With Olivia Chow elected to be the next mayor of Toronto, surely we can write the final chapter of the interminable, meandering, wholly unsatisfactory, What was it even about? book of the John Tory era. Can’t we? He’s done, isn’t he? The rock has definitively crushed him in his one last attempt to roll it up the hill of relevancy. Hasn’t it?

That last minute, desperate attempt to endorse and robocall his designated attendant, Ana Bailão, over-the-top to become his successor, falling short, surprisingly less so than one might expect since he had slunk from office just a few short months ago, an admitted schtuper of a younger office subordinate and forced this by-election on the city less than a year after cruising to a yawning 3rd term landslide last fall, would serve as his political denouement, yes?

The very fact that he shamelessly came out of his post-affair semi-hibernation and helped coalesce the anti-Chow faction to essentially one contender and made it a much closer race than any of the previous polling suggested should offer up a thoughtful pause of reflection. How? The damning personal failure aside, look around. The entire by-election campaign to replace him was packed to the rafters with criticisms of the current state of the city. A smoking crater of a budget hole. Services like public transit operating on frayed shoestrings. Encampments of the unhoused filling public spaces because the city has nowhere else to offer them. Daily lineups, some a block long, outside food banks.

Etc. & Etc.

All of this manifest after 13+ years of conservative rule at City Hall, 8+ of that under John Tory.

A more principled person would’ve possessed the dignity and judgement to just leave quietly. Close the door behind him and get on with the rest of his life. Spend his golden years settling into the kind of person he always was despite his best efforts to present otherwise. A corporitizen. A board member. Consigliere to major domos. Resumption of what he was truly born to do: prattle on between commercials on drive-time radio.

Because, in the end, if it is the end, it has to be, doesn’t it? Because, in the end, what else does John Tory have left to offer to do poorly for this city? His imprint, that of properly managed but eminently avoidable decline, is already deep and will be difficult to climb up out of even without him being involved. He’s left his mark, a scar really. A distinguishing, disfigured feature. Something to remember him by. The John Howard Tory Memorial Dumpster Fire. Selfless public service at its finest.

You’re welcome, Toronto.

Less glaringly obvious but equally detrimental, during his time in the mayor’s office John Tory masterfully succeeded in undermining local democracy, aided and abetted from 2018 on by the premier of the province. First, he stood passively by as Doug Ford cut the number of city councillors in half in the middle of the municipal campaign, only reluctantly going along with the unsuccessful court bid to overturn the provincial decree for no other reason than optics. “I’m publicly quoted many times as having said I’ve never run into a single person—or maybe one—who said we need more politicians,” he typically wishy-washily told Paul Wells, smack dab in the middle of the attack on the governing body he’d been leading for nearly 4 years. Then, in the following campaign, his second re-election just last fall, while involving himself in some carnal office politics, no less, he quietly requested the premier give him extra-strong mayoral powers including the ability to push through items with just 1/3 of city council support, essentially 9 of 25 councillors, neglecting to inform the voters of the idea until after being re-elected.

All in a bid to concentrate more power (and less accountability) into the mayor’s office. To freeze out dissenting voices. To strengthen the bully in the bully pulpit. With the entitled arrogance expected in a man born deep into wealth and privilege, John Tory reconfigured City Hall into a boardroom, decisions and direction dictated by a few, its shareholders exclusive. The championing of minority rule where public debate was purely performative, and even that endured with piqued exasperation.

Has Toronto endured the dying gasp of this man’s patrician mediocrity? Always, always yesterday’s man that somehow kept convincing enough of us that he was anything other than a well-tailored empty suit. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice… Fool us three times. The lesson ultimately being that you can never count out anyone who represents our enduring embrace of the status quo, regardless how tattered and defective.

I fear we have not heard the last of John Tory.


2 thoughts on “Afterglower

  1. What a frightening thought. More failed Bay Street lawyer/Rogers Board Member hack John Tory to watch for in the rear view mirror? Isn’t their more family he should attend to?

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