The election results are almost complete as I write this, and it’s worth celebrating.
First, a huge round of applause to Joe Mihevc who not only won in Ward 21 against all of the anti-St. Clair rhetoric, but won with over 50 percent of the vote. My post a few days ago may have seemed anti-Joe, but it’s a call to try harder, to question the assumptions, to make our transit system as good as it can be. Maybe with this election out of the way, Councillor Mihevc and his allies can push for better street designs, better neighbourhoods and better transit service with renewed vigour.
Next is Gord Perks in Ward 14 who won despite two other major left-of-centre candidates. Gord and I go a long way back, and for him this is a huge change — from being an amateur polician to a professional one, from the perennial critic and gadfly to a Councillor. I may even have to make deputations that don’t agree with him just to prove I haven’t gone soft! And to think that only recently Gord dreamed of finding time to be at the Film Festival rather than juggling three or four environmental issues at once.
I must also congratulate Howard Moscoe for his re-election. There have been many comments attacking Howard for his involvement with Bombardier, the unions and the Ducharme affair. Nowhere (except now, maybe in Gord Perks) will you find someone more committed to improving the TTC. With the new Council and the Mayor’s strong push for better, affordable transit, I hope we will see a re-invigorated push for many improvements at the TTC.
This brings me to David Miller whom I first met as a Councillor when he sat on the TTC. He didn’t push as hard as I would like (no politician takes the sort of hard-line position any advocate wants), but he understood what transit could be, what it was all about. Toronto’s funding crisis and the work of building “the foundation”, the new City of Toronto Act, diverted Mayor Miller from giving transit the attention and money it needed during his last term. Now it’s time to make the TTC a great system again so that someday the words “Take The Car” will be only a memory.
Adam Vaughan took Ward 20 in another left-vs-left battle. I’ve known Adam for years as a reporter both at the CBC and CITY. He’s been unhappy with the city’s direction and will prove, I hope, to be a conscience for the Mayor and Council, someone who won’t accept yet another out-of-scale condo tower or mind-numbingly boring, overdense redevelopment scheme. Adam is very pro-transit, and whether he’s part of the “Miller caucus” or not, he will strengthen the transit advocacy from this crucial downtown ward.
Alejandra Bravo in Ward 21 (the west end of the St. Clair line) lost to incumbent Cesar Palacio by less than 300 votes. This is a shame both because an advocate for the St. Clair project is badly needed in that Ward, and because Ms. Bravo would have been a great Councillor. Four years is a long time to wait for a rematch.
Most of the other TTC Commissioners were re-elected to Council, some with wide majorities. Peter Li Preti, perennial Spadina Subway advocate, lost his seat, but not over the subway issue. We will see where the debate on rapd transit expansion goes in the next term.
I expect that we will have a rebalanced TTC where there is no question that the Mayor’s team runs the show. With that comes the responsibility for delivering on the nuts and bolts of Miller’s promises and of presenting a detailed plan for better transit. Transit Commissioners must rise above their individual wards and be advocates for all of Toronto.
Of course, the two wild cards are the city’s budget and the role of the new GTTA. If the city does not have the money, or won’t make the hard decisions needed to properly fund transit, all the promises are so much smoke. If the GTTA decides that business as usual is good enough, then we’re in a real mess. Recently we’ve been reading about traffic jams in the 905 and traffic planners who throw up their hands saying “there’s no room left” for roads. Getting from there to a workable, attractive transit network is a huge jump.
Overall, I am pleased with the outcome. It could have been better, and several close races saw progressive candidates defeated. But the suburbs are changing, and politicians who served only comfortable, leafy rows of suburban housing are finding a much-changed landscape. There is hope for Toronto even if some of the good candidates will have to spend four years as advocates for their communities before they get another chance at Council.