Michael Comstock: Mayoral candidates try for name recognition

The mayoral election is a long way off. We don’t vote until October and I have been told that nothing meaningful will come out of the candidates’ mouths until after the summer.

They are at work making their names known speaking to the more interested political junky groups.

I am a member of this audience: Toronto Association of BIAs (TABIA) is holding a series of Breakfast meetings with the Candidates at 7:30, not my best time. I think the BIAs want to see how sharp they are when they just wake up.

The electorate have a short memory, are swayed by unimportant issues and can be manipulated. Democracy is doomed unless we have an educated electorate who show up for the vote.

Consider yourself one of the more educated in that you are taking the time to read a local newspaper.

The vast majority is immersed in world news, fresh tragedies and E-Talk Daily. They have little idea of what is going on down the street in their neighbourhood.

The TABIA breakfast is a $5 dim sum with tea and held informally in a restaurant at the home of the Chinatown BIA. The candidates meet about 30 representatives from BIAs across the city, plus a few locals who drop into the large second-floor banquet room just for the dim sum.

Of course, there are great questions about what is happening to our neighbourhoods: The tower developments, Transit City, Astral Media’s street furniture, tourism, street cleaning, parking, bike lanes and how to keep each neighbourhood healthy, in the “City of Neighbourhoods.”

Joe Pantalone was there May 12. The NDP will get out the vote for Joe. At this point consensus was that he has a dark-horse shot at winning if the front-runners tie, as does Rob Ford. Joe is a nice guy but just promotes Miller’s staff direction and programs.

You may not hear much about his long-standing role as the Tree Advocate as our city trees are a mess. Stunted street trees with concrete collars and 2-year waits for old-growth trimming continue. The Forestry Department hasn’t changed its personnel or practises in years and I know of no programs to encourage citizens or businesses to get involved in helping the trees or improving the tree pits.

He spoke against a toll for the Gardiner, saying a $10 toll would stop people from coming Downtown to our theatres and restaurants. Of course it would, but nobody in his or her right mind would charge $10. A toll price the same cost as a TTC ride would be fair and bring in hundreds of millions. While he acknowledged the lack of a city tourism program, at the BIA meeting the next week he presented Tourism Toronto a plaque of merit at their AGM. He is definitely running.

Giorgio Mammoliti was there May 26. Giorgio is “outrageously in touch” as he says, with the electorate. He does have a sound program in working with the 71 BIAs to clean up the city and enliven the neighbourhoods. He has experience provincially and in council. He wants to contract out the provision of many services, like giving BIA the budget and responsibility to clean its own streets and perform routine maintenance.

He wants to save the city millions. The outrageousness, however, of some platform ideas is holding his acceptance by the masses back. He has gained the allegiance of all horny old men, with the promise of no property taxes for seniors, a red light district and a casino.

Mammoliti is doing the opposite as the handlers advise during the summer, by putting out tons of ideas and reform plans. He would be great to keep in our city government but maybe not ready for prime time.

George Smitherman coming up June 9. George was a political handler himself (Barbara Hall) and is heeding the advice of holding back much of the platform till the end of summer.

So I expect not to hear much at the upcoming meeting. As I wait to hear from the Furious George in the heat of this coming campaign, discussions about his record as Minister of Health are bubbling up the bottom of the polls.

For enough years to get a pension I called on physicians across Downtown as a pharmaceutical representative. I saw dozens of doctors trying to put their patient load on computers. These are smart men and women and they knew the value computers could bring to patient care. One MD over on Queen St. E. had an early voice-recognition program on a PC.

He was trying to get the computer to record his examination, physical, diagnostics by speaking as he worked.

The system missed a lot of complex terms, but he persevered. Last time I called on him he was reciting numbers like 237 as his patients looked oddly at him. He had found that the computer recognized numbers well so he memorized the OHIP code numbers for physicals and procedures, spoke them, had the computer print out a pre-pasted sheet which he then stuck in the patient file.

They were still required to keep paper medical records by OHIP. He developed his own computerized patient files, as did a few other MDs because they knew it was important.

After many years going back into the Mike Harris government, the Ministry of Health was trying to modernize patient health care records. It actually finally got done under George Smitherman in a few years at the top. I would hope you notice that now when you visit your physician they have your file on screen, they can see your reports over time with graphs, they have all of your prescriptions in that file.

But what you hear about is the Conservatives call of a wasted billion dollars. That was the cost of the whole program, it wasn’t all lost, the thing is working. What made the news two years back was an Auditor General’s Review citing that a few million dollars made its way into the pockets of white-haired snappy-suit consultants who really didn’t work for it. Not good, but nothing new.

This is one of those things that becomes implanted in the electorates minds, unfairly or not. The electorate have a short memory, are swayed by unimportant issues and can be manipulated. We’ll soon see if George Smitherman is a morning person.