With the entry of Liberal Party hack Stephen LeDrew the race for mayor of Toronto has just become a little more interesting. LeDrew, with his bow ties and energy-from-waste heated debating skills, will liven up the election campaign in ways that Councillor Jane Pitfield has, so far, failed to do.
LeDrew bemoans the decline of Toronto as a city, as do I. (It turns out his real beef may be over unpaid taxes, while sending his kids to private schools.) However this urban malaise set in while Mayor Mel “Noooo-body” Lastman wore the clunky chains of office and the city was saddled with downloading and amalgamation. In defence of Mel, not something I am given to do easily, this double whammy was the product of federal Liberal government budget cuts (public transit funding, in particular, comes to mind) and draconian program and tax-cutting by then-Premier Mike Harris, of the Conservative persuasion. LeDrew had little influence, it seems, over his Liberal pals Chretien and Martin as his beloved City of Toronto steadily crumbled.
Mayor Miller‘s hands have been tied by these fiscal restraints but, with recent changes to provincial legislation governing the city, he now has a bit of an opening to continue his vision.
He could also use a lot of help from the perennially-parochial members of City Council, many of whom could not see the whole city, i.e. imagine greater things, if they flew over it with zero cloud cover. Even with enough council votes on his side, Mayor Miller constantly has to walk with hip-waders through the city-stifling, council-mocking buffoonery of members like – in alphabetical order – Rob Ford, Doug Holyday, George Mammoliti, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Frances “John’s sister” Nunziata, and Case Ootes – a misfit for Jack Layton’s former ward if ever there was one. (They should all run for mayor so that, when they lose, they also will lose their seat on the unwieldly council – assuming they still want that.)
Here’s another idea. In a cynical ploy to win Toronto seats Stephen Harper could announce full-funding for the rail link from Union Station to Pearson Airport, the demolition of the Gardiner Expressway, and support for the city to charge tolls for traffic entering the city (not a tax, but a way for urban sprawlers from the ‘burbs to pay for traffic infrastructure they use on the city’s dime).
I envision a Toronto where Mayor Miller, unencumbered by shallow, TV-seeking councillors, could preside over a renaissance of ideas in this, at times too-unremarkable, city!