Why I’m Voting For George

On September 25, 2009, David Miller announced that he would not seek a third term in office leaving many, including me, in a state of shock and mourning for the incomplete work of his Mayoralty.

TTC Chair Adam Giambrone picked up the torch, but his campaign flickered out a few months later thanks to a personal scandal.  At issue was not his love life, but how he handled the revelations.  His apparent treatment of his public partner as an election prop raised serious questions about integrity and trust.  The final blow was his incomplete withdrawal speech where page two, the vital end of the statement, had to be read by his aide Kevin Beaulieu.

Enter Joe Pantalone, Deputy Mayor and 30-year Council veteran, as the man who would carry on the Miller legacy.  More about Joe later.

Miller’s departure opened the race to many hopefuls who wouldn’t run against “his blondness”, but were happy to contest an election against others.  Fairly quickly, the frontrunners emerged.

Sarah Thomson, who now supports George Smitherman, gained early attention because she talked about road tolls, but she never rose above the level of a fringe candidate.  Only her unique position as a young, female would-be mayor gained her a place at an already crowded table.

Rocco Rossi was, for a time, an interesting addition to the mix.  I was introduced to Rossi through a mutual friend, and met with him at his then-new campaign office for an extended chat about transit, and the city in general.  We don’t agree on some policies, notably the relative importance of subway building, but Rocco is a decent man, intelligent and committed to what he is doing.  At debates, he has easily been the most articulate person on the stage, and for a time I at least respected his campaign.

That respect evaporated as Rossi slid further to the right, trying to bite off a chunk of Rob Ford’s support, and the final blow was a proposed highway tunnel from Eglinton to downtown to “complete” the Spadina Expressway.  This is folly on two counts.  The first is the complexity and disruption of such a project and the difficulty of fitting access to the highway into the existing city.  More importantly, the scheme misses the basic fact that the vast majority of people travelling to downtown are already on transit, and there is no place to put more traffic downtown even if it could get there.  People complain about congestion and commuting times, but these are overwhelmingly problems of the suburbs with an overcrowded highway network where there is no transit alternative.

Rossi’s tunnel, and the shift of his campaign into attention-getting mode leaving reason behind, demolished the very foundation, such as it was, of Rossi’s position as a thoughtful, intelligent candidate.  The polls concurred, and Rossi retired from the field.

This left Joe Pantalone, George Smitherman and Rob Ford in the final stretch.

I have known Joe for a long time.  Anyone who has been around City Hall working on advocacy in any role for the past decades could not help but meet and come to like Joe, and he has always been supportive of improving the life of Toronto, and of transit in particular.  Joe had one big, black mark against him, however.  His long-standing support for the Front Street Extension simply did not square with a pro-transit platform, and his view of what was good for his ward could seem at odds with what was good for the greater city.

Transit planning for the developing west waterfront from the railway lands out through Exhibition Place and beyond has been fragmented for years, and transit always took a back seat.  Indeed, the main streetcar access at the CNE was relegated to the north end of the site, between the Horse Palace and the Gardiner Expressway, to make room for the National Trade Centre (now known as the Direct Energy Centre).

Transit to Ontario Place, a major attraction now attempting to find relevance in a competitive entertainment market, has never been good, and travellers often faced long walks across a hostile environment littered with whatever show was in progress in Exhibition Place just to reach the lake.

There has never been a real vision of what transit could do for Exhibition Place, the very organization Pantalone holds up as his pride and joy.

In embracing Transit City, Pantalone showed he would continue along the path Miller started, but “continuing” is not enough in someone who would lead the city.  Transit City has its faults as I and readers here have discussed at great length, and it’s not a perfect plan.  “Leadership” requires the acknowledgment that what has gone before may be good, but that the city can be even better.  In failing to address what transit might become, Pantalone by implication accepts the shortcomings of what it is today.

That said, I would love to vote for Joe because the people who would form his core team do have the vision of what the city can be, do care about Toronto, its transit system and so much more.  But the polls have been clear for weeks that Joe is not going to win, and his standing has dropped as the “anyone but Ford” campaign forces people to think about the future of Toronto.

This leaves me with a choice between Rob Ford and George Smitherman.  As regular readers here know, I come down rather hard on those who make ad hominem attacks in the comment threads.  Discuss issues, briskly and with conviction if you must, but stick to the issues, not the people.  In that context, I will not launch into an attack on Ford’s personal character and behaviour, but must observe that his combative style, his one-man-show, his repetitious sound-bites, “facts” that do not stand up to scrutiny, all these reveal a man profoundly unsuited to the Mayor’s office.

Ford’s approach is to polarize the city and its issues, to appeal to the “what’s in it for me” feeling in voters rather than speaking to “what’s in it for us”.  That “us” includes Rexdale, Malvern, Leaside, Parkdale, downtown and everywhere in between.  It includes the area beyond the 416 whose growth and policies drive and shape many of the problems faced by Toronto itself.

His transit plan is a simplistic joke that will spend every penny available, in theory, from Metrolinx on a small expansion of the subway (SRT replaced by a BD extension, Sheppard completed from STC to Don Mills, and from Yonge to Downsview), but will eliminate the Eglinton line which is a subway in all but name through the heart of the city.  Streetcars will disappear in the name of giving more road space to cars, even though congestion is rampant downtown on many streetcar-free streets.  Throughout the larger City, streetcars are nowhere to be found, but congestion is a fact of life.

Ford’s approach to leadership is to listen to what neighbourhoods want.  Sadly, neighbourhoods will not always agree, and an approach that might work in a community hall in Rexdale does not scale up to an entire city.  Even neighbourhoods may be divided, and listening to only one faction does not guarantee the best outcome, only a pool of potential supporters (and a few enemies) for the next election.

Leadership requires looking at the larger picture and even, at times, taking a stand that is not, at first, supported by a majority.  Make your case, win over support with demonstrable benefits, and lead Toronto to a better future.  That future does not include Rob Ford.

George Smitherman launched his campaign with a roomful of supporters and his first big policy announcement, a transportation plan.  I was not complimentary about that plan whose shortcomings did not fit with the hoopla surrounding its presentation.  Back in June, I wrote:

There are too many vague statements, too much glossing over of major issues, too many examples of bad advice from a policy team that should know better.  Smitherman is a leading candidate for Mayor, and I had hoped to see “Mayoral” quality platform material.  Candidate Smitherman has taken on the most important issue in current political debate, and produced a platform worthy of a junior Councillor with keen, but ill-advised staff.

In time I came to learn that this was largely George’s own plan, and that’s even more troubling because candidates and politicians who present their own plans have big problems accepting the need for change.

As I have talked about the dilemma of a lefty voting for Smitherman with various people, curious arguments emerge.

Some claim that with Ford, what you see is what you get, and that his worst characteristics would be tempered by Council.  He’s an “honest man”.  Bunk.  An honest man would actually engage in a dialogue about the future of our city rather than repeating worn-out nostrums as a canned response to any question.  Derailing a train is easy.  Building a line to the future is much harder.

Some claim that Smitherman would be even worse than Ford, that he can’t be trusted, and even dally with the idea that Ford would be good for the left in that it would force a coalition to throttle his platform at Council.  Sounds good, but this only works if the left can control Council, a dubious proposition given the numbers in the “mushy middle” who will suck up to whoever holds power.

I must return to the question of a vision for the City.  At times, George sounds like a trucker who is still working through his first coffee of the morning.  His “furious” nature is well known, and a reputation for high turnover of staff in his offices at Queen’s Park is legendary.  That’s a recipe for short term effectiveness, but long term loss of continuity and alienation of support.  Being Mayor requires that long view and the embrace of opinions that may not be completely supportive.  It’s fine to be Ringmaster, but if the audience and the actors have all left the tent, the show will not go on.

That’s the “furious” side of Smitherman, one that must be tamed if he is to be a successful Mayor.  But there’s more to George than this.

He talks about Toronto in all its parts.  Downtown and the suburbs are not “us” and “them”, but part of a whole.  Many different communities and interests are part of the city, and each contributes in its way.  A Mayor’s job is to bring those communities together so that the city is better for all of them.

Is George my choice for Mayor?  Well, I must be honest and say that the woman I would rather see on the ticket is Shelley Carroll, the outgoing Budget Chief, but she ruled herself out of the race.  Too many Liberals were already soaking up support from the provincial and federal parties.   Smitherman would do well to give Carroll a prominent role in his administration.  This would preserve a link to the Miller years and a deep knowledge of the City’s financial situation, but through someone who is not seen as a downtown, NDP-based lefty.

We must put the divisiveness of the election campaign behind us to face the much harder problems and goals of Toronto.  We must find how we, together, will make a better city without simply destroying everything in a blind war on “waste” and a vindictive desire to erase the name “Miller” and all it represents.

My hope is that Smitherman will grow into the Mayoralty, that he will seek out good people who care about Toronto to form his inner circle, that he will embrace intelligence, talent and dedication from across the political spectrum on Council.

That’s why I’m voting for George.

104 thoughts on “Why I’m Voting For George

  1. Very well written, Steve! Your analysis mirrors my own thinking for Monday. That and the fact that the idea of two subways to Scarborough Town Centre seems utterly preposterous, not to mention using colour-coded curbs that will be covered with snowbanks half the year to denote where one may park on the street.


  2. The problem with the current first-past-the-post election we have is that the person the majority do not want could get in. If we had a 50%+1 vote, it could be better, but expensive to stage a runoff election. With a ranked ballot, we could at least rate them to make the final decision.

    My ranking would be:
    1) Pantalone
    2) Smitherman
    3) Thompson
    4) Rossi
    5) Ford

    Without a ranking ballot, my vote would have to go to Smitherman.

    Steve: Yes, I would love ranked ballots, but the best we can hope for is to see them in 2014. The problem is today.


  3. Thank you for a well-thought-out endorsement of Mr. Smitherman. It is always a pleasure to read what you have to write. Unfortunately I cannot agree with it and I intend to vote for Joe Pantalone.

    Public transit is a key reason for this decision. At $300 million per km, subways are expensive. And Mr. Smitherman’s plan to finance his subway building binge while freezing property taxes and eliminating the Personal Vehicle Tax simply does not add up. I am used to politician’s financial plans being based upon the principle that 2+2=5. But when a plan only works when 2+2=7 then I cannot support it.

    The most reasonable, cost-effective way to move into the future is Transit City. TC delivers huge gains for comparatively little cost. But Mr. Smitherman proposes to scrap the Jane and Don Mills lines and is weak on everything else that does not have committed short-term provincial government funding.

    Only Mr. Pantalone is 100% behind Transit City. Only Mr. Pantalone’s financial plans bear at least a faint resemblance to reality.

    Only Mr. Pantalone is 100% behind the City’s official Bike Plan. Mr. Smitherman is not, and has called for a “time out” on bicycle infrastructure on arterial roads. Those would be the roads that people actually want to use.

    It is unfortunate that the election cycle is much shorter than the time-frame required to build major transit projects. It is for this reason that I am very slow to support people like George Smitherman who promise to dump well-advanced existing plans such as Transit City and the Bike Plan in favour of their own schemes. Then with the next election the next politician does the same and nothing gets completed.

    That is why I am voting for Joe Pantalone.


  4. Well written, Steve. A thoughtful approach to voting for the candidate who will best represent our city.

    Now, I fear this may queue a series of “you don’t know anything” personal attacks from Ford supporters.


  5. Very nice article.

    In a perfect world I would vote for Pantalone…but in the Kingdom of Fear I will reluctantly place an X beside Smitherman.


  6. It’s sad when we have to vote for someone in the (perhaps never to be fulfilled) hope that they will do a better job than they have led us to expect. I want a new slate of candidates!


  7. Thanks for posting this Steve. I’ve been struggling with my decision on who I should vote for until very recently. There are elements of both Pantalone’s and Smitherman’s platform that I disagree with, and many elements that I do agree with. Overall, I favour Pantalone’s platform over Smitherman’s. However, the deciding factor for me was twofold: there is a palpable feeling in the city that change is needed.

    Unfortunately for Pantalone, he doesn’t represent this change for obvious reasons. I personally believe he would do a fine job as mayor, and I have no major concerns about the Miller years, but that simply isn’t the prevailing feeling throughout the city. The polls over the past several months have certainly reflected this, and it became apparent to me that Joe really had no chance of winning. The second reason is a by-product of this: if I vote for Pantalone anyway, it simply makes it that much more possible for Ford to win, and this to me is unpalatable. So yes, I’m voting for my second choice, and people can call that strategic voting if they wish. I prefer to think that I am in fact voting in a ranked-ballot kind of way: my first choice won’t win, so here’s my second choice.


  8. A very eloquent description of what is essentially a mud-wrestling match. Whatever the result it will be messy, and citizen oversight will be our only salvation.

    A previous post asking if you ever considered political office was never intended as flattery, but as a call for those with talent to help inject a higher level of thinking at 100 Queen West. Let’s insure that in 2014 Toronto not only has streetcars, but much improved services and at least one electrified line.


  9. “An honest man would actually engage in a dialogue about the future of our city rather than repeating worn-out nostrums as a canned response to any question.”

    Perhaps you meant to write that an honest man would engage in a dialogue about the future of our city by using your terms of reference as opposed to his own.

    Ford and Smitherman believe their transit plans are good for the city. They are well aware of the other options available to them and have made their choices, ones that have different ideological differences from yours. I hardly call that dishonest. Whether their choices are best for this city or not can only be determined as the long-term usage, or lack thereof, of their implementations plays out.

    Yet, most curiously, we seem to employ near identical reasoning in our endorsements of George.


  10. Steve:

    As you have done, I have expended significant anguished thought about this election. As a leftish Trinity Spadina resident I have been a long-time supporter of Joe and still think he would make the best Mayor.

    I think Joe would make the best Mayor because of his gentlemanly diplomacy coupled with his determination to build coalitions so that the “right” positions – or at the very least – best achievable positions receive the necessary support. Joe never has a bad word to say about anybody (more about that later) and is always fair in evaluating the differing goals and objectives of the various parties to city changing issues. As you have pointed out, he would also surround himself with an excellent team that would complement his strengths and compensate for his weaknesses. I have spoken with Joe over the years about some of the issues that divide the “inner City” and “inner Suburbs”. I believe he has a good grasp of the issues and has shown the flexibility to craft compromises – including differing services for each – so that all parties are happy.

    I don’t agree that Joe’s support of Transit City represents a “stand pat” position. Rather, as each transit improvement takes so long and is subject to so many obstacles, I think Joe’s position that we need to move forward with what is on the table is progressive. As I read through your argument, I thought your dismissal of Joe on these grounds was one of the weaker parts.

    The other weakness was the willingness to somewhat gloss over the “furious George” aspect of Mr. Smitherman’s management. At this stage of the game, I doubt that further maturity will occur.

    People are not like machines. You cannot remove one part and install a better replacement. Instead people are a complex whole that have good and bad points. I fear that if (as is likely) Mr. Smitherman becomes Mayor we will have to live with and work around that weakness as we appreciate his other strengths.

    Alas, the polls have spoken somewhat decisively. With the significant desire by many people to support anyone but Mr. Ford, and with Mr. Smitherman virtually tied and way ahead of Joe, I don’t see much, if any, possibility for a last minute rally to Joe. As others have commented, we have an imperfect voting system, and in a first past the post system, the ABF vote will very likely put Mr. Smitherman over the top. The one critical comment I would make, is that Joe’s campaign – run by the supposedly expert Mr. Laschinger, has been abysmal. I believe that there are more “leftish” voters in the City that the 15% who support Joe in the polls. Mr. Laschinger has failed to rally even what George Bush calls “the base”. Furthermore, the campaign has completely failed to show Joe’s greatest strength, his diplomacy, genuine commitment to being a Gentleman in the true sense of the word and his respect for all points of view. A voter previously unfamiliar with Joe would have gained little, if any, appreciation of how much he loves this City. The latest “attack” radio ads may or may not be correct in their criticisms of Mr. Ford and Mr. Smitherman, but they do nothing to show the other 85% of the voters who Joe really is. I am not close enough to the campaign to know whether Joe let himself be manipulated by “managers” who “know better” or if he chose this type of campaign himself. In any case, it completely failed to show the “real” Joe to the electorate.

    I am not a fan of Mr. Ford. While I respect your restriction of ad hominen attacks and emotional rants, I think it fair to note that these tactics are not beneath Mr. Ford. There does not seem, for example, to be any substance behind Mr Ford’s very serious allegations about corruption in the Beach Restaurant controversy. Nonetheless he sticks to his assertions.

    This leads me to a difficult question. I don’t want to see Mr. Ford as Mayor and feel the pressure to “rally round” the most likely winner. After much thought, it has become clear that I must vote for Joe. I deeply admire Joe, his integrity and commitment and feel I must support him as long as he is in the race. I won’t vote for my (distant) second choice just because he is not Mr. Ford. (Ironically this aligns my thinking with Marcus Gee, who in my opinion is a bit of a right winger and with whom I do not expect to agree.)


  11. Very well written piece. Clearly much though and time went into this. I fear for this city with Rob Ford as our “leader”. We all know how we laughed at the US with the buffoonish George W. Bush at the helm, how America was seen as a joke. Well that’s the fate that awaits Toronto with Ford in the Mayor’s chair.

    Mr. Smitherman has great ideas, now you may not agree with all of them but most are reasonable and practical.

    For those who do not vote for George to support Mr. Pantalone, well you will have no right to say a thing of how bad things are or any attacks on the labour movement etc. You have the ability to prevent major attacks on things you cherish in this city. Use that opportunity and vote for reason and to stop a boorish, petty man from making us say, “wow even George Bush would be better than this”.


  12. I tried commenting through my blackberry but something went wrong.


    You are “dissing” Transit City? Many MANY ppl give the credit for Transit City to Mayor Miller, you and one more person (he is still Mayor as I type this).

    Steve: I am not dissing Transit City. As everyone here knows quite well, I believe TC has its faults, notably that the south end of Don Mills and Jane are proposed as surface operations with, somehow, a transfer at the BD line. The “Morningside Hook” as it is now known was something I advocated a long time ago so that the Sheppard LRT actually had a destination. The whole issue of airport access is too bound up in avoiding competition with Blue 22. The Finch East line added by Queen’s Park is a non-starter. The Waterfront line needs a complete rethink as to alignment. Nothing here is new, but these are issues nobody wants to talk about, and EAs for Jane and Don Mills proceed on the hopeless assumption that they won’t be underground. The option of taking the DRL to Eglinton is nowhere to be seen. This all wastes money, public credibility, and most importantly time.

    He is expecting a big cheque from the province, obviously GS is close friends with Dalton McGuinty, you don’t become Deputy Premier if you aren’t close friends with the Premier.

    Mike Harris killed transit by cutting that operating subsidy, GS as MPP and close friend with DM could of said something in the 10 odd years he was an MPP.

    What if we get a Conservative or NDP provincial government in 2011? I was going to add Green Party there but you will be a Premier of Ontario before the Green Party of Ontario leader is.

    I am seriously shocked and surprised you are voting for GS.

    As a Scarborough resident, TC gives 4 lines to Scarborough (Sheppard, Eglinton, Scarborough-Malvern and extension of the SRT).

    GS wants to extend the BD line to STC (essentially making the SRT a subway).

    It is impossible to convert the SRT to subway, you know that extra safety set of tracks east of Kennedy station, if I get things right, they go almost up to Midland.
    Also a subway can’t make that turn between Ellesmere and Midland.

    I always voted for Liberal, this would be my first NDP vote, I can’t vote Liberal this time. The transit initiatives for Scarborough under GS are VERY disappointing.

    I am sure he means well but Mayoral Candidate Smitherman is very disappointing.

    Steve: My entire analysis is based on the fact that Pantalone won’t win. I would rather try to convince George that his transit plan needs some amendment that fight an anti-transit Mayor Ford.


  13. Kevin Love said: “And Mr. Smitherman’s plan to finance his subway building binge while freezing property taxes and eliminating the Personal Vehicle Tax simply does not add up.”

    There is no such thing as Smitherman’s subway building binge. During his first term, he wants to build about 34 km of LRT (Eglinton, and Sheppard East with a branch to UTSC) and exactly 0 km of subways (except TYSSE, that is well underway and will be completed even with Pantalone in mayor’s chair).

    Only during Smitherman’s second term – that he would have to earn in a new election in 2014 – he wants to build 12 km of subways (two BD extensions, and Sheppard to Downsview) along with 8 km of LRT (Finch West to Woodbine).

    Kevin Love said: “But Mr. Smitherman proposes to scrap the Jane and Don Mills lines and is weak on everything else that does not have committed short-term provincial government funding.”

    There exists a very good reason to defer Jane and Don Mills LRT lines until the DRL subway plans take shape. The original plan to run Jane and Don Mills LRT lines at surface all the way to Bloor is clearly unfeasible because of the street width; and if they have to be tunneled anyway, it makes much more sense to tunnel DRL extensions further north of Bloor.


  14. Looks like you’re voting for George by process of elimination and as the lesser of all evils. I’m voting for Ford so he can kill the streetcar network downtown … just kidding. Thomson was the best transit candidate.


  15. I’m disappointed. Pantalone won’t win if people who want him to win keep endorsing George Smitherman.


  16. Steve,

    A well written piece. Although, I am still struggling with who should get my vote (I have backed Joe since Adam dropped out). As a member of ATU113, Joe is the candidate of choice. Both Smitherman and Ford support the idea of contracting out, Smitherman supporting the idea of contracting out certain TTC routes – which obviously I am concerned about! The idea of “hacking” up the TTC really bothers me. I realize that there are problems with the TTC, but Smitherman’s idea is the wrong approach. Ford, of course, would rather see the whole system privatized (as written by his chief policy advisor, Mark Towhey) despite his denials. If these are the views from the chief policy advisor, how soon will they become Ford’s views?

    But, as a realist, I know that Joe cannot win, and that voting for Joe takes away from the “anti-Ford” vote. As a member of one of the city’s largest public sector unions, and as a city taxpayer (I live in Scarborough) the last thing I wish to see is the cuts to services and programs that will happen under Ford. Ford’s transit plan is an absolute joke and is an insult to the residents of the inner suburbs of Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke. I drive many of the routes in East York and Scarborough on a regular basis. Scarborough is terribly underserved by transit (as I image Etobicoke to be as well). 102 Markham Road is a route that I am very familiar with. Ford’s “plan” does nothing for the areas served by this route – these are areas that would be well served by the ultimate roll out of Transit City.

    So, with great trepidation (and a large degree of holding my nose) I feel that I have to break union ranks and vote for Smitherman rather that Joe. I have not made this decision lightly, but feel that it best serves the interests of my family, myself (from a job standpoint) and for the riders of the bus routes that I drive. Smitherman is not the perfect candidate but he is the best in terms of taking our city forward.

    As a final note I just want to comment that I have been tremendously disappointed with this election. None of the mayoral candidates has presented a “Vision” for what Toronto can be moving forward. Nobody has stated “I recognize that there are problems with our city and this is where I want to lead it and this is how I propose to get there. No candidate has stated that his/her first priority is work with city council and develop a vision for what our city can be and what WE can achieve by working TOGETHER as a municipal TEAM for all residents of Toronto.


  17. You people believe that with Smitherman as Mayor Transit City will remain intact? As soon as he is sworn in, the Smitherman-McGunity brothers will start dissecting TC!

    Steve: My choice as I made quite clear is based on the premise that Rob Ford will do far greater damage than Smitherman as Mayor, and that George has the capability to grow into stronger support for that scheme than he has already proclaimed. The real duo you should worry about is Rob Ford and Tim Hudak.


  18. Mark Twain said, and I am paraphrasing very liberally, that a person has no heart if they are not a liberal when they are young and no brain if they are not a conservative as they age. Well I have aged and either have no brain or else a deep personal commitment to the beliefs that I formed many years ago. I am and remain a social democrat.

    I have also exercised my democratic privilege in every single one of the Federal, Provincial and Municipal elections that have taken place since I turned 18, 36 years ago.

    I intend to vote in this election as well, and after much thought have decided to vote for what I believe in, rather than what I am against. I categorically reject the notion that if a lot of other people, misinformed in my view, choose to vote for Rob Ford that is in any way my “fault”. I accept that those who advance such an argument do so with the best of intentions and greatest of sincerity, but I must differ regarding the validity of such an argument. We should not, once again in my view, surrender our beliefs to the polls. What other people are thinking does not affect my belief in what is right.

    Other may decide that what is right for them is to vote for ABF because they believe that is good for the City. I respect their decision, but reject the implication that the decision to vote for one’s beliefs is incorrect.

    One group that I do think needs to re-evaluate the consequences of their actions is CUPE. Last summer, it deeply disturbed me, and apparently broke Mr. Miller’s heart, to hear CUPE members singing “Good-Bye David” on the steps of City Hall. That disrespect shown to the most pro union Mayor in a long time – if not in Toronto’s history — was completely uncalled for. Not knowing how deep Mr. Miller’s reaction would be, I asked myself at the time if these union members had noticed what happened to their union “brothers and sisters” in OPSEU after that union successfully (with help from others) drove Bob Rae from office and replaced him with Mike Harris. The disrespect shown to Mr. Rae and Mr. Miller by unions is very short on the self interest measurement. It was also unspeakably rude to supporters dealing with difficult situations. CUPE may have themselves to blame for the potential outcome of this election and they will have to live with the consequences of their actions. (Polls suggest that David Miller, if he had the heart, would win this election.)

    If, as I will, I vote for Joe, I will not be responsible for the destruction that may result from the election by others of a buffoon for Mayor. The people who voted for him will be responsible and they will have to live with the result. Ironically, many of those results would be hurtful to those same misinformed voters.

    Steve: Both CUPE and ATU share a great deal of the blame for the current political situation by giving such easy targets for the right wing to shoot at, such clear examples treating the public, their best possible allies, as their enemies. From what I have heard, CUPE actually signed for more or less what had been on the table from the beginning, and the City, sensitive to the position of the union, chose not to rub their noses in the result. The media got to portray this as a union victory, and an example of spinelessness by the pro-labour City. ATU has cleaned up its act somewhat, but we will see how things develop when their contract is up for renewal in 2011.


  19. The only parts of Ford’s transit plan that makes sense to me are the Sheppard extensions as a subway to completed the already partly built line. I personally would rather see the line completed as a subway as it already started as one.

    Other then that I believe that Joe Pantalone is the best person for the TTC, but Smitherman seems the best person overall to be Mayor (transit, unfortunately, is only one of the issues in Toronto.)


  20. As I said elsewhere, if I had to choose between a slap in the face and a kick in the nuts, I’d vote for Smitherman. It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, to be sure, but it’s better than a kick in the nuts!


  21. Steve:

    Unfortunately for CUPE and ATU, who I support in their goals, but sometimes shake my head at their tactics, the City may be a different environment next time they negotiate. My point, which I think you endorse in your comment, is that the environment could have been much better if their previous actions had been more pragmatic. I am still fully pro-union, but I wish I could at least influence or better still replace their lousy, short sighted, leadership.

    Unlike Mr. Miller, I don’t have to appeal to an electorate. I am unabashedly pro union, and yet my views reflect the above. How difficult it must have been to be a leader who is pro union in a City with critical voices with such stupid and immature union leadership.


  22. Well written Steve. Over here in Australia, I have been watching this election unfold and I too would have preferred Joe but Smitherman seems to be the best choice if Joe can’t win, I suggest to all that a vote for Joe under the circumstances is a wasted vote and therefore a further vote for the idiot Ford. It’s a pity you don’t have preferential voting there like we have so that, your second choice (say George on a Joe vote) would be counted if it becomes neck and neck between George and Ford (or vice-versa).

    If Ford was to win and undo all that has been done and cancels all the orders along with their mega million dollar law suits that must come as a result, Toronto will be left nothing but a bankrupt city with massive congestion and pollution and the soul (the streetcars) ripped out of it, there would certainly be nothing for me to return to.

    Greg King
    Melbourne where streetcars reign supreme.


  23. If TO privatizes some routes, doesn’t that open the door, in a legal sense, for others to start up routes that compete with the TTC’s? I remember a couple of years ago that the TTC threatened legal action, based on the TTC’s transit monopoly, against condo owners in the Humber and Lakeshore area when they tried to start their own bus line to downtown. So, if the TTC starts selling off or giving away routes, doesn’t that effectively make the monopoly null and void? And doesn’t that lead to the same transit-route chaos that happened when a private company had the monopoly in Toronto before the TTC was formed in 1921? Just asking, in case a lawyer is reading and will provide an answer or a range of possibilities.

    Steve: The TTC can contract with anyone to provide transit service while retaining their monopoly. This happened, for example, with Wheel Trans for many years.

    The remainder of this comment has been excised.


  24. On the whole I’ve been rather disappointed with the campaign – none of the candidates (even Joe) have presented any inspiring vision for the city. One only has to look at what has happened in Calgary. If only we were so bold. Although I didn’t agree with everything Thomson put forward (her exclusive focus on subways for one) I did find she brought a youthful freshness to the campaign. Now we’re left with a choice not of who we want but of who we thing will stop the one we don’t want – ugh!

    Although I know he will not likely win, in the end I’m putting an “x” for “Pants”, as I’m not convinced Smitherman is all that much better than Ford. In any case, whoever is Mayor will have to work with council to deliver what they have promised.



  25. Just read an excellent column by the Globe’s Margus Gee: . If only we had such a candidate for this election. Instead we’re left with a sad selection of 3 (there are nearly 40 that will appear on the ballot). Just hoping whoever does become our next mayor doesn’t make a total mess of it.



  26. The fact of the matter is – there are not 3 but 40 mayoral candidates. Some of them with very strong platforms. Unfortunately, the media has just ignored them, disallowed them from taking part in debates or even blocked them from attending some (I am looking at CP24). Without those candidates being in the public eye, most of the voting public will probably vote for what they perceive as the lesser of the two evils or what they think will get them immediate short term gains. Unfortunately, there are few who are looking to buy into any long-term vision for the city as a whole. So no candidate is selling them.

    As an aside – Rob Ford is already back tracking on halving the council and scrapping the land registry tax.


  27. I find this post, and several of its comments, to be an endorsement of Strategic Voting, which I have a strong philosophical disagreement with. It’s a matter of the principle of voting for what you feel is best, or rejecting everybody if you aren’t satisfied with anybody’s platform (which could be by spoiled ballot, but there’s also a legitimate-but-little-known way to vote while rejecting everyone without spoiling your ballot, too). Strategic Voting promotes voting for what you’re not satisfied with, for not expressing your own interests, beliefs, priorities, etc. That, frankly, flies in the face of our democratic electoral system (already greatly impaired by FPTP mechanics as mentioned by others), and if we didn’t have an Uzi of rapid-fire pre-election polling, we wouldn’t have this abomination called Strategic Voting (even though I love the gossip of polls as much as the next political junkie).

    I can hold my head up high and honestly say that I did cast a vote for the candidate that most closely reflected my interests, beliefs, and priorities, knowing full well that my vote would not influence the outcome of the election between two (or three, if Joe Pantalone counts) front-runners. I do not consider this a “wasted ballot” either, as some people tend to believe; a notion that I personally find a little insulting, and to a great degree misguided. Voting for somebody else would have been betraying my own interests, beliefs, and priorities as far as where I believe Toronto’s future should be guided, something that I can’t condone.

    I don’t think anybody should be voting for someone for the sake of blocking another. That’s making a mockery of the system (not to suggest the system is without faults in its own right). While I may come from a bit of a position of indifference since I didn’t vote for a front-runner for Mayor, I do think that the ballot you cast for Councillor is more important than the one you cast for Mayor, contrary to what media air-time allocation would lead one to suspect. If we have capable and principled Councillors in at least two-thirds of the Chamber, then it won’t really matter too much who’s Mayor.

    Whatever the outcome of the elections, at both Councillor and Mayoral levels, what I’d really like to see is people speak their minds uninfluenced, and swear off Strategic Voting for the abomination that it really is.


  28. Steve, that is indeed a very well written article in support of Smitherman. I of course won’t be launching any personal attacks over it as I expect my views to be treated in the same way.

    Although I live in Woodbridge, I support Rob Ford. If I could, I would vote for him. I instead will be voting for Mario Racco in Vaughan. I won’t get into details of why in this post.

    Rob Ford appears to be the only candidate I can trust when it comes to Taxpayer money and accountability, two things I believe are seriously lacking in today’s city council. His promises to end the fair-wage system as well as sending every city contract and requisition to tender guarantees that Toronto will get a fair price for everything it pays for. No more sole-sourced contracts, like the one regarding the new Toronto Rockets (We could have gotten the same product for much less than what we paid for). No more sweetheart contracts to government friends, loyalists, and cronies. Also, I look forward to the day when most outside worker services are contracted out (goodbye overpaid garbagemen!!!), the bad public sector workers weeded out, and union influence in the city is reduced. We need to start running this city like a business, and not like the daycare it presently is.

    While George Smitherman has made promises to cut waste as well, his promises are tempered by the e-Health scandal which partly occurred on his watch. I don’t trust him any more than I do Joe Pantalone. While Joe has the best interests of transit at heart, he has no intention of cutting wasteful spending. Mash Joe’s transit plans with Ford’s fiscal responsibility, and you would get the perfect candidate.

    Sure, Ford’s transportation plan is far below par compared to his competitors. In fact, I agree with the Toronto Star’s assessment of Ford’s transit plan as “Foul”. But Ford himself is NOT anti-transit as some of you may believe. I’ve seen this guy in action when it comes to transit concerns. People who complain about transit service to him get results. Streetcars are not going to dissappear overnight, but going through with this would most certainly result in certain political suicide.

    Nor is he anti-city as well. He isn’t going to break everything that others have worked so hard to build. No, he intends to try to fix issues that have cropped up over the last few years. Ford works like I do, he works to build consensus amongst people. He isn’t a go-it-alone-screw-the-other-guys type of person although he is unfairly being treated that way. Balancing the needs and the wants of a city like Toronto is a tough job, but he is always in favour of coming to a compromise solution. That’s how he wants to build the city, one where everyone is in agreement on what to do, not a select few people looking out for their own interests. In the end, this is the issue that matters to me. If I was voting based on public transit alone, I would not vote for Ford, but my vote is about making things right in the city that has done a lot of things wrong as of late.

    If you guys are so concerned about saving what was gained in Transit city, you need to get your views out there, and why this option is much better than what Ford originally proposed. Stress that this option saves money and show proof that this is much better than an expensive subway line while doing much more for public transit. Ford is a smart person. If he sees something out there that is much better, then he will support it. You just need to talk to him. He will listen.

    Give Ford a chance. Like I will be on election day. The sky is not falling.


  29. I have come to the same conclusion you have, Steve but not with any great enthusiasm. Frankly, one of the things I will be looking for in Smitherman if he becomes mayor is whether he listens to people like you. If he prefers to listen to bureaucrats etc. ahead of people like you whose expertise in the matter of transit is well known then we are in trouble.

    BTW Regarding those who insist that they will vote for “the man” (in this case Pantelone) and keep their vote unsullied let them be aware that they are also, inescapably, voting for an end result.


  30. 8 years ago there was a feeling that change was happening with David Miller. That somebody would change how City councillors did things. The broom was a potent symbol.

    To many , the next 8 years did not bring much change as far as how City councillors acted. Bunny suits and attempts to cover legal bills infuriated people. A lot of good stuff occurred, but it got lost in the optics of the strikes and what can best be described as gaffes.

    Many are reacting to those years and giving Ford a chance. As more then one person has told me, “He can’t be worse then Miller, can he?” What they mean, is he won’t allow such things as the bunny suits. Its a simplistic argument, but that’s how many are feeling. “Reign in the fools.”, is the common feeling.

    I too will be holding my nose and voting for George. I lived through the Mike Harris years and have no desire to see such thinking get in charge again; and I do not trust the councillors to think beyond their own election prospects.

    But, like many, I await somebody with a vision to arrive in 4 years. We need some hope in this city for somebody to do things differently. Somebody who will state that entitlement is not a good thing (which is the legitimate feeling Ford is tapping into), but who will also give people a positive message. Not sure where it will come from, but there has to be somebody out there.


  31. I would disagree with you about Pantalone’s record on transit and transportation in the CNE area. First, wasn’t the Front Street Extension intended to be built to replace road capacity lost due to the demolition of the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway? (I know, demolishing the Gardiner is unlikely to ever happen in my lifetime, and it would seriously mess up the GO buses if all-day train service isn’t implemented first, but presumably this is why Pantalone supported it).

    Steve: No, the FSE was meant to replace capacity lost to demolishing the western part of the Gardiner, something that is not going to happen. The current EA, which is often misrepresented by Ford, only deals with the section from Jarvis to the DVP which was massively overbuilt in anticipation of the Scarborough Expressway feeding in along Eastern Avenue.

    Second, I disagree that the current Exhibition streetcar loop is in a bad location. It is beside the GO station and would provide a very useful transfer if Lakeshore GO train service were ever improved (better GO service would make a bigger difference in improving the attractiveness of the CNE than any streetcar would), and has the potential to serve future stages of Liberty Village north of the tracks. Also it it closer to the Direct Energy Centre which is the main year-round destination in Exhibition Place.

    Yes, Ontario Place isn’t all that well served by transit right now (it’s a longish walk from the loop), but the high cost of building a streetcar line there (as opposed to say, extending the #29 bus) can only be justified if there is major development around there, otherwise the streetcars will be empty most of the time.

    Steve: There is obviously going to be development along the waterfront at the south end of the CNE, and this would be best served by a branch of the streetcar line. However, nobody has considered this requirement.


  32. I hope Smitherman looks to have a fresh face as TTC Chair and not Mihevc. Besides Mihevc, would do you think would make a good TTC Chair?

    Steve: I believe that Mihevc’s support for Smitherman is at least partly on the assumption of a quid-pro-quo with Joe M getting the TTC Chair. Who else as a TTC chair? I’m not sure, but I think that it should be from the middle of the political spectrum and not from the old City of Toronto, if only to kill off the impression that TTC planning never looked north of Bloor Street. Usually the Chair is a former Commissioner to provide continuity, but the current crew is uninspiring.


  33. For Michael Greason, I don’t think the quote was from Mark Twain but from some (British?) Conservative politician, trying to explain his radical son.

    Steve: A quick search attributes this to Winston Churchill.

    “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”


  34. The biggest headscratcher in this election is that people can sincerely believe that Mr. Ford can be “trusted” with our money. The man, by his own actions, has no concept about how to run something of the magnitude of a major City. I personally think that Kyle Rae, as an example, made a mistake when he held a reception for his supporters and fellow activists (threw himself a good bye party to use Mr. Ford’ s characterisation). However, while I think the $13,000 was misspent, it was chump change. Mr. Ford would have to stop over 38,000 similar parties to come up with the $500 million the City is short.

    Mr. Ford describes these type of expenditures as “symbolic”. He says that the average citizen has no concept of a Billion Dollars, but that they can understand a number such as $13,000. This may be true 0f the “average” person, but it cannot be true for the Mayor who we elect to care for our $9Bn budget. That person needs the breadth of understanding and the vision to put things in perspective. If our Mayor cannot see the forest for the trees, he cannot be trusted to manage our money effectively.

    Mr. Ford’s numbers simply do not add up. The police budget is not subject to pruning and many expenditures are mandated by the Province. There are numerous other fixed expenditures such as Fire, Ambulance and TTC. Of the remaining portion, Mr. Ford has no concrete examples of supposed “waste” that will add up to anything close to the minimum $500MM that we need, let alone the 1Bn that would make us comfortable.

    The City has owed me a refund (property tax/garbage fee related) for over a year – maybe a year and a half. It takes me twenty minutes of redialing before I don’t get a busy signal and graduate to the recording. It takes another twenty minutes of listening to the recording to speak to a person and despite at least two separate requests my refund has not been processed. Mr. Ford suggests first that I should be “angry” with the City and that I deserve personal attention. Then his resolution is to shrink this department (and all City Staff) by 1.5% per year through attrition. (Not replace half of the 3% who leave or retire.). (A bigger shrinkage will actually be necessary in this department because police, fire ambulance, TTC etc. are not going to shrink.) The goal of personal service and the solution are mutually exclusive. You can have one or the other, but not both.

    Simplistic solutions to complex problems do not work. I don’t want to “trust” my money to a person completely lacking in the vision and the depth of understanding to manage the budget.


  35. The quote originates from Francois Guisot: “Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”


  36. Ford is a smart person. If he sees something out there that is much better, then he will support it. You just need to talk to him. He will listen.

    You sound as if you know him personally. If he really is a consensus-builder, why does he have the reputation he does? Why are there so many Youtube videos of him throwing loud tantrums and otherwise acting inappropriately in council?

    What I see is a painfully inarticulate candidate whose policies I don’t agree with, whose numbers don’t add up, and who is prone to aggressive and embarrassing behaviour. Perhaps if I met him I’d discover that my impressions are wrong, but unless that happens I’m going to have to go with what I see, not what Ford supporters tell me.


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