Same Old Story

City Hall
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It’s an interesting thought experiment to imagine how Electric City Magazine’s political coverage would have been different if the 2014 election had ended with Maryam Monsef as mayor, and a City Council with a wider perspective on the city.

To be quite honest, we get tired of writing about Mayor Daryl Bennett and City Council making terrible decisions for embarrassing reasons.

There are only so many ways you can write that the City needs to listen to its constituents when they make informed and passionate pleas against ill-informed actions. It gets tiresome really fast.

We at Electric City Magazine are writers first and foremost. Our principal criterion is whether a story is interesting or not, whether it can sustain a few thousand words without wearing out its welcome. We are drawn to stories full of nuance and complexity, stories that surprise readers, that add layers of depth to the way they understand an issue.

A lot of political issues in the city lend themselves to this kind of subtlety, and we have been happy to feature them in long articles. We like to think, in fact, that what we write is, in a modest way, a model for how to approach public issues with curiosity and care.

But some things are just plain bad or good ideas. And this Council seems to have a nose for those exact things, studiously avoiding the former in order to swandive into the latter. When this happens, there is not much room for exploring the nuance.

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It might be nice for drivers to have a direct route from the bottom of the city to the top, bypassing downtown, for example, but it’s pretty clear that Jackson Park is in the way of any such route. That’s why a longstanding local lobby, a clear majority of voters in a referendum on the issue, a great mass of experts, and the provincial government have all said loud and clear, “No Parkway.”

The mayor, for whom building the Parkway has clearly become a strange fixation far beyond the usual meaning of political mandate, assured Council last month that he would overcome the Province’s objection because he’s “a good talker.” As he was speaking at the time, this may have been presumptuous. Wouldn’t the people in the room be the judges of that?

But this claim raises an interesting philosophical question: can you truly be a good talker without also being a good listener?

You may recall that Monsef was mercilessly ridiculed during her mayoral run for insisting on listening to people before—or even instead of—telling them what she would do if elected. People more accustomed to choosing a ruler every four years than engaging in a democratic discussion found this quirk embarrassing, even a bit questionable.

Would a series of scandals in which the mayor patiently listened to concerned people and refrained from taking strict positions on controversial issues that have historically divided the city’s residents have made for more interesting or less interesting copy? Guess we’ll never know.


Cover photo by B. Mroz.

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