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Good Riddance, Al Leach
14/02/2004

The Ontario Liberals fired former Tory Minister of Municipal Affairs Al Leach from his job on the board of GO on Wednesday. Despite the problems that Dalton McGuinty has run into, it's times like this that I'm reminded how lucky we are to be rid of the former government.

In the late nineties, when Mike Harris' government was giving the shaft to this city, nobody ticked me off more than the local power figures who greased the wheels with their public support. Worst of all was downtown MPP and Vendu Minister Al Leach.

From eye in 2001, here's Leach's professional biography:

A decade ago, few people had ever heard of the man. He was a Toronto Transit manager who was slowly working his way up the system until -- it was a surprise for everyone -- he was appointed general manager. Under his leadership, the TTC fell into such a state of disrepair that David Gunn was brought in to clean it up, although Gunn couldn't act quickly enough to prevent the tragic accident in 1995 on the Spadina subway line (three people were killed). The accident was the result of poor maintenance.

Leach left the TTC to run in the 1995 provincial election as a Mike Harris candidate in a downtown Toronto riding. The campaign was so close that, three days before the election, Leach put out a special pamphlet on property tax reform, which many considered the issue dividing the Conservatives and the Liberals. "I promise never to support market value reassessment," he told the voters in this pamphlet.

Leach received a few hundred more votes than the Liberal candidate, and Harris appointed him Minister of Municipal Affairs. He quickly introduced legislation imposing market value reassessment on Toronto and the rest of the province -- exactly contrary to his promise.

Then he introduced legislation amalgamating Toronto into the megacity. In March 1997, a referendum was held on the megacity, and 76.8 per cent voted against amalgamation. The next day Leach said, "From all the information I've seen, everything indicates to me the majority of people still favour amalgamation."

It turned out he had no secret poll information to challenge the referendum -- he seems to have made the story up. There was a 10-day filibuster in the legislature, but Leach pushed the legislation through.

When the next election rolled around in 1999, Leach refused to run -- he knew he would lose, as did Dave Johnson and Isabel Bassett, two other cabinet ministers from Toronto. But Mike Harris gave him a cozy appointment to the Toronto Police Services Board, where he directs police policy for Torontonians by telling police management how terrific they are.

This doesn't really convey the whole story about how despicable Al Leach was. In 1997, as the debate over amalgamation raged on, you could always count on Al to appear in the newspaper with an infuriating comment about the wonderful advantages of megacity amalgamation (latest contradiction here), or the futility of opposing it.

Since then he has also been a GO board member. But on Wednesday he returned from Florida to find out he's the only board member whose term the Liberals weren't renewing. He promptly returned to Florida. Now all we need to do is find a way to invalidate his passport so he can't come back.


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