Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ford Era is Over...John Tory is Mayor of Toronto

 John Tory has been elected mayor of Toronto. The Ford era is over. Tory beat Doug Ford, the brother of current mayor Rob Ford, in a tight race Monday night, severing the city from the past four years of scandal, embarrassment and complete mismanagement.  Tory promised “sensible, competent, accountable” leadership after  the upheaval under Rob Ford. His win over Doug Ford and Olivia Chow was, as The Canadian Press reports — much narrower than predicted by recent opinion polls —and is a repudiation of the siblings whose behaviour outraged the city. It heralds a return to normalcy in local government.

Tory, who launched his campaign in a distant third place, took the lead for good three months ago. But the steady polling trend line belies the mayhem of a campaign in which the celebrity incumbent left the city for two months to receive treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, was diagnosed with a rare cancer, and was replaced on the ballot by his brother a mere 45 days before the vote.
Tory rose on the strength of his centrist good-government message, pleasantly staid personality and a single signature policy proposal, the “SmartTrack” surface rail line he claimed would “solve” the city’s traffic congestion problem “quickly.” With the help of endorsement upon endorsement from members of the provincial Liberal caucus, the former Progressive Conservative leader beat Chow, a former New Democrat MP, in the critical battle for middle-of-the-road voters.

Tory said his top priority is addressing the city’s traffic and transportation woes. He will soon embark on complicated discussions with the provincial and federal governments over SmartTrack, which he pitched as a 53-kilometre, 22-stop, $8-billion project built in no more than seven years.
The mayor has just one vote on the 45-member council. Tory will have to deal with a very vocal and very famous antagonist: Rob Ford was elected to his former Etobicoke North council seat despite his inability to campaign.
 ( I wonder why Torontonians would put Rob in a position of trust again....not to mention he is a sick man ). Ford, though, will again become a largely powerless outsider, that is, if his health permits him to work at all. Doug Ford’s defeat effectively concludes the chaotic and oft-surreal period in which Toronto became a fixture on late-night comedy shows — and Rob became the world’s most famous municipal politician.

Doug Ford, a conservative councillor and a businessman, ran a heavily negative and frequently dishonest campaign focused on Tory, whom he called an establishment “elite” figure uninterested in “the common folk.” Adopting much of his brother’s successful populist rhetoric, Ford presented himself as a champion of low taxes, subways, and suburbanites neglected by city hall. Before the end of voting on Monday, campaign spokesman Amin Massoudi said he is proud of what Ford’s skeletal team managed to accomplish.
“We’ve done everything we can with the time that we had,” he said. “We think we’ve run a successful campaign against some pretty serious odds.”
Chow began the campaign as the clear favourite. After months of attempting to establish her bona fides as a budget-minded centrist, she altered her message after Labour Day — newly identifying herself as a “progressive,” proposing a tax hike on the rich to pay for an expansion of student meal programs, and touting social policies intended to help marginalized people and neighbourhoods.
She, too, attacked Tory relentlessly, joining with Ford in an uncoordinated late-campaign assault on the untested technical and financial components of the SmartTrack plan. Tory brushed off his two main opponents as needlessly negative “members of the can’t-do-it committee,” and their criticism never appeared to resonate.

The campaign formally ran for 10 months, informally even longer. Tory and Chow participated in more than 50 debates each, on topics as varied as accessibility, the arts and Latino political participation. But transit was the overwhelming focus throughout. Chow was first to issue a major proposal, promising to immediately improve rush-hour bus service by 10 per cent. She was forced to make her proposal less specific when TTC officials said a quick fix wasn’t possible during peak periods.  Chow claimed throughout the spring that she was “the one person” who could beat Rob Ford. Her argument fizzled in late July, when Tory overtook her in the polls for the first time. He never trailed again.

Rob Ford took his name off the ballot because of illness. He had run a largely positive campaign focused on his policy achievements, taking personal credit for the “booming” city while asking voters to overlook his crack cocaine scandal and other “personal” failings. Doug Ford’s abbreviated campaign, launched long after Tory established himself as the man to beat, took on a sharply different tone.

Tory accompanied his wife, Barbara Hackett, to cast her ballot just steps from their downtown condo on Bloor St. W. He pronounced himself “actually very serene.” He could not sit still, though, as Ford and Chow continued canvassing in the afternoon, and he added a 20-minute glad-handing stop at Sherbourne subway station to his previously empty afternoon itinerary.
He insisted he was still calm.
“It’s an occasion to celebrate democracy, and celebrate the great city we’re in, and I hope we’re celebrating a victory, too — but I take nothing for granted,” he said.

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