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. 

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The thing about election debates is that they’re not so much actual debates, in the sense of a presentation of the logical positions on an issue, as they are shouting matches made up of alternating (or overlapping) monologue. These dust-ups give us little information about issues but do give us a sense of the character of the candidates. Or so I’ve heard. My observations on three debates from the last week follow:

Radically condensed interpretive summary of the Sun TV debate Oct. 20
Moderator 1: What about that Gardiner Expressway?

David Miller: Well, it’d be nice to get rid of it, but it’s way too expensive. So we’ll keep it.

Jane Pitfield: We should keep it.

Stephen LeDrew: It’s time someone had the guts to say it: we’ll keep it.

Pitfield: Miller has a secret agenda. He’s going to tear down the Gardiner.

All three candidates: [Savage screaming, biting and kicking.]

LeDrew: Miller has done NOTHING AT ALL!

Miller: I replaced some buses.

LeDrew: If you’d forget about the streetcar right-of-way, maybe you could replace some buses!

Pitfield: That streetcar ROW sucks!

Miller: Then why did you vote for it?

Pitfield: It seemed like a better idea before. It sucks!

Moderator 1: Isn’t that a flip-flop?

Pitfield: I never flip-flop.

Moderator 2: Pitfield, you want to build subways. How you gonna pay for that?

Pitfield: Some senior government pixie dust, a dash of private sector magic and, woah, look at that shiny object.

Miller: We can’t afford subways.

LeDrew: You’ll never build any subways.

Miller: We’re building a subway.

LeDrew: Miller has done NOTHING AT ALL!!!

Miller: I housed the homeless.

LeDrew: Nyah nyah nyah. NOTHING!

All three candidates: [Gouging and rabbit punching. Hair pulling.]

Roll credits.

Citytv Toronto Star debate, Oct. 23
This one was slightly less of a cage match than the Sun TV debate, but it still managed to be unhelpful to anyone but political junkies.

Actual, non-interpretive transcript of the most memorable moment:

Miller: Councillor Pitfield, it’s very interesting. It’s almost like everything I say, you oppose. If I were to say today it was Sunday, you would say it was Monday. And you’d phone up a week later and say it was Tuesday.

[Audience laughter.]

Pitfield: Well, maybe it is.

[Audience falls dead silent for two or three seconds.]

Miller: Wow. [Pauses. Audience starts to laugh again.] I hope not. I’d be very surprised.

LeDrew: I’m not going to get into that last part, what day it is. I know what day it is.

[Audience laughter.]

Pitfield: So do I.

LeDrew was swinging wildly all night — “You could have had a turnip in office and got the same results” — but the mayor, keeping both arms up and jabbing selectively, managed to keep out of the way of the roundhouses. I did think LeDrew landed a glancing blow with this one: “If David Miller had been mayor in 1954, we wouldn’t have any subway line at all.”

For his part, Miller looked like he was the only one who knew what he was talking about and stuck it to Jane Pitfield in a way that risked making him look like a bully. His setting the record straight on the fact that the city is conducting an Environmental Assessment that includes incineration was a welcome correction to the record, but his “Just say yes, Jane” insistence that Pitfield acknowledge he was telling the truth came across as patronizing.

Hart House, Oct. 23
Homeless fringe candidate Kevin Clarke nearly stole the show for the first scheduled hour of proceedings (see http://www.eyeweekly.com/election2006 for a full account of his antics).

When the event finally got underway, Miller had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he lectured about how tuition has gone up by a factor of 10 since he was in law school and outlined his youth jobs programs.

Pitfield appeared matronly, saying her four kids keep her in touch with youth issues and advising the crowd blandly that the city really benefits from having so many educational institutions.

The real story was LeDrew, who proved once again that he’s been given too much credit as a candidate. Asked about affordable housing, he talked about TTC fares and his own experience of living with his brother when he was in college. When members of the group Stolen From Africa heckled him, he shouted out, “Are you on the payroll too?” — an apparent reference to (apparently groundless) allegations last week that two black youth had been paid to attend a mayoral press conference. Even among schoolchildren, LeDrew appeared out of his depth.

Verdict after three debates

Television debates are terrible places to discuss issues. Don’t pick Pitfield as your improv partner, or ask her to organize your calendar. Miller still isn’t setting hearts-a-thumping, but may be the only presentable candidate, still. LeWho?

Originally published in Eye Weekly October 26, 2006.