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The choice to be not San Francisco
Another once-great Western city, another chance to stop the slide. In a crowded field to the right of far-left, Anthony Furey is the common-sense candidate for the job.
Traffic was tied up, and sirens and horns were blowing urgently along each crosstown street in the distance. The sidewalk was crowded; the bike lanes near-empty. I wondered if he was following me, the harm-reduced man from the streetcar who minutes before had filled the car with acrid fumes from his compassionate city-brand crack pipe.
Tired workers and parents with their children immediately fled for the exits, the secondhand smoke being shared by dozens as minutes passed by between stops, any hopes of an emergency exit thoroughly dashed by the realities of a city grid-locked by City Hall and the actions of bureaucrats who remain blissfully detached from the scenes of entropy they so encourage.
Finally out in the relative cleanliness of the open air, choked by endless ‘big-dig’ style construction dust and the faint aromas of synthetic cannabis, I resist the urge to look back, even as I hear the man groaning and shrieking at passersby.
I do not fear the harm-reduced man, but I lament that others surely do.
He was not clever. Under duress and in a pinch, a man like him would be easy to shake. One would need to turn only to a policeman or hail a cab. Only, there were no policemen to be found, and the last of the non-Uber ride-shares were snarled in bumper-to-bumper — with the streetcars and buses home to more problems than solutions.
He was broken, misled, blood pouring from the open sores visible through holes in his ripped jeans. It’s absurd for someone to imagine being harmed on a crowded street, but that’s life in the era of harm-reduced men. Teenagers are stabbed to death; women are violated; ordinary families are made to feel deeply unsafe — because they are.
I pull into the liquor store, not for want of a drink, but to purchase a bottle of bourbon for a friend’s birthday. As I browse the aisles, I hear the man crash through the gate that swings at the front of every LCBO, for security reasons unclear.
The faces in line turn from temporary worry to detachment. These are our Western cities now. To frequent a central business district is a gesture of faith, often unrewarded. When the madness comes, you just hope it passes quickly, and to as little fanfare as possible.
The rancid smell lingered as he cleared out a shelf of vodka, deliberately breaking a few items on display, before stumbling back out into the madding crowds and disappearing.
By the exit stood a sixteen-dollar-an-hour security guard, never having budged. The cashiers sighed and went about their work.
I paid for the bottle of Maker’s Mark and left. Outside, there were more sirens in the distance. I wondered if they were for the harm-reduced man, before reminding myself that I knew better.
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: you’re not crazy for wanting an end to this. You’re not a “fascist” for wanting your child to be able to go to school stabbing-free. You’re not a “boot-licker” for knowing that defund the police doesn’t work. You’re not “short-sighted” for being a student of history, and being aware that more often than not the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
And you’re certainly no less caring for noting that this particular version of caring, through detached progressive policy-making, clearly hasn’t worked.
As another Western city is presented with another opportunity to stop the harm-reduction-through-shared-harm slide, know that you’re not alone. There’s a quiet, non-co-opted consensus out there, and there is strength in numbers — but will those numbers finally agree on the right candidate?
Anthony Furey should be the right choice for Toronto. I’m a bit biased, of course. I know him; I like him; he’s a talented writer, and perhaps a better listener.
No Toronto mayoral candidate has knocked on more doors, met more commuters outside subway stations, spoken with more families in parks — where oft-neighbouring ‘safe-injection’ sites remain a major concern — and no candidate has placed more personal calls to voters on the fence, to learn more about their priorities.
His platform has been generously ‘borrowed from’ by a few centre-right candidates for a reason. And there’s a reason he has piled up the finest group of campaign endorsements that I can recall — and that’s including federal elections.
He may not have a clear declaration of support from the Premier of Ontario, who may or may not have shoulder-tapped former not-all-that-popular police chief Mark Saunders, who continues to stagnate in the polls, or the deputy mayoral endorsements of Ana Bailao, whose role in the Night of the Long Knives that ousted John Tory has yet to be fully revealed, but the Furey campaign has certainly not been found wanting.
Former federal cabinet ministers, city councillors, various culture groups, the city’s top business owners, unofficial support from Toronto police services, Dr. Jordan Peterson, seemingly every Canadian columnist not subsidized by the Trudeau Foundation, and, quietly, many federal Conservative bigwigs have been keen on buttressing Anthony’s message of safer streets, working streets, lower taxes, and compassion through treatment, not endless enablement.
For mayoral front-runner Olivia Chow, such acts of enablement remain the raison d’etre of a campaign that has been thoroughly sheltered from criticism by Toronto’s left-leaning corporate press.
Forget the daily scenes of decay, or a platform devoid of details, that refuses to even put a number on tax hikes for working families in an affordability crisis that are rumoured to come in at an eye-watering 30-40%, the free ride from the Toronto Star has continued unabated, while the “far-right” knives are out for Furey, and anyone to the right of Leon Trotsky.
Chow, a member of a Toronto-based political dynasty who, at one point, engaged in generous interpretations of who gets to take advantage of public housing, may indeed be destined for another well-handed job.
But herein lies the rub — the work is not yet finished.
There’s still time to unite a thoroughly centrist ‘right.’
As per a recent press release:
The April 12 Mainstreet poll put Saunders at 13 per cent, and the most recent Mainstreet poll on June 15 has Saunders once again at 13 per cent. The Saunders campaign has zero momentum at this late stage, and hasn’t grown a single percentage point, even after two months of well-financed campaigning.
Meanwhile, in recent weeks Anthony Furey has managed to rapidly jump from seventh place to third, according to the latest Forum Research poll. And, in the most recent Mainstreet poll, Furey and Saunders were tied within the margin of error, at 11 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.
What the details within the polls show is that while the vast majority of Saunders supporters are also Furey supporters, and would switch their votes in a heartbeat, the same doesn’t apply in the opposite direction.
From the numbers I’ve been privy to, the number of potential swing voters from Saunders to Furey could be as high as 75%. (To the surprise of some, there are even safety-minded Chow swing voters.) As the outsider candidate on the rise, and the only candidate showing any growth potential, Toronto voters could be looking at Furey polling north of 20% going into election day, well within the margin to defeat Olivia Chow.
With GOTV efforts now more essential than ever, particularly in the era of abominable voter turnouts (John Tory’s final apathy election enticed only 29% of Torontonians), everything is in play for the campaigns capable of getting supporters moving in the direction of 1500-something polling stations.
A late unite-the-centre-right campaign is capable of getting that done — but time is running out.
Our once-great cities may indeed be presently run by and for the broken, but in spite of that — in spite of ourselves — common sense is still possible.
When pressed on seemingly any campaign detail, Olivia Chow spins some yarn about building a “more caring city” where everyone belongs.
She should look no further than the “caring city” of San Francisco, where families don’t leave their houses after dark, storefronts sit empty, and where the dog poop on the street isn’t actually dog poop.
Here, now, and everywhere, such caring has spread. It rides the streetcar, ravages communities, disappears beneath the waves, and then comes crashing back to shore, strewn across the grass that grows where children play, where ostensibly well-meaning entropy types whistle past the graveyards of their own misguided choices.
In a cultural climate that seeks to affirm instead of treat, it’s seen as some deplorable act to follow the evidence of one’s eyes and ears.
What we’re seeing, and hearing — and even breathing in — ain’t pretty, but millions are no longer turning away.
We can reduce harm, not spread it, and that starts by treating the harm-reduced man.
The person to lead that charge is Anthony Furey.
Alexander Brown is a writer, comms director, and part-time politico living in Toronto, Canada. To support his work, feel free to join thousands of subscribers.
To learn more about Anthony Furey’s campaign, visit his website.