One for the trash.

I love efficiency.  On my morning commute I never walk slow, stand stationary on escalators or take the scenic route; I love a straight and orderly queue. I get personal satisfaction when I can arrive at work in under a half hour and display an uncharacteristic rage when there is a transit delay or if someone takes the elevator up only one floor.

Doing things efficiently can save time, energy, money and is over all convenient. It’s the Western way. We judge the value of everything against how efficient it is in hopes of having the ideal well-oiled and cost effective machine. In fact, as I write this I read the last two paragraphs over and over to see if there is anything that I can cut so I can get to the point sooner.

Here it is:

I’m afraid we’ve made efficiency a false idol.

Efficiency reigns supreme over everything we do and some most times it shouldn’t. Like when it comes to personal relationships…and Government services.

I work in Government services so I’m aware of my bias, but I’m also aware that more often than not people are more concerned with how long it takes and how much red tape there is rather than whether they are receiving the most out of the services they are eligible for and pay for through taxes.

This week the Toronto City Council voted to outsource garbage collection. The company who won the bid promises to offer the service for  $11.2 million a year less than unionized city workers AND with 30 less trucks.

The city sings Handel’s Hallelujah chorus in perfect harmony.

It seems people (outside of my circle) unanimously think this is the best thing to happen to Toronto since they erected that giant tower tourists love. Not because through thoughtful consideration of facts and figures it was revealed that outsourcing would a) have any tangible cost savings to citizens b) be more convenient and reliable or c) make Toronto a better and more livable city.

This motion was passed as payback for a legal strike the city workers (including garbage collectors) had in 2009. The union didn’t have the support of the general public* and the general public was generally pissed off that they had to deal with their own garbage- that they created and up until then had magically whisked away each week- that they couldn’t wait to give the union a spanking.

So what now? Well, Mayor Rob Ford is RAVING about the outsourced garbage collection in the borough of Etobicoke. I was looking through some jobs with a client today and my jaw almost dropped when I saw this.

I would say for dealing with waste during all types of weather, garbage collectors deserve their wage, which probably allows them to own a home, take their family on vacation and enjoy a pretty status quo life. But $12 an hour? how is anyone to support life on that wage?

I also come from a town that recently privatized their garbage collection. There were no tangible tax savings to citizens. Not only that but the company started allowing only one bag free and charging $2 per bag of garbage after that. Probably a good sustainable idea but NOT the cost savings the citizenry were looking for.

Friends, I love efficiency, but the associated- albeit questionable- capital savings just does not outweigh the human cost. We WANT good paying jobs in this city! without them it is a race to the bottom to see how much everyone’s wages can deflate.

*One of the main issues was the right to bank sick days. Very few people considered the fact that banking sick days was a concession for having a salary freeze for over 10 years, very few people also considered the fact that the length of the strike was caused just as much by management refusing to follow through on negotiations as it was the unions.


Strategic Risks.

I was not raised to have a conscience of guilt. And yet I stand at an ethical cross road feeling overwhelmed, creating lists of pros and cons, reciting Kant’s categorical imperative, asking W.W.J.D? and questioning the possible future implications of my choices. It sounds intense (and boring) but I do this because on October 25th/2010, I want to sleep with a clear mind.

October 25th marks the day of the Toronto Mayoral election, and although most people SHOULD be questioning which candidate they think will be the best fit to run this city, this seems to be anything but the case.

The front runner, Rob Ford, I can easily categorize as that douche bag who snaps his fingers in restaurants, calls waitresses ‘sweetie’ and leaves a lousy tip after complaining about everything. He’s the family member who ‘wins’ arguments because he talks the loudest and backs his opinions not with facts, but with angry ill-thought syllogisms. He’s the Mayoral candidate who in my opinion probably knows a lot about running a business, but little about running a city. Paired with ignorant statements about immigrants, the poor, homosexuals, art, living sustainably etc. I would never want him representing my city in a million years.

And I don’t think a lot of others would either, except that he’s harnessed (or instilled) a collective sense of revolutionary anger over how city hall is run while shifting the focus from the importance of civil society to how badly others are doing. A decision to vote for Ford, therefore, is not a vote FOR anything, but a tactical strategy against what we already have or hope to achieve.


But, I can’t cast the first stone against these angry voters because I am now faced with the same decision.

The truth is, when I go to put my X on the ballot in October, I’m being asked “who do you think will best run this city”? And unfortunately, there is no “not Rob Ford” option. There is the option of voting for the candidate I want, but he is trailing far behind. In the opinion of others it would be ‘a waste of a vote’, which is why most people I know have decided to engage in the same tactical strategy as the angry Rob Ford lovers (RBLs). That is, to vote FOR a person (the 2nd runner up, George Smitherman) in order to vote AGAINST Rob Ford.

But in the same way, strategic voters aren’t voting FOR anything, they aren’t questioning the perhaps contentious ideas and values of the 2nd runner up. They aren’t saying what they want, how they want their city to look, only that they don’t want Rob Ford. At this point, Smitherman could probably run on a campaign of “I’m not Rob Ford” and have a pretty good chance at taking the race.

So this is my dilemma. Do I vote for George Smitherman, a candidate I don’t really like, in order to save my city from the bumbling idiocy of Rob Ford? Or, when the ballot asks me to put an X beside the candidate I think is best, do I tell the truth, and vote for the candidate who most assuredly won’t win?

The stakes are high! And only one month left to decide.