Will Olivia Chow become new Mayor of Toronto — and will Yevgeny Prigozhin still be alive when she runs again??

Jun 26th, 2023 | By | Category: In Brief
“Mayoral candidate Mitzie Hunter makes an announcement about her library plan in Parkdale Monday, April 24, 2023.”

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2023, 2:00 AM EDT. UPDATED 10:30 PM EDT. The unusual Toronto mayoralty byelection is the big local political event today. It already seems almost clear enough, however, that left-wing progressive Olivia Chow will be the city’s next mayor.

The biggest news will be if this does not happen — despite last-minute efforts by such diverse conservatives as Ontario Premier Doug Ford on behalf of Mark Saunders, and former Toronto Mayor John Tory on behalf of Ana Bailao.

UPDATE TORONTO, MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2023, 10:30 PM EDT : As of “10:27 PM on June 26” Olivia Chow has 37.2% of the city-wide vote with 1,444 out of 1,451 polls reporting.

Ana Bailão has come much closer than virtually all opinion polls predicted with 32.5% of the vote, followed by Mark Saunders (8.6%), Anthony Furey (5%), Josh Matlow (4.9%), Mitzie Hunter (2.9%), Chloe Brown (2.6%), and Brad Bradford (1.3%).

Even so, there is now no doubt that, as widely expected, Olivia Chow has finally come in first and is Toronto’s new mayor. She and all the other leading candidates also gave high-minded and high-class remarks after the results of the election became clear. The underlying theme was that everybody loves the city, and will have to work together to take its next steps forward.

Whatever else, and with all its many challenges and problems, this did make it seem that even in 2023 Toronto ultimately is a good place to live and work, with some kind of strong future ahead of it. Any city that 102 people want to be mayor of must have something going for it. And, while still practicing his angry face in his bathroom mirror, Premier Ford has apparently already called to congratulate Olivia Chow, and say that he looks forward to working together with her. Which was of course the right thing to say, even if it’s not exactly true.

Meanwhile, back at whatever it is that is actually going on in Russia at the moment, see Robert Reich on “Putin, Trump, and the privatization of tyranny … The likeliest reason why Yevgeny Prigozhin staged his apparent coup.”

All this makes today’s mayoral byelection in Toronto (not exactly the first byelection of this sort in the city’s recent history, but certainly the most unusual with 102 candidates) seem like an even more encouraging example of if not exactly excellence in local government, at least some degree of more or less serious and civil “free and democratic” spirit!

A few last-minute notes on Toronto mayoral byelection

Mr. Tory’s last-minute words of support for Ms Bailao do seem to have moved her polling numbers up — but not (it also seems) by enough to win the election for the candidate the old city hall establishment seems to like best?

At least some of Olivia Chow’s last-minute numbers have apparently risen as well. If forced to guess myself I’d still pick her as the inevitable winner. Meanwhile, hedging my own bets, near-magical outcomes sometimes do happen in democratic politics.

Olivia Chow kicks off on the campaign trail, Apr 17, 2023.

There may still be some slight chance for Ana Bailao. I will nonetheless be voting myself for Mitzie Hunter. She has the strongest policies, and the platform most open to change. And I think she’s the kind of Toronto leader the city needs right now! Of course she can’t win. But I’m guessing Olivia Chow will not be needing my vote, and Mitzie Hunter is where I feel it most authentically belongs. And it is that somewhat wonky kind of election in any case.

In any case again , come back here around 11 PM EDT in North America tonight for an update on whether Olivia Chow really is the next Mayor of Toronto. And Ontario “Ford Nation” Premier Doug Ford — fresh from hosting yet another Fordfest Free Hotdog celebration in Scarborough, Toronto, Canada — will be practising his angry face in the mirror.

What is going on in Russia late June 2023 anyway??

Meanwhile again, for the first half of this past Saturday, June 24 much North American and other news was focused on speculations about how (in the words of Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic, posted just after 6:30 AM EDT on June 24) : “In a slow, unfocused sort of way, Russia is sliding into what can only be described as a civil war.”

Yevgeny “Prigozhin’s career encompassed robbery and a restaurant business before he saw an opportunity to set up a mercenary group CREDIT: Polaris/eyevine.”

Yet by early Saturday afternoon in Washington, DC (and also here in Toronto) it seemed clear enough that the sudden and surprisingly quick march towards Moscow by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary troops of the Wagner group were not (or at least not yet) tied to the kind of larger political currents that might sustain a real civil war — on the model of Russia in 1905 or even 1917! And the march from Rostov to Moscow was called off.

For one view of what this has finally been all about, see “Prigozhin’s Mutiny Is the Beginning of Putin’s End” and “Russian mercenaries’ short-lived revolt could have long-term consequences for Putin.” For another quite different view see, eg : “Wagner’s revolt weakening Putin’s authority ‘wishful thinking’ of the West: experts.”

The only intelligence I can add from my own direct experience draws on a visit to Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) a few years ago now. I was part of a three-day tour of the place led by an impressive local middle-aged lady, who specialized in art history. Everyone on the tour except the leader (and the bus driver) was North American — in fact almost all Canadian (logically enough)!

“Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a televised address in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2023. SPUTNIK / VIA REUTERS.”

At one point someone asked our art historian tour guide about Putin. She quietly and carefully made clear that she certainly did not vote for him herself, but most people she knew did. Was this, she was asked, because he is a strong leader, and Russians like strong leaders? She smiled at the stereotypical over-simplicity of all this, and just said “Yes.”

Of course this small personal experience means virtually nothing when set against the who knows just what that is going on in Russia today. But in my quick and dirty assessments of the daily news it does incline me towards “Wagner’s revolt weakening Putin’s authority ‘wishful thinking’ of the West: experts.”

I certainly do agree that the Russian invasion of Ukraine that started on February 24, 2022 was an appalling revival of habits of the 18th and 19th centuries that have no place anywhere in the 21st century. And for reasons I suspect we in the West don’t altogether understand at the moment, it does seem that the Ukraine armed forces have so far done surprisingly well against the Russian forces (and such privatized fighting machines alongside like the Wagner group).

I would also like to see Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime of some time now collapse — especially into something that at least vaguely looked like it might become more “free and democratic” (in the spirit of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982, say). Without rather more hard evidence than has accumulated so far, however, this does a bit too easily seem to fit the label of “wishful thinking” in the West as well

But I don’t expect I’ll have any more news on this subject for a good half dozen hours or much, much more. In any case again, come back here around 11 PM EDT in North America tonight for an update on both Olivia Chow and Yevgeny Prigozhin.

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