There are times when it’s impossible to match the city Toronto is, has become, to the leadership it’s regularly inflicted on itself and endured. In many, many ways this place exhibits a vibrancy and animated quality it in no way deserves. At least, looking at it from the top down which gives me pause to reflect on the importance I place on the role our elected local representatives play in the day-to-day operations of Toronto. Maybe they’re not all that ultimately. Maybe I’ve just wasted the last 5 years of my life in the mistaken belief that it’s in any way necessary to be following closely the ins-and-outs at City Hall.
Looking back over the almost two decades now of amalgamated Toronto, it seems voters don’t place the same kind of significance on municipal politicians as I do. The established pattern being, Don’t demand too much from us, especially money, Don’t change too much, especially near where we live, Don’t bother us much, especially at dinner time.
A variation on the old municipal maxim: Keep our streets clear and safe, get the garbage picked up on time and make sure our toilets flush properly. Do that, and keep our taxes low? We’ll get along just fine.
So when the 416 all became one big family back in 1998, most of us weren’t in the market for any sort of urban renaissance. The same as before, please. Only on a bigger scale.
We gave ourselves Mel Lastman who came to power promising a property tax freeze and a little bit of cable access razzamatazz! Despite his obvious inadequacies, Mel had friends in the provincial government. It was all going to be alright. If nothing else, Mel gave us our first taste of international embarrassment, developing us some antibodies for what was to come.
After 7 years of bumbling, increasing disinterest in governance and a whole lot of overt corruption, Toronto tidied itself up, putting David Miller in office on a promise to clean up the mess left behind by Mel and his cronies. He did, and a whole lot more. In the end, probably too much for Toronto’s conservative tastes.
I really need to elaborate on this for a moment. As an unrepentant Millerite, I brook little of the bullshit narrative about how his administration drove the city into the ground fiscally or caved in to the unions or whatever other bogeyman his opponents like to float out there. It’s simply not true, and any cold, hard look at the history will show it.
I mean, after all, who are you going to believe? Me or Sue-Ann Levy?
No, in fact, the Miller administration took the hard steps in the direction of making Toronto a more self-sustaining, fairer, more inclusive, 21st-century city. What it didn’t do, and this is important, it was a crucial error that helped paved the way for the insanity that followed, the Miller administration did not attempt to engage with enough people beyond those who were already on board. I think it was smug with self-satisfaction, convinced that the rightness of what it was doing was obvious to all. It didn’t need to explain itself. The truth was self-evident.
It created the bubble that, when things got rocky, the financial crisis of 2008 which evaporated money coming from senior levels of government to Toronto for projects like Transit City, then the outside workers strike, retirement parties and bunny suits, when shit hit the fan, voters saw the bubble as the enemy, the thing to vote against.
Or maybe, 7 years, two terms, is more than enough time for a mayor and the city to sour on each hour.
Either way, in marched Rob Ford, on a wave of discontent and anger with the outgoing administration. Those feeling left out and left behind saw their champion in Rob Ford. He embraced that position and everything he did in office he did in the belief that he was looking out for the little guy. He fed on that discontent and anger, stoking it, inflaming it. Rob Ford represented Toronto’s angry era.
Mel the Clown. Earnest David. Angry Rob.
Civically, at the political level, we got tired. We wanted some peace and quiet. We wanted normal. Yes, after a decade of tumult, we pined for some of them good ol’ days. Just keep our streets clear and safe, get the garbage picked up on time and make sure our toilets flush properly. Do that, and keep our taxes low? We’ll get along just fine.
A little competence. Is that too much to ask?
I imagine you think you know where I’m going with this but, no, not entirely. This is not another John Tory hit piece. Do I think he oversold his competence? For sure. Do I believe he is severely over-matched for the job he faces? No question.
But this has to do with us, the voters, the residents of this city. We have to stop buying into the notion that there are simple solutions to the problems we face. We have to stop believing in all the fuzzy math we’re being pitched. This isn’t about throwing money at problems either. It’s about not looking to the familiar in the hopes of adapting to the change going on all around us.
The Toronto about to say hello to 2016 is not the Toronto that greeted 1998 although, looking at the faces still at city council, a counter-argument could be made about that. We have to recognize what’s no longer working and figure out ways to fix it because the truth is we’re coming up painfully short on important matters the will have an irreversible negative impact on this city if we don’t. Transit is the most obvious example but affordability, sustainability and our continued, cowardly refusal to insist on new ways to police and keep everyone in this increasingly diverse city safe are as equally important.
John Tory is not to blame for the current state of affairs. He is doing exactly what 40% of voters in Toronto in 2014 wanted him to do. Pretty much business as usual but without the crack and booze filled melodrama. What Torontonians need to accept, and accept quickly, is that business as usual is no longer good enough.
— hopefully submitted by Cityslikr