Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Why I want to believe in the David Soknacki style of politics

By: Metro Published on Mon Jul 28 2014

With less than 100 days to go before we choose our mayor and recent polls showing him capturing just 5 per cent of the vote, it’d be real easy to write off David Soknacki.

But we shouldn’t.

Because ever since he entered the race in January, Soknacki has been running exactly the kind of campaign we should demand from everyone who seeks political office. To write him off would be to write off his style of politics. And I’m not willing to do that.

Soknacki’s campaign is decidedly not a campaign based on celebrity. It’s not based on handing out free burgers in parks. It’s not based on name recognition or political dynasties or which candidate appeared in Sharknado 2.

It’s a campaign based on ideas.

Without the name recognition of his opponents, Soknacki has defined himself mostly through a stream of policy papers. They’re dense, honest and generally pretty geeky. And while I don’t agree with everything he proposes, I like that he’s making clear-cut proposals and backing them up with facts and logic — and then standing behind them.

Last week, Soknacki released the second part of his plan to fight gridlock. Very little of it can be boiled down to a slogan, except for maybe what his campaign nerdtastically calls its prime directive: “Politicians should never interfere with the construction of new transit routes that are already designed, engineered and funded.”

That means going forward with the Scarborough LRT, which is still bound by a signed master agreement and can provide the needed capacity at subway speeds without the Scarborough subway tax endorsed by Rob Ford, John Tory and Karen Stintz.

Beyond that, the policy paper talks of meeting accessibility goals, instituting one transportation committee at city hall to oversee all aspects of traffic, transit and active transportation, and creating an automation policy to allow for automated transit service.

Most significantly, it clearly lays out his support for the relief line subway and doesn’t play games with the question of how to fund it. Soknacki promises to “table a plan to finance Toronto’s share of Phase 1 construction costs with a conventional mix of debt and property taxes.” But he also bravely says he’d be open to new transit taxes — those contentious “revenue tools” we debated last year — if the provincial government wants to play ball.

A cynical person would probably tell you that the Soknacki approach can’t work. That voters won’t take the time to read through nine-page policy documents and consider reasonable arguments for what it takes to build transit. That voters really just want the slogans and the platitudes.

But I’m not ready to believe that. Not yet. There’s still room in this mayoral race for someone with big ideas. There’s still room for David Soknacki.

This post was originally published at on 2014-07-28T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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