Even though there's still one more televised debate (tonight on CBC), last night's event really felt like the culmination of the campaign, and the last stop before all of us volunteers struggle to get the vote out on Monday.
I was at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and had a lot of fun last night. I recognized so many other Miller volunteers that I've worked with at different times and places over the past month and a half, and I really felt like I recognized the candidates' personalities coming through. Unlike the CITY TV fiasco, this debate was very representative of what I've seen of these five figures over the long process.
I particularly liked the personal questions that were asked. John Nunziata has run his campaign on a hard-core right wing platform, and has gone a bit overboard in his tactics, but I can't help but like him when he tells us that his favourite comfort food is a banana and that he wishes he was two feet taller.
Those closing questions were great. I have a hard time believing that the process wasn't rigged to make sure certain candidates got certain questions. Barbara Hall, what was the biggest disappointment of your life? Why, this campaign, of course. Tom Jakobek, what's the biggest misconception about you? Well, people think I'm mean and I'm a crook.
People who were at the debate and then watching some of it on TV later have told me the live event was much better, and that things felt flat on TV. If you weren't there, the event was lively, but under control. Sure, John Tory had the theatre packed with goons wearing red Rambo bandanas. Sure, there was a lot of applauding and chanting, but unlike the CITY TV event, I felt like this time we got to hear what the candidates felt and thought. There was confrontation, but it was managed to allow us to hear what was really going on.
If you haven't figured it out yet, I really didn't like the CITY TV debate or its moderation. And last night, Ben Chin did an excellent job.
Of course, I'm also happy because I feel like David Miller did an excellent job. He was very strong when he stepped to the front of the stage and spoke to the audience directly. On the island airport issue, he made the two key points -- it's a bad idea and we should have the right to choose. I think he handled the attacks well. And on issues like police union support he gave much smarter answers than Barbara Hall. (Compare: Traditionally in a democracy those that enforce the laws are neutral Vs. Police shouldn't endorse anyone because they carry guns and can arrest people.)
As far as specific analysis goes, I have to agree with much of what Brett Lamb wrote. However, he questions why I continue to call John Tory my second choice. I guess the main reason is because I think he is both competent and dedicated to Toronto. I can't imagine him standing by and watching the city slip (even though he did exactly that when Mike Harris was premier). That's the feeling I got of him through all the early debates I attended, and during that time he presented himself as someone in tune with a lot of issues important to the city, like transit. On the other hand, I can easily imagine Hall, Jakobek and Nunziata being ineffectual. They don't strike me as capable of leading the city -- or city council -- through tough times.
Now, I'm less happy about the Tory that I've seen in the past month. As he's switched from Tory the candidate to Tory the campaign, he has had to ramp up his focus on particular issues in an effort to stand out. I don't like how he's done it, or some of the issues he's pressing now. Part of it is just the political process, but some of it reflects poorly on him. And maybe I've been wrong, maybe the Tory I see now is more the real Tory than the guy I saw at all those smaller events earlier on.
I wrote some time ago that John Tory might make a good engineer for the city, and by that I meant a manager. On the other hand, in David Miller I see an architect. Someone who has a vision for the city. He has the right vision and, as Lamb says, he gets Toronto.
One concern I have with Tory as manager is that he seems a bit too quick to accept the consensus view of the business community. The idea of the island airport expansion as a benefit to downtown's interests is, to me, a sign of gullibility. And, again, to Brett Lamb's point, you have to question how well Tory gets Toronto when he names Bayview and York Mills as his favourite intersection -- although I have to assume it's the area where he grew up.
In the end, I feel that David Miller is far and away the best candidate. It's just that if John Tory won, I'd know he would be an improvement over what we've got now. What matters most of all is that David Miller is going to win, and I'll be working all weekend and Monday to do my part to get our voters out.