Moving Forward in Toronto

Voters were still standing in long lines to cast their ballots when the polls closed. Over 161,000 voted in the advance polls, and the total voter turnout was at a historic high, more than 64% of registered voters. By 8:45 p.m., John Tory was at 40.2%, Doug Ford 33.9% and Olivia Chow 23.1%. So it more or less remained for the rest of the evening. The newspapers this morning were full of headlines: “Tory takes T.O.” (The Toronto Star) and “Tory win puts end to stormy Ford era” (The Globe and Mail). For the majority, the result is a relief and a promise of future normality. The Fords “never give up” and vow to return in 2018.

So what is the fall-out from this much-anticipated municipal election?

1. John Tory, business executive, former provincial politician, CFL Commissioner, radio host, and high-profile Red Tory civic activist, has vowed to pull the city together, build an above-ground SmartTrack rapid transit system, and meet the social needs of the city while rationalizing City Hall and watching the bottom line. He plans to build on what he expects will be his collegial relationships with senior governments and with other municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area to lead Toronto to become the “one great city” to which everyone aspires. Whether he can pull it off or not will depend on his capacity to work with disparate members of City Council and diverse communities across the city. He is reputed to have the skills to do just that. We can only wish him well.

2. Doug Ford was defeated; his bluster and bullying banished from the political scene. His defeat, however, has left disappointed the over 331,000 voters (the not insubstantial “Ford nation” largely resident in Etobicoke and Scarborough) who supported him for mayor. That he garnered so many votes, despite his apparent lack of qualifications for the position, is disquieting. How to engage these voters will be a challenge for John Tory. Getting on with the Scarborough subway, upgrading surface transit into the newly extended Spadina subway line, and SmartTrack might help.

3. Rob Ford overwhelmingly won his old Council seat in Etobicoke although, suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, he scarcely campaigned. His nephew, Michael Ford, also won as the local School Trustee. If local voters stay loyal to the Fords, the rest of us can at least ignore them.

4. Olivia Chow did not win, but she retained a solid core of left-wing support which also requires attention. Ditto the left-wing City Councillors who were returned en masse. In her gracious concession speech, Chow urged her followers to keep the faith. “Faith,” she said, “is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen… [It is] up to us to make hope happen.” If John Tory is the Red Tory he says he is, he will work to deal with the housing and employment needs of so many citizens. Some are suggesting Olivia Chow should be appointed Chair of Toronto City Housing. Whether this is a position she would want or not, the City could use her skills and compassion to great advantage, and John Tory would be wise to bring her on board.

5. Thirty-seven City Councillors, all incumbents enjoying the advantages of their positions in municipal elections, were re-elected. Having endured the dysfunctional Ford regime, it is hoped that they will engage with the new Mayor and get on with the business of the city with some dispatch. It is disappointing that there are only seven newcomers: three from Etobicoke, two from central Toronto, one from the north end, and one from Scarborough. New blood on City Council is essential and seven is better than none at all. But hardly any major change.

6. By contrast, 11 of the 22 school trustees on The Toronto District School Board will be new. Five of the previous trustees chose to step down, and six more incumbents were defeated. Among the newcomers is Ausma Malik, in TDSB’s Ward 10, who was subjected to particularly vicious slurs as the campaign came to an end. Her election is a victory for all of us.

It will be a month before the new Mayor and Council are sworn in. With the return of respect and civility, may we also see a return to substance. It will now be the task of John Tory, City Council, and school trustees to make it happen.

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One comment

  1. Fred

    I think that Rob Ford was a somewhat charismatic phoney, as was the Music Man. Can you remember how boring Toronto politics were before he became mayor? Now the mayoral election in Toronto was covered last night in the New York Times. And 64 percent of the electorate came out to vote in Toronto, which is almost twice what we had in Vancouver’s last municipal election. So maybe Rob Ford, without necessarily intending to do so, has reinvigorated Toronto municipal elections.

    And how about your Ford Nation? Like it or hate it, could anyone have imagined such a thing four years ago? Whatever the future political prospects of the Brothers Ford, Ford Nation will endure until and unless someone can address their concerns. John Tory: maybe. Olivia Chow: I think not unless she is prepared to alienate members of Chow Nation.

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