UPDATE – 2017-12-07: In light of confusion regarding the nature of this post, this post should not be construed as an endorsement. It is an analysis given the following constraints: there being only two major, viable candidates in the 2018 Mayors race. As of this update there are 145 days until nominations open and 232 days until nominations close, plenty of time for this analysis to be rendered moot be there being a viable, progressive candidate participating in the race.
ORIGINAL POST – 2017-11-03: The 2018 Toronto election is shaping up to be a very sleepy affair. The only two candidates who have publicly mused about running are Doug Ford and John Tory. Every person I have spoken to about the race agrees that there is no way that they would ever vote for Ford. But if you want to build Toronto and make it a better city than it is today voting for Ford is the better option.
What is Tory’s Record?
Tory and his office have demonstrated a record of operating in bad faith on council. During the debate to legalize Uber Tory famously played both sides. While stringing along council’s progressive faction he simultaneously negotiated a radically different deal with council’s right faction and “yank[ed] an agreed-upon motion as council debated the regulations”.
Tory’s office also famously handed out a cheat sheet to his right faction council allies specifically instructing them to vote against a motion he had publicly declared he would vote for. The Gender Equity Motion passed but Tory and his office have never responded to allegations that the maneuver was planned.
More recently Tory’s position on the renaming of Centennial Stadium in honour of Rob Ford fits the duplicitous, bad faith mould. Although there is no hard evidence of a coordinated plan, the circumstances surrounding the motion are awfully convenient. Tory now has a video that he can play for Ford Nation supporters to inspire them to vote for him while at the same time his allies ensured no renaming actually took place. Given how Tory has treated Ford supporter Councillor Crisanti, you can quickly surmise Tory’s true feelings about the Fords.
The selection of the decidedly pro-Tory agenda interim councillor Lucy Troisi, a candidate who said “point blank … she’d support the mayor’s agenda,” while Tory’s spokesperson said Tory felt an “obligation to Pam McConnell to support Michael Creek” fits this pattern as well: publicly presenting himself with being on side with a particular segment of the electorate while at the same time conveniently having his agenda passed.
Meanwhile, his city status quo maintaining, service shrinking agenda continues to move ahead unabated and with little critical analysis. Tory’s office presents ever more baubles with no real possibility of being built to distract the attention of the public – from Rail Deck Park to the Scarborough Subway – while stalling city building and ignoring contentious but sorely needed discussions on a wide range of topics.
What Would a Doug Ford Mayoralty Be Like?
Just like it was under Rob Ford.
Doug Ford would enter office and try immediately to push grand proposals without any basis in reality and without any knowledge of the steps involved in actually achieving them. Look at Donald Trump as a great case study.
However, unlike Donald Trump, wielding the tremendous powers bestowed upon the Presidency of the United States to appoint thousands of critical administrative postings, Council has the final say on virtually every matter affecting the city. Legislatively the Mayor is weak, their only two real tools are the power of persuasion of councillors and the soap box they are afforded by virtue of being mayor.
Yes, Toronto would need to deal with Ford’s bloviating pronouncements and he would undoubtedly create an embarrassing public spectacle, but he would achieve little legislative success. Sure, there will be councillors whose interests align with Fords at times but by and large Council would run the city forcing individual councillors to work together and find consensus among themselves on all sorts of matters.
As we saw in the last year of the Ford comma Rob administration when council runs the show some pretty positive things can happen. The Richmond/Adelaide bike lanes were approved in May 2014 after he was stripped of powers and essentially sidelined in November 2013. The 2015 city budget, largely prepared in 2014 during Ford’s final year and rubber stamped by the new council, actually saw an increase in per capita spending, only resuming its downward trajectory after Tory had had full control of the budget preparation process.
It would also have the effect of reinvigorating resident engagement with City Hall. Seeing the Ford Spectacle 2.0 would wake residents up from the sleepy disinterest that Tory and his office consistently try to encourage in order to push his agenda.
Need to Focus on Council Races
The ‘Ford Strategy’ has one risky component to it: the need for a more progressive council. Assuming there are 47 wards in the 2018 race there will be at least 5 new faces on council, enough to tip the balance on a significant number of votes. Three would come from the new wards while Councillor McMahon has indicated she will honourably keep her promise to her constituents to only serve two terms on council leaving that seat open.
Councillors Lee and Carroll have announced their intention to run for provincial office. Carroll is a virtual shoo-in while Lee will be facing former Councillor Raymond Cho; the loser of that contest is likely to run again for City Council given the nomination window will still be open after the provincial race concludes, however voters have been known to look unfavourably upon candidates who hop around between levels of government so that may be an opportunity for another new face.
Councillors Bailao and Palacio look likely to contest the new Ward 16 which may result in at least one existing person on council no longer being there.
In the end this calculus requires Ford to be exactly the kind of mayor that everyone fears he will be. Conversely we’ve seen what a Tory administration can do: no circus, just quietly and methodically dismantling Toronto.