'Honest' lawyer Goldkind becomes serious challenger in Toronto mayoral race
Mayoral candidate Ari Goldkind is pictured in this undated photo. (handout)
Vidya Kauri, CP24.com
Published Thursday, October 23, 2014 2:35PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, October 25, 2014 7:04PM EDT
Mayoral candidate Ari Goldkind has been thrown an unexpected curveball in the last two weeks leading up to the Toronto municipal election. After having participated in approximately 10 mayoral debates, he is now not being invited anymore.
One big reason, he says, is that debate organizers have told him they are afraid to lose Doug Ford who infamously pulled out of an Oct. 10 debate because Goldkind was going to be present. They are also disinclined to invite him, he says, because they say only one of the top three contenders - Ford, John Tory or Olivia Chow - can win.
“I never ever thought I would be blacklisted,” Goldkind said. “The frustration to me is that Torontonians are being told you only have three people to choose from.”
The odds seem to be stacked against Goldkind, a criminal defence lawyer, who has garnered considerable support for someone who was unknown in the world of politics just six months ago. Just how much support is hard to say - he hasn’t been included in most of the nearly bi-weekly polls either. One Forum Research poll in September had him at three per cent, similar to ratings for David Soknacki and Karen Stintz when they were still in the mayoral race.
If one is to judge by the latest poll, even Ford, polling in second-place, will find it challenging to defeat front-runner Tory. Chow, who has consistently placed third in the polls, hasn’t seen her support base rise since August - and she has been invited to participate in all the mayoral debates. It is hard to imagine that any outlier, then, has any hope of donning the velvet-collared chain of office.
But none of this deters Goldkind who told CP24 that in the home stretch of the mayoral race, his plan is to “work my posterior off to get my message in front of Torontonians.” Even in the two weeks before the big E-Day, he has released an affordable housing plan, a childcare plan, an environment plan, and arguably the most comprehensive transit plan that outshines that of the three leading candidates. As the proud owner of a 13-year-old black labrador, he even has a novel plan to help people with low incomes afford pets in need of rescuing.
And people are paying attention. Goldkind has been featured positively in numerous newspapers, online news sites and radio and television stations in the city. He even got a mention in the New York Times for challenging the Ford brothers on the use of a racial slur against Jewish people. He may not be in the top three list of candidates, but he is nonetheless a serious challenger in his own right.
So, how did he stand out among 60 other candidates whose names are likely unrecognizable to the general public?
Alex Andrews, 31, is an app developer who first heard Goldkind speak on a CBC radio show in September, and was attracted to what he says is Goldkind’s “grounded respect for data and policy,” social conscience and ability to talk to people rather than talking down to people.
“It got me excited to hear him talk about the city and his plan, and that's not something that happens often listening to interviews with politicians,” Andrews said in an email. “There was fight without cynicism, there were big ideas without naïveté, and there was a real and genuine charisma.”
When Andrews heard Goldkind was not being afforded the opportunity to participate in debates, he started a Change.org petition and a #LetAriDebate Twitter hashtag to convince debate organizers to include him. Almost a week later, the petition has about 700 signatures.
Goldkind is not without his critics. The main feature of his platform - tax hikes for increased services – has drawn hate mail from people who oppose him, he says.
He is calling for an annual property tax increase of $183, or 50 cents a day, to raise $1 billion over four years. He also wants to reinstate the vehicle registration tax and raise the land transfer tax for homes worth more than $1.1 million. His new radio ad asks people if they wouldn’t rather pay a toonie in highway tolls than be stuck in traffic.
“I’m telling the truth about what it will take to get this city moving. If people appreciate it and want to get moving, they can vote for me. If people want to stay stuck in traffic, on the Don Valley ‘parking lot’ or buttock-to-buttock to somebody at Yonge and Eglinton or Yonge and Finch, they’ve got three other people to vote for. That’s what democracy is,” he said.
Goldkind says his honesty is what appears to have drawn an ardent following of supporters in the thousands on social media, even prior to the release of his many ambitious plans to tackle child care, homelessness, transit and pet policies.
It is not clear how much impact Goldkind’s new plans will have considering the timing of their release in the last days of the campaign, and he doesn’t know if he will run again next term. For now, he says that despite being shut out of the debates, he will not give up on his vision for the city.
“What keeps me going is my unwavering belief that anybody who hears me speak or reads my platform is somebody who can see the potential in this city that I see and that’s why I’ll work my ass off until the last vote is counted.”
SNAPSHOT: More than a Map
Goldkind’s 21-page transit proposal, titled More than a Map, is a three-phase ambitious project costing $57 billion to be completed by 2030. The plan was developed throughout the summer and fall in consultation with transit experts he won’t name because he says they are affiliated with other candidates.
More than a Map borrows from Transit City and the province’s The Big Move to introduce 207 kilometres of new rapid transit, 120 new stations and six new “LRTways” for running surface light rail on streets with a reversible lane to match the direction of peak traffic at different times, similar to the one on Jarvis Street. When mapped, Toronto looks much smaller and almost as connected as New York City.
A detailed funding plan accompanies every element of Goldkind’s transit vision. Revenue tools include a combination of tax increases, provincial funding, selling air rights, tax increment financing and parking levies.
SNAPSHOT: Affordable housing plan
The plan calls for an investment of between $1.1 billion and $1.6 billion over four years to offer incentives to developers to offer more affordable units, hire skilled workers within TCHC communities to work on repairs in their own buildings, and expand the number of single-occupancy rooms and dorm-style units. Goldkind says he hopes the funds will come from community-business partnerships and other levels of government.
SNAPSHOT: Childcare plan
Priorities include implementing $10-per-day childcare for low-income families with children under the age of 10, nutrition programs and school breakfasts and expanding after-school programs. An approximately $35-million investment will be possible, Goldkind says, from increased property taxes, sponsorship and food donations from local communities, and the negotiation of tax credit increases with the province and Ottawa.
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