Just having extricated myself from agonizingly obsessing over the state of this city’s municipal politics (again), to settle into the saner pastures of writing nonpublished fiction, it pains me to find myself back at it so soon, if only briefly. I hope. Fingers crossed. This time I’m serious. Seriously.
After all the time spent at it and not to acknowledge this moment? This momentous occasion of ours with a mayor walking himself out of office a mere months after being resoundingly re-elected, a three-term incumbent who’s stirred up such little ill-will amongst the right kind of people, his people who get their people elected, that had he the inclination and longevity in him probably could’ve given the late-Hazel McCallion a run for the record of duration in office. Maybe. Not entirely confident in my math with that.
As a noted (at least around this household) John Tory-loather, it would be assumed that I’d be delighted by this past weekend’s turn of events. It’s not that I’m not delighted. Delighted’s just not the word here.
Sure, I dreamed of the man being hounded from his mayoral perch in a gust of rancorous wind. The residents of Toronto finally fed up to action in the incontrovertible face of the fact of their city’s precipitous social and structural crumbling around them. Garbage strewn streets. Dysfunctional public transit system. An over-fed and indifferent police force. Rampant, out-of-control and mismanaged construction that no matter how many buildings that keep going up aren’t adequate enough to put a roof over the heads of the seemingly countless unhoused who’ve largely been left to fend for themselves in a way that doesn’t offend the delicate sensibilities of their more privileged neighbours.
I wanted John Tory to answer for all that, his sluggish and reactionary policy pursuits over the course of the past 8+ years, if not the cause for all the above misrule, a very significant contributor to them. I wanted him embarrassed, chastised and/or humbled, not for any sort of failing in his personal life but in the type of ineffectual politics he pursued and could not be convinced otherwise about even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. I wanted John Tory chased from office not because of the type of man he was, but because of the type of mayor he insisted on being.
Instead, we get the most pedestrian and cliched of reasons for his exit, the philandering husband.
Somehow in John Tory that manages to be both jaw-droppingly surprising and ever-so predictable. Older man in a position of power begins a consensual relationship with a much younger employee during a time of intense and atypical pressure that came with a global pandemic. Not to diminish the imbalance in dynamics with a hoo-hum but it is familiar refrain.
Except, of course, it’s John Tory we’re talking about here. Who can ever tell except the participants what really lurks behind the blinds, but the horndog wasn’t a label that seemed to follow this very public figure around during his three decades or so in relatively high profile. The devoted family man was more his vibe and there didn’t seem to be much reason to doubt it as far as that goes. Although, John Tory, at least as mayor of Toronto, did nothing better than project and message the image that he wanted people to see.
It isn’t the first time the two realities of a public persona collided and crashed and burned.
Now, he’s gone, abruptly and, like I stated, unsatisfactorily, unfinished business urgently needing finishing. In all probability, there’s going to be a by-election to replace him sometime in May unless the premier of the province, the increasingly tainted Doug Ford, has other ideas, and when it comes to municipal elections, Doug Ford seems to have all sorts of other ideas and opinions. We’ll see. Fingers crossed.
A by-election will give Toronto residents an early opportunity to reset the button at City Hall. John Tory’s legacy is already right there on display for us to assess, assess, and hopefully, desire to correct. His first budget under the new strong mayor powers (obvious now not the only thing he was sneaking around about) is supposed to be voted on by city council this week. With it, we got a full on view exactly what kind of strong mayor John Tory intended to be which was pretty much the same as the non-strong mayor John Tory only with fewer constraints. The most vulnerable further neglected. Public services further trimmed of remaining meat on the bones. Except the Toronto Police Services. Of course. Infrastructure repair scaled back and put off, capital funding being sucked more and more toward the Gardiner East rebuild, another damaging Tory legacy. Band aids and twine holding everything together as the city pleads and hopes for unannounced fiscal assistance from two reluctant senior levels of government.
Mayor John Tory in a nutshell.
And an unexpected opportunity to start putting it behind us three years ahead of schedule.