I have been waging a see-saw battle with myself over the type of public servant John Tory believes himself to be ever since he became mayor. Actually, before that, going right back to when he announced his candidacy last year.
An obtuse political dullard, tone deaf to life in this city beyond the boardrooms, country clubs and philanthropic organizations or a savvy operator, stone cold Frank Underwood, yo, master manipulator, backroom civic strongman stepping out into the spotlight?
His previous foray into politics at the provincial level would suggest the former. He’s given the benefit of the doubt toward the latter as a private sector titan where family and privileged connections only get you so far. No dummy can successfully navigate those treacherous, shark-infested waters, am I right?
This question arises again now because of more ridiculous shenanigans from Mayor Tory’s appointed deputy mayor, the actual deputy mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong. During yesterday’s Executive Committee meeting (which the deputy mayor vice chairs), Minnan-Wong indignantly tweeted out that he’d been blocked on the Twitter by the city’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat. Social media attention ensues, followed by a boo hoo press conference with the deputy mayor. While city business is being conducted elsewhere, it’s worth mentioning again.
No biggie, in and of itself, except to serve as yet another example of a regular pattern from Deputy Mayor Minnan-Wong of building a grandstand on a foundation of public servant attacks at City Hall. He seems to take pleasure in sandbagging figures like the chief planner whose views on city building he doesn’t share, and his views on the subject are pretty simple. City building = road building.
But this post isn’t about him (and David Hains has already done a great job on the subject of Denzil and the Chief Planner at the Torontoist). This is about Mayor Tory who appointed Minnan-Wong as his deputy mayor, his 2nd in command, his right-hand man. Just what the fuck was he thinking? (An entirely gratuitous curse just to “haunt” the deputy mayor.)
After winning the election in October and casting his glance about over the member of city council to settle upon the person who’d best suit the job of deputy mayor, how did John Tory settle on Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong? There’s somebody who’s been around, knows the lay of the land. He’s a rock solid conservative voice and will never veer off political course except to the further right. Done, and done!
Did John Tory realize that his choice for deputy mayor had no real base of support at city council, few natural allies? Minnan-Wong’s history at council showed much more of a flare for making enemies than friends. He loved nothing more than to get his business all up in his colleagues’ wards and make life miserable for them. Antagonizil Minnan-Wong, I’ve just nicknamed him.
Tory had to be aware of this reputation, right? Despite running for mayor back in 2003 and then covering the municipal scene for years after his stint in and around Queen’s Park, he likes to play the role of the city political naïf, willing to admit he was ignorant of the stuff he regularly opined on. Still, we’re to believe his people didn’t vet his choice for deputy mayor’s background and standing?
That would be denser than quark-gluon plasma. Team Tory as the gang who couldn’t think straight, unable to collectively put it together to tie one of their shoes. Defies belief.
So is this just a case of, I don’t know, good cop-bad cop? The deputy mayor as henchman – Monsieur Henchman, to you – brass knuckles and sharp elbows, brawling it out in the trenches while the mayor keeps his nose clean and Oxford button down starched? Classic political positioning.
But here’s the thing.
In such a scenario, both the good cop and the bad cop share a common end-game. Busting the criminal. Their approaches are different. Their ultimate goal isn’t.
Last term at city council, while it was more dirty cop-bad cop in terms of Rob Ford and Doug Holyday, there was no question they shared the same vision, sprung from the bowels of our worst instincts. Attack public sector unions, reduce the size of government, keep taxes, low, low, low. Rob Ford may’ve proven to be the wayward political son of Doug Holyday but there was no doubting their shared bond in bringing City Hall to its knees.
What exactly is the vision of the Tory-Minnan-Wong dynamic? Our mayor touts civility, respect, adherence to data-based decision making. His deputy mayor represents small-minded, divisive, petulant undermining of good governance. By unleashing his deputy mayor on the public service, the planning agency like Waterfront Toronto or just in general, Mayor Tory is flashing his own dark underbelly, his simple disregard of his own stated principles.
What’s unclear is whether that proves John Tory to be dumb or cut-throat vicious like a fox.
Neither one is particularly flattering.
— judgingly submitted by Cityslikr
Antagonizil? More like Denzilla…
Seems like Tory will not be delivering his $8 Billion Smart Trick within 7 years…given he’s a good talker on the proposed Provincial Budget
On the one hand, Denny makes John look good by comparison.
More sinister is the Art of War tactic: Keep your enemies closer.
You’d think DMW gets more than enough exposure to density ‘n bikes cheerleading from the Jane Jacobs cultists sitting on council. Monitoring tweets from Keesmaat would just be redundant in that regard. Maybe he misses having Vaughan around.
Dear Mr. GW,
We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke think your use of ‘cultists’ reveals a lack of serious intent in your argument, implying some sort of blind faith, lack of evidence coming from anyone espousing ideas running contrary to your way of thinking. It’s you, sir, standing on the wrong side of history. We are all urbanists now.
History’s a funny thing. It frustrates our attempts to pin it down.
Some declared it “the end of history” when the Berlin Wall fell. Well, we all know now that nothing really ended then. The concept of Soviet-style “central planning” fell out of favour for a while, but seems to have made a significant comeback within certain circles.
People often mistake transitory fads for permanent cultural shifts. Personal mobility and personal space may not be valued that much by millennials in this stage of their lives, but if I had planned out my whole life based on the tastes I had in my twenties, I would not be terribly happy right now.
Technology will of course continue to evolve and disrupt as well.
No, we are not all urbanists now. You wouldn’t have nearly as much to blog about if we were. I will continue to stand exactly where I am, and am content to let history decide in its own time whether I was on its wrong or right side.