By PATRICK HUNTER
There are 60 plus candidates seeking to be the mayor of the City of Toronto. As far as the election machinery goes, there are only three. And, by the election machinery I mean those who have been branded by the media, and by the public opinion polls, as having the best chance for winning. These are also the three who have name recognition and the largest war chest to mount a city-wide campaign and get invited to the debates.
We know that this position is up for grabs, wide open for this argument, because the incumbent – the current mayor – is not seeking re-election.
It is important to know how city hall works so you have a clear picture of who you believe will be the best person for the job this time around. The mayor, like all councillors, only has one vote at council. But the mayor has the opportunity to choose the membership of the powerful executive committee which essentially determines the path of the city over the next four years of the council’s mandate. So, in this sense, the executive committee is like the cabinet at the two senior levels of government.
There is no official political party representation as the municipal level so the membership of the executive committee will not be selected on the basis of partisan political affiliations necessarily. Knowledge of those relationships however may have an influence. Ostensibly, the mayor’s selection is based on like-minded individuals who are willing to work towards the success of the mayor’s expressed objectives – what he or she wants the city to look like at the end of his or her first mandate.
As you may know by now, the three high profile candidates are Olivia Chow, Doug Ford and John Tory – alphabetically ordered by last name.
Olivia Chow is the candidate who will get my vote.
It is not the only reason, but I have to admit that there is an emotional rationale for making that choice. It is that Chow is the only non-White candidate who has a reasonable chance at being the next mayor. Of course, that fact by itself does not by any means guarantee a successful and meaningful administration. What it does is give some hope that there is someone there who really understands first-hand some of the difficulties faced by racialized residents of this city. That kind of empathy is valuable in a city like Toronto and I feel that she will bring that sense of understanding to the running of the city.
Chow also is no stranger to municipal politics, having served as a councillor before. That, I believe, gives her an inside knowledge on the inner workings of the city: the machinery, if you will, that makes the place – council – run, and some sense of what needs to be and can be done for some of the most vulnerable of the city.
Being mayor also incorporates a lot of deal-making with other councillors to support the mayor’s program. I have no reason to believe that Chow’s deal-making abilities are superior to the other candidates. But the fact of her previous experience on council suggests that she has the tools to get things done.
One gets the sense that not many are impressed, for instance, with Chow’s transit improvement proposals. To me, it reflects a more than sensible approach. The costs of building subways are enormous. By all means, they would probably be more efficient and probably serve the city much better. There are no guarantees that the senior governments will provide the necessary supports for an expanded subway system so paying for subway expansion certainly means increased taxes.
Remember that the costs are not just limited to the actual building and operating of the subway itself, there will be added strain on the city for what that expansion brings such as increased development along the transit corridors which brings greater strain on other supporting infrastructures for those development – water, sewage, roads. Then, of course, that triggers other areas such as schools and other community servicing infrastructure.
We are emerging from a very upsetting period of city council. We can only hope that the new regime will take things back to a more serious approach, conscious of the needs and working to fulfill them.
I look forward to a more business-like council that goes about its business without a scandalous background. I look forward to a council that includes many new faces including, hopefully, more racialized councillors. I do look forward to a council that respects the community it serves and works to ensure that the respect they receive is earned.
I do urge those of you who are eligible to vote, to do so.