More Civic Follies in Toronto’s Mayoralty Race
It’s coming down to the wire now with the November 10th election less than a week away. The early leader, pre-amalgation Toronto mayor Barbara Hall, has dropped to third. Her campaign has consisted of very little else than patronizingly-enunciated clichés about leadership, of which she showed none whatsoever during her elected term save pursuing every fashionable social cliché going. I suspected her bid might founder when I saw her down at a home improvement show at the CNE in early October while I was buying a new vacuum clearer. She was so buff she appeared to be encased in shrink-wrap, and she was talking on a cell phone. I wandered over to eavesdrop, and judging from what I heard coming out of her mouth—a string of politician-speak slogans like “we’re meeting with a wide varied of community interests,” and so on—I figured she just was pretending to be talking to someone so she’d be making a public appearance and be spared having to talk to people who don’t work for her or haven’t been to a tanning salon in the last 10 days—or are under the age of seven. Either that or she’s the dullest conversationalist this side of my dog. I’m not sure which is the more reasonable explanation, now that I think it through.
The current leader in the race is social democrat David Miller, followed closely by John Tory, who is named after his own political persuasion. Then comes Hall, with John Nunziata and Tom Jacobek bringing up the rear, so to speak. Miller continues to be for everything people who live within sight of Lake Ontario would like to have happen if the corporations weren’t running the country and senior governments weren’t downloading their deficits onto the cities. He’s a likeable man, and his stature has grown during the campaign because he occasionally answers questions without slithering, and because he hasn’t shown any of the drooling eagerness for power that’s so evident in the others. Miller’s public persona is calm and dignified, and that, rather than his left-of-centre politics, is likely what’s put him in the lead.
John Tory, despite his watery-eyed, nerdy manner and the silver spoon hanging conspicuously from his lips, is running a decent campaign. He managed to get the endorsement of Toronto police union chief thug Craig Brommel, something that was one of the many kisses of death that did in the Ernie Eaves provincial Conservatives last month. Brommel’s support isn’t quite that in civic politics, but the endorsement, along with Tory’s inability to distance himself from Mel Lastman, to whom he was rumoured to have been an advisory during the computer scandals, is good reason not to vote for him. Tory has also made himself conspicuous by being the only candidate willing to mount a serious proposal for dealing with Toronto’s garbage, which is, given that it’s currently being shipped to a landfill in Michigan, the most serious of the many political time-bombs ticking away in the office Lastman’s abandoned about a year ago. Tory wants to incinerate the garbage, but is vague about where the incinerators will be located. If he’d agree to put them all in Rosedale, I think I’d vote for him, notwithstanding the endorsement from Brommel and the fact that Mel Lastman’s pre-hair transplant toupe keeps falling out of his back pocket.
The campaign of John Nunziata seems to be dead in the water, which is, given his increasingly strange attacks on the other candidates, the best possible location for it because it keeps the stink down. Nunziata used to be a member of the federal Liberal party—an MP on the way up—until he decided that the GST was a communist conspiracy. He remains a poster child for how far the to right the Liberals have tilted, but his achille’s heel is that he’s so crazed with ambition that he gives the impression he’d do anything to get elected to office except listen to what’s coming out of his own mouth. In any case, his opportunism and his reactionary policies have become too visible to keep him close to the real contenders short of having them murdered.
Tom Jacobek has pretty much played himself throughout the campaign, which has been pretty amusing because he’s a man trying to wade through a self-made swamp of political tar and feathers. One suspects he’s also playing the role of his staff, since he never seems to have any around him. The one thing you can say for him is that, unlike Hall, people actually do talk to him on his cell phone, which rang during a public debate and so startled him he nearly fell off the podium. It was probably Tie Domi’s brother on the other end of the line, offering him still more free tickets to hockey games. Let’s just hope that this time, the games are in Lower Slobbovia or Liberia.
There are 40 some other candidates running for mayor, all of whom have about the same chance of getting elected than Jacobek,. Some are nearly as loony, too.
One of the entertainments of the campaign has been the Toronto Star’s ongoing efforts to get the candidates to say something substantial, going so far at one point that they asked each one the same not-too-hard question and then timed how long it took each to say nothing. Typically, it took only 15 seconds for Miller to drop-kick the question through the goalposts, while Hall wasted more than two minutes to say even less. Royson James, the paper’s wonderfully well-connected city columnist, finally came out in support of Tory, probably because James’ fundamentalist Christian beliefs make it impossible for him to believe that Miller isn’t finally just another godless commie even though James’ own compiled evidence indicates Miller is the best candidate.
I have a bad feeling that Tory is going to win, too, despite his resemblance to those rodents who are currently chewing on the compost in my back yard. The right wing in Canada is always better organized than the left during the last days of elections: they have more money, and they have, despite their small, pointed heads, a more unrestrained ambition. They’re much better at getting people in comas into the polling booths, even if they have to be hauled in on respirators. Miller may still land on the pike of his view-of-the-lake policies and his position on the expansion of the airport on Toronto Island—something that he’s not really in a position to stop anyway.
Anyway, everyone should remember to vote early on November 10th, and, as they’re fond of doing in Montreal, vote often.
November 4, 2003 950 words