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.
We all know and can list off what’s wrong with the city, George. Being mad as hell is the easy part. How you propose to fix it all is the thing that we’re waiting to hear from you.
— impatiently submitted by Cityslikr
Kudos to the photog editor at “All Fired Up….” Excellent work. Me enjoying them.
While we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke appreciate (lap up even?) every compliment that comes our way, we ask that you refrain from future positive feedback for our art department or Collagilists, as they demand to be called. We are attempting to get them to buckle down and learn Photoshop or another such software program in order to avoid the inevitable copyright infringement case that comes from pilfering images from the interwebs. Your encouragement will only feed into their sloth.
a lot to mull over in this post.
Firstly absolutely right the province gave the city new taxing powers with a revised City of Toronto Act and the vehicle registration and land transfer taxes were the two implemented so far.
Perhaps George Smitherman agrees with the taxing power just not those specific ones.
To your point “Being mad as hell is the easy part. How you propose to fix it all is the thing that we’re waiting to hear from you.” I could not agree more. But for me, this is a stance I pose to all candidates.
Saying Toronto is broken is the easy part, coming up with a plan on how you want to fix it and bringing it to voters before the election is what it’s all about.
You may be absolutely correct in suggesting that Smitherman agrees with the taxing power but just not those specific ones. He certainly brought up the idea of road tolls which, while not strictly speaking a tax but a user fee, has not proven to be a real vote getter in the past. Still it is his lack of specifics that rankles. When he says something like this “I know that the fiscal construct is hard around the city, but I’m going to do the heavy lifting and put the circle around that one as something that I would like to try to lead reduction or elimination.” in the National Post, it feels like he is catering to an anti-tax sensibility without offering up any thoughts on how he plans to do “the heavy lifting” to deal with the difficult “fiscal construct” the city faces.
But it is early in the campaign still. Perhaps he doesn’t want to give too much away too soon.