Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Still struggling between John Tory and Olivia Chow in T.O.'s mayoral race

With this fairly quiet and not-hot-enough summer drawing to a close, the Toronto mayoral race is just about to switch into high gear.  Polls offer a hint of clarity as many lately have shown John Tory pulling ahead, Olivia Chow falling back and Rob Ford stagnating, including the reliable Nanos.

We'll see if that trend continues.  Without a doubt, Tory's got game and is performing well in this race, sounding reasonable, talking about things on the minds of most Torontonians like easing gridlock.  To date, his Smart Track proposal is his strongest play, despite the many attacks it's received from opponents.  There is much to debate about it, but at its core it best represents Tory's refreshing ability to think creatively about how to solve our transit crisis in this city by using existing rail lines and pushing for greater integration with the GO network.  

Much of Tory's plan depends on substantial action and funding from other levels of government, but so do all the transit plans being promoted in this race (except of course for Rob Ford's non-plan which calls for subways, subways, subways paid for by fictional efficiencies.)

I still don't like the Scarborough subway extension plan which would add three stops instead of seven, serve fewer people, take twice as long to build and cost $1 billion more than the existing Scarborough light rail plan.  Tory supports the stubway, as do Rob Ford and Karen Stintz. 

Olivia Chow's transit plan is better for Toronto, in my opinion.  She wants to build the better LRT in Scarborough, and continue with the LRT lines for Sheppard East and Finch.  She unveiled more details today, also promising to integrate electrified GO lines into her subway relief plan, while still proceeding with an actual new subway from Pape station south and west to Union Station.   It's Transit City Plus Smart Track, in many ways.  Imitation is the highest form of flattery, John Tory could say.  

We'll see if this better transit plan helps Chow re-capture some momentum.  She'll have to relentlessly promote it at every stop as transit seems to be the biggest issue in this race.  

Still, Chow's speaking style in this campaign has a lot to be desired.  She's somewhat likeable, but comes across as flat and uninspiring.  Her years as a background political organizer in the shadow of her late husband Jack Layton hasn't helped her develop her macro-retail political skills.  Her disadvantage as someone whose first language isn't English is proving a difficult barrier to overcome.  Had she the personality of Kathleen Wynne, Chow might be able to win this thing despite that.  But alas, her support seems to be dwindling to just the core left of the city.  

I'm not entirely sure how she can recapture her earlier lead.  With Tory performing so well (and that will only increase after Labour Day when he no doubt ramps it up), Chow could get pushed aside and find herself an also-ran. 

For me, yes I would like to vote for someone whose transit plans I support.  No doubt, that would make me a natural Chow supporter.   Her longstanding support for cycling also makes her quite appealing to me.   On the other hand, John Tory's expressed doubts about east-west dedicated bike lanes in the city's core have been off-putting.  Lately, he's said he has an open mind about them, which is good as they're desperately needed by cyclists like me.   I soon need to see a John Tory cycling plan for the city that makes sense.  

Tory has vacillated between sounding like a thoughtful red Tory open to smart, progressive ideas, to sounding like a right-wing pretender who uses the term "NDP" as an insult for opponents and talks about stopping bike lanes to help traffic flow faster.  He needs to clarify things and really emphasize his trump card: that he's the best candidate to unite the city, suburbs and the downtown, as a cosmopolitan conservative with a heart.   If Chow can somehow convince voters she's better to unite the city, she might have a chance to overtake Tory. 

But for me, all of the issues mentioned above are secondary; the only real issue for me is getting rid of Rob Ford.  I will vote for the candidate who has the strongest lead in all credible polls to beat Ford, hands down.  I can live with anything in John Tory's platform if he is the person to beat the goof currently occupying the mayor's chair in Toronto.

If polls show Tory way ahead in this race, with Chow continuing to flounder barely ahead or even behind Ford, I will happily vote for Tory.  Should Chow regain some momentum on Tory, leaving Ford in the dust, or even if Chow recaptures her lead in the polls, then she'll get my vote.  If it's too close to call between Chow and Tory, I'll have a tough choice to make.

But if current trends continue with Tory solidifying his new momentum, he'll get my vote, despite his support for the Scarborough subway extension. 


rww said...

Sad that it has come to voting against and not for someone. Obviously the system has to change.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well, Matt, that's a pretty well thought out analysis. You're to be commended for looking past the wall of partisanship.