Highlights from Andray Domise's Reddit AMA
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Highlights from Andray Domise’s Reddit AMA

In an Ask Me Anything session, the Ward 2 council candidate talked about the Ford family, racial discrimination, taxation, and more.

Photo from Andray Domise’s Facebook page.

Andray Domise, a former insurance manager, is making a bid for a council in Ward 2, Etobicoke North—Doug Ford’s ward, and one that was originally going to be contested by Kathy Ford’s son, Michael, until he withdrew, paving the way for Rob Ford to enter the race. During a Reddit AMA this afternoon, the candidate fielded questions from the Reddit community on topics ranging from the Ford legacy, to racism, to transit. Here are some raw highlights from the Q&A…

I really admire the campaign you’ve been running in Ward2 Andray. Thank you for running and reminding the rest of that Toronto Ward 2 is not a Ford family fiefdom.

This question has been asked and answered by many. You’ve likely answered it countless times before but I’m curious how you feel today.

How do you push past the cult of personality around Rob Ford and the Ford brand when talking with people? Has your approach changed over time? — from ambot2014

Domise: I’m going to answer that question in two parts, because “cult of personality” is a very loaded way of talking about this race. One could argue there was a cult of personality around David Soknacki, but that never brought him more than 6% in the polls, so our language is very important here.

So, first of all, as David also said, we’re fighting against massive name recognition. Jimmy Kimmel, whether he likes it or not, gave a huge contribution to Rob Ford’s election efforts by putting him on late night television. Name recognition is so important when you’re running outside of the party structure. So getting my name out there is so important for this election. I’m a people person, so I’d rather be walking the Ward, talking to people. But a big part of my job is making it clear to people that they have a viable alternative.

The second part of this question, I’m going to interpret as being a reference to the so-called Ford Nation, which I have written on before. And a lot of people want to denigrate the people of Ward 2 as being a part of Ford Nation, but in my mind, this shows that our Ward includes some of the most politically active and engaged people in the city. As a firm believer in democracy and in democratic participation, I have nothing but respect for a brand that has mobilized people and made them care passionately about their local politics. But, to crib GI Joe slightly, that’s only half the battle. We’ve made the noise we need to make about fiscal responsibility, and have crossed into an irresponsible space where we have to argue about making worthwhile investments into our own communities. People are passionate about their politics here – great – so now let’s engage them productively to work together as part of a greater city. Let’s tap into the growth potential of Ward 2’s real estate, businesses, and its people.

TL;DR – The Ford brand helps me because I believe we can turn it into a productive legacy if Ward 2 owns their voice.

“Given that he has already taken advantage of us, co-opted our culture, put money from his own pocket into the hands of drug dealers, called your sons ‘thugs,’ called the rest of us ‘niggers,’ and reduced his destructive, sociopathic behaviour to a problem with weight and alcohol, what would it take for Rob Ford to finally lose your support?” [excerpt from “Some Questions for Toronto’s African Canadian Voters,” an open letter written by Andray Domise]

Do you think anyone who affects an accent for fun in private with their frienda is co-opting “your” culture?

Do you think a politician who uses recreational drugs should be banned from public service, and are you therefor willing to state right now that you have never used or directly purchased illegal drugs?

Do you think someone who calls his Italian friend a “wop” in a private conversation is racist, and should therefor not recieve public support, and will you therefor state that you have never used a racist slur to address any of your friends? — from RahAbasd

Domise: I’ll answer the drug thing head on. I have smoked marijuana. I hope that when I did, I was supporting BC’s booming export business and not fueling a drug lord responsible for killings in say, Columbia or Mexico. I can’t be sure and that’s the moral risk you take because you can’t buy “ethical” pot.

I support the legalization of marijuana one hundred percent, especially because drug laws are applied disproportionately to target people who are lower class or already marginalized. The havoc wrought on Ward 2 as a result of Mr. Ford’s criminal actions from a policing standpoint has meant that Ford commits the crime and the community pays the price for it. It’s horrible to be invited into a 60 year-old Somali woman’s home, to see scorch marks on her floor from when police kicked in the door, threw flashbang grenades inside, and threw her and her 102 year old mother to the ground (handcuffing them face-down) because the police thought her son might have a connection to the so-called “crack video”.

Her mother, by the way, never recovered from that raid. She lost the ability to control her bowels, suffered from night terrors, and had to be placed in a care facility. She died about a year later.

On the topic of our culture, which I will not use scare quotes on, because your questions cannot take my heritage away from me any more than Rob Ford can, I could argue with you that it was not only done in private. But instead, I’ll provide an anecdote. I had a journalist accompany me on a trip through Etobicoke, to see the neighbourhoods, and we were chatting. I mentioned in passing that Rob Ford is a racist and he challenged me on that point. He asked, “You don’t really think Rob Ford is a racist, do you?” It was then pointed out to me how comfortable he is being around and being seen with black people and black culture, as if this was some proof that the man couldn’t possibly hate black people. I sat there in my car and listened to someone explain to me – a black Canadian of Jamaican descent who lived in the US South for a time – what racism is and is not.

I am going to address this here, as directly as I can.

Rob Ford has two messages when it comes to black people. To us, he says “You’re nothing without me.” To the rest of the city, he says “Look how well I keep these animals in line”. He has taken every effort to keep us dependent on him to his own benefit, and when he’s criticized for it, he wraps himself in our culture and tries to claim solidarity in victimhood. It is the political equivalent of black face. Whenever he has the opportunity to help marginalized communities in Toronto, he steps on us to give himself a platform by voting against any measures that would allow us to help ourselves enough to break the cycle of dependency.

Politically and rhetorically, he has failed the black communities on all accounts. And with all that, he refers to us as niggers, in private, and refers to himself as the “most racist guy around”. Short of working that quote into his campaign speeches, what more does he need to do to shock this city into understanding that racism is real?

On Friday, he announced he was stepping out of the mayoral race to run for his former seat in Ward 2. Not a single newspaper took the time to mention that this will be Rob Ford’s first time facing the electorate as an avowed racist, and he is doing so against a black candidate.

No, I do not use racial slurs around my friends. No, I have not. Ever. I was introduced to the word “nigger” at a very young age by a grown white man, and I do not have it in me to subject another human being to racism.

Hi Andray — I’m not in your ward, but I’m thrilled by the decorum and tough questions you’ve brought to your race. Do you think the new revelations of Rob Ford’s cancer diagnosis will change the tenor of the race in Ward 2?

And how, at large, do you see the people of your ward reacting to the Ford switcheroo last week (less so are they happy to have Rob running for ward councillor again? than how do they feel about how he came to be running for councillor again?) — from secamTO

Domise: I’ll repeat, Mr. Ford’s name is on the ballot. I have offered my sympathy, but beyond that, all I can do is respect his wishes to be treated a serious candidate and respect the democratic process.

Good afternoon Andray, thank you for taking the time to do an AMA. As silly as it is, such little gestures prove that accountability and transparency is possible at City Hall.

Like every other Torontonian, transit if on my mind. If you were to be councillor, you will have a vote and a say on the future of transit. Of the three major players running for mayor, which transit plan do you support the most?

John Tory’s SmartTrack, Ms. Chows increase in services, LRT, and DRL, or Doug Ford’s (assuming Doug follows in the footstep of his brother) subways, subways, subways?

Thank you for your time, I wish you the best of luck. You are not in an enviable place right now. — from goleafsgo13

Domise: Let me start by saying Doug Ford does not have a plan. Rob Ford did not have a plan. He had a slogan and a vision and nothing to back it up. It is insulting to both Tory and Chow to put what is essentially a metaphor in the same category with plans I know their teams worked very hard to put together.

I know John and I know Olivia, and I look forward to working with either of them (and, given the way Toronto politics works, I’m sure I’ll work with both of them in some capacity at some point). That said no mayor’s plan gets through council untouched. I support electrifying the GO lines and I want to push for fare integration. The problem then becomes who maintains what? Who is responsible for maintenance and operating costs and so on and so on.

So working on bringing the GO lines into the TTC fold is going to involve negotiations and concessions and a lot of work. On the other hand, I support more buses now. I will be pushing with all of my might for a local transit loop so people in Ward 2 can go to the grocery store and their places of worship, things people in other parts of the city take for granted. I support the Finch LRT whole-heartedly. And this is without mentioning the one third, one third, one third problem.

As far as I’m concerned, these plans are foundations upon which to build out a much more robust public transit system. So this question feels like I’m being shown two lumps of clay and being asked which sculpture I like better. I’m sorry if that doesn’t satisfy, so I’ll try to elaborate if there are follow up questions.

Our city is a better place for your voice in municipal politics. Congratulations on the campaign you’ve run thus far.

My question: On your website, you state that you “will not support any tax increase that does not show a concrete benefit or sufficient return on investment over 1, 3, and 5 year periods”. I’m unclear what this means. Which types of tax increases do you not support? — from milang

Domise: I wrote that at the beginning of the campaign, before we had a lot of the volunteers and editors and all of that that we do now, so forgive the clumsy wording. I wanted to acknowledge that no one wants higher taxes, and I’m not going to campaign on a platform that raises them for the sake of raising them, which is typically how Rob Ford paints his opponents. I am not in favour of any locomotives based on bullion or drippings, be it beef or chicken or even vegetable, however it is thickened, however delicious it may be.

Coming from a financial background where it was my job to explain complex and arcane concepts to laypeople, I think respect for tax dollars is a concept that needs to be treated seriously. Many people in Ward 2 have felt that they’re not only being disrespected by having their voices go unheard, but that they have not seen tangible value for the money they’ve sent to City Hall.

People need to be respected enough to be offered transparency on how their taxes are being spent, and how those investments benefit them. That means I want people to know the investments they’re getting themselves into. So that’s explaining the language.

As for specific tax increases that I do not support, the more I learn about taxes in this city, the more I feel like we need a major overhaul to the way we collect revenue. We do very much need to keep our conversations about municipal services grounded in reality – dollars, cents, and how demand for more and better services means we need to pay for them.

I want to work with the rest of council to make our taxes more fair, equitable, logical even. If I’m truly committed to doing that I can’t in good conscience rule out the tools that will let me do that.

Normally I ask very housing-related questions, but Etobicoke actually has almost a health rental vacancy rate as of 2013, 2.6% which is close to the target 3% vacancy rate – the highest in the GTA!

I suppose I could ask you how will you balance re-development in your area and make sure development will be diversified and contribute to the needs of the community, create work/live spaces, create more green spaces and still protect and create rental opportunities?

A lot of questions, but the Etobicoke area is ripe for redevelopment and renewal and it is a very exciting time – your community can help shape the planning that will go into maturing the area into the next phase of living for 20 years or more!

Tell me about your vision and your ideas, and what exciting things could happen in Etobicoke – I have friends who have bought homes there and they say the area is changing rapidly. — from wedontswiminsoda

Domise: My standard line is that we need to do 18 years of development in four years. Development has leapfrogged from York to Mississauga, barely touching on Etobicoke. So there’s a lot of work to do.

There’s a giant hole across the street from Woodbine Centre where the work stopped because Woodbine Live fell apart. So I would restart those negotiations immediately. That would involve discussing table games at the Woodbine Racetrack, a vote which was lost by four votes before. With a councillor who can work with others, I think the case can be made, especially since the thing that scares people about casinos is slots, which Woodbine already has in spades. When that discussion gets sorted out, I intend to negotiate to get work start again, leading to thousands of jobs.

This will require changes to height and density bylaws in Ward 2, which if anyone is familiar with the infamous Section 37 debate, can mean local benefits to infrastructure (social housing, parks, even transit…). The Fords generally refuse S37 monies, claiming that it’s a shakedown to developers. I’m not going to claim it’s a perfect system, but at its best, S37 can be a very productive version of a Public Private Partnership.

There. I’ve pissed off the right and the left with this answer. I hope you’re happy.

So that’s the background. Ward 2 has a lot of green space left underused, because it’s inaccessible or too remote. It has rental housing, but little transit. It has a ton of bright, passionate young people, but very little for them to do. It has a constant source of highly educated Humber grads, but no work for them.

Massive supply of potential, minimal supply of resources.

I know that’s just the start of an answer, but there is just so much to do.

How many peck’s are in a bushel? — from olafthebent

Domise: I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that I love you.

A bushel and a peck.

A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck.

Which House from the A Song of Ice and Fire saga do you think most resembles you and your vision for Ward 2.

And Which House do you think most closely resembles the “incumbent” Mr. Ford? — from JohnOConn

Domise: Can’t say there’s really a house that resembles me or my vision. You might say I’m too lowborn to fit into that story line.

As for the Fords, I’d say Baratheon. Far better fighters than rulers.