John Tory not running for T.O. top spot – CP photo
John Tory has decided not to enter the municipal election fray.
Probably a good thing. He's busy with his radio show, some of his former supporters are either running for mayor (Rocco Rossi) or are working for someone else (Jeff Bangs for George Smitherman), and his reputation could have been tarnished by another prominent political loss.
But on a positive note, Tory is taking over as volunteer chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, a position left vacant after the recent death of Toronto icon, David Pecaut.
Pecaut was a tremendous force of nature who brought together diverse groups to address myriad issues facing our city. Tory has some big shoes to fill and Pecaut was much-loved, but it will be interesting to watch Tory become a more public figure in this city. I may not agree with a number of his political views, but he appears to be a gracious and intelligent man.
On a personal note, my Councillor, the ever crusty and conservative Case Ootes, has decided not to take another kick at the can.
Ootes, who has been a Councillor since 1988, was once Deputy Mayor under Mel "Bad Boy" Lastman and, in recent years, carved out a niche for himself as one of the most prominent leaders of the political right at City Hall.
In 2006, he barely held on to his seat, beating challenger Diane Alexopoulos by a mere 20 votes. Perhaps sensing that voters in his ward (Toronto-Danforth) may not return him to the job he's held for the past two decades, Ootes figured it was a good time to leave on his own volition.
Hoping to succeed Ootes in Ward 29 is one-time mayoral contender and Councillor, Jane Pitfield.
Pitfield has been absent from the municipal scene after getting trounced by Miller in 2006, ending the race with 32 percent of the vote compared to Miller's 57.
Pitfield, true to her conservative roots, wants to address the city's financial situation, which is a good idea, but plans on doing so without "using taxes as the solution", which is a baffling idea.
I wish those on the right would stop portraying taxes as wicked. If we want good, viable public services, we have to pay for them. Too often the response from people like Ootes and Pitfield is that we outsource and privatize, moves that could jeopardize the public interest.
Private companies are concerned about the bottom line. That's the nature of capitalism. But emphasizing the bottom line above the public interest can put citizens at risk. It's one thing to call in a private company to build a community centre and quite another when it's a vital service like garbage collection (which many on the right have tried to deem an essential service – if it's essential, why should the private sector deliver it?) or water or sewage. For that matter, why aren't the police, the most expensive service in Toronto's budget, the subject of privatization chit-chat? Because a private police force would be an incredibly bad idea (see Blackwater/Xe for how well private "contractors" have worked out in Iraq) and would serve to protect itself.
Many cities around the world use a mix of tax-raising tools such as city income taxes. For example, if you work in Toronto but live in Pickering, you pay a Toronto city income tax. That money goes toward the infrastructure the Pickering citizen uses when coming to Toronto five days a week to work.
I hope Pitfield and other Torontonians remember this quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes when it comes to building, sustaining and caring for our city: "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization".