Q&A

Why do you want to be Mayor?

Toronto deserves better than Rob Ford. He has done so much damage to this great city and its reputation that I don’t believe it is simply enough to just vote against him. I believe voting is a responsibility but we can all exercise our basic rights of civic participation; I can’t think of a better way to let Rob Ford know we deserve better than if we all run against him.

What separates you from other candidates?

Youth, diversity, fresh ideas, and a belief that I am only one member of a team. I’m here to listen and to learn. I’m here to work in conjunction with the people of Toronto, and to contribute ideas that we haven’t tried that I believe can work. I’m speaking for people who usually aren’t spoken for but who make up a lot of Toronto’s population. I have a diverse history and background as an advocate, activist, facilitator, teacher, musician, and artist, which I believe is forward-looking.

I don’t know as many numbers, I don’t have advisors; these are ideas that have worked elsewhere that can be adapted to Toronto’s unique cultural environment. I can provide Toronto with opportunity to have a Mayor who will listen to diverse communities and understands that there is more to be learned from them than changed about them.

So you’re a singer. Is this about selling records? Is this about getting people out to Paint shows?

A Mayor’s job is to be the frontman; just like my role as a singer in Paint. I am only one vote on a council of 45 (including the Mayor). I am just the one that talks about the decisions that an entire council makes. Rob Ford has not had a stranglehold over Toronto’s policy directions. In fact, he has lost on many votes, as he is, again, only one vote. As Mayor, I would be not much different from being a singer; I would be the champion, the one who gets the crowd going, cuts the ribbons, walks in the parades. I would be the public face of the Toronto. Not necessarily the most talented, educated, or informed, but I would be the strongest listener. That is the only way I could voice the concerns of an entire city.

Have you ever done drugs?

Compared to Rob Ford, I’m a saint. But I won’t lie to you: I’ve been a musician my whole life, of course I have! I am currently not. At all. And having been an Executive Director and an outreach worker, as well as a facilitator with prisoners and people struggling with addictions, I’ve seen all sides of the issues. I’ve worked in harm reduction, I ran the organization that opened North America’s only supervised injection facility that has saved thousands of lives. I’ve seen the disconnect between communities and resultant policies that don’t reflect the needs of the communities they affect. Policies made by people who don’t have enough lived or hands-on experience to make meaningful change. I am the complete opposite of that, and believe that my experience would provide for a more realistic, long-term approach to drug use.

Do you really think you can win? Why run if you can’t win? 

I don’t believe in strategic voting, and I believe everyone has a right to express discontent with their representatives. so long as it translates into positive resistance in the form of art, community mobilization, or in this case, exercising the right to run for office. I am more interested in engaging communities that Rob Ford has alienated and giving them a reason to feel like their voice matters than I am to win an election.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the City of Toronto?

The three things that seem to bother Torontonians the most are: 1) the embarrassing reputation Rob Ford has given a world-class city internationally; 2) transit; and 3) affordable housing. Toronto’s citizens can be made more productive and able to pursue their passions if they spent less time in transit, less time worrying about where their next meal is going to come from, and less time defending this great city’s image in light (or perhaps “in dark”) of our current Mayor.

Are you concerned that your support of working-class citizens is too partisan?

If we empower the precariat, or the poor, it’s not going to make anyone lose their houses in the suburbs. It won’t lead to rampant street crime, used needles in playgrounds, and prostitutes on every street corner. These things are happening all around us and only seem to offend us when they are in view. Empowering groups that are struggling only serves one purpose, and that is to empower the whole even more. We all stand to benefit.

Will you walk in the Pride Parade?

I’ll walk in every parade. Well, except for the white supremacist parade.

3 Responses to Q&A

  1. In my candidate research, you’re my favourite so far. I appreciate that you seem to be a practical rather than judgmental, with your stances on drug culture and sex workers (though the Rob Ford flogging could be put to rest with no complaints from me).

    I’d be even more confident to hear what I haven’t heard from any candidate so far though, and that’s a big loud Lorax championing of environmental protection, restoration, and the harmony (or, presently, total lack therof) between our economic system and the Earthly systems which are all that allow it to even exist; or as I call it, being responsible!

    Will you respond to the Toronto Environmental Alliance’s Green “Environmental Report Card”? (here’s 2010’s for reference: http://www.torontoenvironment.org/voteto/reportcard/mayoralcandidates). I’ve noted your advocacy for improving Toronto’s cycling, and even better is flirting with the idea of car-free Queen St and others. It feels to me like a lot of people treat the “greenies” like an optional, disposable group, and that feels to me like a big, arrogant, ignorant nose and finger in the air to… well, the future of humanity as we hope it could continue to be.

    In recognition of the only partial power of the mayor to make tangible waves (my pie-in-the-sky would be a post-monetary system, but let’s be real…), I’d really like to hear you ‘speak for the trees’, especially if you win. Make them the darling that the LGBT* has been to public champions of progress, and you have my vote.

    All the best of luck!

    • Addendum: Perhaps take a leaf from Richard Underhill’s platform with respect to serious sustainability measures in the city? http://www.underhillformayor.com/platform/

      Looks like the musicians are leading the race (in attitude, if not popularity) to me! I need confirmation on my information for my transportation to a greener nation!

      • robbnotford says:

        Hi Jack, thanks so much for your thoughtful response and I appreciate you taking the time to research candidates. Surely the environment cannot be an afterthought; without it we have nothing else. Long-range vision is something not often taken politically, which is generally where most significant environmental concerns rest. They are not part of a 4-year electoral window/political strategy, and those who do incorporate the environment into their platform and working strategy are indeed breaking the economy-first mould and looking at Toronto’s place as a potential environmental leader. It’s simply being responsible to care about issues typically marginalized under the “green” umbrella (but I believe need to be far more mainstream).

        Just this week, for instance, I was at a consultation on the proposed expansion to the Island Airport and it was pleasant to hear “30 years, 50 years, 100 years” down the road being brought into the discussion — mostly by advocacy groups, but ones that are beginning to enter, or re-enter, the consciousness of political candidates.

        In the process of running for mayor, I’ve been able to have some great conversations and gather insights from folks like yourself on how Toronto can be better, and I’m always taking these ideas to heart when shaping my own ideas on them; as ideas are constantly evolving and refining as we look at how to translate them into practice.

        Best to you, and please write anytime. You’ve given me some things to look at.

        -R

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