UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds


Truth-telling on the fringes

By David Wilson

On a Friday evening in October, hundreds of Toronto voters attended a debate at Runnymede United featuring the three top contenders in the city’s hotly contested race for mayor. For two hours, the candidates lunged, weaved and dodged, but it wasn’t until the very end that someone actually spoke the truth.

The organizers had agreed to let a couple of fringe candidates deliver a three-minute pitch after the main part of the evening was over. The first speaker left most of the audience scratching their heads. The second was a tall, well-dressed, 40ish lawyer who introduced himself as Ari Goldkind. He acknowledged he was an outlier but said he was running for mayor because he was tired of politicians who are “so desperate for votes that [they] will do anything and everything to appeal to anyone and everyone.”

The sorry state of public transit in Toronto had emerged as the major issue of the campaign, and the three main candidates had spent much of the evening debating the complexities of each other’s plans for funding new subways and surface transit lines. Goldkind agreed that public transit was the top priority and that more subways and surface routes are needed. But where the other candidates turned themselves inside out trying to assure the audience how the new lines would materialize without Torontonians having to foot a big part of the bill, Goldkind offered an alternative that was audacious in its simplicity: “Let’s pay for the things we need.”

In other words, the problem was so dire that he would raise taxes to get it fixed. Goldkind said he would hike property taxes by five percent, charge tolls on expressways, increase the land transfer tax on high-end home sales and reinstitute a vehicle registration tax abolished amid the short-lived euphoria of Rob Ford’s “respect for taxpayers” election victory in 2010. The reasoning: Toronto needed to demonstrate that it was serious about fixing its transit woes before other levels of government would get serious about helping out. He made more sense in three minutes than the frontrunners had in two hours.

At the time, Goldkind barely registered in the opinion polls. Some pollsters didn’t even include him in their voter preference questionnaires. Undeterred, Goldkind soldiered on, funding his campaign out of his own pocket, insisting that he be included in subsequent debates and badgering the other candidates to tell the truth about themselves and their platforms.

Goldkind had a big advantage over the frontrunners: he had no chance of winning. He could speak candidly without having to worry about the truth getting in the way of his being elected. Some of the other candidates may have secretly envied him. But they also understand that voters don’t always think in terms of the greater civic good, so they dance around the truth in the name of electability.

Ari Goldkind remained a longshot candidate to the end, winning just 0.4 percent of the votes cast for mayor. Like a lot of Torontonians, I voted for another candidate who seemed more likely to end the Ford family circus at city hall. Maybe I’ll vote for Goldkind next time around, if he runs again — and stays true to his principles.

The lesson here is not just for Torontonians; it applies everywhere that ballots are cast. Pay attention to the fringes, because sometimes that’s where the truth is spoken. People of faith should understand this instinctively. Long ago, a voice challenging the conventions of his time arose from the fringes of Roman-controlled Galilee. The voice belonged to a carpenter’s son. His name was Jesus. 

Author's photo
David Wilson is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image