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Not Sure About John Tory

The Toronto municipal election is still many months away, and we'll be having an important provincial election between now and then, but there has been a lot of news coverage recently as various candidates have declared themselves running for mayor. Barbara Hall, David Miller, John Nunziata, Tom Jakobek, and now, John Tory have all announced their interest and filed their papers.

On Friday, Tory became the most recent entry to the race, and the last of the expected major candidates. He has strong ties to the Lastman team, to the federal and provincial Conservative parties, and to Bay Street. (Thus Bourque's headline "Mel Lastman's Mini-Me". Tory was co-chair of Lastman's 1997 and 2000 campaigns.) He's clearly the Establishment candidate, but I am prepared to give him a chance. In his press release he says some of the right things

"I want to be mayor for three reasons," Tory said at a news conference. "First, Toronto has experienced a slow but unmistakable decline in its infrastructure, services and reputation. Second, the people of Toronto can and should expect better from their city government. And third, I believe I have the experience and qualifications that can help get this city back on track."

I certainly agree with points one and two, and I'm open to being conviced about point three.

And there's nothing wrong with this:

Stating that "economic growth and a livable social fabric are mutually dependent, not mutually exclusive," Tory said that his priorities include crime and public safety, traffic and transit solutions, homelessness, advancing the city's interests with other governments, economic growth and integrity in government.

Further, The Toronto Star reports from his announcement conference:

Tory also waded into the issue of a "new deal" for Canada's cities from the provincial and federal governments, saying Toronto faces huge social burdens of homelessness and meeting the needs of new immigrants. "We must convince Ottawa and Queen's Park that Toronto cannot and should not be expected to address its problems on its own," said Tory. Citing past studies, Tory said the city sends about $7 billion more in tax revenue to Ottawa than it receives in return and about $1.5 billion to Queen's Park. He also said the provincial exchange of costs post-amalgamation — widely known as "downloading" — was unfair and must be addressed. Tory also took aim at the city's powerlessness in creating public policy, pointing to its inability to impose a hotel tax to boost spending on tourism promotion, and requiring permission from Queen's Park to establish a lobbyist registry and lobbyist code of conduct.

Sounds like a lot of the right stuff, doesn't it? Then again, Mel Lastman said most of these things too.

And Tory missteps when he trys to blame Barbara Hall. In the Globe and Mail:

Asked about his assessment of former mayor Barbara Hall, a top rival in the Nov. 10 election, Mr. Tory praised her as a "thoughtful person." But he added: "Some of the decline of the city I talk about didn't happen overnight, and those who have been in office, who are career politicians, have to be held accountable for it, just as people want me to answer questions about why I haven't been in elected office before."

Now, so far Barbara Hall and Tom Jakobek are doing a good job of fighting for the title of Least Inspiring Candidate, and I do understand that Tory has to try to bring down his opponents, but to blame Hall for the current state of affairs is off the mark. The City of Toronto suffers from (among other things) an unaccountable provincially-designed municipal government and a blatantly unfair redirection of our taxes by upper levels of government. These can't be blamed on Barbara Hall, who fiercely defended the city against the Harris changes. In fact, isn't it more credible to associate these problems with arch-Lastman-supporter and Conservative backer John Tory?

As for the other candidates... My first prediction is that Jakobek will be gone by summer. Hall is strong in polls, funding, and support, but let's see what happens when she starts to talk. Miller is saying some good things, but can he get support outside of the old city? And Nunziata is the wild card. There is still a long way to go, and I, for one, don't know who I'll be voting for.



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