6lqnj.

As a result of their work, Toronto is conducting an Environmental Assessment on various technologies — including incineration — with an eye to building a test facility. Just this week, the city ran a bunch of
advertisements announcing public hearings as part of that EA process (see http://www.toronto.ca/ceat for hearing dates and a comments form). This is all work that is required before building a waste-to-energy facility.

In other words, not only have we studied incineration, but we’re taking the necessary steps to build incinerators.

Maybe some candidates haven’t explored all the options, but the city has. And if they want to build an incinerator, they shouldn’t hide behind words like “look into it.”

Taking a page from Spacing
Last week in this space, I had a bit of a laugh at Jane Pitfield’s blog. Over the weekend, the story got even weirder. Turns out her posting from Oct. 7 — taking the wind out of some Miller spending proposals — was plagiarized almost directly from a post by John Lorinc on Spacing magazine’s excellent election blog (www.spacing.ca/votes). Further investigation revealed that another post seemed to have been lifted from a story by Anthony Reinhart from The Globe and Mail.

Matt Blackett of Spacing writes, “‘There hasn’t always been a clear plan of what to do with my blog,’ [Pitfield] said. ‘I have a young man looking after it. But I will talk to someone at our office right away.'”

The entire blog has since been removed.

On a related technology note, one of the interesting developments in this campaign has been the emergence of the blog as a form of coverage. In addition to ours and Spacing’s, there’s also Rob Granatstein’s X Marks the T-dot from the Toronto Sun, where I found the LeDrew quote about garbage above (surf over to www. blog.canoe.ca/cityvote and praise the lord Sue-Ann Levy hasn’t figured out how to use the internet yet) and Marc Weisblott’s Campaign Bubble from The Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/campaignbubble).

Meet the next mayor
Both Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star and John Barber of The Globe and Mail have very recently proposed the idea of introducing political parties to Toronto politics.

We suspect they mean party as in have-a-membership-card-and-toe-the-line. But Eye Weekly already has plans to introduce a
political party (as in pass-the-beer-and-hit-the-dancefloor) to this election, and it’s scheduled to take place one week before election day.

The Political Party, presented with our friends at Spacing magazine, will feature speeches and interviews with Jane Pitfield and David Miller and then give you an opportunity to talk to them yourself while the drinks flow and the live music plays.

It takes place at Revival (783 College) on Monday, Nov. 6. Musical guests announced Oct. 19 at http://www.eyeweekly.com/election2006. Admission is free.

Originally published in Eye Weekly on October 19, 2006. 

Recently, Toronto Star columnist Royson James lamented the lack of “new blood” among the near-record number of council candidates running in this November’s municipal election.

“And these days, old and recycled blood may have to do for those seeking new blood at the seat of local democracy,” he wrote. “Welcome back John Sewell and John Adams … and Ron Moeser…. Then, there is the connected — ex-Citytv man Adam Vaughan challenging in Trinity-Spadina and the last-minute parachute candidate Gord Perks, riding in on his environmental horse into Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park. Old new blood.”

If, by “new blood,” he means young blood (sorry for the Rob-Lowe-on-skates flashback), James should be inspired by the race in Ward 26, which is wide open since incumbent councillor Jane Pitfield has left to take on David Miller. The race — with 15 candidates, the most crowded in the city — features two impressive candidates under 30.

Bahar Aminvaziri entered politics through public-space activist Dave Meslin’s City Idol competition, the wonderful, un-televised exercise dreamt up to draw in some uncommon fresh faces.

Aminvaziri is 27 years old, a U of T masters candidate and environmental engineer who emigrated to Canada from Iran to attend university seven years ago. She points to different priorities in Ward 26’s four neighbourhoods: historical preservation and safety in Leaside, poorly planned development in Wynford Park, the need for a community centre in Flemingdon Park and a lack of skills training and language classes for immigrants in Thorncliffe Park. How fresh is this face? It’s still wearing braces.

Meanwhile, further right on the political spectrum is 26-year-old Natalie Maniates, who boasts an endorsement from Conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay. Her campaign features a “FIT for 26” theme: “I’m 26 years old, running in Ward 26 and my platform deals with the city over the next 20 years, which will take us to 2026,” Maniates says.

The former sorority girl and campus conservative figures waste management (she’s in favour of incineration and a credit system for garbage tags) and crime (she’s believes in the broken-windows theory) are the big issues in this election.

What does Maniates think of the City Idol process that nominated her youthful opponent? “I don’t watch much TV,” she says, “but I think it’s a fun show.” I can hear Mez howling from here.

Election Fever Online
I’m a frequent contributor to Spacing magazine, so take my endorsement of it with a grain of salt. But while you’re weighing my bias, head on over to Spacing‘s brand-spanking-new election blog at http://www.spacing.ca/votes.

The public-space advocates have assembled 13 young writers and urban thinkers to blog about the election from points across the city, which just might mean their blog will offer the most comprehensive campaign coverage in Toronto.

Best of all, they’ve snagged former Toronto Life urban affairs columnist and multiple National Magazine Award winner John Lorinc — who may be the best city politics writer in the country — to write a column.

From Lorinc’s first post: “David Miller is coasting into an election on the strength of his personality and intellect and a respectable, though modest, record in his first term…. So it’s time for him to make a bold move and spend some of the political capital he so loves to hoard…. The bottom line is that he’s got to make a big gesture in order to rekindle the imagination of Torontonians. If he puts himself on cruise control, Miller could quickly become another Barbara Hall — pleasant, popular, yet ultimately crippled by his unwillingness to be effective and bold. The choice is his, and ours.”

The only thing that would’ve been better than Lorinc blogging for Spacing would’ve been if he’d been hired to run Miller’s campaign.

Jane’s Door is Open
Brendan Cahill of Jane Pitfield’s campaign emailed to call me out on something I wrote in last week’s notebook. “Read in your Sept. 14 edition of 2006 election notebook that Jane Pitfield’s campaign office at the northwest corner of Dundas and Pacific in the Junction has never been opened or staffed. Really? As far as I know, it’s been opened and staffed since we had our grand opening July 18. In fact it’s open Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm, and sometimes on the weekend….”

I sent my two research assistants (my wife Rebecca and my son Colum) by on Monday to check out his claim and, sure enough, her office was open with four campaign staffers helpfully offering a brochure.

So sorry. But I was telling the truth when I wrote that — though I live across the street — I’d never seen it open, which, since I work from 10am to 6pm, makes sense.

My larger point, of course, was that it didn’t look like the central hub of a serious city-wide campaign hoping to capture the votes of a couple million people in fewer than three months. Maybe it’s time to extend the bankers’ hours.

Originally published September 21, 2006 in Eye Weekly.