How do you make the Toronto mayoral race interesting?
Well, I dunno if I have a definitive answer to that, but there’s a bunch of stuff you can do to prevent it from being less relevant.
I mean, the first televised debate earlier this week on local all-news CP24 was mangled pretty good. Judging by the reaction from the few remaining media outlets not owned by Rogers Communications, I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed by the ADD spectacle. This was made more acute by the fact CP24 is owned by Citytv which is owned by CTVglobemedia, a Rogers joint. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rogers already owns a controlling interest in Toronto City Life. Monopolistic issues aside, none of these organizations is exactly new to this type of thing, so their combined wisdom really should’ve produced something a bit more substantial.
Really, my biggest issue with the thing was that out of the twenty-six candidates currently running, CP24 invited only the six they thought were most worthy.
Okay okay, I wouldn’t invite some of these people to a public internet chat room let alone a televised debate, but some of them are viable candidates who are simply being ignored. Take Wendell Brereton, for example; a well-spoken, intelligent Regent Park Pastor and former police officer with a solid platform and an enthusiasm for this city’s future.
Some people have suggested that candidates like Wendell weren’t invited to the CP24 debate because their chances of being elected are slim, this based on their level of experience in municipal politics. If that’s the case then could someone explain how Sarah Thomson got a seat at the table? Nothing against her personally; she’s also got some good ideas, a vibrant personality, and she handled herself well in the debate, but I’m sure Wendell would’ve done just as well. If it was a matter of having the token female candidate present to level things out, wouldn’t a token black candidate have been a good inclusion as well?
There were also suggestions that candidates like Mr. Brereton weren’t doing enough to reach out to media in order to make themselves visible. I know from my own research that some of the mayoral wannabes really don’t seem to want to be found. But in the case of Wendell, and I suspect a few other candidates besides, this isn’t the case.
Jerry: “People in the media, me being one of them, we get accused sometimes of ignoring the supposed other candidates. But I’m talking to you, you’re a Pastor, you’re a former police officer, you’ve got this idea of above-ground rail like they have in Chicago, of a visitor road toll that might affect the 905 [Greater Toronto Area] but not 416 [Metro Toronto], and these are the kinds of the issues that some reporters, some talk show hosts, might hook into, wanna talk about. How come I’ve never heard from you? I mean, in the end is it your fault I didn’t talk about you before I decided on my own to talk to other candidates?”
Wendell: “No, I’m gonna blame you.” [both laugh] “We put up our web site, I think we have…”
Jerry: “I don’t have control of web sites. Why haven’t you sent me a press release on these ideas?
Wendell: “We have! We press release weekly, I’ve actually called your station…”
Jerry: “But you haven’t contacted me.”
Wendell: “No I haven’t contacted you directly … we’ve tried. We’ve done our best, we’ve contacted media. We’ve reached out but unfortunately, news is news. People want things that are newsworthy, the media want things that they consider to be newsworthy, and for some reason they did not consider us to be newsworthy. But we kept pushing…”
Look, TCL’s political research department at the moment is me. Our newsgathering budget is whatever lint I have in my pocket. My investigative journalistic experience extends to a summer I spent at the Scarborough Mirror writing ad copy. Yet, little old Toronto City Life not only knew about Wendell Brereton well over a month ago, but I linked to his site and even watched his campaign video. So my question is, what the fuck is everyone else’s excuse? Sorry, Jerry … I love your station and your show, but that’s pathetic.
Aside from the fact that air time is allotted mostly to people hocking new movies, useless pet products, and other shit that is in no way news, CP24 and it’s parent stations suffer from a few other problems that were blatantly obvious during the debate.
To begin with, why CP24? Why choose a station where the debate is stuck into about a quarter of the screen (before any extra graphics are added to squeeze the real estate even more), surrounded by weather reports, stock market tickers (really? the majority of people really need this info?), and banner ads for junk removal services?
Citytv, CP24’s parent station, broadcasts full screen and is about as downtown Toronto as it gets. They seem unwilling, however, to preempt The Bachelor or whatever fluffy piece of crap they happen to be showing at that time.
Then there’s the format.
CP24 had Ben Mulroney on constant standby as they cut away from the debate for pointless commentary and insightless analysis with random passer-bys. Maybe they were thinking that with his dad being the former Prime Minister, Benny might be well-suited for the role. Except that he’s spent most of his broadcast career hosting award shows and waxing mundane on various Hollywood starlets’ pantiless excursions. And Benedict Martin Paul Mulroney is a snooze at that, kind of like a well-groomed rock — if he simply exists on camera, says nothing, does nothing, the show is about as exciting as otherwise.
The one redeeming quality about this whole thing is that it’s only the first of six televised debates, so they’ll have another five chances to get it right. You know, get hosts that at least seem to know something about municipal politics, maybe do a Google search to see if there are more than six candidates running, pretend like they’re professional news organizations — that kinda thing.