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The Dirty Tricks Campaign
September 12 - October 3, 2000
According to outspoken former Toronto City Clerk Syd Baxter, placing similar names on the election ballot to manipulate the outcome of municipal elections is 'an old, dirty trick'.
The same-name game is the dirtiest of all tricks, not only because apathy and confusion already dog municipal elections, but because the game is all but impossible to prove.
Although it may be difficult to prove it (their word against mine), the editor of this newspaper has been asked by incumbent councillors to help find candidates with the same names as their incumbent enemies.
Just in time for the November 2000 civic election, it seems that the dirty tricks campaign is already alive and kicking in Ward 22 (St. Paul's). A candidate by the name of Jim Walker, who has no record of active involvement at City Hall, seems to be cashing in on the 18-year reputation and good name of North Toronto Coun. Mike Walker. Local business owner and resident Jim Walker's name will appear first on the election ballot, which lists names in alphabetical order.
Telling the mainline media that he couldn't help having his own name, Jim Walker seemed to use a contentious leashed pet issue at a park that is not even located in Ward 22 as the catalyst for jumping into the election race. For reasons unknown, he didn't share with the media the fact that he is the same Jim Walker who is President of the St. Paul's Federal Progressive Conservative Association.
Like any maverick politician, Mike Walker has his enemies, with the Queen's Park Tories and local landlords topping the list.
The maverick cannot expect any real digging from an indolent, big-contacts-in-the-mayor's-office mainline media.
In the 1997 municipal election, a phantom candidate by the name of Larry Tabin threw his name into the race against incumbent councillor Peter Tabuns, who was running against Toronto Board of Education Trustee Pam McConnell in Riverdale (now Don River).
In the confusion, Larry Tabin was able to draw enough votes away from Peter Tabuns, allowing McConnell a narrow win.
After declaring himself a candidate, Larry Tabin had all but disappeared. The media, including Toronto Free Press could not find him. Rumour has it that he was paid to spend the summer up north at a cottage, where he remained until after voting day.
Tabin mounted no campaign, had no phone number and apparently vanished from his downtown apartment and restaurant job-weeks before municipal election day. Some 939 citizens voted for the phantom candidate anyway.
Peter Tabuns had made enemies among members of the restaurant industry with his radical approach as local health board chairman.
After a police investigation to ascertain whether or not the no-show Tabin was a 'serious' candidate came up empty, it was difficult to prove foul play.
With an in-your-face tenacious style, the never-give-up Mike Walker has been a burr in the saddle of moose-loving Mayor Mel Lastman.
The Ward 22 incumbent, unlike so many of his council colleague, turns down big developer's donations come election time.
In spite of all of the above, Mike Walker is taxpayer protection and nothing less than the 'Royal Official Opposition' at Toronto City Hall.
The only councillor to vote against the Olympics, he is one of the rare city councillors who dares the loneliness of unpopularity by continuing to hammer home questions on behalf of the taxpayers, at city council.
Toronto Free Press is, by and large, a supporter of the Mike Harris Tories.
Although we wish Walker would drop his support for the highly political and tenant ineffective Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, we believe he is the top taxpayers-first councillor at Toronto City Hall. A position that predates opportunist Jim Walker by 10 years.
The tragedy of municipal elections is that there really is room for the Jim Walkers of this world in NDP wards where other councillor incumbents are not so ready to protect the public purse.
To target the best councillor of them all is discouraging for long-suffering Toronto taxpayers, who already display a disturbing lack of interest in municipal election campaigns.
If the landlords and the Tories really want to help Toronto taxpayers they should find a candidate with the courage to earn votes in a ward where relief is sorely needed.