We need some­one be­sides Tory and Ford who will in­spire vot­ers


John Sewell on another two-per­son race in 2018

The fresh, rel­a­tively young Valérie Plante has been elected mayor of Mon­treal with a ma­jor­ity of like­minded coun­cil­lors, putting an end to the old boys’ net­work in that city hall. Can that kind of a change be ex­pected soon in Toronto?

To quote a char­ac­ter in the George Bernard Shaw play, “Not bloody likely.”

We seem stuck in the mud in this city, and those who might of­fer change seem un­likely to be can­di­dates in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion next Oc­to­ber.

Coun­cil­lor Joe Cressy is the kind of per­son this city needs as mayor. He’s young, pro­gres­sive, po­lit­i­cally skilled in get­ting things done and has an ap­peal­ing man­ner. He works well with po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents yet re­mains clear about is­sues. But he has no in­ten­tion of run­ning for mayor next fall.

To be suc­cess­ful, one must have a pro­file in Scar­bor­ough, North York and Eto­bi­coke, and Joe’s still a down­town kid.

Des­mond Cole is another name that’s men­tioned as a may­oralty can­di­date. He, more than any other per­son, has de­fined and clar­i­fied the is­sue of po­lice dis­crim­i­nat­ing on the ba­sis of skin colour, and his in­ter­ven­tion was key to largely putting a stop to card­ing by po­lice.

But Des­mond no longer writes for the Toronto Star, and his ac­tivist pur­suits have barred him from ap­pear­ing be­fore the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices Board. It means his voice is not heard as of­ten as it should be.

Many thought Richard Ped­die, the busi­ness­man as­so­ci­ated with MLSE, would be a can­di­date. His web site, fora­bet­ter­, cer­tainly makes the case for him as a can­di­date, but he has con­firmed he is not run­ning.

We need this kind of push­ing from the mar­gins, and his recog­ni­tion that an out­sider faces big chal­lenges in an elec­tion for the city’s top job shows a strong sense of re­al­ity on his part.

With a coun­cil of more than three dozen, one would ex­pect sev­eral coun­cil­lors to emerge at least to test the waters about run­ning, but that hasn’t hap­pened.

Shel­ley Car­roll from Scar­bor­ough looked ready to jump in, but de­cided in­stead to seek a seat in Queen’s Park with Kath­leen Wynne.

The chal­lenge ev­ery­one faces is the city-sub­ur­ban split: is­sues that ap­peal to those liv­ing in the older, denser parts of the city largely built be­fore the Sec­ond World War are dif­fer­ent from the is­sues in the sub­urbs built af­ter 1950. It’s dif­fi­cult to strad­dle that mam­moth di­vide.

The mega-city gave the ma­jor­ity of votes to sub­ur­ban politi­cians, and city is­sues don’t go too far. It means de­ci­sions get very mud­dled in the city. Which ex­plains a lot about Mayor John Tory who looks so dith­ery as he tries to strad­dle the di­vide.

He spends much time wor­ry­ing about traf­fic con­ges­tion and splurges bil­lions on a Scar­bor­ough sub­way ex­ten­sion that might sat­isfy a dumb sub­ur­ban dream but in­sults any­one who wants to spend money wisely to im­prove tran­sit in Toronto.

He will spend half a bil­lion dol­lars to keep a sec­tion of the Gar­diner stand­ing when the world would be bet­ter off if it were taken down. He’s will­ing to talk about af­ford­able hous­ing but not so will­ing to take the ac­tions needed to ac­tu­ally build some.

The mega-city po­lit­i­cal mud­dle ex­plains why Doug Ford is a se­ri­ous chal­lenger. He’s a bam­boo­zler when it comes to sen­si­ble city poli­cies, re­al­iz­ing that at­tract­ing me­dia at­ten­tion is bet­ter than try­ing to ap­peal to both camps, a skill he might have learned from his late brother Rob.

But Rob Ford had an in­no­cence about him that was ap­peal­ing, whereas Doug Ford has a thug­gish pres­ence that is a bit scary to many peo­ple. Yes, there will prob­a­bly be two dozen peo­ple who will put their names for­ward in the may­oralty elec­tion, but they will be fringe can­di­dates.

I think we’ll just see two peo­ple se­ri­ously bat­tling it out — Mayor John Tory and Doug Ford — come next Oc­to­ber.

Mean­while, to our great envy, Ms. Plante will be mak­ing se­ri­ous change in Mon­treal.

John Tory (left) and Doug Ford will likely have many de­bates side by side in the lead up to the 2018 elec­tion

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