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Kawhi Life: So you’re in Toronto, now what?

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for now. While we can do little to affect the team’s success, we can sell him on the city. Welcome to our new weekly column to do just that.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

This Week in Toronto

Sadly, we have to start what should be an upbeat column celebrating the best this city has to offer with a decidedly sour subject: politics. Yes, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a municipal election happening in Toronto on October 22nd (some out there have already voted). This is — and always should be — a big deal, but it’s an even bigger deal this time around because of the events preceding election day. And because of what’s at stake.

Those aforementioned events are enraging, so I’ll try to keep this part of the summary short (lest I start throwing furniture). To wit: Toronto had a 44-seat city council, and had plans to expand it to 47 for this election. Instead [deep, calming breath], we’ve got a 25-seater for the foreseeable future. There are all kinds of problems with this — it’ll be harder for councillors to respond to the needs of their constituents, harder still for people to get in touch with their elected representatives, and it may even be harder to fill quorum on various sub-committees and community boards and the like. This is also to say nothing about how it has squashed council diversity and slammed the door on potential new voices entering the city’s halls of power. I’m no fan of the change, is my point here.

The stakes part is easier to explain: the ward councillors all have their part to play in Toronto’s government. If they are embarrassing or inept (there are a few incumbents who most definitely are; I can provide a list), it reflects poorly on the city and makes it harder for things to get done effectively. If they are good (they do indeed exist!), it makes for a better city. On top of that, we’re going to elect a mayor, someone who will (in the absence of strong mayoral powers) try his or her best to sway council into enacting his or her agenda. I say “his or her” here because the two main candidates competing for the job are incumbent John Tory (of whom I am no great fan) and Jennifer Keesmaat (the pragmatic choice). I think my parentheticals speak for themselves.

In most of these races, name recognition seems to be the most important thing helping candidates to take the lead in their respective polls. People know Tory already, so he’s favoured to be re-elected. That’s usually how these things go, which in turn engenders an air of indifference towards civic discussions, if we’re being honest. There are a few exceptions to this though (see for example the increasing desperation of the man they call Mammo); and then there are the incumbent vs. incumbent battles being waged across the city due to the downsizing of council. I admit, the mood around all of this is is a touch grim. It continues to be unfortunate the 2018 election finds itself in this place given those aforementioned stakes. At the start of the year, it felt like Toronto was perhaps in for some kind of (positive?) reckoning, and now many just don’t know where we stand as citizens.

Now, ironically, we get to the uplifting part. If nothing else, the entire lead-up to this election, one of the more contentious in recent memory, has highlighted anew people’s desire to engage usefully in municipal affairs. Maybe this is always the case, but it feels like a growing number of citizens are tuning into the fact that their local government has a lot more to do with how their city works than merely making sure the garbage gets picked up on time. We’ve been given reasons to despair, times ahead may indeed be downright tough for some, a fight of some type or another could be brewing — and yet there’s also a renewed resolve. I hesitate to use the word “hope” just yet, though it is what I’m hanging onto in preparation for Monday. (Now, does the tenor of this discussion just happen to align with the sentiment around the Raptors at the present moment? I’ll leave that for someone else to decide.)

In any case, if you still have questions, here’s a great summary from NOW Toronto which provides a summary of the wards and candidates while also proffering the best candidate (if any) going forward. And if you’re looking for ways to get more involved this weekend (yes, there’s still time), you can always check out what Progress Toronto is working on. Despite what the brother of an outgoing city councillor currently endorsing a different incumbent has to say, they’re good people.

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(Though, as a reported recent Toronto homeowner, I suppose he may be concerned about property tax rates, and/or how those resources are being used. He’ll be living in this city for at least the next year, right? Presumably, he may want to know what the deal is with what’s going on around him, how safe he and his family are, what fun things there may or may not be to do, etc. He may even want to know who his city councillor is in case he wants to complain about some civic issue. Maybe he’s deeply politically engaged, but like many of us, chooses not to air his beliefs out too loudly. Or, I don’t know, maybe not.)