Independent Weekly – U of T – Thursday, Oct, 12, 2000
By: Tooker Gomberg
On November 13 Toronto will vote for its new mayor. If the mainstream media is to be believed, Mel Lastman will be a shoo-in for a second term. But here at Gomberg For Mayor headquarters, we’re committed to fighting Mr. Lastman all the way–while having a blast as we do it.
Our campaign is focused on raising issues with citizens about what this city could be. Over the past month, I have met thousands of people who are concerned about the same issues we are: traffic, public transit, the arts, homelessness, smog and garbage, to name a few. We aim to spark Torontonians’ imaginations about what sort of legacy we want to leave for the future.
Grassroots involvement is what makes our campaign unique. While Mel’s millionaire backers have funded his campaign to the tune of $1 million, we aim to run our campaign on a million leaflets! Already we’ve distributed nearly 100,000 flyers, and received an overwhelmingly supportive response. Our campaign office is a hive of activity, and over 300 citizens are at work on tasks ranging from research and writing to leafletting. And on top of everything, we’re having fun raising issues through colourful and creative direct actions.
The touchstone issue for this election is Toronto’s garbage crisis. In September, while Mr. Lastman was in Sydney boosting the city’s glories to the International Olympic Committee, a citizens’ campaign was gathering steam against the city’s shame–the mayor’s plan to ship millions of tons of our toxic garbage to a leaky dump in Northern Ontario.
We’ve been working with groups of Northerners, Natives, and Torontonians who oppose Mel’s insane 19th-century plan. We’ve been putting out the word about more sustainable solutions, including composting organic garbage to create natural gas for generating electricity–the solution I helped spearhead for Edmonton when I was a councillor there in the 1990s. And last week we helped pack the council chamber with vocal citizens outraged by Lastman’s garbage plan.
What happened in the council chamber was awe-inspiring: citizens took back power from Mr Lastman and his supporters, who frankly have shown that they don’t deserve the power given to them. They thought they could shove their garbage plan through, but citizens said “No.” And that’s the key to our campaign: putting citizen democracy into action.
By the time you read this, council will have made its final vote on the Adams Mine dump plan. It looks as though, at the very least, Mr. Lastman will have to water down the proposal to get it past council. However they vote, we will have shaken to the core the appalling complacency of Mr. Lastman and his council cronies. The media is predicting that voters will give the boot to more than one Lastman supporter over the garbage issue.
And if Mel himself remains at the head of the council table after November 13, it won’t mean our campaign has failed. After all, we’re raising the issues and building a movement for a just city. How can we lose?