Toronto Politics

The Man Who Said Too Little

Ok, I need to make a confession. There was once a time where I would say without too much reservation that, “I would be comfortable voting for John Tory as Mayor of Toronto.” I won’t specify how long ago that time was, but it was well before his campaign officially got under way. Back then the common objection would be that “he’s basically just a nicer Rob Ford.”

Well folks, it turns out that we were all wrong. I definitely wouldn’t vote for the loon, and he is nothing like Rob Ford. Today he really brought that home for me, when he unveiled his traffic and congestion plan. You can find a ‘story‘ about it here. What’s interesting about this, and his campaign in general is the breathtaking paucity of ideas that it encapsulates. To wit:

I think we have to think a little bit outside the box. If you think it … is of interest, come forward with your ideas and we’ll take a look at it.

Sounds sensible enough. What is out of the box for John? Water Taxis. Does he provide any evidence that they could reasonably improve transit times? Nope. Has he offered any structure or framework for this plan? Nope. Has he even reached out to potential private sector partners to find out if they would be interested? Well, that sounds like work, so you can bet your ass he hasn’t done that. Also included in his ‘plans’:

  • Better enforcement of curb violations
  • Better management of hoarding and road closures for construction
  • Express bus routes
  • Leave the Eastern portion of the Gardiner up
  • Improve traffic signals

What’s interesting about this is that 90% of it is already being worked on by Council or the city Administration, most of it wouldn’t cost anything, and none of it address the fundamental problem that vehicle density has outstripped capacity across much of the city and transit alternatives are not sufficient.

Which brings me back to Rob Ford. While you may be tempted to dismiss Tory as just another doe-eyed “cares about the working man” fiscal Conservative, he has differentiated himself from Lord Crackington quite effectively. Rob Ford’s politics are like his appetites (that is not a fat joke): he stands for everything and anything, and will take it all regardless of rules or fairness. Tax Hikes? Sure, who doesn’t love tax hikes. Improved Service? Of course, it’s not like we need taxes to pay for them! Congestion? Take a few streetcars of the road and we’ll have plenty of room!

John Tory on the other hand is the man who offers nothing but a polite tone of voice and a surplus of salmon coloured shirts. The plan he provides can be paraphrased as “We’ll do everything and anything, except for improving public transit or generally investing any money in infrastructure whatsoever.” I mentioned this on Facebook, but this is as much a ‘plan’ as asking your girlfriend “Hey, do you have plans on September first” is a marriage proposal. His plan is to do a bunch of incremental, small scale things which for the most part make sense but are already being implemented.

In the same way that you play a musty old Bill Harvey record to help grandma relax; he offers mild platitudes and comfortable nothings to distract from the complete absence of anything substantive to say. And in that way he is very different from Rob Ford (but no less dangerous).

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