One Bright Spot

It’s my contention that twice now Toronto has missed the opportunity to elect truly progressive leadership when Shelley Carroll was droppedballoverlooked as a mayoral candidate in successive elections. In 2010, she was in the best position to campaign on the Miller administration mandate yet got squeezed out between Liberal and NDP party machinations. This year, she sidestepped the stampede to support Olivia Chow’s anointment as the left of centre representative on the ballot. Both times, a low recognition factor as well as, I speculate, internal party politics deep sixed any aspirations she might have had for the position of mayor.

So, it’s interesting to note that in the scramble for committee, agency and board appointments, her name has emerged for several key positions in the John Tory administration. The Police Services Board, the TTC, the Budget Committee, Economic Development Committee, the Disabilities Issue Committee, Toronto Arts Council, (am I missing anything?), as well as the Deputy Speaker of City Council. Granted, in many of the more high profile spots – budget and TTC, say – she will not form the majority opinion but it is a far cry from how frozen out she was by the administration last term. friendscloseFrozen out by the Fords only to emerge as one of its most effective critics.

Has the Tory administration realized this and calculated that it’s probably more prudent to bring her in closer to the power centre? Friends close, enemies closer and all that. No matter. It offers Councillor Carroll a bigger platform to push her ideas and policies.

Let’s not lose sight of that opportunity especially over on Budget Committee where the councillor has been a huge proponent of the notion of participatory budgeting. She might not have the clout to institute the idea this time around (the committee is also populated by a number of perfunctory councillors as well, starting with the chair, Gary Crawford, along with the likes of Michelle Berardinetti, James Pasternak and two unknowns, John Campbell and Justin Di Ciano) but we certainly should expect to hear discussion of it going forward.

Regardless of any calculations at work, the new mayor should be applauded for acknowledging Councillor Carroll’s serious credentials and vast knowledge of how the city works, and at least putting her in the room and at the table where important decisions will be made. handsoffClearly, during the campaign, Tory made friends in high provincial places with the Liberal government. The fact Carroll is an avowed big L liberal probably helped ease any concerns the incoming administration at City Hall might have had with her designation by the Fords and their cadre as being some sort of enemy combatant.

For her part, Councillor Carroll stayed out of the mayoral fray this year, just going about her business getting re-elected as Ward 33 councillor, not picking sides. She gave a barnburner of a speech at a fundraiser I attended late in the campaign where she expressed some annoyance that the idea of progressivism had somehow become synonymous with the NDP brand. Her work at city council over the course of an 11 year (and counting) career there easily puts to rest the claim that your politics can be defined solely by the party you’re part of. I mean, both Carroll and her council colleagues Mark Grimes and Cesar Palacio are active in or have been members of the Liberal party. One of these is not like the others.

The fact John Tory was not willing to give any power to Councillor Shelley Carroll tells me all I need to know about the limitations he’s put on his administration. It will be more than curious how their relationship develops. I doubt she intends on becoming a head-nodding yes man, going along to get along. There’s little to be gained for her currying favour with the Tory crowd. brightspotBut she has been given something of an inside voice now to question the direction the mayor intends to take on such big ticket matters like the budget, the TTC, the Toronto Police Services.

It’s not much for those feeling sidelined right now by Team Tory. Still, there are few other councilors I’d be as confident in to remain independent and outspoken as I expect Councillor Carroll will be. If we search really hard for the silver lining in this dark cloud, maybe it might be that the councillor’s upcoming adventures in Torytown will serve as a map for building a better progressive movement.

ever hopefully submitted by Cityslikr

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