Last week, His Worship, Incumbent Mayor of Toronto, John Howard Tory, deigned to appear before a live, livestreamed audience, to debate for the first time during the 2022 municipal election campaign – just eleven days before voters go to the polls – four of his opponents. The first of two whole debates he’s agreed to participate in (the 2nd this afternoon, behind closed doors but livestreamed on TVO, sponsored by the Toronto and Region Board of Trade), the continuation of a downward trend he’s pursued since being elected to the office back in 2014 when, as a challenger, he chastised then-opponent, Doug Ford, for skipping debates. Running and hiding. Afraid to face scrutiny. Etc., etc. So on & So forth.
John Tory, it appears, doesn’t feel as if he has to explain himself to you, Toronto resident. His record speaks for itself. Sure, the city could be doing better, the mayor’s not satisfied on all fronts but he’s experienced, did he that say already? Experienced, experienced, experienced… Etc., etc. So on & so forth.
Pretty much how the debate went. Any criticisms of his reign time in office were unwarranted. He has the best interest of each and every Torontonian at heart. Covid, dontcha know. ‘What you have to understand… Respectfully, Chloe…’ Experienced leadership. Experienced, experienced, experienced, etc., etc. So on & so forth.
My takeaway from the debate?
Why is this man running for a third term, unprecedented for amalgamated Toronto. Why does he continue to want the job?
He’s wealthy, well-to-do, no, wealthy. He’s 68, an age most us, if we were financially able, would happily set aside our workaday lives, kick back, and lean into the golden years. Retire to Boca or Muskoka, sipping a rum & cok-a. He’s got nothing left to prove, does he? Whatever it was that compelled him to seek out the office, starting back in 2003, John Tory’s now had 8 years cement that into place for posterity. What does he think he can accomplish with another term?
Yes, Covid upended everything, for everybody, not just John Tory’s time in office. It occupied great swaths of time, effort and resources. John Tory did not shit the bed as the mayor during that time. I give him no more than that. Too many people died and got ill in too many of the absolutely predictable places and occupations that glaringly exposed the ugly inequities that this city operates under. Inequities that during his time in office, John Tory has done little to address, arguably, has even exacerbated.
And storm clouds continue to gather, more than a few generated by John Tory’s policies while being mayor, including the ongoing pandemic that is showing little signs of abating. Crumbling infrastructure. Fractured city services and programs. Unhoused people seemingly everywhere, on the streets, in tents. Everywhere. Congestion. A gaping budget hole. Etc., etc. So on & so forth. If you live in Toronto, these are just your daily experiences.
“I am hopeful about Toronto,” Tory said during the debate, defining the word ‘blithely’. I’m sure you are, Mr. Tory. Why wouldn’t you be? Your Toronto has always been a place full of promise and opportunity. That’s the Toronto you were born into.
Or does he actually believe that if he returns for another 4 years, touting the exact same low-tax-find-efficiencies mantra that is his trademark move, he’ll be able to oversee and engineer a dramatic, crowd-pleasing, Rudyesque turnaround of fortunes here? It’s only a matter of time. Patience, people. Incremental improvement, sound and reasonable.
This is not to be Mr. Skeptic-Pessimist, We’re Done For, Everything’s Gone to Hell in a Handbasket, Fire!, Run for Your Lives Everyone, The End is Nigh, Oh My GOD THE PTA HAS DISBANDED!! But even if we could right the ship immediately, Re-Elect John Tory and Everything’s Fixed, we’re already in too deep to expect overnight positive results. Too much damage has been inflicted over too long a period, too much kicking the can down the road (including topnotch midfielder, John Tory) to imagine, Hey! 2023’s going to be our year. Or 2025. Or 2026.
We haven’t even spotted dry land yet.
100,000 homes (or whatever the number is that we need to begin addressing the affordability and homeless crisis) certainly aren’t going to spring up magically like mushrooms regardless of how soggy and damp the ground will be because of climate change. The transit projects in various degrees of planning and construction are years, decades away from being up and going in order to start lessening traffic and congestion. It’s going to be messy on our streets in the interim. Meanwhile, John Tory joins our premier in building and rebuilding highways that essentially counter any good they might be doing with public transit. Our police budget remains bloated, at the expense of all other budget items. Bloated and sacrosanct.
Even if we reverted to best practices today, a highly dubious supposition, we’ll be in triage mode, applying bandages and leeches, to keep things barely functional, for the foreseeable near future, in no small part due to self-inflicted damage by the political class led by the likes John Tory and his supporters.
And he wants to remain on the scene of the crime?
What makes John Tory run. Again.
Over the weekend in the Toronto Star, Richard Warnica did a deep dive into the enigma that is this city’s mayor, a deep dive, some wags have probably said by now, into a shallow pool. Early on in the article, Warnica took a moment to describe Tory’s trademark speaking style, “… in his elliptical, run-on way – his sentences have a habit of beginning in one place then branching off, like tunnels in an ant colony, into unexpected passageways and dead ends…” A ‘word salad’ others have more succinctly called it. Endearing and interesting, perhaps, in those brimming with provocative ideas and complex concepts. Verbal clutter and very likely obfuscation from someone who, inevitably, winds up pretty much where they started.
Later in the article, Tory attempts, in typical Tory style, to explain why he’s seeking a third term. “I wouldn’t be running if I thought I hadn’t done anything, and accomplished anything including, especially for people who are of lesser means in the city and people who are marginalized. And I’m running because I want to do more to build up the city and to make sure that those same people can get a better job, because the city’s economy is expanding, and make sure that the city remains affordable to them, that we have transit to get them to a job, and that we have affordable housing for them.”
I’m running because I want to do more to build up the city…
Eight years, two terms in, this is what John Tory has to offer. I’m running because I want to do more to build up the city. I am hopeful about Toronto. More of the same with expectations of better outcomes.
There’s an unflattering phrase for that that would require an official medical diagnosis. I’ll just settle on ‘oblivious’. Who John Tory believes himself to be is wildly at odds with his obstinate political instincts. Maybe he’s concluded that all we need is just a little more time to discover the man, the politician he truly thinks he is.