Torontonians go to the polls on Monday and beginning at 5pm PST CityCaucus.com will be live blogging and posting tweets @CityCaucus on the battle for mayor of Canada's biggest city. Last week we tracked the monumental decision in Calgary to elect 38-year old Naheed Nenshi, and were among the first to provide our analysis of what Nenshi's win meant for Canadian politics.
We've been fascinated by the Toronto contest for months. Our contributing writer, Toronto-based Eric Mang provided very early analysis of what he thought might happen in the upcoming election. Mang, a self-described lapsed Progressive Conservative whose "politics drifted leftward" and now contributes to Rabble.ca, predicted back in January that it would be an interesting contest. Boy, was Eric right about that.
For the recent weeks it's all been the Rob Ford Show. The right wing city councillor has hogged the limelight with his simple, bare bones list of campaign promises. By comparison, Ford's only real competitor for the top job, former provincial Health Minister George Smitherman (Liberal) reads like a telephone directory.
Both candidates are chasing the elusive reduction in property taxes while increasing efficiency and accountability at City Hall. After several years of the NDP-favoured David Miller as mayor (who quit politics after a divisive garbage strike, providing echoes of the Sam Sullivan regime), it's probably not entirely surprising that the majority of Toronto voters are seeking a swing to the right.
We must give Rob Ford much credit for adding an exciting dimension to the Toronto contest. He is a populist, and therefore comes across as a man of the people. There is no doubting his sincere quest to make Toronto work better for citizens, on his terms. However, we wonder if Ford has the gravitas to lead Toronto. His questionable conduct in the past, including a drunk driving charge, are other reasons to look at the alternative.
What we should celebrate about Ford's vision is his determination to reduce the cost of civic government. It is clear that the rising costs of government are unsustainable and out of line with real inflation and the taxpayer's ability to pay.
What has been problematic about Ford's platform is the embrace of cars over transit, walking and cycling. While here in Vancouver we've taken issue with Mayor Robertson's lack of interest in consensus building on bike lanes, Toronto transportation under Ford is a regressive vision that misleads voters into thinking that by improving roadways for cars will alleviate congestion. History shows us that the benefits of these policies are only short term, and will ultimately increase congestion.
Therefore CityCaucus.com is endorsing the only other credible contender George Smitherman. While Smitherman's platform strikes a similar set of promises, and he also has a reputation for a bullying manner, we think Smitherman has better qualities of leadership. Smitherman has also garnered the support of both conservatives and union leaders, and we'll try to ignore his endorsement by the showboating Liberal MP Justin Trudeau.
Smitherman is only getting luke warm endorsements from other publications, which means that if he wins on Monday he'll have a steep hill to climb in terms of proving himself. We hope that if he wins he'll accept the role with humility and move forward aggressively with a positive vision for Toronto.
If Calgary can choose someone who embodies a positive direction for their city, surely Torontonians will do the same.
Be sure to follow CityCaucus.com on Monday evening via Twitter (hashtag #VoteTO).
- post by CityCaucus Staff