Candidates, start your engines! Toronto's race for mayor begins
News about Miller's resignation seems to continue to be the buzz at our quasi-futuristic City Hall. Except for that little blip about Councillor Sandra Bussin calling into John Tory's radio show to defend David Miller.
Fine, except Bussin was simply "Sandra" and said she did not work for the city – technically true, she said deceptively, because she works for her constituents and not the city. When caught, she subsequently apologized for not identifying herself as a Councillor (unlike drunk-driving-cocaine-possessing former Reform/Alliance/Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer who sent his aide to impersonate him on a radio show, this was actually Bussin speaking).
But the media focused more on her comment that John Tory is a "three-time loser". He is a three-time loser.
Beyond the silly games at City Hall, some possible mayoral candidates are sniffing around for support. One Councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti, has signaled interest. He would "get tough on crime". Sigh. Crime rates are down and part of the success has been attributed to outreach programs supported by Miller that seek to address the systemic causes of crime. But "tough on crime" speaks to those in the 'burbs who think venturing into the big, bad downtown core will result in a mugging, shanking and shooting.
Mammoliti was an NDP MPP in the Bob Rae government between 1990 and 1995 but he has since joined the Liberal party and fancies himself a social and fiscal conservative. Indeed, in 2003, he supported John Tory's bid for mayor. But in 2006, he switched allegiances to Miller (which earned him a spot on Miller's executive council) and supported Miller's car registration and land transfer taxes; the latter of which he wants to "rollback and/or a reduction of the land transfer tax to encourage economic development". Mammoliti, in one newsworthy moment, was called "Gino Boy" by resident city council buffoon, Rob Ford.
Don't know what to think about Mammoliti, but the conservative field is getting kind of crowded – and this before anyone has actually declared. And to date, he looks like little more than an opportunist. Shocking, I know. I'm getting the vapours due to such a revelation.
Another possible candidate is former Winnipeg mayor, Glen Murray. Murray was grand poobah of the Peg from 1998 to 2004. And he achieved a few firsts: first openly gay mayor of a major North American city (saddens me that it took until 1998 to achieve this tremendous milestone); and in 2004, he ran for the Martin Liberals in the federal election and became the first mayor of Winnipeg to resign mid-term. Maybe that last point isn't as auspicious as the first – especially since Murray lost his bid to become an MP to rookie candidate and current Conservative MP, Steven Fletcher.
Murray was appointed as Chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy in 2005 and in 2006, he became CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute in Toronto. He lectures at UofT, and is on the Premier of Ontario's climate change advisory panel.
Murray seems to have the urban chops and municipal experience to helm a city. And in his role at CUI, he may have a pretty decent understanding of Toronto.
But what kind of mayor will he be for my beloved city? Toronto is quite different than Winnipeg and we are the sixth largest government in Canada.
Will Murray shepherd Toronto into the 21st century? Will he support affordable public transit (really, public transit systems don’t make cash and in places like Hasselt, Belgium, public transit is free)? Will he encourage more bikes on the road by making cycling safer? Will he continue to find better ways of handling Toronto's waste, managing growth, preventing sprawl, making this a livable, sustainable city?
What about our waterfront? Will it be a place where all of us can walk and play, or will it be the domain of the moneyed few with private condo-front lawns? What to do about the Island Airport – keep it a sleepy commuter airport or allow it to become Pearson Jr? How will he handle inner city poverty? How will he ensure that services and programs are for everyone, especially for those with lower incomes? Will he be ready to raise taxes to support social programs?
I think Murray grasps a lot of these issues and they are certainly high-profile enough to have crossed his desk. But he would have an ornery council to negotiate with and he would have to fight like mad to make this a city for the future, and not one that languishes in the past.
I want the candidate field for mayor to be crowded. I want a real battle for the big chair. But I also want to be sure that we have a progressive mayor who can make this a better city. That's who I will be fighting for in 2010.