Much of Toronto is breathing a sigh of relief after a memorable municipal election campaign that lasted 10 months and brought an end to four years of turmoil at city hall. It should say something about the urgency with which people of this city felt the need for change that early voting brought out a record number of voters, followed by a record 64.2 per cent of voters going to the polls on Monday to elect John Tory, a Conservative, as the city’s 65th mayor.
This was Tory’s second try at the post having lost 11 years ago to David Miller, a left of centre politician. Tory has had some history with running for office, at both the municipal and provincial levels. Certainly his record of campaigning is a lesson in never giving up.
Having been among the many who endorsed Tory, we congratulate him on his win.
In fact, we congratulate all the citizens of this city who care enough about it to have actively participated in this election.
As for the mayor-elect, Tory has already signaled that the main plank in his campaign, his SmartTrack transit expansion plan, will be a priority once he assumes office, committing in his victory speech to have it “up and running in seven years”. The plan, which would create 52 kilometres of track and 22 new subway stops, has going for it that it lines up neatly with the Greater Toronto Area’s Metrolinx transit plan. Also, as part of SmartTrack, Tory wants to use existing GO tracks to add additional surface subways; this would see more transit available sooner.
Ontario’s finance minister Charles Sousa was among those who joined Tory in celebrating his victory and he received the endorsement of federal transportation minister Lisa Raitt, which offers some hope. But the city would have to come up with $2.5 billion as its share of the funding for this transit vision and critics have questioned the feasibility of Tory’s funding proposal to tax future development along the lines to be built. And that’s just public transit.
There is still the difficult matter of overcrowded traffic routes, which includes a decision on what to do about the crumbling Gardiner Expressway. If Tory wants to make the motorists of Etobicoke and Scarborough happy, he will have to get council to reach a reasonable accommodation. He has already said he wants to keep the Gardiner, but not everyone on council agrees.
With the majority of incumbents having been returned to council, Tory has in his favour a battle weary group who will welcome his team building and conciliatory skills. That is where his momentum will reside in getting things accomplished as he has promised.
The other area where Tory’s reach will matter is uniting a city which, 16 years after amalgamation, is still not comfortable in seeing itself as one Toronto. While Tory was able to take some of the votes that had gone to Ford in the previous election, it remains clear that the sensibilities of Torontonians living farther from the centre – many in poor and immigrant communities – differ from those living closer to the Yonge St. main artery.
With only three weeks to campaign, Doug Ford, who stepped into the mayoral campaign when his brother Rob withdrew, managed to take a larger share of the votes in Scarborough and the west end, including Etobicoke. It had been the failure of Miller during his mayoralty not to reach out to those areas and it looks as if that hasn’t been forgotten.
On election night, Rob Ford was already talking about the 2018 elections, so if Tory hopes to keep the polarizing Fords at bay then, in addition to concerns about developing transit and transportation, more opportunities for youth and business friendly tax incentives, he will have to bring the extreme east and west of the city into the fold.
After all, Rob Ford will still be in council, having been re-elected as the councillor for Ward 2 from a field of 14 by a substantial margin of almost 59 per cent.
City politics can be fractious even at the best of times, yet with Tory as the new mayor, Torontonians expect a return to a saner, less chaotic stewardship.