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How Toronto Should Respond to McGuinty

What with last-minute projects at work, trying to get the office Christmas cards out (still signing), social events and shopping (haven't started actually), I haven't had much time to contribute to my blog. That's why it's good news that someone else is writing for me.

I found the following in my mailbox this morning from my friend Andrew Edwards (formerly of Sketch). It's related to the provincial Liberals' announcement that they won't be following through on their gas-tax-for-transit promise.

Question. If you're a leftish (or, for that matter, moderate) city councillor, and you're going to have to increase TTC fares because the provincial Liberals are breaking a promise to give you gas tax money, what do you say when a reporter sticks a microphone under your nose?

A) "Mr. McGuinty will have to wear this like Scrooge, because what it means for the people of Toronto is a 25-cent fare hike. That's a $150 tax for each TTC rider as a result of his decision not to come forward with the money. That's a hell of a Christmas present to give the people of Toronto."

B) "Queen's Park has said they are short of cash for a while. There is lots of work to be done between now and their budget. I wouldn't rule them out as a source of funding on a number of city issues."

C) "It is disgraceful that the provincial Tories left the budget is such a state of neglect and disrepair that Mr.McGuinty is unable to help the people of Toronto to fund a subway system that they badly need. Ernie Eves and his Tory friends should be ashamed."

A = -5 points (Howard Moscoe)

Stupid. Eyes on the prize. This is why the left has spent the past 25 years getting the crap kicked out of it by the right. Criticize in private. As soon as a live microphone comes near you, though, absolutely everything is the other side's fault. Anyone left of centre is a saint.

The right is able to do this very well - no matter how much fiscal conservatives might disagree with Bush, they know Dean would be worse, and every word out of their mouth in public supports Bush and smears Dean. Helping Ontario conservatives develop a story that McGuinty breaks promises, rather than helping Ontario liberals develop a story that the budget was left in worse shape than they expected, is not good for anyone. Plus what's with the 'Scrooge' imagery? Betcha that one goes right into Tory talking points.

B = 0 points (David Miller)

Still blaming the Liberals, but at least this time not smearing them. Problem is that without a catchy phrase or anything controversial, this gets buried at the end of the article (see, e.g., The Star). Did no harm, probably did little good, though.

C = +5 points (What I would say)

From Searching For Bobby Fisher: "Attack, attack, attack, attack. Always attacking. Even when you're retreating, you're attacking." Partisan politics is a mean business.

I think it is a tough call, actually. I think Moscoe might be NDP, and that brings a new spin to the question of what his partisan interests are. It's hard for an NDPer to miss an opportunity to criticize the Liberals on an issue where the NDP probably would have gone further. Otherwise, why bother having an NDP?

More important, however, is what's best for the city. Antagonizing Queen's Park didn't work under Mel Lastman. These are still early days for McGuinty, and I wouldn't be surprised if his strategy was to start us off with the bad news, and then over-perform the rest of the way. Like a classic Paul Martin budget. I hope so, anyway.

I think the City's strategy has room for all three voices (A, B & C). The official line should be, and is, something like B. McGuinty can and will be the best partner we could have in Queen's Park. But, we do need to keep some pressure on him, and that's why it's fine to have a crank like Moscoe in the background. Unfortunately, there is not enough of C going around. With all this "Premier Liar" BS, we're missing the big picture: the Harris-Eves governments were horrible frauds.



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