2012 Villain: Sue-Ann Levy
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2012 Villain: Sue-Ann Levy

Nominated for: using her position to reinforce divisions.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

“Is Sue-Ann Levy the devil?” asked a recent cover of the Grid. The answer, of course, is no. But that doesn’t make her a saint, either. Levy, a columnist with the Toronto Sun, is nothing if not polarizing. She was openly and frequently critical of both David Miller and Mel Lastman, but having Rob Ford in the mayor’s office seems to have sent her looking for new targets. This year, those have included journalists, politicians, and, frequently, everyday Torontonians.

Levy has taken on Margaret Atwood, firefighters, various reporters, and councillors at City Hall. In October, she was accused of stoking “birther” sentiments by adding the hashtag #MuslimBS to a tweet about U.S. President Barack Obama’s Israel policies. The Sun released a statement shortly afterward distancing itself from her opinion.

It only takes a quick perusal of Levy’s prolific Twitter stream to find an insult or accusation. She refers to Councillor Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) as “delusional.” Leftists are “smug.” A jacket worn by “Ombudslady” Fiona Crean is “Communist-type.” And Levy regularly goes after other Toronto journalists; she recently tagged a tweet about Toronto Star columnist Christopher Hume with “#lazy” and “#overthehill.” (Several journalists refused to comment for the Grid‘s cover article.) She even gets into arguments with readers who call her out.

At least when her main public function was to criticize policy at City Hall, it could be argued that Levy had her principles. This year, without a larger political target to aim at, she’s been indiscriminately firing verbal rounds into the crowd.

Like all of us, Levy has her selling points. She loves an underdog. She advocates for gay rights (and is gay, herself). She’s certainly not afraid to take a stand and stick to it. She’s been described as perfectly pleasant in person, the opposite of her attack-dog persona. And she owns her reputation: she described herself as a “shit disturber” in the Grid, and hasn’t yet been scared away from Twitter fights despite the fallout from her Obama tweet.

But it’s one thing to court controversy, and another to contribute to an atmosphere of mud slinging that has already done a lot of harm to Toronto’s political climate. Levy has reduced herself to one-note attacks on the left, which is a waste of the powerful position she holds as a popular columnist at a major newspaper. And worse, Torontonians—from regular folk up to City politicians—are encouraging it by getting drawn into the vitriol. Levy doesn’t have to—and shouldn’t, necessarily—play nice, but it’d be welcomed if she would play fair.

See the other nominees in the Dividers category:

James Pasternak and QuAIA Alarmism

Undermining Pride Toronto, and Toronto’s commitment to diversity.
  Michael Bryant

An astonishingly tone-deaf response to a tragic death.
  Frances Nunziata

Treating her colleagues like wayward schoolchildren.

Unsubstantiated “Safety Concerns”

Using race as an indicator of crime.
  Yunel Escobar

Homophobic slurs and frustrating non-apologies.
  Doug Holyday

Trying to turn an already divided house even more against itself.

Cast Your Ballot