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Since September 26, I have been a volunteer with the Miller for Mayor campaign. Articles before that date represent my decision-making process and all articles on this site represent my views only. Join the campaign; we need your help.
Feeling Sorry for Barbara Hall
05/11/2003

Over on Last Chance City, Adam Sobolak writes about feeling sorry for Barbara Hall.

Now, his reason for concern is that "this whole sodden catastrophe of a campaign is being spun by some sources into a dismissal of her own political history as 'undistinguished'." He feels its unfair to her strong record from 1994-1997. I can't say much about that, because I wasn't really paying attention then, and only moved to this city in 1996.

However, I've been tempted at times to feel sorry for Hall, too. A little over six years ago, Mike Harris took away her mayoralty by legislating her municipality out of existence. She lost to Mel, but hoped that this year could represent her deserved comeback.

She's been planning for this for a long time. Some people say six years. However, after being given credit for having this race wrapped up, she has now lost it thoroughly. In fact, she's likely to go out with a whimper rather than a bang. What she'll do next is unclear.

No matter who is elected on Monday, Barbara Hall has lost this race to David Miller. To understand how, you've got to cast your mind back to a year ago.

Back then, speculation was that Mel would not be running again. However, his reputation was not nearly so tarnished. I remember reading commentators talk about a Lastman-annointed successor being a formidable force in the campaign. Someone like Case Ootes.

Barbara knew that if she was going to avoid the failure of 1997, she had to broaden her base. How else can we explain her shift to the right and her shift to suburban values?

She must have also known that she had to snuff out any rivals on the left. How could she challenge the mighty Lastman machine without the unified vote of the opposition? Some have said that her tactics in late 2002 were designed specifically to build up enough support and strength to scare away any contenders, and specifically David Miller.

Well, a lot has happened since then.

First of all, the Lastman machine -- rather than enjoying a resurgence -- continued to fall to pieces. 2002 was a horrible year for Mel, and it just kept getting worse. A major factor was the MFP computer-leasing scandal and the leadership David Miller showed (along with others) in getting an inquiry launched. The result was that the city was not going to be making a decision between Lastman Redux and Lastman Light. Instead, there was an opportunity for someone to stand up and call for real change.

At the same time, Hall was taking steps to strengthen her position which, instead, ultimately undermined her.

One of those was her appearance at a Bombardier/CAW press conference where she voiced her support for an expanded island airport and the jobs it was going to bring for the airplane manufacturer and its union. This won her support, alright, but it cost her dearly in the end.

Perhaps if there had been no David Miller to stand strongly against her and her betrayal of the waterfront, her compromise might have led her to victory in a head-to-head battle with an Ootes or a John Tory. Alas, things have played out quite differently.

Hall was also undermined by her efforts to bend the rules by jumpstarting her campaign last fall. The Friends of Barbara Hall raised and spend money and organized on her behalf before it was legal for anyone to be campaigning. This, too, hurt her in the long run.

Finally, I believe her overall shift in values has crippled her ability to say anything in this campaign. It is not just her apparent speaking handicap that has hurt her. I really did try to look past the style and explore the substance. But there was never much to it. I think if she had focused on defining an agenda instead of holding on to soft "not Mel" frontrunner status, she might have performed better.

In the end, she ran this race too much as if it was 1997 all over again. She changed to adapt to her previous defeat, but the city and its mood also changed.

Also, David Miller is a damn good candidate for mayor.


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