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Mayoral Race Commentary: It's Miller Time
21/09/2003

It has been a few day's since last Tuesday's Toronto Mayoral Waterfront Debate, and I've had some time to reflect on how I feel about each of the candidates.

Tom Jakobek is one candidate who I originally had very little heart for. In fact, back in February I predicted he'd be out of the race before the summer even began. He's still around, although his campaign has been a write-off as far as attracting votes is concerned. However, I do feel that he has made a useful contribution.

In the two debates that I have seen, Jakobek has been the candidate who introduces the most unique ideas. By unique, I mean things I have never imagined before. Sometimes the ideas are good, other times they are bad, and still more times it is just hard to tell. But I appreciate the fact that he is out there suggesting things. And, I would hope that the eventual winner adopts some of these ideas, like Jakobek's suggestion about how to take funding requests to the provincial and federal governments.

In the end however, Jakobek is not at all in the running for my vote. First, because I have not been sufficiently convinced that his odd ideas are actually what we need in this city. But more importantly, because in my mind it is virtually impossible for him to overcome his role in the MFP scandal.

John Nunziata is also completely out of the running. In fact, what is shocking is that even through Tom Jakobek is an odd-ball who lied about his connection to a scandal that cost the city many millions, John Nunziata is a much worse candidate.

I don't know where to begin with this guy.

He is campaigning on a tax freeze policy, but has also casually made some of the biggest promises of them all. For example, in the debate I saw in June, he said he wants to build both the York University subway extension and the Eglinton subway line.

He talks about how we will save enough money to revive the city through "privatization and outsourcing". This is his mantra and we are expected to believe that his great business skills are up to the task. Meanwhile, at that June debate he raises the outrageous scandal of the TTC's Metropass plan. For heaven's sake, they send these Metropasses out by mail! And they make a new plastic card each month! This must be costing billions! Instead, the TTC should save lots of money by using a rechargeable card system. Unfortunately for John, this would require replacing machines in all subway stations and adding them to every bus and streetcar. The people who run the TTC are actually rather smart and are certainly better at their jobs than John Nunziata would be. His idea is a loser

At the Waterfront debate, which focused on the island airport, John gave no defense of the plan. He simply kept telling us that it is a fait accompli. Apparently, those opposed should just give up and accept the fact that the city is paying a $48 million subsidy to have up to ten times more planes flying in and out of downtown. But how can a candidate who favours fiscal responsibility ignore this large sum, which is possibly more than all the "waste" he'd ever find at City Hall? And how is it that John Nunziata can tell debate audiences that he favours more local democracy and community control at the same time he ignores the fact that the waterfront community (and its elected officials) are opposed to airport expansion?

John Nunziata is worse than "out of the running", he's simply unacceptable. And I base this only on what I've seen him say, never mind his official platform, which includes comedic brainwaves like this one:

As Mayor, I will propose a bylaw to make it unlawful to sleep on streets and other public places in Toronto. I expect the vast majority of homeless will obey the law.

Enough about him. How about John Tory? Well, he has been a surprise. In a lot of ways.

First off, I initially expected him to be the man of the establishment. As a corporate CEO who supported the PC Party and the Mel Lastman campaign, I couldn't imagine that he would represent a positive change for this particular city at this particular time. However, he has actually impressed me as someone honest, professional, and more-or-less in touch with both the problems facing Toronto and their causes.

I think that John Tory would be a competent, good manager at City Hall, many orders of magnitude better than Mel Lastman

Barbara Hall, on the other hand, has run a campaign that has been rather disappointing to me. Early on, I criticized her for having taken no positions on anything -- except the island airport, where she was clearly wrong. Not a whole lot has changed.

Her campaign comes across as very carefully staged, with enough big compromises thrown in to give her broad and easy popularity. In a way, I can't blame her. She lost to Mel Lastman six years ago and needed to be prepared for a tight one-on-one race with a new Lastman-party candidate, like Case Ootes. That hasn't happened, mainly because the corruption reached the point where no one could proudly follow in Mel's footsteps, but also because the campaign has expanded to a five-way challenge.

However, the impression her campaign ultimately leaves me with is one of fluff. In the end, what are her strengths? If it is "consensus building", the Bombardier-CAW-Toronto Port Authority-Robert Deluce island airport deal is not a consensus that inspires me much.

This brings me to David Miller. It was at the Waterfront debate that he began to clearly pull away from the other contenders -- Tory and Hall -- in my mind.

Miller revealed himself to be a man of vision, with ambitious dreams for this city. Dreams that are very much in line with the dreams that I also have for this city.

It is in this area that Miller outshines both Tory and Hall. Hall is easy to dismiss... she hasn't been able to show me a single area where she might even hope to compete with Miller. Tory clearly has established his credentials as a competent manager. Unfortunately, his pro-airport position reveals him to be a man with limited vision about what this city could and should be in the future. He may make a good engineer, but the mayor ought to be an architect.

It is really a wonder that I haven't decided in Miller's favour already. I mean, the guy has what, in my view, is just about the best endorsement that any candidate could carry:

Jane Jacobs on David Miller -"I believe he is the only person with a coherent vision of Toronto’s future, with the ability to do what needs to be done, and the energy and will to do it."

This quote is so powerful to me because of who is saying it much more than because of what is said.

So, as things stand now, here are my rankings of the candidates:

  1. David Miller
  2. John Tory
  3. Barbara Hall
  4. Tom Jakobek
  5. John Nunziata

For those interested in learning more, there are some debates coming up this week.

  • Monday, The Great Toronto Arts Debate, 5pm to 7pm at the CBC building. Register online
  • Tuesday, the North York, Scarborough, and Etobicoke Chambers of Commerce and the Toronto Business Time host a debate at the Ontario Science Centre, at 6:30pm. Register online
  • Thursday, the Ontario Environment Industry Association are hosting an environmental debate which has only attracted 3 of the candidates -- Miller, Tory and Nunziata. It is a luncheon and you must pay up to $80. Register by fax.

I am going to try to go to the Monday and Tuesday debates. If I remain as impressed as I am with Miller, I may volunteer to help his campaign. As far behind Hall as he is, he'll need all the help he can get.

The CBC also has online audio files from its September 8 debate. I haven't listened yet.


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