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Toronto’s Mayoralty Candidates, From a Slight Distance, and Through a Glass, Darkly

Ain’t modern politics great? Since we mainly get the Toronto newspapers and television stations up here, we know more about Toronto’s politics than we do about our local ones, at least when it isn’t rumours about former Ontario Premier Mike Harris becoming the next UN Secretary General, or Dauphin of France—whatever his flacks are crowning him to be next.

Anyway, since Harris stuck Toronto’s suburbs up its behind a few years back to make what the television stations call “Megacity”, Toronto’s mayor, an ex-furniture dealer named Mel Lastman, has demonstrated just two skills: one for finding and exploiting photo-ops, and the second for jamming his foot inside his mouth. His popularity has waned during his second term as Skill #2 overtook Skill #1, but since neither has been much use in dealing with the difficulties the city faces as senior governments download all their local costs onto it, it’s mainly been slapstick replacing public relations while the infrastructure collapses around everyone.

With a November election facing the city, six candidates are actively campaigning for mordant Mel’s job, along with the usually fringe of single issue nitwits and amateur publicity hounds. For convenience, I’ll list the candidates from left to right, and try to give you an idea of how they appear from my dark distance.

1.) David Miller: A nice man with a very good record within his own ward, he seems to have been striken dumb—or at least confined to generalities—by his handlers, and as a result has come out looking like a better-dressed Howard Hampton, the purple-suited Provincial leader of the Sociopathic Democrats. To say that Miller lacks charisma overstates the glamour of his public persona. At this point its hard to detect what he really believes save that chickens should lay eggs—and be allowed free range provided that they lay as many eggs as their hormone drenched chained-to-the-roost sisters do, and don’t bother the neighbours. Since this more or less summarizes the firm policies of the Ontario left these days, that makes him the radical left candidate. He does have one other strong view, and that is concerning the expansion of the airport in the harbour, where, like his most prestigious supporter, Jane Jacobs, he appears to be operating on a factual base entirely made up of latterday ecofriendly old wives tales.

Among the chief objections to expansion is the pollution from landing and departing planes. It can’t be the noise, because the STOL craft fleet they’ll have to use given the short runway is quiet enough to land in your back alley without waking you up. Before the campaign is over, someone is going to embarrass Miller by pointing out that given the way the City of Toronto operates its storm sewers, the increased traffic at Pearson that will result from not allowing the harbour airport to expand—in both planes and automobile traffic—will likely land four times the pollutants in Lake Ontario. Then they’ll ask whether it’s somehow better to dump airborne pollutants directly on the heads of the citizens of Etobicoke and Vaughn than to risking oiling the toes of the few downtown poufters crazy enough to swim in Lake Ontario. And anyway, where does all the existing pollution from Pearson go? Compared to it, a tenfold increase in STOL craft movements in the harbour wouldn’t be a tenth of the crap being pissed into the air over Pearson.

2.) Barbara Hall: She was the old, smaller Toronto’s last mayor, and she lost to Mel Lastman in the MegaToronto initial election because it was immediately apparent to voters that she’d never been outside downtown Toronto, and because she had the political delivery—and ideas—of a menopausal daycare supervisor prone to address her wards with the phrase “Now children…” Six years later, she’s older, has ventured as far north as the 401 at least twice, but remains as frumpily patronizing as she was when Lastman trounced her.

John Tory: He looks about 15 years old, is a member of the ruling class (whether or not it still exists) and has had a series of high profile jobs its hard to believe he didn’t get without having to ask his dad to make a few phone calls. Now he wants to be Mayor of Toronto. What’s this man ever done except move his silver spoon from one corner of his mouth to another? And what’s his real name?

John Nunziata: He’s Italian, he’s short and bald and he hates City-TV political reporter Adam Vaughn with a passion that even Vaughn’s in-your-face reporting style shouldn’t provoke. Nunziato will probably intern journalists in a re-education camp somewhere in Scarborough if elected, but he’d jail all the wrong ones, and the real mayor would be Police Chief Julian Fantino and a bunch of guys from Woodbridge with no visible means of support. Whether or not Toronto should operate as a police state isn’t a very good election platform plank, and Nunziata is so bad at hiding this 2×12 it undermines what little credibility he has. Does Toronto need another loose cannon as its mayor, this time one with live ammunition?

Tom Jacobek: This man is an unsmiling former alderman who looks and acts like he wants to be an actor in the next remake of Night of the Living Dead. He’s campaigning on a platform of fiscal smarts, but how smart is it to be caught in bed with Tie Domi’s brother in a computer leasing scandal that bilked the city out of $50 million dollars, and to have been the budget chief while the YK2 hoax was fleecing the city of a similar chunk of cash. No one wants to know who has Tom Jacobek in their pocket, and given that everyone but his mother has disowned him as a polical stinkpot, his only purpose in the mayoralty race is to make Nunziata seem less extreme than he is.

So you decide. Is this an embarrassment of riches, or an overabundance of potential embarrassments?

988 w. July 25, 2003

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Wally Hourback

Wally Hourback

Wally Hourback lives and works in North Bay, Ontario.

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