By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE
Since Mayor David Miller announced that he would not contest the next election, due in 2010, there has been a lot said, much of it uncomplimentary, about him and his reasons for stepping aside.
It seems that his longtime foes, those who have wanted to see the back of him for sometime, can’t even bring themselves to enjoy the fact that they are going to get their wish.
In announcing his decision last week, Miller said he wanted to spend more time with his family. To their credit, there are those who have tried to explain the burdensome job it is being mayor – the long hours; the many meetings; the need to be visible and available in times of crisis; the fact that Miller has had to cut short family vacations to return to the city to deal with issues needing his attention or presence.
From all accounts, he acquitted himself well.
Some of his critics have been concerned over what they saw as his “socialist” policies. The fact that Torontonians elected him twice suggesting that a majority of voters in the city were satisfied with him, didn’t seem to matter to these critics.
Then there are those who oppose him purely on ideological grounds. As such, nothing he did – or didn’t do – would have ever satisfied them.
Just a few months ago, some media commentators were complaining that there didn’t seem to be anyone on the horizon strong enough to run successfully against Miller. Now, they are saying the reason he is quitting is because he knew he couldn’t win the next election.
Couldn’t it really be what he said it was, that he wants to spend more time with his children, to share in these formative years before they have to go off to university?
The city has thrived under Miller’s watch. And it continues to do so. Toronto is alive and buzzing with energy.
Check out the Yonge-Dundas Square, the waterfront, the development, especially residential development, that’s taking place across the city attracting new residents from all over the world, many of them very well accomplished. This is an exciting place to be.
There are those who may not like the development but times are changing. If Toronto is to be considered one of the great cities of the world, development of the kind that we have seen over the last decade or so is necessary. Yes, it is getting more costly to live here and most likely will continue to do so. But that is also a reality of living in a great city.
There are also those on the other side of the spectrum, who feel that Miller did not do enough for the underprivileged. There is always more that can be done, of course. Maybe his stepping down now will give someone else the chance to move the ball a little further down the field.
One reason Miller’s critics have raised as their reason for saying he could not have won another election is what they see as somewhat of a parting of ways with his union supporters. One columnist has suggested that he made the mistake that former Ontario New Democrat premier, Bob Rae, did in angering organized labour.
That is being selective in our remembering. Yes, labour was angry with Rae and, yes, they made him pay at the polls. But that isn’t the whole story. The rest of the story is that their actions helped to stick us with the Mike Harris government and its Common Sense Revolution which set progressive politics in this province back at least a decade.
Labour has to understand that they can’t get all they want, even if their friends are in office. But whatever they get will be a lot better than if their enemies were calling the shots.
It is true that one of the leaders of the recent city strike, Anne Dembinski, said she would never forgive Miller for what he did (whatever it was she was referring to), but next November is a long way off and the impact of last summer’s strike would have been more than a year in the past by then.
But, if it is true that organized labour would have turned against Miller next year, it would probably be true that they might have found themselves in a position to lose some of the gains they have been able to make with Miller as mayor.
Hopefully the next mayor will not be one who is easily influenced by those who are yet to accept the changing nature of this wonderful city of ours.