Article: Submitted to the Toronto Star

Submitted to the Toronto Star, Darryl Newbury, Nov. 8, 2000.

“Thumbs up for Mel, thumbs down for voters” the headline above Royson James’ column of November 4. This struck me as rather self-serving on the same day that The Toronto Star offered its editorial endorsement to Mel Lastman. Does The Star’s editorial board not see the irony in the fact that they have contributed to the apathy that Royston James is lamenting by choosing not to host a mayoralty debate between your chosen candidate and the other candidates for the mayor’s seat?

This voter disengagement is further reinforced election coverage offered by the Star. Despite Royson James’ lauding of contender Tooker Gomberg for being “brave enough to circulate his ideas, put forward his vision and challenge Lastman,” it’s virtually impossible to learn much about Gomberg’s platform from reading your paper. In fact, The Star has been far more likely to denigrate Tooker for his “stunt-a-day” campaign as in the “Hot or Not” sidebar on Saturday than to report on any of the many policy statements that he is proposing.

Could it not be possible that Tooker’s street theatre has been made necessary by the media’s choice to ignore Gomberg’s positions on the issues that would make Toronto a more livable city? This while applauding your chosen candidate Mel Lastman for his platform positions such as his “ambitious” waste diversion plans. Lastman’s credibility on this issues is, after all, suspect at best considering his recent attempt to steamroll our garbage into Adam’s Mine. If The Toronto Star is truly interested in an engaged electorate, it could have surely given equal billing to Tooker Gomberg’s expertise on waste management as illustrated by his instrumental role in initiating Edmonton’s innovative composting program.

Royston Jame’s assertion — that if we had party politics at the municipal level there would be less voter apathy — seems to have missed the point. Not only is that apathy a result of the failure of the media to engage voters, but we already have a political party at City Hall. It’s called the Mel Lastman Party, and membership includes those councillors who supported his misguided attempt to send our garbage to Kirkland Lake. They were rewarded by having their photos included on Lastman’s campaign literature — much like the multitude of federal Liberal backbenchers display photos of the prime minister on their leaflets.

Voters do have a choice. Instead of a coronation of Mel Lastman, they can give Tooker Gomberg a serious look (although judging by the nature of coverage in The Toronto Star, they might be better served by taking a look at his website to find out where he stands on all of the issues). Further, voters can support those candidates who fought tirelessly against Mel and his “party’s” ill-fated attempt to send our garbage out of sight and into Adam’s Mine. After all, without the efforts of progressive councillors such as David Miller, Sandra Bussin, Joe Mihevc and Jack Layton, it,s doubtful that Lastman would have ever heard of the concept of waste diversion.