Sunday, October 26, 2014

My final decision: John Tory, Kristyn Wong-Tam and Chris Moise all have my support!

It has been a grueling municipal election race in Toronto since it began all the way back in January, when the repugnant incumbent Rob Ford jumped into the race for mayor on the first day he could despite his many scandals. 

The last four years have been an absolute hell-hole in Toronto, with extreme stupidity, rabid ideological conservatism and bigotry emanating from the mayor's office, not to mention personal failures like drug abuse, violent behaviour and associations with criminals.  Based on his past behaviour, I knew full well before Rob Ford's 2010 election that he'd be a train wreck in office.  I was proven very right.  His reign has been the worst in Toronto's history.

We entered this year's race desperately looking for someone who could end the Ford years for good.  At first, that seemed to be Olivia Chow.  Her candidacy looked good on paper: dignified widow of Jack Layton, progressive immigrant who's worked hard, with much experience at both the local and federal levels of government.  Her message at first was simple: not only was she the best positioned to defeat Ford, she was also the best candidate for undoing his right-wing legacy with her progressive agenda.

But that latter message was the Chow campaign's biggest mistake in this election campaign.  It seemed many on her campaign were hoping to re-fight the 2010 election.  Many NDP types hoped 2014 would give them the opportunity to not only punish Rob Ford for his personal foibles, but also repudiate conservatism as a whole and restore the city to David Miller-style governance. 

But they were very wrong.  Most residents in the city, including those in the mushy Liberal middle, grew tired of David Miller's poor management style and progressive policy experiments by 2010.  The pendulum that had swung left in 2003 to elect David Miller swung hard back to the right in 2010.  While Rob Ford's personal behaviour has horrified Toronto voters, there was little evidence this year they felt the same way about much of his agenda at city hall. Perhaps by 2018, voters may want a more progressive mayor at city hall, but in 2014, I'm not sensing that at all. 

Plus Chow failed to put out a platform that captured many imaginations and she ceded voters' biggest concerns about transit and gridlock to other candidates, only coming out with a bus expansion plan that was quickly discredited.  The only bold thing she promised was to revisit the Scarborough subway extension in favour of the previous Light Rail Transit plan.  Otherwise, she mostly played it too safe. And she got badly outplayed, which is too bad because I truly wanted to vote for her.  I even donated to her campaign back in the spring.

Into that void jumped John Tory (pictured above at Woody's on Oct 25, 2014), a candidate who had previously lost so many times, this was clearly his last kick at the can.  His years developing a solid reputation as an open-minded red Tory and a great conciliator proved very beneficial.    

Tory impressed many with his bold Smart Track proposal, which looks exactly like the type of transit expansion we truly need in this city, not only to divert riders away from St. George and Yonge-Bloor subway stations, but also provide residents right across the region with an alternative to their motor vehicles and endless gridlock. Without a doubt, the plan needs major tweaking and, if Tory wins, it will receive it.  But Smart Track also played to Tory's strengths: he's a smart, creative leader who isn't afraid to think outside the box, find new solutions and get them done.

With Tory's clear message, he overtook Chow and Rob Ford in the polls in the summer and never looked back.  As Chow sank to third place, her remaining trump card - being the best positioned candidate to end the Ford years - disappeared and shifted to Tory.   When Rob Ford dropped out due to health reasons and Doug Ford replaced him on the ballot, the dynamic didn't change as most voters who disliked RoFo also disliked DoFo.  Doug seemed less charming and more of a bully, equally wrong for civic leadership as his brother.

Of late, Tory's been sealing the deal, sending out the message that he'll work for "all Torontonians" and "leave no one behind."  At the same time, Chow's campaign has been trying to save the furniture.  Fearing a complete collapse, they've been working hard to reinforce their left flank.  But most of her supporters have gone over the top, painting a caricature of Tory that doesn't line up with most reasonable people's perceptions of the man.  Instead of reaching out to a coalition of centrist voters, Chow lately has been narrow casting her message, appealing only to the hard left.

That may save her a few percentage points in the final vote, but it fails to show that Chow is a candidate for the wider Toronto community.  One of her attacks against Tory was to simply call him a "conservative," as if conservatives don't make up a significant part of the city.

For me, my main concern in this election is ridding the city of the Fords, at least from the mayor's chair.  As well, I want to elect a mayor who can unify the city between the downtown and the suburbs, and return civility, intelligence and balance to our civic life.  John Tory seems to me the only major candidate who can do that as mayor.  For these reasons, he'll be getting my vote.  I don't support Tory's entire platform, especially his expedient decision to support the Scarborough subway extension.  However, I have somewhat accepted the fact the ship has sailed on reversing that issue.  I am still somewhat optimistic that Tory will continue to support LRTs in other sensible locations in the city (Sheppard East, Eglinton and Finch).  He's repeated in at least two debates this season that he sees no business case for subways in those corridors.  Plus his determination to get Smart Track off the ground in the years ahead will likely mean he's reluctant to promote other expensive subway propositions like on Sheppard East.  

In Ward 27 where I live, I'll also be voting for Kristyn Wong-Tam (pictured above), a left-wing first term councillor who's done a great job representing the ward, all the time maintaining a dignified level head in the face of chaos at city hall.  She voted against the Scarborough subway extension so I'm glad to give her my vote for that reason alone.   She's also a big supporter of expanding the city's bike lane network.  She'll be a strong progressive counterweight to John Tory's moderate conservatism, as I hope will be other progressive city councillors elected elsewhere.  I have no doubt Wong-Tam will work well with Tory.   I view my vote for Wong-Tam as a nice balance to supporting Tory for mayor.

And finally, for Public School Trustee in Toronto Centre-Rosedale, I've decided to vote for Chris Moise (pictured above), a dynamic candidate who's running for the second time.  I contacted him to find out why he's running, and I also contacted the longtime incumbent Sheila Ward to find out why I should return her to office.   Despite messaging Ward at her Facebook and Twitter accounts, she failed to get back to me.  This was in keeping with what I've heard about her: she's inaccessible and takes voters for granted.

Moise, on the other hand, got back to me within minutes to write: "I want to be a voice for the WHOLE community. I look forward to working collaboratively with parents and parent councils, educators, members of our community and Board colleagues. Children are a vital part of our downtown community and we must all come together to ensure they have the academic tools going forward to succeed and later give back (this includes providing programs such as art, music, ESL), which are often at risk of being eliminated from the curriculum...School boards no longer have the ability to increase education taxes. However, I look forward to working closely with the Ministry of Education and discuss ways to INVEST in education of our students and find ways start address the 202 schools that are in chronic need of repair (identified by the Ministry itself)." 

Moise seems like a great option for a fresh new voice on the school board.   I hope he gets elected Monday. 

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