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. I have found Toronto interesting, it’s a city that calls itself a metropolis but is poorer run then most hamlets. My decision on the Toronto mayors race, was to declare myself a refused ballot in that none of the candidates are worth voting for. Then I moved from Toronto, so now it does not matter.


  2. Unfortunately for transport enthusiasts, Ford is right about the need for fiscally responsible government, and the Transit City plan is spendthrift. Most of the Toronto streetcar system seems antiquated, with little reserved track and passengers boarding in the middle of the street, thus contributing to traffic congestion; the streetcars still use trolley poles! There are some light rail developments in parts of Europe, mostly using reserved track, but they are very expensive, and some (e.g. in Edinburgh) are proving to be a financial nightmare. Elsewhere in Europe, unmodernised streetcar systems (e.g. in Kaliningrad and Voronezh) are steadily being scrapped, and that in Toronto is likely to suffer the same fate.


  3. David Oleesky said: “Ford is right about the need for fiscally responsible government”.

    He might be right about the need for fiscally responsible government; that does not mean that Ford himself can act as a fiscally responsible mayor. His approach to many issues is overly simplistic, and he does not have any management experience at a level needed for a mayor a city of 2.5 million.


  4. “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.”

    Let’s drop the ranks, Stephen. Although you may wish to “refrain” from any personal attacks, as long as your views aren’t “treated in the same way”, I have no compunction to do so. Let’s just say that I have gone back to your previous comments and I don’t really like what I’m seeing.

    “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.”

    Two things here. First of all, if you live in Woodbridge now, you shouldn’t be poking your nose in other people’s business. What happens to the TTC should not concern you, other than your vaunted subway connection to the middle of nowhere. Secondly, what you fail to realize is that Mario Racco bears some similarities to Rob Ford. Both have launched stinging attacks on their opponents. Both have run negative campaigns that highlight the bad things about their cities. Racco, like Ford, is more interested in breaking things in a city instead of trying to build them up.

    Steve: Actually, I have to disagree here. What happens in all parts of the GTA is important, although I don’t think that the lifestyle and mindset of the 905 should dictate what happens in the 416. Ideally, I would like to see an “urban” lifestyle grow outward from the core to joint those pockets already existing in the outer 416 and parts of the 905. But there are huge areas in between that we are stuck with. The problem for both Toronto and the other cities is how to make it all work. We will not fix traffic problems on Highway 7 by getting rid of streetcars on Queen Street. Conversely, we won’t convince folks in the 905 to support better transit funding until we show that they too can benefit from it.

    “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).”

    I’m afraid you don’t get the entire picture here. I too am not in favour of the sole-sourced contract, but the whole issue here is where the subway cars would have been built. Granting the contract to Bombardier in Thunder Bay ensured that production of the cars remained here instead of going overseas. Had the TTC gone elsewhere, a lot of people in Ontario would have lost jobs and people would be rather pissed off that we sacrificed jobs for the almighty dollar. Sure, Siemens, the only other competitor, promised to build a plant in Southern Ontario to build these cars, but the cost to build the plant would have meant that the final price of the contract would have been similar to Bombardier. I agree this stinks as much as you do, but I consider this a necessary evil.

    “No more sweetheart contracts to government friends, loyalists, and cronies.”

    I understand Ford’s biggest beef is the Beaches contract (the Boardwalk Cafe) that was also untendered. It too has a bit of a stench emanating from it but that isn’t the only story. Do you allow a family business to remain or run them out of town in favour of big business corporate interests? Plus, Ford has not been able to show one ounce of evidence that the deal is corrupt. If he is unwilling to provide proof of the corruption and only insist on making allegations, then he has no credibility.

    “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.”

    Need I remind you that most of this fiasco happened under David Caplan’s watch, not George Smitherman’s. If you want people to cut Ford some slack, I expect you to do the same to George Smitherman.

    “I’ve seen this guy in action when it comes to transit concerns. People who complain about transit service to him get results.”

    So far, I’ve done some background research and all Ford is interested in is the placement of stops or the routing of buses in his ward. He has not even looked at the bigger transit picture. For a guy who, as I understand it, doesn’t even take the TTC to get to work. He is unworthy to handle the transit portfolio.

    Steve: All you have to look at is the rarity of service changes in Etobicoke. If Ford wanted to bring his bluster to bear on something, he could have wandered down to the Lake Shore and taken up the cause of better service on the 501/507. But he is so busy dissing streetcars that the job is left to the local Councillors to do, sadly, rather poorly.

    “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.”

    I agree with most of the other posters in this blog, he is nothing more of a blowhard who lacks qualifications to manage a city of this size. Why? His actions tell me he is a micro-manager of everything, but with a city of this size, I believe he will lose control of things rather quickly. He will indeed try to break things because it fits his ideology but in the process of trying to remake the city in his own image, he will make things ten thousand times worse. I fear for this city if he were to get elected. Ford’s supporters, especially you, Stephen, are too short-sighted and dumb to realize what is going on.

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

    Hell No. I’m voting for Smitherman too. Ford is the worst thing to happen to Toronto since Mike Harris. And we are only beginning to recover from that debacle.

    Steve: I am amazed at people who don’t want to give Smitherman a chance to show that he can move back to the centre and listen to the many good people trying to help his campaign and his policies, but are willing to cut Ford immense amounts of slack on the grounds that he really isn’t as bad as he seems.

    Seriously Stephen, after reading your anti-transit rants, I am surprised that Steve Munro still allows you to poison his blog with your bile.

    Steve: Stephen makes valid points, and at least gives us an alternative view of the world. There are times he gets carried away, and I cut him off. However, it’s important to listen to how others think and argue their case. Years of moderating debates here has allowed me to hone my arguments, and even (gasp!) caused the occasional change of heart.


  5. I voted for Smitherman at the advance poll, as my wife was heavily pregnant, and we weren’t sure she’d make it to voting day. We were right, our son was born yesterday.

    I don’t know how I feel about a Mayor Ford anymore, as it seems all but certain based on the polling numbers. He talks a good game about the gravy train, but his “big picture” numbers just don’t add up. He will cut certain taxes (but not enough to make a big difference to most: the vehicle tax is $0.16 per day, the same amount of tax you’d pay on a coffee), but he is going to raise property taxes by the rate of inflation.

    His transit plan makes no sense, either fiscally or from a service improvement standpoint, except to those along Sheppard or the SRT. He claims he’ll use the savings from all the waste he’ll cut to improve everything from day care to more cops, yet his savings derive mostly from cutting the number of staff. In the article above, Rob Granatstein lists the city’s largest departments as the TTC, Toronto Police, Parks and Recreation, and Fire. He’s already committed to hiring 100 new cops, and the new buses and subways he wants to build aren’t going to drive themselves. Unless he has a secret supply of androids, I don’t see how he can do what he’s claiming. But if he can pull it all off, cutting taxes and spending while improving services, then I’ll give all credit to him.

    His rabid supporters in the comments section at the Star, Globe and elsewhere do him no favours. In many cases, they completely misrepresent his plans and attribute positions to him that he hasn’t taken. They say he’ll axe all arts funding when he says he will maintain it. They want him to cut the dental aid to the poor. They have visions of him firing thousands of workers when all he has talked about is cutting through attrition. But you know what? When he runs up against reality, and his budget numbers don’t work out, he probably will start doing what they suggest. And they won’t see him as a promise breaker (as long as he cuts those taxes). They will see him as a hero. And that’s when I start to get really fearful.


  6. Steve, in an earlier response above, you mentioned about a streetcar line for the future devlopment near the waterfront in the CNE area. This brings up an important issue, especially for the election, it’s called having a vision for transit. We cannot keep building up Toronto, and then thinking about transit. All development should (MUST actually) come with a built in transit plan. If a developer wants to build (or redevelop) an area, a clear transit must be in place before the developer gets his/her development started. If they can do this in Europe (where some LRT lines are completed even before the first whole is dug), then they can do it in Toronto!


  7. Eric Chow writes: “Two things here. First of all, if you live in Woodbridge now, you shouldn’t be poking your nose in other people’s business. What happens to the TTC should not concern you, other than your vaunted subway connection to the middle of nowhere.”

    I have to agree with Steve Munro on this. Eric, would it surprise you to learn that I’m writing from Kitchener in the 519? And yet I don’t think you have any complaint over the contributions I’ve tried to make to the discussion of public transportation in Toronto.

    Part of the reason for my continued interest is that the media white noise coming out from Toronto means that I as a resident of Kitchener know more about your average Toronto city council meeting than I do about the entire election process here in Kitchener. What’s sad is that I think this is the default state of most people in Kitchener.

    But what happens in Toronto has a considerable effect in the rest of the province. It’s important for all of us to pay attention and, if we have constructive things to contribute, we should be free to contribute them, even if we can’t vote.


  8. *sigh*

    We are here to debate issues on this blog and I get this crap from Eric?

    “Two things here. First of all, if you live in Woodbridge now, you shouldn’t be poking your nose in other people’s business. What happens to the TTC should not concern you, other than your vaunted subway connection to the middle of nowhere. Secondly, what you fail to realize is that Mario Racco bears some similarities to Rob Ford. Both have launched stinging attacks on their opponents. Both have run negative campaigns that highlight the bad things about their cities. Racco, like Ford, is more interested in breaking things in a city instead of trying to build them up.”

    What Steve said. You fail to realize that most people in the 905 rely on the TTC to get to work in Downtown Toronto. What do you want to do? Build a Great Wall of Toronto or something? And once again: I do NOT support the Vaughan Subway Connection. I think it is a true waste of taxpayer dollars and the money from the extension ALONE should pay for Transit City. Yes Mario Racco does support the extension but the true reason why I am voting for him is because I do not want Maurizio Bevelaqua to become mayor. I simply don’t like what he stands for. I agree with Steve’s assessment on Eric’s comments.

    RE: TTC Subway Car Contract.
    For the record, I could give a rats behind about Bombardier and its workers. If Siemens can provide a product that is far superior to Bombardier at the fraction of the price, then I’m all for it. If people were to lose jobs because of this, it is not our problem, it is theirs, simply put. Because their company refused to be competitive. I believe in competition, and it should be applied to everything any government does. For the record, I’m not happy about the sole source contract the Federal Conservatives put on the new F35 fighters. Do we really need new fighters anyways?

    RE: Beaches Contract
    That is one of the many contracts that I have an issue with but since you brought it up, I will respond in kind.

    Yes, I believe it was a decision between a family owned business and a large Entertainment company (Docks I believe) for the rights to the Beach. And what I am hearing is that Docks was willing to pay through the nose for these rights. So when the family owned business gets a sweetheart deal, something’s wrong. So what if Big Business wants the pie, if they are willing to pay through the nose, it’s worth more than saving one family-run business.

    RE: Smitherman
    Smitherman STARTED eHealth. Nuff Said.

    “So far, I’ve done some background research and all Ford is interested in is the placement of stops or the routing of buses in his ward. He has not even looked at the bigger transit picture. For a guy who, as I understand it, doesn’t even take the TTC to get to work. He is unworthy to handle the transit portfolio.”

    If you are going to spin facts your way and not listen to the candidate, then I will too. *FLAME*David Miller campaigned for mayor on the promise to kill the Airport Island Bridge. That alone means he was unqualified for Mayor because he doesn’t know the business side of running a city.*/FLAME* There I said it. Do not flame Ford because he is rather new to running a transit system.

    I’m not serious, of course, I just pulled it out of my rear just to prove a point.

    “Ford’s supporters, especially you, Stephen, are too short-sighted and dumb to realize what is going on.


    Seriously Stephen, after reading your anti-transit rants, I am surprised that Steve Munro still allows you to poison his blog with your bile.”

    Seriously is there something wrong here when we cannot debate issues like grown men and not throwing insults especially at me? Why do I always have to be on the defensive here?

    Steve: I am positing this to allow Stephen Cheung a chance to respond. Any future comments in this vein will not be published. I don’t agree with everything Stephen says above, but I am not going into a dissertation on what’s wrong and what’s not. Enough said.


  9. One other thing I want to mention to everyone.


    Doesn’t matter if you like Ford, Smitherman, and Pantalone, get out and VOTE.

    Some unknown candidate in Calgary won the mayoralty by simply campaigning, amongst other things, for people to carry out their democratic duty and VOTE in the election. He deserves Kudos in my book.


  10. How can you be certain Smitherman would accept any advice on how to improve his Transit plan? All I see is that he’s offering a reduced more expensive Transit City, and when he gets our reluctant strategic votes, he has no obligation to tweak his transit plans. Do you know if Smitherman’s getting advice from Mihevc or other progressive endorsers?

    Steve: I believe that Smitherman is listening to a variety of people, and wouldn’t be surprised if there is a quid-pro-quo between Mihevc’s support and his possible future as TTC chair. We shall see. Having surrounded himself with people like David Crombie and John Sewell, Smitherman will very quickly have an extremely vocal and articulate opposition if he takes a more conservative tone once in office.


  11. What I really want from both candidates for mayor is the impetus to give TTC management a tongue lashing, and dismissal if there is no improvement. We all know that candidates will propose any policy platform and only implement the ones that are least politically damaging (Chretien’s Red book and Harper’s income trust reversal come to mind). For far too long TTC management has botched things and left the commissioners holding the bag. There are too many examples of TTC management incompetency to state, but some of the prominent ones are:

    – 501 Queen
    – last year’s fare hike token hoarding
    – St. Clair track reconstruction
    – Broadview station 2nd exit

    Sorry if I sound like I am against TTC management, but most of the bad news from the TTC all stem from management decisions. While good transportation policies are commendable, they are only as strong as the willingness of management to implement it. After all, we are still waiting for transit priority on the streetcar routes, something that we still are waiting an answer for from TTC management (from 2005).

    Steve: I agree with your position. The greatest failing of the outgoing administration is their avoidance of public confrontation with incompetence in city management. Floggings on the public square may be out of fashion, but take one or two out to the woodshed, and the word would soon get around that this sort of thing is not tolerated.


  12. “I have to agree with Steve Munro on this. Eric, would it surprise you to learn that I’m writing from Kitchener in the 519? And yet I don’t think you have any complaint over the contributions I’ve tried to make to the discussion of public transportation in Toronto.”

    I may have been taken out of context, but my beef is the people from the 905 area telling Toronto how to do its job when it comes to transportation. You’ve got the 905ers who are proponents of BRT telling Toronto that their system is more efficient than the TTC. You’ve got people from Vaughan who are getting a subway to nowhere. You’ve got politicians putting pressure on Toronto to build this highway and that expressway. This is not the type of interference that Toronto should be receiving. In fact, Toronto should be telling the 905ers how to grow their city to be more like Toronto. Some food for thought, have you ever been to Highway 7 and Weston Road? Can you imagine how insane that intersection is? That is what the 905 area wants us to do. No thanks.

    [Personal comments about Stephen Cheung have been removed.]

    I too will be voting for Smitherman, if only because the candidate I wanted to support, Adam Giambrone, shot himself in the foot. It’s too bad really, I think he would have been the runaway choice in this election.


  13. Advance polls should be outlawed when an entire chunk of the population refuses to vote for the person they think would be the best candidate because they ‘know’ he won’t win. Take the long view: Even if he wins, Ford will be gone by 2014, and our balloting system will change. Vote strategically and you weaken our democracy by perpetuating a lousy system.

    Steve: I presume by “advance polls” you mean the sort that get reported in the press, not the official “Advance Polls” that allow voters (especially campaign workers) to vote on a day other than election day.

    As for Ford being gone in 2014, I would much prefer that he is gone tonight.


  14. @David:
    Did you just hold up Kaliningrad as a model for us to follow? Really?

    Kaliningrad used to be the German city of Koeningsberg. After WW2, Stalin forcibly deported all the Germans, resettled it with Russians, and annexed the enclave to Russia. These days, it’s a glorified naval base for the Russian fleet.

    Saying that Toronto should get rid of trams because Kaliningrad is getting rid of trams is ridiculous. It’s like saying that Toronto should bulldoze residential neighbourhoods because Detroit is bulldozing (abandoned) residential neighbourhoods. There are reasons Kaliningrad does what it does, and they don’t apply to Toronto. Let me put it this way — Moscow has an extensive tram network, and it’s not about to get rid of it.

    Riga, a nearby city three times the size of Kaliningrad, has just ordered new low-floor streetcars for its tram network which runs in mixed traffic downtown just like Toronto.


  15. And if Ford wins anyway, strategic voters will have lost their vote, and their principles. Tough call. I’d prefer to keep at least one for sure than risk both.


  16. Zorba says: “And if Ford wins anyway, strategic voters will have lost their vote, and their principles. Tough call. I’d prefer to keep at least one for sure than risk both.”

    There are certain things I want my city, province, and country to be. In every election, I vote in the manner that I think is most likely to bring those results. There is nothing unprincipled about this. You have the ability to help keep Rob Ford out of the mayor’s office, and yet you won’t. If that’s what “principles” are, count me out.


  17. Zorba said: “And if Ford wins anyway, strategic voters will have lost their vote, and their principles.”

    Bear in mind that the same applies to those Ford and Pantalone supporters who are voting for them only to keep Smitherman out in the event that Smitherman wins. Just a little bit of nitpicking that I felt had to be said.

    Now, the thing that I feel that has been overlooked in the mayoral race is the importance of who will be the councillor for your ward. Simply put, if you are voting for the lesser of three evils, you want to ensure that your councillor’s views are a better match to yours to help moderate whoever becomes mayor.


  18. “Riga, a nearby city three times the size of Kaliningrad, has just ordered new low-floor streetcars for its tram network which runs in mixed traffic downtown just like Toronto.”

    And Riga uses trolley poles like Toronto. Although, if I’m reading things correctly, the new low-floors will have pantographs. How they will coexist with the older fleet is an interesting question.


  19. Does anyone know what it would take to get ranked ballots in municipal elections in Toronto? Is a change like that enabled by City Hall? Queen’s Park?

    Steve: Queen’s Park needs to amend legislation to allow for ranked ballots.


  20. To all Ford supporters here, all I can say is good job and I will give him an opportunity to illustrate what was fiction and what was fact with what was said during this election campaign.

    However, don’t expect any sympathy and a lot of “We told you so.” if Ford turns out to be the mayor that those opposed to him said he will be.


  21. Ford won, the people have spoken, he had more votes than David Miller ever had….congratulations to Rob and I am sure the sky won’t fall….


  22. Interesting and surprising item, per the newsblog on Thestar.com, Joe Pantalone has at the very last moment of the campaign decided that the St. Clair streetcar was a mistake – and that he would not vote for it again given the chance.

    Steve: Yes, yet another reason I was less than thrilled about Joe. His support for transit was unable to see past the problems of implementation and mismanagement, and his anti-St. Clair stance was nothing more than last-ditch opportunism.



    All of a sudden chanting is not so much fun, is it. Mr. Miller could have won this election. It is ironic that the song above, suitably customised on the steps of City Hall last summer, has likely lead to the end of your sinecure.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not happy. I am very sad to see what stupid union leadership has done not only to your futures, but to this great City.

    Steve: Although I have been a lifelong supporter of union rights, the stupidity visited on Bob Rae’s Ontario and David Miller’s Toronto by the shortsightedness of organized labour is a bitter legacy. Every story of angry confrontation on a picket line, every case where a rude transit employee treats the public as powerless fools to be insulted, these undermine the greater needs of labour overall and contribute to the sense of entitlement so many resent in government workers.

    Every city or transit manager who cocks up a project, who tells communities that they can’t have what they desire, who invents self-serving rationales for every problem rather than face their own shortcomings, they too contributed to this mess.

    It’s not about “me”, about protecting your own backside, it’s about making the city as a whole a better place. Sadly, the electorate are open to “me” platforms, and their voice has carried the day.


  24. Damn, I voted for Rocco Achampong and he didn’t win. Oh well. Next time. Achampong was the hands down the most intelligent candidate, IMO. Glad I didn’t waste a strategic vote on Smitherman though. Good luck to the new Mayor. Vote Rocco in 2022.

    Steve: Smitherman and Pantalone between them got more votes than Ford. If we had ranked ballots, Smitherman would probably be mayor.


  25. It’s going to be an interesting four years, to say the least. I’m told that 19 out of 44 candidates endorsed by NOW Magazine won, and 30 out of 44 endorsed by the Star won. There’s going to have to be a lot of negotiation and compromise if Ford wants to work with this council.


    In KW, the incumbents ruled the day. LRT-leaning councillors seemed to retain support at the regional level. Don’t know how we managed to buck the trend.

    Steve: Ford has enough support on the new Council to be able to muster the 23 votes he needs. He will flaunt his majority and taunt the left to overturn “the will of the people” even though more people voted for Smitherman and Pantalone combined than for Ford, by a hair. Only when Ford is unable to deliver on his promises of big tax cuts, or when the effects start to piss off people who say “I never thought he would do that”, will his ability to demand loyalty to “the voters” fade. Meanwhile, the damage he can do is immense.

    I hate to think of the fights for arts funding, for community improvements, for retention and enforcement of the sign bylaw, for debates about transportation rooted in facts rather than rhetoric. Ford announced that “Toronto is open for business” in his acceptance speech, and that could well mean that whatever you might want is available for a price. He has huge challenges to prove his critics wrong and, by extension, to avoid making the provincial Tories look like another pack of Visigoths waiting to dismember Toronto and everything its “elites” hold dear.


  26. @Dave R

    That is very disheartening about Pantalone. Are you sure Pantalone meant that he would not vote for an ROW at all, or simply does not support the implementation methods?

    Steve: I don’t think that even Joe knows what he meant. The point is that he was trying to distance himself from the problems of that project rather than saying “we should have done better”. In doing so, he showed that if push came to shove, his support for contentious projects from the Miller years was soft and negotiable. Shameful behaviour from someone claiming to run so that people could vote for what they believed in.


  27. Regression to the mean has triumphed again. Miller and his progressive agenda was the outlier within the historical trajectory of Toronto politics. Toronto is not a politically left leaning city. Most of its mayors rule from the centre. Miller chose to ignore that truth and Rob Ford is his legacy.

    I couldn’t vote for Ford but I understand why he had to win. I don’t feel that bad about it really. The city does need some new blood. It does not run smoothly. The endless road construction at Bloor and Yonge is a sign of a city that isn’t managed properly.

    At very least, there will now be some debates about the future of transit in this city. Bring it on.


  28. I will say that I find it somewhat presumptuous, if not pretentious, to suggest that had Joe Pantalone dropped out that all of his support – lock, stock, and barrel – would have gone to George Smitherman. That’s nonsense in my opinion, and I point to Sarah Thomson as proof, who netted some 1,800-something votes despite having “dropped out” (term used loosely since it was too late to drop out when she did; same applies for Rocco Rossi). Joe Pantalone dropping out would not have changed the outcome of Rob Ford vs. George Smitherman, except that the spread would have been smaller. I am sure that there are Pantalone supporters that dislike both George Smitherman and Rob Ford because of staunch NDP affiliations, and I am sure that out of 95,000-something votes that Pantalone recieved, there must be 2,000-something votes (not even 3% of Pantalone’s haul), at least, that would not have gone to Smitherman, meaning the outcome would be unchanged.

    To all those that voted for Pantalone because that’s who they genuinely wanted to vote for, hold your heads up high. Same goes to those that voted for Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson, and any candidate not entertained with media attention. You didn’t give in to strategic voting pressures, and that’s worth something.


  29. Steve, What’s your take on continued public attendance and involvement in projects that likely won’t go ahead now? I’m still tentatively planning to go to Waterfront Toronto’s November Central Waterfront meeting/presentation that is slated to show more details about the implementation of the Queen’s Quay eastbound lanes conversion… but it seems about as likely that Mayor-elect Ford would accept removal of car lanes under his watch as Mayor Miller would’ve allowed an Island bridge under his. In other words, meeting and talking about them now just feels pointless. Should interested residents still go? Should we fight? Or should we instead accept the suburban hordes using their franchise to trounce good ideas and waste years of preparation and planning as being “democracy in action”. I’m of two minds, but am thinking it’ll be less mentally painful if I just let it go now rather than keeping up false hope.

    It’s a sad, sad day when one realizes that years of involvement, and years of typing ideas and voicing comments can come crashing down by some meaningless concept like “gravy train”. I suspect many other ideas will fall the same way, and probably quickly too… like why even bother expecting the Cherry Street streetcar spur at this point either. *sigh*.

    (or maybe there is a ray of light in the talk of things that he and 23 councillors can’t stop now even if he wanted to? I’m incredulous of those notions, but I’d very much welcome hearing them now, if only to raise spirits a touch in the face of pending disaster).

    Steve: There is money “in the bank” for part of the Queen’s Quay plan, but Ford has said that “we can’t afford the waterfront”. That’s an odd sort of statement in that it reduces the decision to how much we can afford, not what benefits the investment will bring. For a business-oriented guy, he has a simplistic view of the world. I think we should continue to support Waterfront Toronto and those Councillors who will try to salvage what they can of the plans. All those new buildings will be built, and people in them need public transit.


  30. I grew up in Ireland with Single Transferable Vote – the results themselves wouldn’t have been changed (it would require unrealistic transfer rates) but the debate and campaign would have been significantly different as the penalties for going negative against a candidate down the ballot who may transfer to you would be higher.

    For future campaigns I’d like to see two parts: January-July, where candidates seek (for example) 1600 signatures (0.1% of the electorate) to be put on the ballot, and from July on candidate debates held with Elections Toronto sanctioning debates on the basis that all on-ballot candidates be invited on an equal basis. The length of the ballot this time was a joke, this isn’t a school sports day where everybody gets a ribbon for participation.


  31. While reading the arguments about ‘strategic voting’, I couldn’t help thinking about the following quote from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long: :

    If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures that you want to vote for. . but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

    If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that a truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.

    — Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

    Another quote: “No matter who you vote for, the government gets elected.”

    And finally one I am afraid may apply in Toronto to the pro-Ford voters:

    They get the government they deserve. . .
    but why do I get the government they deserve?


  32. “Is that because you agree with Racco that the unnecessary subway to Highway 7 should be extended to Major Mac?”

    Did I agree with Ford that Transit City should die and all streetcars should be replaced with buses? No. And I’m pretty sure that I have disagreed with Racco about bringing the subway to Vaughan in the first place. Heck, I’ve opposed the VCC extension all along. Yet I do support Ford in this election, despite his outrageous pledges to do what he wants with transit.

    My opposition to Bevilacqua stems from two things: 1) complaints that he was ineffective as a MP from my neighbours, and 2) harrassment from Bevilacqua supporters. This was mostly from, but not limited to, posting Bevilacqua signs on my lawn without my consent, and in-your-face supporters badgering my pregnant wife while she was on a walk. They literally terrified her.

    But alas. Congrats to Rob Ford. I will point out that his election was due to several factors: most notably public service strikes (Overpaid Garbagemen, your days are NUMBERED!!!) and ill-timed taxes. The Land Transfer tax was the deal-breaker for us when it came time to buy a home in Toronto. Once Ford kills that tax, we may consider moving down to Toronto. We want to live in Toronto, and we want Ford to make it liveable. My belief is that the vote for Rob Ford is not a vote against Public Transit (maybe the union), and it is not a signal that the TTC is about to be dismantled piece by piece. After all, with such a resounding mandate, surely the people of Toronto aren’t dumb fools, are they?


  33. David R said: “Joe Pantalone has at the very last moment of the campaign decided that the St. Clair streetcar was a mistake – and that he would not vote for it again given the chance.”

    I remember the quote but it had more explanation. He regretted St. Clair because it lead the the public to feel that Transit City would cause the same construction mess elsewhere. There was even an article in the Globe & Mail many months back strongly suggesting that streetcars (or LRT) would cause such problems. Joe was having problems getting the public to separate project management problems (which also occurred on Bloor at Yonge without streetcars) from the mode of transportation. Of course, arguably the Miller administration may have had some responsibility for failing to coordinate various city departments and players on Bloor as well as St. Clair. It was Joe’s equivalent of eHealth.

    Steve: Yes, but when you vote for or against a project, it’s before the staff have managed to screw it up with bad project management. St. Clair was a good project poorly executed. His vote should have been to fire several people responsible for this mess and others like it. I am quite sure we could turn any subway building project into a disaster too. That wouldn’t mean subway advocates should vote against it.


  34. Stephen,

    A year from now, when the first year of this council is almost complete, would you be willing to revisit your predictions here and assess whether or not your support for Rob Ford was a wise thing, or something that was affected by some very rose-coloured glasses?


  35. First day, and already we’re getting revisionist BS from the Ford camp. “Oh no, we didn’t want to get rid of streetcars, that was mean people running against us”. What a pile of bunk.

    The prediction I made in a thread here a few weeks ago stands. We are in for years of cutbacks to anything and everything except roads and police. Ford’s supporters like our friend above will continue to push him to cut every public service worker to slave wage status. The promises to invest his mythical “savings from waste” into social services will be broken and forgiven, as long as they get that sweet, sweet tax break. Because lying in the service of tax cuts is always accepted by the right.

    Steve: Quotes from Rob Ford’s Transportation Plan:

    Streetcars are not the answer to Toronto’s transit needs

    To attract drivers into transit, it must be comfortable, convenient, affordable, reliable and rapid. Streetcars are none of these things. Streetcars are slow (average speed: 17km/h) and take hours to travel across town. This limits your ability to live in one part of the city and work in another. Streetcar construction destroys streets and interrupts businesses. Streetcar lines down the centre of arterial roads increase gridlock and create pollution.

    We will improve traffic flow downtown by removing some streetcars. Streetcars on downtown arterial streets will be replaced with clean buses that provide the same capacity on the same routes. This will make the system safer and more accessible for all users. It will also improve traffic flow.

    One wonders how carefully they read their own literature.


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