He wins, city loses

Rating: NNNNNThat much-hoped-for political shift to the left in the balance of power at City Hall never materialized election night.


Rating: NNNNN


That much-hoped-for political shift to the left in the balance of power at City Hall never materialized election night Monday.The huge upsets needed to swing the pendulum never happened. In truth, the outcome was never in question.

Not in Olivia Chow’s mind.

“This stuff about being taken over by the left-wing hordes, oh my god! It was just hype.” No doubt.

Even if all the ridings targeted by activists and labour types had returned lefties, Mayor Mel would still be holding most of the cards.

Read ’em and weep. The next three years of council will not be pretty.

Provincial downloading, a billion- dollar debt, property tax reassessment and the feds’ downloading the cost of social housing will see to that. Can you say “privatization”?

“I’m very depressed,” says councillor Kyle Rae. “This city is not ready for the onslaught. I don’t see anything to be hopeful about.”

If the contempt Mel showed voters this go-round is any hint, his grip on council will tighten. His charges are spread far and wide throughout the city and the burbs. Of 44 incumbents, all but three were returned. Only a handful of them even bothered to run a campaign. All-candidates debates? There were never so few.

So, while the chattering classes chattered, voters in Little Portugal, Little Italy and all the other “little” enclaves across the city and in the burbs resoundingly returned, with few exception, the pro-Mel forces to council.

The drunken air of self-satisfaction is palpable at the mayor’s victory shindig at the Capitol Theatre on Yonge.

The mayor zips there in his limo, delivers his victory speech and zips right back out after offering a few sound bites.

Total elapsed time: 17 minutes.

With Mel wailing, “Toronto is the greatest,” you’d never know the city is on the verge of catastrophe.

“Did you think it would be so easy?” one of the media minions is overheard to ask his Meloship about the leftward shift that never was. Duh, yeah.

Confetti falls from the ceiling and Who Let The Dogs Out blares from the loudspeakers overhead. This one is a real laugher.

Jeff Lyons, the mayor’s most powerful money-raiser, has his trenchcoat on and is out the door before Mel gets through the third paragraph in his speech. Done deal, baby.

Meanwhile, even would-be lefties on council like Rae are angling for political plums before the ink is dry on the ballots. “I talked to him, but he didn’t offer me anything from his orchard,” Rae tells NOW later.

The political jockeying, it seems, has already begun.

Across town at the Hungarian House on St. Clair West, NDPer Joe Mihevc, who has survived a nasty battle with Tory Rob Davis, is still licking his wounds from the knife the mayor stuck in his back by endorsing Davis after promising not to.

“I’m really angry,” Mihevc says. “I’m eating my words.”

Still, the theologian is talking about building bridges.

And for a moment, albeit a fleeting one, there’s a sense, when you listen to Mihevc speak and watch him kibitz with supporters over the folksy strains of Neil Young’s Comes A Time, that one good thing can be said about this municipal election ­– it’s not always about who has the most money. Sometimes the good guy does win.

But even the most optimistic on the left, including Mihevc himself, seem to be bracing for war.

“The Adams Mine debate was a bit of a watershed,” Mihevc says. “We realized we don’t have to capitulate. If Mel wants to dance, people are willing to dance. If he wants to knock knees, we’ll knock knees. Certainly, in this election he did not honour commitments he made to councillors. I, for one, am willing to fight.”

Yes, the Adams Mine debate may have hardened feelings and emboldened the left, but political lobbyist and Mel insider Bruce Davis says the left shouldn’t be so “foolish” as to think Mel isn’t primed. After all, he still holds the hammer.

Divvying up plum committee positions among the mayor’s people will be a little more complicated with the smaller council. “Mel’s people don’t just want to be cannon fodder for the left,” Davis says.

But getting the four votes needed to win the day at the committee level shouldn’t be too much trouble.

David Miller, another of the mayor’s electoral targets ­– Mel endorsed Bill Saundercook in Parkdale-High Park ­– figures we’ll know soon enough whether the mayor is willing to build consensus or replay the divide-and-conquer bit that marked the last year of his term.

Miller says the issues won’t be decided so much along left-right lines, but progressive urban councillors versus suburban conservatives.

He fears, however, that Toronto may be falling into what he calls “assembly-line, machine-type politics.”

“I’ve never bought into the idea of “get into the tent and deal,'” says Miller. “People want to see their interests represented.”

For Chow, the verdict is still out.

“If there’s a common vision, then things can come out of it,” Chow says. “But if it gets into pure politics of every which stripe, there’ll be dogfights all over the place.” enzom@nowtoronto.comtoronto election

what we won Three of the mayor’s endorsees got trounced.Room for political manoeuvring.

Some respect from the right.

what we lostBlake Kinahan in Etobicoke.

A real debate on the issues.

The notion that ideas carry more weight than money in municipal elections.

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