Vision Quest II

The journey continues.

Up this week: Sarah Thomson!

I must write this quickly as rumours build of Ms. Thomson’s imminent departure from the mayoral race. Or maybe not. Maybe in two weeks. But then again, maybe not.

Which encapsulates her candidacy perfectly.

When I initially saw Sarah Thomson at a live debate all those months ago, I was immediately reminded of the first episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. After she expresses outrage at the personal nature of some of the questions asked during her job interview, the crusty Mr. Grant tells Mary that he thinks she’s spunk. When Mary mistakenly takes that as a compliment, Mr. Grant barks, “I hate spunk!”

Now replace the word ‘spunk’ with ‘pluck’ in order that I stop giggling like a grade schooler, and that’s how I best describe Ms. Thomson. She’s got pluck. She left home at the age of 15 and by the time she was 30, Ms. Thomson had made herself a small fortune, “turning around failing service stations and making them successful” by getting them to sell chips and stuff and not just gas and oil. She then went back to school, got herself a degree in English and philosophy which she used to begin a new career of buying rundown houses, renovating and then flipping them, I believe the term is. Moving on from there, Ms. Thomson then took on the mantel of ‘social entrepreneur’ and started up the Women’s Post media empire in 2002.

Pluck by the bucketful.

And all very Horatio Alger which could only be made more storybook perfect with a successful run for political office. So Sarah Thomson screwed on her pluck and set her eyes straight for the top. She would become mayor of Toronto!

I mean, how hard could it be to a person who’s turned service stations around and made old houses new again? What’s a city if not a place full of old houses waiting to be flipped and stations of services in need of a little entrepreneurial giddy-up? If you treat the levers of governmental power like a business then, dognabit, the levers of governmental power will start behaving like a business. And isn’t that what we all want from our government? For it to be just like a business?

There were two very likely fatal flaws in this thinking of the Sarah Thomson campaign. One, actually government isn’t just like a business. Two, there were a couple other candidates thinking just the same thing. One had bigger name recognition and the other had more money to spend.

So Ms. Thomson veered rudderlessly from fiscal conservative to social progressive, trying to recreate the John Tory formula except for the non-winning part. It even went so far as to have a couple of the Tory offspring on her team. She tried presenting herself as a no-nonsense business manager who would ferociously cut to the bottom line while maintaining a beating heart toward all the things that made a city great. Arts and culture. Architecture, heritage and forward-thinking urban planning. That the two impulses have never quite meshed into a seamless vision was not the fault entirely of Team Thomson. The exact problem has plagued both the George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi campaigns as well.

Sarah Thomson boldly introduced the idea of road tolls into the mix. Unfortunately, the implications of her idea weren’t well thought out. In addition to which, it was part of a transit plan that insisted on building subways. That Ms. Thomson as recently as last night’s debate was rethinking the matter and publicly admitted that the planned LRTs might be the best way to go goes as both a credit to her personally but a detriment to her campaign. She appears willing to listen to others and reposition herself accordingly which might make for good mayoral material but undercuts her campaign by making her look like a wishy-washy flip-flopper.

Taking us to the overarching problem of Ms. Thomson’s candidacy. Perhaps she should’ve taken the time to ground herself more thoroughly in the issues facing Toronto before jumping into the fray. Pluck was simply not going to be enough. Too many times during debates, she was caught flat-footed and at a loss for answers. Responding to questions about urban planning and design, she constantly said, “I love Jane Jacobs” and little else.

Well, everybody loves Jane Jacobs, Ms. Thomson (except for maybe Rob Ford). So what? An inability to follow up on that epitomized a candidate who hadn’t really thought much past the platitudes and therefore couldn’t generate a base willing to believe she was up to the task of running a city.

So, perhaps prematurely but quite possibly long overdue, R.I.P. Thomson For Mayor. You were plucky. Everybody hates pluck.

crustily submitted by Cityslikr

2 thoughts on “Vision Quest II

  1. Who can turn the world on with her smile?

    Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?

    The problem with Thomson announcing “we are all working together again Rob Ford” is that it will back fire if not now, in four years. On the chance the four candidates are able to block RF for the mayor’s office and the winner pooches the job, the other three will have a very hard time trying to run for office again. They will be seen as the architects of helping a bad mayor into office. And how can you run again if where part of a political cabal and that you won’t do it again?

  2. Thank you for your article. What may not be apparent is that this entire situation with Thomson is a media and PR stunt. I believe she MAY not have uttered the words “I” may step down. I believe the media may have assumed that when she speaks of “her” initiating the “coalition” against Ford and working together “for the good of Toronto”, everyone assumed SHE would step down as she does not have a hope in hell of winning. This allowed Thomson to bring her “best” assets into play, her ability to sell, her hubris and her ability to deceive and manipulate. I believe she handed the “assumption” of her stepping down to the media, only to be able to publicly disspell such information. PR! PR! PR! She is getting more airtime than ever at this moment.

    Please checkout this oh, so telling interview with Thomson.–thomson-not-dropping-out-of-mayoral-race-statement-says

    It becomes fairly apparent what her strategy likely is. Thomson’s platform is inundated with jargon of being “for the people”, “listening to the people”; however, now when faced with peoples’ choice not being HER, “she” initiates a coalition? Her master plan is to have everyone rally behind the nearly dead last candidate of the top 5?? WTF! This is not what the people of TO are asking for on any level. Polling numbers reflect Ford for Mayor. Polling numbers reflect Smitherman as second place. Polling numbers reflect Rossi as 2nd choice. Does anyone see Thomson anywhere in the mix? She is manipulating the democratic system to try and swindle her way into the job. People of Toronto, do not be fooled by this she-devil! TO will be so very sorry.

    The real Sarah Thomson – Not only does NOT posses any political experience, she has not run a successful business in over 18 years. She run two publications into the ground (Hamilton Specator & Women’s Post). She has opened at least 2 bookstores that went under. She NEVER owned a renovation company. She never graduated from high school (dropped out at 15) or university. (even though she attended McMaster for approx. 9 yrs part-time). She NEVER managed stations “all over Ontario”. She leased a total of 5 stations, all in and around Burlington & Hamilton. She DID receive an award two years running for top dealer in ONTARIO, not “Canada”. This was largely due to the number of stations she managed (5). She did not create a company mandated to rescue in crisis stations. She did take over leases of 5 low-performing stations and increase sales. She claims to have built a gas station “empire” by adding “chips & juice” to the retail component of the stations. This story over time has manifested into her adding entire convenience stores to her stations. This is not true. She did NOT add convenience stores to any of her stations.

    She did NOT run away from home at 15. She did spend a summer living half of the summer with her older sister and brother-in-law and the second half of the summer partying hard and crashing on couches of “friends” and yes, was once or twice found passed out drunk in a park, by a stranger and taken home. She did not spend 6 months on the street traveling around N. America.

    The Hamilton Examiner never made a dime and was edited and written, almost entirely, by Thomson’s late father under numerous pen names. Since its start in 2002, Ms. Thomson has not even been able to take a pay cheque from the Women’s Post. Her husband’s family wealth has financed their life in order that Thomson “play” at her business. Thomson has never owned a renovation company. In fact, records show she has only ever been on title on 3 homes. She performed minor cosmetic work (paint, building bookshelves, etc) on two properties while trying to open bookstores in her home. Thomson’s husband bought their current home about 10 years ago. He stayed home full-time for the first few years renovating their home, while Thomson “played” at WP. He later had to return to work as Thomson had pissed through his savings and WP did not provide an income to her. This is their primary residence, not a reno or restoration business! Thomson has built ONE “successful” business and this was over 18 years ago and involved leasing gas stations, “leading” and “building consensus” with gas jockeys!

    I have questioned Thomson on MANY of the discrepancies in her bio/CV. She addressed none, blocked me on Twitter, but subsequently edited her campaign bio page 3 times. Subsequent interviews also had her back -peddling on her story. However, it is still FAR from an accurate representation of her CV.

    Check out this interview and listen to Thomson stammer when asked details about her “success”.

    Thomson claims to have almost “psychic”-level skills in collaboration, leadership, team-building, consensus building and leading towards a “common” vision. In the interview link above, when asked why she did not run for council prior to a run at Mayor, her response is that she is a control freak, Type A personality (with a true ability to bring people together), that would undermine the Mayor as a councillor! Again, WTF!! Thomson may well be confused as to the definition of these skills she professes to hold? How does “bringing people together, collborating, etc. tie in with undermining and being a Type A personality? Just as she may well want to look up the definition of social entrepreneur, while she is at it!

    Ms. Thomson then confesses that her (one and only) downfall may be that she gets mired down in the details.? Are you kidding me. Anyone who has watched a single debate, will attest that there is always at LEAST one moment when Thomson gets the “deer-in-headlights” look as the conversation travels beyond her. She is continually caught out on the details.

    Not to mention the fact that Thomson’s claim to possess these qualities is almost hysterical. She has a LONG history of alienating people, in both her personal and professional lives. She IS a control-freak! This does not bode well for her in any area of her life, and certainly would not benefit her should the impossible happen and she become Mayor. The level of turnover in her limited number of employees is astronomical. It is even more hilarious when she presents herself as being a mentor to women. Thomson can not maintain female relations, again in both her personal and professional lives. She has a strained relationship with her sisters and sisters-in-law. She has gone through many, many editors and now has a male editor and many male staff. She lost her campaign manager (female) and several other key players and has a mostly male campaign team, certainly the key players. She has a past “assault” incidences with a female employee. Does any of this scream collaboration, team building, leadership? I think not. I will give it to her that as a partying 18 to 24 year old, she did motivate gas jockeys (mostly male). I’ll leave the rest to you.

    Toronto, “don’t drink the Kool-Aid”. Unfortunately, the media will not “run an in-depth profile of a candidate who doesn’t have the faintest shot at winning”, but don’t the people of TO have the right to know the REAL candidate? What if she runs again? What about the 100 or so votes she may take from another viable candidate? What about the attention she is garnering that should be directed at a true candidate?

    Be careful what you wish for TO! Ford, Smitherman, Pantalone and Rossi may not be ideal, BUT they all have experience and I think they have ALL heard TO this time around. Not one will be able to move forward under the status quo.


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