Thursday, February 04, 2010

Toronto Votes 2010: Adam Giambrone's Star Wars Kid Candidacy

We're still a long way away from e-day, but Toronto's mayoral race is starting to take shape. According to the city's website, there are 24 declared candidates - alas, Ange Maniccia has withdrawn, failling to generate a significant amount of Maniccia-Mania in the first day of his/her candidacy. Relax Ange, we all have moments like that.

From among that list of 24, there are a handful of legitimate candidates - one of Giorgio Mammoliti, Joe Pantalone, or the yet-to-declare Denzil Minnan-Wong could break through as a contender.

But early on, the media focus has been on George Smitherman, Adam Giambrone, and Rocco Rossi. For those unfamiliar with Toronto-politics, here's where you've probably heard of these men before:

-Giambrone's name gets mentioned on Facebook whenever someone is bitching about the TTC
-Smitherman is part of the "Former McGuinty Cabinet Ministers" Facebook group (closing in on the anti-prorogation one as the largest FB group in Canada)
-Rocco Rossi has most likely wished you happy birthday on Facebook.

So what should we make of our three challengers thus far?

Well, with John Tory gone, Smitherman is clearly the front runner. He's branding himself as the pit bull of the race (Q: What's the difference between George Smitherman and a pit bull? A: McGuinty has yet to ban George Smitherman):

In an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Smitherman opened the door to road tolls, rejected banishing bike lanes from arterial roads and promised to apply bulldog toughness to the city’s finances – unlike the current administration, he said, which is struggling to impose a 5-per-cent budget cut on recalcitrant departments and agencies.

“If my bureaucracy basically shot me the finger,” Mr. Smitherman said, “well, I’ll let my reputation speak for itself … a shrug of the shoulders and the middle finger salute isn’t going to cut it.”

Former LPC National Director Rocco Rossi (who, in passing, deserves a round of applause for the increased Liberal fundraising numbers in 2009), is positioning himself on Smitherman's right flank. It's not too surprising, really. Rossi was John Tory's campaign manager in 2003, so he stands to inherit much of the Tory only makes sense to try and inherit as much of Tory's vote as possible.

Which brings us to young Adam Giambrone, chair of the TTC. Giambrone should be taken seriously in this race - John Laschinger is his campaign manager, and Giambrone will appeal to many of the same people who elected David Miller. Now, when I say that Giambrone should be taken seriously, that's intended more as advice to his own campaign, than as a warning to the opposition. Case in point:

I'm as big a fan of self-deprecating humour as anyone out there, but there comes a point when you cringe. After watching this video, I just can't imagine this guy running the City of Toronto. Don't get me wrong, I love that he has a sense of humour, and he seems like an OK guy - the video would make me consider voting for him as SU President. Well, maybe not, but definitely as VP Events for the chess club.

But Mayor of Toronto? That's a fairly serious job, and nothing Giambrone has done thus far, during this campaign or during his political career, gives me any sort of sense that he's ready for that.

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  • Agree with your Giambrone conclusion. I'm reminded of the US Presidential election when Clinton was dying his hair gray while Dole dyed his brown because this seems like the 21st century equivalent of Giambrone trying to seem younger. Not to put too fine a point on it but that is obviously not something he needs to do.

    With JT out this race is turning into a comedy of errors.

    By Anonymous David, at 10:31 a.m.  

  • It has already been point out in one opinion peice dealing with the Mayoral race but the Giambrone video may not be great it certainly has went viral. Neither Smitherman nor Rossi have had such attention to any of the videos they have released. The video will not have any major impact on the campign other than the fact Giambrone has gotten his name out even further.
    Simply look at the number of individuals who have watched the video compared to the top viewed video from other candidates. Giambrone has had 46,393 views and Rossi 537 views. So if Giambrone was attempting to build his name and some interest for his campaign launch he did a great job.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:44 a.m.  

  • After riding the TTC (or looking at its finances) there is no way you could believe Adam Giambrone is fit to lead Toronto.

    Torontonians rightly cry bloody murder over the salaries of visible TTC workers, like the ticket collectors that make 54,000/year + benefits (who also get generous provisions for overtime - which allowed one to make over $100,000).

    In many respects, those guys are getting the short end of the stick. The TTC wage bill in 2008 was 950 million dollars ( The TTC employed 11,861 people on that same year (

    That is an average wage bill of over $80,000/year.

    Toronto TTC fares are ridiculously high - higher than almost any other major city (when I take the Indianapolis city bus it is $1.25).

    Part of the reason is that Toronto has an abysmally small subsidy relative to other cities, in part because the city is too broke to increase it. But even our tiny transit subsidy could go a lot further without the bloated wage bills that Adam Giambrone and Howard Moscoe before him routinely signed off on.

    I really like what I am hearing from Smitherman and Rossi on the TTC issue, I just hope they don't split the sane vote and allow mini-Miller to win.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 3:24 p.m.  

  • Toronto TTC fares are ridiculously high - higher than almost any other major city (when I take the Indianapolis city bus it is $1.25).

    Ridiculously high compared to where? They're cheaper - even at $3 - than the Viva fares in York Region and still cheaper than single zone fares in the London Underground. I can't remember fares in other European cities (Paris, Munich, Vienna), but they're certainly comparable to the TTC.

    The TTC should, however, move to zoned/timed fares and eliminate fare collection altogether (if it works in York Region...).

    By Blogger JG, at 4:37 p.m.  

  • The fact that you had to compare Toronto with London, the most expensive transit system of any major city, and with a regional transit system without the economies of scale of the TTC is a case in point.

    TTC: $3 tickets ($2.50 ea if you buy 10), $121 metropass
    New York: $2.25/ticket
    Montreal: $2.10 (if you buy 10 at a time), $70 metropass
    Philadelphia: $2
    Chicago: $2.25 (less with a farecard)
    LA: $1.25
    Ottawa O-Train: $2.50
    Columbis: $1.75
    Indianapolis: $1.25
    Baltimore: $1.60 $64 metropass
    DC: $1.65-$4.50 during peak hours (with up to a $1 discount), $1.35-2.35 during non peak hours
    Atlanta: $2
    Houston: $1.25

    Of course, this comparison probably understates the problem. The problem is that public transit is a natural monopoly run by the government. Because its managers are not subject to direct competition, and because they know deficits will be footed by taxpayers they can get away with high fares and overly generous wages. Moreover, it creates a situation where public sector unions are simply too powerful, since they have the ability to bring the city to a halt.

    The best metric of comparison is to compare the salary of a TTC employee with their private sector counterpart. Greyhound drivers, for instance, earn an average of about $35,000/year. (

    At average pay of $80,000/year, TTC employees make more than many university professors, for instance, for a job that does not require any education beyond high school.

    In addition, the nature of transit jobs (and the deliberate policies of the union, which keep the number of employees low) tend to give staff huge opportunities for overtime. The guy who made over $100,000 did so because he worked over 1,000 hours of overtime.

    When you can work that much overtime you are severely understaffed. Here is an example where you could probably cut wage costs and improve customer service by hiring more people - what could be better in this economy?

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 6:11 p.m.  

  • H2H is rite, the TTC is too expensive, and far too much of the fare goes towards salaries for poor performers.

    you could probably cut wage costs and improve customer service by hiring more people - what could be better in this economy?

    I sure agree.

    George Smitherman is the pits (that pitbull joke is a classic, I'm going to have to steal it), and I really, really "like" Giambrone (as in the who-to-have-a-glass-of-ginger-ale-with test)... but the TTC is in dire need of reform and I'm not sure Giambrone's been motivated to get on it.

    Anyway, my .02

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