This municipal election period has not been without its share of drama. Torontonians have had to contend with rising expressions of racial intolerance and with glaring omissions among the many mayoral debates held across the city to allow the broad electorate to have a good look at the individuals asking us to entrust them with the keys to the city.
From a field of 70, at one point, there had really only been a few clear frontrunners. With the departure first of Karen Stintz (Ward 16 Eglinton Lawrence) followed by David Soknacki, former Toronto budget chief under Mayor David Miller, the initial group of five frontrunners came down to the incumbent mayor Rob Ford, New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Olivia Chow and radio host and former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, John Tory.
Rob Ford’s sudden departure just two days before the deadline for registration or withdrawal from the campaign sent shockwaves through the city when it was learned that he had been diagnosed with cancer. In typical Ford fashion, more shockwaves followed when his brother Doug Ford, a one-term councillor (Ward 2 Etobicoke North) who had been Rob Ford’s campaign manager, stepped in to run for mayor.
The Fords have been a polarizing force at City Hall and while they maintain a core of supporters, the strong sentiment away from that group mainly found in the suburban sectors of the city’s eastern and western areas is that there has to be a new council chief to begin to bring sanity back to our municipal politics.
Leaving the Ford drama aside, we have able choices in both Chow and Tory. Both have had extensive experience within the political machinery. Chow had previously been a member of Toronto City Council before heading to Ottawa as a federal politician.
Both would bring to council the ability to create consensus around issues that matter most to Torontonians. Specifically, both have a plan to address our transit crisis.
Negotiating skills will matter because while the mayor is the very public face of council he or she is still only one vote among the total of 45. If that person wants to carry forward any of the promises made during the campaign, then he or she will have to have the support of a majority of council.
There is no question that we must have movement on the transit file. We cannot have, as happened when Rob Ford was elected, complete tailspin of a plan that had already received full provincial funding. The lifeblood of this city is mobility and we are decades behind its growing needs. Already, some private citizens have taken matters in hand by creating their own transit solutions to the overcrowded and inadequate service in the downtown core.
This city needs more buses, more surface lines and more subway lines. Tory has presented his SmarTrack plan as the answer, and while questions have been raised about his funding plan, which promises that taxes will not have to be raised to pay for it, we believe that eventually funding will have to come through such measures.
Tory has received the endorsement of federal transportation minister Lisa Raitt. We view that as good news should he be elected. He has also received the endorsement of politicians from across the political spectrum, from business and other leaders and, in fact, people from all sectors of society. This just goes to show the respect he has earned in this city.
It is interesting, but not surprising, to also note the wide range of support Tory has been receiving from leaders and members of our community, regardless of political or other affiliations. That is because Tory has been a very visible presence in our community for a very long time, and not just when he might have been running for some political office. He has been involved in and supported many causes and initiatives in our community – especially for our youth, mostly in his own quiet way and without fanfare. We don’t see that concern and respect for our community changing if he becomes mayor.
He has already offered up a plan to bring current sponsors of the annual Caribbean carnival on board to raise funding donation by 10 per cent to go directly to youth development programs. He also wants to expand the Partnership to Advance Youth Employment Program by including small- and medium-sized businesses.
We like and respect Chow. Her focus on disadvantaged inner city neighbourhoods did not go unnoticed. But, the fact is that her camp has run a weak and lackluster campaign and it shows in the polls. So that, while she began this campaign as the frontrunner, she continues to hold third place among the top three, bearing in mind that she was to have been the anti-Ford.
All things considered, therefore, we wholeheartedly endorse John Tory for mayor. We believe that he will be most effective in bringing people together and finding common ground to move this great city of ours forward. And, of course, restore the city’s profile to one of respectability.