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Miller Can Do Better

Today was the deadline for entering the municipal election races in Toronto. I haven't had enough time to write much, but I have been reading the news with some interest.

The Spacing Votes blog threw me a flattering shout-out last week. I hope that it doesn't seem too reciprocal of me to say that the latest issue of Spacing has contributed to a shift in my judgment on a few issues and the election in general.

I have to admit that I've sunk into a form of cynicism about what can and cannot be accomplished by our municipal government. This was based on a few notions:

  • The City of Toronto is massively constrained in their freedom to act due to the heavy financial burden of Harris-era social services downloading and cuts to programs of urban importance
  • Toronto government is further limited by the generally low level of power entrusted in it by the provincial and federal governments
  • And, to a lesser extent, Toronto government is hampered by the clumsy and insensitive governance structure imposed on it during the amalgamation process

As well, there are issues of importance to downtowners -- e.g., myself -- that I have learned need to be balanced with the concerns of the many suburban voters with whom we share this municipality.

I still feel, actually, that all these concerns are still true. However, the "10 Most Important" issues outlined in Spacing magazine reminded me that, although Mayor Miller has plenty of valid excuses for not getting a whole heck of a lot done in three years, there really are many areas where determined leadership could produce results... despite the unfortunate state of our financial relationship with Queen's Park.

Unlike some critics on the right, I feel that David Miller has done a decent job on issues like crime, although he may have performed poorly from the political angle. Furthermore, despite whatever you may read on Jane Pitfield's hilarious blog, David Miller's fiscal performance has been at least fair.

It is on the issues with which David Miller has built his reputation that progress has been painfully slow. I'm looking forward to stronger leadership in the next term on issues like transit. You don't have to read Steve Munro's blog for very long before you begin to see that a better CEO could be getting more bang for our buck. (Actually, you don't need to read a blog at all. You just need to experience the TTC.) Leading the charge on issues like a Scarborough LRT system is the smart way to improve this city regardless of our financial picture.

I'm hoping that changes giving the mayor's office more power, the 4-year term, and slow-but-continuous improvements at Queen's Park can all help make the next 4 years a great era for improving Toronto. I'm also hoping that -- however comical -- the entrance of Stephen LeDrew into the mayoral race will encourage the incumbent to develop some bold and inspiring plans.

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