The Goldkind Surprise
If you still don't know who Ari Goldkind is, you probably don't have an internet connection and you probably don't attend civic engagements like debates or forums. If you think that you're capable of making an informed decision using the information you get from local newspapers and news channels, you're wrong. The truth is that everyone has something to be afraid of, including debate moderators and ideological journalists. They fear that their candidate might lose support and that it could send the wrong person into Rob Ford's old office.
Ari Goldkind was a long shot just a month ago. Back in June, I asked Goldkind who he was and what he stood for. Since June, the guy hasn't flip flopped or changed positions. He's unapologetic about his mission and his ideas. He doesn't care about being challenged or called out. In fact, he welcomes it. That's why he has been trying to get in on the action – something debate moderators and the other candidates have been eager to avoid.
One can't help but wonder how someone who believes in the democratic process could refuse to debate with a lesser known opponent. Most politicians adjust their ties and brush the dandruff off their shoulders before boldly standing in front of a crowd and proclaiming their love of democracy. John Tory and Olivia Chow have both done it several times.
Goldkind has been on the scene in Toronto since Spring, but it took months for him to finally get a shot at calling out the big shots. It happened four times, but the real news grabber happened at a little venue called Brickworks. Goldkind had the opportunity to share the stage with both Tory and Chow. Unfortunately, after that debate, Goldkind received invites to two other debates, only to have both Tory and Chow cancel. First Tory cancelled and then Chow cancelled – after she condemned Tory for cancelling.
I mean, what happened? What happened during the Brickworks debate that would have made John Tory, in particular, so angry? Well, according to John Tory, Ari Goldkind's criticism wasn't fair. His criticisms were just “cheap shots”. That's what Tory tweeted just hours after the debate, proving the effectiveness of Goldkind's words and Tory's own growing fear. Tory allegedly went as far as to suggest that less popular candidates shouldn't be included in debates.
Luckily for Goldkind, Tory's campaign had a slight change of heart, but still shows reluctance. When I asked Ari how many debates he has had with Tory so far, he told me there were four and a fifth in the works. “It was our fourth. After that, he went with his false 'I won't debate unless Doug is there'. He proceeded to debate Chow, without Doug, four more times,” he said.
It's evident that Goldkind's rib bruising remarks at the Brickworks debate turned John Tory into a whimpering puppy. Yes, a puppy. “If you ask John Tory if he likes puppies, he's going to answer 'Smart Track',” said Goldkind, without fumbling his words in the same way Chow usually does. He even took an honest jab at her, saying, “If you ask Ms. Chow about anything, she'll say, 'well we have to do it now'.” Of course, Chow tried to interrupt before he could finish – as she usually does. “The problem is that nobody is willing to say how we're going to pay for this infrastructure, but I am,” Goldkind continued.
Goldkind does have a way to pay for infrastructure and he's honest about it. He wants more taxes. Traffic to Goldkind's campaign website has undoubtedly spiked since the Brickworks debate, so any serious voter with an internet connection has probably read all about his plans by now.
You don't have to agree with Ari Goldkind's plans to raise taxes or implement term limits. You don't even have to agree with him on anything. I definitely don't agree with higher taxes and city charters, but that doesn't mean I think anyone as sharp, smart and articulate as Goldkind should be shut out or shrugged off. Candidates that arrogantly refuse to debate Ari Goldkind can't be called democratic.
Olivia Chow's fear over debating Goldkind all by herself is understandable. She's a terrible public speaker, let alone a good debater. But, John Tory is a smart, well spoken and respectful guy. He should have no fears about debating a hard hitter like Goldkind.
The fear in most campaigns is about giving the opponent too much attention. Tory had an apparent hissy fit after his debate with Goldkind, but it was probably his campaign team that encouraged him to cancel debates that include Goldkind. After Brickworks, the other campaigns realized that Goldkind is not a lightweight. Unlike the other small time candidates, Goldkind is not a crackpot. He knows what he's talking about and he knows what his plans are. More importantly, when he's given the opportunity, he knows how to deliver his message. This is what scares John Tory and Olivia Chow. Sadly, debate organizers will be less likely to book Goldkind if they know it will mean losing Tory or Chow.
The fear in media is much of the same. Every journalist or debate organizer has a side, whether they openly admit it or not. No one really wants to give a threatening opponent like Goldkind an opportunity to steal support from their preferred candidate. Some might think it's too risky to actually join Goldkind's side this late in the campaign. Others might be wary about making Tory mad and losing access to his press conferences and media events.
When it comes to democracy, it's never really too late. It's more dangerous for something to happen too soon in politics. That's why the tried and true October Surprise has always worked so well. If voters, media and debate organizers in Toronto really want a change, it'll be up to them to decide if Ari Goldkind will be Toronto's very own October surprise. Simply letting Goldkind be heard could alter the outcome on October 27th in an incredible way.