Five early signs Hogtown’s new honcho John Tory is heading in the same direction as the old one – minus the crack pipe.
Yes, Tory needs to cover the bases – and his own ass. Not least among those bases are former Ford loyalists who might still be inclined to sidle up to their old boss and make life difficult for the new one. The former mayor will no doubt be sucking up a lot of oxygen in the press as he battles cancer while, more importantly, eyeing re-election in 2018. That in part explains why so many Fordists were reappointed to Tory’s executive, and staunch Ford allies like Frances Nunziata were handed plums despite undistinguished tenures under Ford. Tory could have opted to bring more lefties into the fold, but the transition team charged with ensuring a smooth entry into his new role judged that too dangerous. In the process he’s made a major tactical blunder by isolating a huge voting block – many of the same folks who voted for council’s progressives voted for him. More importantly, he’s failed to deliver on his campaign promise to conduct business differently. As a consequence, we’re already seeing signs that Tory’s honeymoon may end up being the shortest in mayoral history.
Not saying he has anything to hide, but it’s odd that the guy whose first campaign pledge was to run a transparent government would conveniently choose late Friday afternoon, November 28 – when most people were on their way home for the weekend or not paying attention – to issue a press release about how he intends to handle potential conflicts that may arise at council because of his many business interests. In particular, he’ll be recusing himself from debate on expansion of the Island airport, in which his son, who owns a charter company, has a financial interest. But that doesn’t take into account what private discussions he has already had outside City Hall before assuming his role as mayor on the airport and other matters on which he may have a conflict. Where he stands on the issue couldn’t be more plain: his principal secretary and chief of staff are both former lobbyists with the firm handling the airport file at City Hall. Potentially more problematic is that Tory intends to stay on as a trustee and director of the Rogers Control Trust of Rogers Communications, he says out of sense of obligation to his late friend Ted Rogers. What about Tory’s obligation to the taxpayers of Toronto? It’s already taking a back seat.
Ordinarily that would be a good thing, but Tory’s motivation raises suspicion. He says it’s to change the culture of the board after much sniping with retiring Chief Bill Blair and the police union. But with the removal of vice-chair Michael Thompson, an ardent critic of the current chief, Tory seems more intent on smoothing the waters than taking a serious look at the ballooning police budget. On that, the shell game began early, with Tory pal Blair’s request of the board a couple of weeks back to flatline spending and reduce the size of the force. It was all for the cameras, of course. Neither is actually doable with contract talks underway that will once again make Toronto’s force the highest paid in the country. Meanwhile, on the police practice of carding of black youth, Tory is sounding like the same guy who won the police union’s endorsement when he last ran for mayor in 2003. He says progress has been made on the file, when nothing could be further from the truth.
The appointment reeks of patronage. It’s no secret that Minnan-Wong has been a protege of Tory’s, which will mean he’ll do as he’s told by Tory’s Bay Street buddies with a privatization agenda. To add insult, Minnan-Wong has also been appointed to the board of Waterfront Toronto. That’s right, the guy who presided over the Gardiner’s collapse and whose hate-on for the waterfront agency rivals only Ford’s (Minnan-Wong is also a big supporter of Island airport expansion) is Tory’s point man on the priciest real estate in the country. Wait. Didn’t Tory in a previous life want to condofy Ontario Place? Ah, yes, it’s all coming into sharper focus now.
All of a sudden Tory’s floating Olivia Chow’s promise to restore bus service cut during the Ford administration while we wait seven years for his SmartTrack surface rail initiative, which is really the province’s plan (but that’s another story). Unfortunately, the $25 million needed for more bus service is nowhere to be found. He made a big deal of fighting gridlock during the campaign. He said he’d appoint himself head of a special advisory committee on the subject. The big idea? He’s proposing more parking enforcement for cars parked illegally during morning and evening rush hours, which should fatten city coffers (and make the cops happy) but will do zero to solve gridlock. It’s more cash grab than transportation strategy. Plus ça change….
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