Just when I started to think that George Smitherman had dropped out of the race to be the next mayor of Toronto, he’s popped back up into view, spitting, snarling and feisty. Embracing his Furious George, bully boy image (“If my bureaucracy basically shot me the finger,” Mr. Smitherman said [in a Globe and Mail interview], “well, I’ll let my reputation speak for itself…”), Smitherman promises to apply his trademark bulldog style to deal with the city’s woeful finances and the uppity bureaucracy that, apparently, is all that stands in the way of a brighter, fiscally rosier future for Toronto.
Now maybe George is simply over-compensating for what has been perceived as a tepid campaign performance so far. As the big name, front runner he’s been adhering to the rule of saying nothing and doing even less in order to not be dragged into the fray so early on. But as an insider on the Barbara Hall 2003 campaign flame out (she too was the early frontrunner) perhaps George does not want to see history repeat itself.
So we have George Smitherman channeling his inner Howard Beale. Mad as hell, George isn’t going to take it anymore. As mayor, he’s vowed to get tough, knock some heads and make sure that the TTC trains start running on time. How’s that for a deliberate evocation of a catch phrase in order to conjure up images of ruthless, fascist efficiency?
Still, as the perceived centrist candidate George can’t step on too many toes. He has to garner some support from the right and some from the left to be able to piece together a winning combination. So there’s a bit of a whirling dervish quality to Smitherman’s strikes; not so much surgical as they are erratically tactical.
Nowhere is this more in evidence than in his pronouncements about getting City Hall’s fiscal house in order. Aside from whipping the TTC, civil servants and their departments into shape, George has openly mulled over the idea of things like road tolls while also circling some taxes he’d like to cut. Apparently, the municipal land transfer tax is one that Smitherman can live with but vehicle registration tax.. ? Well, that was the proverbial straw “… that broke the camel’s back,” Smitherman told the National Post, “and elicits from so many people this feeling that they have been nickel and dimed…”
Maybe someone should tell the former deputy premier of Ontario that while he was in the inner sanctum of Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, they passed this little thing called City Bill 53 Stronger City of Toronto for a Stronger Ontario Act. In case George never got around to reading it, the bill contains some elements that broaden, ever so slightly, Toronto’s ability to raise revenue through various taxation powers. Revenue needed to plug the huge financial gaps created almost exclusively by senior levels of government who have, for the better part of a couple decades now, more than nickeled and dimed municipalities to the point of insolvency.
Thus grudgingly, the city ultimately got around to instituting land transfer and vehicle registration taxes. Now George wants to rescind one of them while trying to bring about some fiscal sanity. How? Well, that kind of information’s just going to have to wait until later in the campaign. When George is able to get a better sense of which way the political winds are a-blowing. For now, it’s all about attacking, attacking, attacking and painting a dystopic picture of a city that he alone can ride into and straighten out.
– impatiently submitted by Cityslikr