TORONTO — Ari Goldkind doesn’t seem to mind being called one of the “fringe” candidates for mayor of Toronto. As far as he’s concerned, that’s a temporary situation that will change as soon as he sits down for “an adult conversation” with the people of Toronto about the solutions he’s offering to the problems facing the city.
None of the other candidates will offer much more than shopworn slogans when pressed on the vital issues touching the city. That is, when they’re not avoiding the tough questions altogether. He, on the other hand, makes it clear he won’t avoid the dreaded term that some politicians – he points his finger directly at current mayor Rob Ford – have made into “a four-letter word,” taxes.
There’s no way to sugar-coat it, he suggests. The City of Toronto faces transportation problems and a crumbling infrastructure, and these can only be addressed by more tax revenue.
Goldkind believes the people of Toronto would be ready to part with more of their cash to address these concerns. Wouldn’t you, he argued, if all it meant was the value of two or three tanks of gasoline a year – $150-$200 based on property taxes for a house valued around $600,000-$700,000. The money that would be raised would go to two funds, one for transit, the other for infrastructure.
And the city would get a subway relief line and light rail lines to speed the transportation of commuters.
Goldkind would also implement a toll on drivers using the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. Three-quarters of the people using those highways don’t live in Toronto and don’t support the roads’ maintenance through their taxes. Furthermore, imposing tolls would cut congestion and make the daily commute for most users much shorter, he said.
Goldkind, 40, launched his bid for mayor a couple of weeks ago. Unlike the five main contenders – Ford, John Tory, Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz and David Soknacki – he has no prior political experience.
But he does have the gift of the gab. He’s confident that if elected, he can persuade Queen’s Park and Ottawa to return to Toronto some of the taxes the city contributes to the other levels of government.
He’s critical of the way his opponents articulated their positions at the recent debates: “These are people who can’t string a sentence together without a script,” he said. “My whole life is unscripted.”
Goldkind practices criminal law. He worked for a time in the corporate field, but found it too boring. The criminal bar, on the other hand, is where the action is. It’s stimulating – just take a look at the potential clientele in any courthouse on a given Monday morning – and it affords him the opportunity to employ his gifts of persuasion.
He clearly knows how to deliver a zinger. He slammed Ford for his use of crack cocaine and for his simple message of keeping taxes in check; he said Chow is a money machine beholden to special interests; Stintz has flip-flopped on the Scarborough subway; and Tory won’t provide details about what his plan was for transit.
“People know exactly what they’re getting” with Tory, Stintz and Chow, “and all they’re getting is either Ford light or Ford without the crack,” he said.
But doesn’t your lack of political experience harm your chances, he’s asked.
“We have a bunch of career politicians running for mayor. How’s that working out?” he replied. “It’s time for fresh ideas, real solutions, having a grown-up conversation about the problems Toronto faces.”
Items on Goldkind’s agenda include:
• replacing the proposed Scarborough subway line with an light rail alternative;
• building “a full relief [subway] line all around the city and LRT lines elsewhere;
• stopping expansion of Billy Bishop airport;
• privatizing garbage collection in areas not already receiving that service, but only “if it saves the taxpayer money.”
Goldkind said his focus “would be to convince the unions to be competitive. The old days are over. The public sector doesn’t get to be paid wages higher than those in the private sector. Those days are unfortunately behind us.”
Goldkind believes that as his message gets out, it will resonate with Toronto voters.
Goldkind prides himself in being self reliant. The child of divorced parents, he was raised from age 11 by his grandparents. One of his first jobs, at 11, was selling popcorn and Cracker Jack at Maple Leaf Gardens. For eight years he sold programs at SkyDome.
He put himself through university, first as an undergraduate at Queen’s and then through law school at the University of Toronto.
“I’ve always been self-sufficient,” he said. “I understand the need to invest in myself and take risks.”
But being charitable is not something for which one should be defensive, he continued. He believes in taking care of people who are less fortunate than himself. “And that means supporting the city that can be so great for all.”
“We have a responsibility to leave the city better than we found it.”
“There’s nothing fringe about my ideas or me,” he said. “If you rely on career politicians, you get the results we’ve seen of the last 30 years.”