Who would you guess is further to the political left – former Ontario premier David Peterson or rapper Kardinall Offishall?
We asked nine notable Torontonians to take the Political Sentimeter, a values survey launched by the Star last month that places respondents in one of eight political categories.
More than 50,000 people have already used the tool, which is meant to highlight the city’s ideological divides and promote a conversation about how to move beyond them.
Here the luminaries reveal their (sometimes surprising) results and talk about the city’s future.
Kardinall Offishall, Faith and Family Right
The Juno Award-winning rapper says the Political Sentimeter pegged him perfectly. Along with 21 per cent of Torontonians, he is a member of the most moderate of the city’s right-leaning groups.
“That’s exactly how I view myself,” he says. “In terms of me, myself and I, what my beliefs are and the things I hold dear, it’s pretty damn accurate.”
Offishall, who joined Universal Music Canada as creative executive director of A&R last year, is hopeful about the city’s political future. He says healing Toronto’s divides requires that we build on what unites us.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s macro or micro – there’s definitely going to be some views and beliefs that are polar opposites. The key is to unify what you do have in common.”
Sophie Milman, Laissez-faire Left
Milman describes herself as a “bit of a political junkie.”
So when her husband showed her the Political Sentimeter, the Juno Award-winning jazz singer took it and tweeted her results.
“I found it to be pretty bang on,” says Milman, 31. “It read me pretty well.”
Milman is part of the Laissez-faire Left, a socially progressive, fiscally conservative group that includes 18 per cent of Torontonians.
The University of Toronto graduate, who was born in Soviet Russia, lived in Israel, and toured regularly across the U.S., stays closer to home these days with her nearly 2-year-old son.
Milman says there’s “no such thing as a perfect city,” but that when it comes to being a multicultural metropolis Toronto is pretty close. “That’s an important issue to me and I think Toronto does multiculturalism pretty well.”
David Peterson, Social Democratic Left
Former Liberal premier of Ontario Peterson thinks the Political Sentimeter missed the mark with him.
“I didn’t find it really described who I am, my political philosophy,” says Peterson, who was premier from 1985 to 1990. “Lots of people are mixtures of all things, one label cannot describe them.”
Peterson, 70, who practises law on Bay St. and is chair of Cassels, Brock & Blackwell LLP, is also head of the Pan Am organizing committee. The Sentimeter identified him as among the 25 per cent of Torontonians who are part of the Social Democratic Left – a non-radical group characterized by their belief in the power of government to address inequality and injustice.
He says he is “thrilled” about the new mayor.
“I think John (Tory) is on the right track. I’ve got a lot of confidence in John,” says Peterson, who called Toronto “kind of the village joke” over the last few years. “We went through a mean period, and then a bumpkin period. Now we’re back. I’m feeling enormously optimistic.”
Ana Bailao, Social Democratic Left
Bailao was surprised by her result.
“I knew I was definitely in the left – I thought I would be closer to Laissez-Faire Left. It seems like I’m even more a lefty than I thought,” laughed Bailao, 38, city councillor for Ward 18, Davenport.
Bailao, who lives in Dovercourt Park, thinks the survey provides a good opportunity to take a look at one’s own values and beliefs.
“I thought it was interesting, it makes you think,” she says.
Bailao says bringing social issues to the surface is a good start towards healing Toronto’s divisions.
“I think understanding where everyone is coming from is a good thing. The first step is saying, ‘Listen there is a division here, let’s understand the reasoning in some of these differences of opinions, and let’s respect each other and try to work to a middle ground.’”
Karen Stintz, Heritage Right
Karen Stintz says being declared Heritage Right by the Political Sentimeter did not surprise her.
“The write-up said that family is important to me and that I would be more willing than others to suspend civil liberties to ensure security – that’s consistent with how I would self-identify.” Fifteen per cent of Torontonians are part of this group.
Stintz, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor this year, says she found a few questions “bizarre.”
“‘How many genders do you think there are?’ – how’s that supposed to heal the (supposed) divides of the city?”
In fact, the former chair of the Toronto Transit Commission says she doesn’t believe in “the divided city.”
“The people that I talked to when I was running for mayor didn’t talk about a divided city,” says the midtown resident. “Good transit, parks, housing options, a job – those threads unite Toronto.”
Skye Sweetnam, Laissez-Faire Left
Sweetnam, the lead singer in heavy metal band Sumo Cyco, says she considers her political beliefs “all over the map” and doesn’t agree fully with her classification as Laissez-Faire Left, along with 18 per cent of Torontonians.
“I do feel like I have some conservative financial beliefs, but I also have some very social liberal beliefs. It’s all nice and neat to put people into tidy categories, but just like in music, I find there are some bands that defy all genres.”
Sweetnam, who lives west of the city, thinks the city is on a better path with John Tory as mayor.
“I’ve listened to him as a former host on Newstalk 1010 and think he has a great demeanour and seems to really listen. I think those qualities are important as mayor.”
Hannah Moscovitch, Social Democratic Left
Moscovitch, playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre, says she had a chuckle when she got her Political Sentimeter results.
“I’m pretty clear about where I fall on the political spectrum,” says Moscovitch, winner of the 2014 Trillium Book Award, the first playwright ever to win the award.
“I did find out I’m more radicalized on some topics than the average Toronto Social Democrat, and more ambivalent about others,” says Moscovitch, 36, who splits her time between the King West neighbourhood and Halifax.
The East of Berlin author says she is “fascinated” by right-wing thinkers, and wishes she spent more time with people on the right.
“My sense is that, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, you want the world to be better. Your politics are your angle on how to achieve that. The left and the right just have different blueprints for utopia.”
Jason Bangerter, Laissez-Faire Left
Jason Bangerter says he enjoyed the Political Sentimeter because he was faced with challenging questions that don’t cross his plate on a daily basis.
“It made me think outside the box,” says Bangerter, executive chef at Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa in Cambridge, the province’s only AAA Five Diamond dining room. “It’s a really good exercise to help you become more familiar with where the rest of the city stands.”
Bangerter, who grew up in Toronto, says he was surprised at first when he arrived at his Laissez-Faire classification, but after reading the description he felt it was an accurate description of his world view.
“I was exactly those things, it was all what I believed in,” says Bangerter, 41. “What it really does is creates an awareness and show you where you fit in society.”
Gord Perks, Post-Materialist Left
Gord Perks says his Post-Materialist classification doesn’t perfectly capture him.
“I was both happy and disappointed with the result,” says Perks, city councillor for Ward 14, Parkdale–High Park, who was placed in the leftmost group along with two per cent of Torontonians. “There’s not one political designation that I think in and one of my flaws is I am constantly questioning my own politics.”
Still, he adds, “it feels very settling to have a new perspective in thinking about my own politics.”
Perks, 51, says residents are at an “important” moment in politics.
“People have begun to realize the consensus politics of their mainstream political parties don’t serve most Torontonians and Canadians well and they have started to ask deep questions about social injustice and environmental issues,” says Perks.
“Yes, it will create conflict, but it’s the process of resolving our conflict that is going to lead us forward.”
Explore the Political Sentimeter tool and see where you fall among the eight ideological clusters at