Who Is Ari Goldkind?
The media in Toronto would have voters believe that the only alternative to Olivia Chow is Rob Ford or John Tory. Experienced and worthy contenders like David Soknacki and Ari Goldkind appear to be whited out of most news scripts. With Ford Nation sinking deeper into irrelevance, the media still continues to saturate headlines with Rob Ford's disgraceful misadventures. As a result, the ideas of worthy contenders shrink onto back pages and into thirty second segments.
One candidate who could threaten Olivia Chow's reign at the top is a lawyer. You might not know a lot about Ari Goldkind, but if his ideas prove powerful enough to bypass the media's firewall, you'll start hearing his name more often.
Mr. Goldkind describes himself as a viable alternative and an experienced negotiator with a serious plan for Toronto. He also promises to bring honesty back into politics.
To explain more about who he is, Ari agreed to answer some of my questions.
Rados: For those who don't yet know Ari Goldkind, how would you introduce yourself?
Goldkind: I am a born-and-raised Torontonian. I work as a criminal lawyer and I have a strong sense of social justice. I'm running for mayor because I have lost faith in our current crop of political leaders and wannabes, and I love this city too much to see it slide into ridicule.
How would term limits strengthen democracy in municipal politics?
No politician should be guaranteed a job. Nobody else is. You work hard to prove yourself every day, so do I. So should they. Term limits allow fresh ideas to come to the table. They allow for healthy competition, and they destroy the complacency and arrogance that has become the hallmark of incumbent/moneyed politicians in democracies all around the world. Politics needs more non-politicians.
One of your plans after becoming mayor is to lobby the provincial government to grant Toronto more taxing powers. What makes the implementation of new taxes a better idea than making significant budget cuts?
To help a city or a business grow, you have to invest. You have to pour your capital back into activities that keep it functioning and growing. Simply trying to “save taxpayers money,” as Mr. Ford puts it, is like being in a sinking boat and being proud that you have a bucket. You can never keep up or save yourself by just bailing. Our taxes represent our money. When you invest it, it does more for you. Return on investment is a simple concept, and one that applies to us. Not just Bay Street.
And by the way, I’d be making significant budget cuts.
"Our taxes represent our money. When you invest it, it does more for you." - Ari Goldkind
What single thing would you cut first?
The police budget. Keep the essential, but trim the excess in the police budget sacred cow.
Taxation seems to be a big part of your mayoral platform, particularly for funding subways and LRTs. How would you convince the more conservative voters to accept higher taxes to fund services they might not use as often as others?
If you live in the city, you live in the city. Not just part of it. Even if you have a gated house on the Bridle Path, if you call 911, you still expect the fire service to come to your house using roads other than just the one you live on. You expect your sewage to be taken away effectively and you expect your employees to show up on time using transit and traffic lights operated by the city. If you drive, and hate our traffic, deep down you know you'd drive faster if more people could realistically choose to not drive and instead take TTC. If you enjoy the benefits of city life and you want to enjoy more of them, then some of your money, whether you are a wealthy conservative or a blue collar conservative, some of your funds must pay the way – but I also admit, you should be happy with what you pay for. That would be a big change from previous administrations. That’s my difference. I will give you value for your money. Smart people, deep down, know that. Period.
You've described yourself as an experienced negotiator. Is there one specific time, without naming any names, that you can describe how your negotiating skills helped an individual or group that you were negotiating for?
Different than others who say “trust me”, I’ve done that, but it’s just a talking point. In my life, I do this each and every single day, in front of people judging me, analyzing me, criticizing me. In court, with Crowns, with clients. Sometimes behind closed doors, but more often than not, right in front of the public. I'm being judged every minute of every day on my performance. I even invite you or anybody to come watch my ability to advocate and negotiate. To watch my approach and style. How I adapt to the room, to the listener, to the challenge. In my life, this is a constant up-hill battle to convince people that what their gut reaction or position is when they walk in the room may not be the right one, or the one they’re going to leave the room with.
Against a couple of conservatives, the media and polls have labelled Olivia Chow the front-runner. What sets you apart from Chow and why should some Chow supporters give your campaign a chance?
I feel Olivia Chow proves herself as a professional politician. She has the organization and the marketing machine to run a campaign on any level: municipal, provincial or federal. She has learned from some of the best. But being a great campaigner does not convince me that she knows what’s best for the city or would ever be a good Mayor. Her fans also have not delved into her divisive record as an MP and Councillor. That’s been whitewashed away by her incredibly skilled campaign team. There are also other subtle reasons for her glow. And those are problematic as well.
"Her fans also have not delved into her divisive record as an MP and Councillor." -Ari Goldkind
I feel that the mayor’s job represents the next step in Olivia Chow’s career: good for her, but not necessarily for us. I expect she will move on to provincial or even federal politics next, pursuing her dreams as a big-name politician. Good for her. I, on the other hand, am basing my campaign on a simple concept: I want what is best for all the residents of this city.
Going back to taxing powers, which provincial party do you think would be most open to giving Toronto more power, if they were to form government?
I feel that there is not enough difference between the Liberals or the Conservatives to expect better treatment from either. When politicians become used to the plush benefits of their job – great pay, great benefits, indexed pension, they tend to lose sight of the difficulties of running a town, or a city, or of being a working person. When was the last time Kathleen Wynne took the TTC to Jane and Finch? Do you think Tim Hudak sits on the Gardiner each day in that construction, worrying about being late for work? Rather than expecting a single ally in Queen’s Park, I would prefer to present a case as a credible, easy-to-work with mayor, who also happens to be a shrewd negotiator. And, a concept long forgotten, I would be the one candidate with the clear mandate and moral authority to prove that the people of Toronto have stepped up and spoken clearly about their willingness to invest more in Toronto. That is very powerful in terms of negotiating. Not just empty promises or slogans.
A lot of people, particularly in Toronto, call themselves progressive. Are you one of those people, and how would you define the term "progressive"? What are we progressing toward?
If you are alive, you have to be progressive. If you take medications to help with a health condition, you are being progressive. If you seek to save for a vacation or take a night school course, or even buy a computer to use email instead of postal mail, you are being progressive. People use the term progressive one of two ways: if you are for progress, it makes you sound innovative and open minded. If you prefer things the way they are, you can label someone as progressive meaning they are soft on crime, overly socialist or simply too lax. I simply recognize that if you, as a person, stand still on the road of life, you will eventually get run over.
I want the city to move ahead and keep pace with the great cities of the world, taking advantage of new and cost-effective methods for communicating, moving people, and generating success for the city that are already proven to work. Old-school thinking has no place in a 21st Century city. And it never works, and is, quite frankly, boring.
What do you think is Toronto's biggest problem right now?
Mayor Ford. He has reduced the city to a global laughing stock, which is more serious than simply meaning hurt pride. It means that large organizations looking to hold their huge annual conventions will no longer consider Toronto as a candidate. It means that the policy agenda always starts out on the far right. It means that companies looking to establish a new head office or factory will think twice about coming here. Not because of Mr. Ford’s alleged addictions directly, but because he and his brother play a constant game of obstructionism. They vote against everything Council proposes, using the tired old line of “saving taxpayers money.” When smart people with lots of money to invest look at Toronto, they now see a place that is demonstrating confusion, disarray and unsound financial practices. That’s what scares them away. Mr. Ford has not just destroyed himself. He has hurt Toronto’s reputation as a safe place to invest. So while Toronto still marches on and remains resilient, there is no doubt that he and his brother have hurt all of us.
"Mr. Ford has not just destroyed himself. He has hurt Toronto’s reputation as a safe place to invest."
- Ari Goldkind
If you had a face-to-face moment with Rob Ford and could only say one thing to him, what would it be?
Leave this town, leave politics, and go and coach football somewhere. You would be happier and so would we. And please take your brothers with you.