Comment 18308

By MarkState (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2008 at 06:35:24

As I understand the concept, party politics is a "damned if you do, and damned if you don't" method of governance; since on its positive side, it provides a cadre of quasi-like-minded individuals who can, if they have the vision, make positive changes for the electorate; but who --on the negative side-- often don't because the PARTY takes over by placing the struggle for re-election as its highest priority from its inception.

There are strategists (caucus, cabinet, advisory boards) who determine on a case-by-case basis which needs of the public [and even how much of each need] will and will not be supported through the development of 'policy'. Otherwise civic-minded politicians are forced to subjugate their efforts on behalf of their constituents to support the party's voting direction.

Where the idea of party politics wins is the very infrequent occasion when the piece of legislation being considered coincides with the interests of the electorate; and this is not as frequent as one might imagine.
The infrequency is due to a lack of money and the need to prioritize its expenditures (aside from infrastructure maintenance), and in the vast majority of such decisions, the ruling party's popularity is the final arbiter of decision-making. An exception of this nature can occur when the proposed legislation receives lots of media attention. It can also occur when opposition parties can be made to look like they made a foolish error in judgement about some peice of proposed legislation; and it then becomes loudly supported by the party in power to show the electorate how ineffective that opposition would be if they ever got to govern.

Opposition parties, on the other hand, can 'make' hay over any proposed legislation by the party in power, because they do not have the ultimate responsibility of decision, and so can pretend to (bellicosely) be the "friend of the common man" in every debate. Should the minority party win an election and be given power, the roles would be just reversed; and in the long run, except for election promises and priorities, no difference could be expected in the method of making government funding allocations that would directly benefit all the electorate.

In CIVIC governance, the institution of party politics obviates the putting-forward of candidates in each riding those good people who work with and for the electorate during the periods between elections, who are very intimately familiar with the issues and concerns of their ridings, and who desire to do something to benefit their neighbours.

Instead, candidates would be chosen by the parties who will run them in the elections, and their work for the city will largely depend upon the party line rather than local issues, just as in big government.

There is a catch-22 to this dilemma, (so to speak). Because the councillors in the city government are currently independents, and the city's operating budgets are very limited, there arise conflicts over which needed improvements actually can receive remediative attention.

And unfortunately, rather than using any sense of truth in service to the community as the decider, career councillors latch on to those issues that promise the most media exposure, and ride them --right or wrong-- for all they're worth, in order to maintain themselves in the public vision through media attention, and thus enhance their chances of re-election.

With this set of circumstances operating at city hall, it would seem to be more advantageous for an elected party to get things done --at least in the wards where the party members are elected. And those who are not in the ruling party would, in bringing forward the concerns of their neighbourhoods, be at an even greater disadvantage than the considerable disadvantage they already face from the media grabbers, cliques, and coalescences of mutual support that hold sway in council.

An alternative to this conundrum would require a complete re-arrangement of civic governance.

For example, the issue of lack of money would have to be solved. Then, the city council would not be required to continually squabble for improvements.

If daily issues (including those arising in the city's support of its infrastrucure) were to be given a back seat to the orderly design of an inclusive budget, then the budget could be made to cover all exigencies as well as ongoing expenditures; and if a cadre of like-minded politicians decided to run together to save money on campaign efforts, and their platform were to be something like 'create a budget that supports the best interests of the city', certainly they would have a real opportunity to find a way to address all the concerns of the citizenry by taking logical measures, rather than risking censure by jumping upon the popular issues.

In Toronto, there are myriad ways of raising monies for civic infrastructure that do not require either raising taxes or asking the federal/provincial governments for handouts.

When and if those means of raising money become employed, it would seem to be sensible for an otherwise impartial "Toronto Party" to step forward and ask for election.

Until there is leadership that can offer a concrete method of achieving the vision of economic independence for the city, and until the vision of what needs to be done for the city becomes an overall vision instead of an issue-by-issue struggle, running the city will continue to be too expensive for a civic election Party to be anything other than 'more of the same' as the current flock of city politicians; and given the undermining influence of party politics, probably worse. Mark State

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