It’s easy to forget, here in the early days of 2023, watching John Tory run roughshod over City Hall, untethered as he is by any sort of checks and balances at the local level, a veritable Big Fish in the small pond in the governance hierarchy, just what a bumbling politico he once was seen as.
‘The face of a prime minister’ attack ad during the 1993 federal campaign OK’d by the PC’s campaign manager, a certain John Tory. John Tory, the front runner to replace outgoing Mel Lastman as Toronto mayor in 2003 who blew a seemingly insurmountable lead and lost the race. The comedy of errors as provincial leader of the Progressive Conservatives, 2004-2009.
That John Tory.
Luck finally broke his way, as luck tends to do for the well-placed and well-connected who have nothing else to offer aside from persistence and a comfortable fallback position, in 2014 when, well, Rob Ford. Timing is everything. John Tory had done his time. Now it was his time.
Now it is His time, with a capital H, third time elected, by ever increasing pluralities if not corresponding enthusiasm from voters, over 70% of whom couldn’t be bothered casting a ballot last time out, new extraordinary strong mayor powers granted to him by his actual boss, the premier of Ontario, his final go-around, he assures us, his word, His word as flimsy as his principles, His principles. Tory Time. Peak Tory. Tory, unleashed and unabashed.
Early days yet in this Monarchical Period of Rule for John Tory, his first crack at absolutism, really needing only 8 council courtiers to push through whatever agenda he has in mind. An easy get with this elected lot, spanning almost the entire political spectrum. Toss a committee chair to a moderate critic, keep them content and onside. Give important posts to unimportant colleagues who have depended almost exclusively on a mayoral endorsement to have been elected to office in the first place. They’ll do his bidding, His Bidding, regardless. The rest of the insignificant 17? Fuck ‘em. Never mind kissing the emperor’s ring. They can kiss his ass as far as this Lord Mayor, His Worship, is concerned.
What’s emerged so far with this new governance dynamic as the 2023 budget process unravels, the very first one constructed almost entirely from within the confines of the mayor’s office, aside from a certain hectoring disdain toward anyone in the media daring to pushback on the Sun King’s p.r. proclamations, is the vestigial shadow of the former inept politician John Tory has been incapable of steeping out of: yesterday’s man.
Despite the well of ideas long since run dry, John Tory, now free of any sort true democratic process, has opted once more to return to that tapped out well of low taxes (don’t let ‘the highest ever property tax rate increase in amalgamated Toronto history’ fool you; we’re still midpack in terms of neighbouring GTA municipalities, in addition to which additional forms of revenue generation aren’t even up for consideration), the usual bump in user fees, service cuts, shuffling money from the capital to operating budget, re-inflating the balloon of the already bulging police services coffers, in the process going out of his way to tut-tut any talk of true policing reform, trust him, He assures us, the police are on the job! Essentially, too much policing at the expense of community-based, social programs. Public transit geared to suppress ridership rather than increase it. A good state of disrepair in place of a state of good repair. The same ol’, same ol’ John Tory budget. Nary a dint of change in thinking or approach. Resolutely knee-jerk. Reactive first. Reactive last. Reactive always.
It’s almost as if John Tory secretly sought enhanced undemocratic powers from the province in order to snuff out any possible attempts at regression from His mean. Not to push through reforms or ideas that might better contend with the dire realities that face the city He’s lead for over 8 years now but to entrench shopworn politics and policies that have, at least in part, not an insignificant part, contributed to and help create those dire realities. To lock them up safely from too much scrutiny, too much debate, beyond the reach of any sort of serious challenge from his city council colleagues, the type of serious challenge he never really faced during his first two terms in office.
Absolutely unnecessary overreach. Unnecessary absolute overreach. The trappings of a man firm in the belief of his own, His own, singular competence. Differing opinions and opposing views irksome and, quite frankly, wrong and misguided, in all likelihood politically motivated by special interests. In times of crisis, like every other time, there’s only one way to deal with the pressing matters at hand. Immune to experience or any sort of facts to His contrary, John Tory remains steadfast in the arrogance of someone who considers himself, Himself, in possession of immutable, irrefutable qualities of leadership that operate above and beyond the sullied ineffectualness of full-on participatory politics.