Anyone worried that mayor-elect David Miller's City Hall is going to be run by a bunch of left-wing loonies who'll tax and spend Toronto into financial ruin can probably start to relax right now. Judging by the buzz making the rounds at 100 Queen West these days, the new chief magistrate's political administration is going to be very much the inclusive exercise he's been promising it would be since election night. This doesn't mean that Miller won't be getting plenty of advice from the New Democrat councillors who supported his bid for the mayoralty way back when virtually no one thought he had the slightest chance of winning. It's pretty much accepted as fact that Joe Pantalone, the pragmatic socialist from Ward 19 (Trinity-Spadina), will be Miller's lead hand - even if he has to share the deputy mayor title with a couple of his colleagues after next week's inaugural meeting of the new city council.
One of those co-deputies will most likely be Ward 32 (Beaches-East York) councillor Sandra Bussin. The former school trustee with a talent for political organization was one of just four incumbents who showed up to endorse Miller's candidacy when he officially registered for the mayoral campaign in early February. Bussin comes down to the left of Pantalone ideologically. But it's expected that her influence on the mayor's office will be balanced by the third member of the deputy mayor troika: Ward 10 (York Centre) councillor Mike Feldman.
The veteran North York politician's elevation to Miller's right hand will no doubt come as a surprise to many City Hall observers. The 75-year-old councillor was one of Mel Lastman's steadfast supporters during his six-year tenure as megacity mayor. And Feldman backed John Tory in the election race that concluded November 10 with the ex-cable exec in second place.
But sources say Miller has long respected Feldman's financial acumen and his commitment to neighbourhood issues. The retired business executive is a straight-shooting conservative who can get along with both sides at council and give North York a high-profile voice at City Hall. And, as a bonus, the affable former chair of the Metro Housing Development Corp. is very well informed on the critical social housing file.
Feldman won't be the only right-winger playing a major role in Miller's administration. Ward 43 (Scarborough East) councillor David Soknacki is almost certain to be chosen as council's budget chief. Like Feldman, he quietly supported Tory's bid for the chief magistrate's chair. But, unlike some of his colleagues, Soknacki didn't object when members of his office staff went to work on Miller's campaign. And he made a point of escorting the mayor-to-be on tours of his ward during the lead-up to the election.
"Soknacki's a very principled guy who had a good working relationship with Miller during the last term of council," one source advised. Although the two men have different views of the concept of contracting out municipal services, Soknacki has apparently agreed to give priority to working with staff to find cost efficiencies before any consideration is given to handing over work to the private sector.
Another underutilized politician expected to assume a much larger role on Miller's team is Michael Walker, the rogue councillor for Ward 22 (St. Paul's). Reliable sources suggest he'll most likely be picked to chair the influential administration committee that oversees the municipal bureaucracy. Walker was completely shut out of any positions of influence during Lastman's reign at City Hall. This left the midtown pol with plenty of time to criticize the soon-to-be officially ex-mayor - a mistake that Miller has no intention of repeating.
Brian Ashton, an important Miller ally going back to their time together on the TTC, appears destined to resume his one-time position as economic development committee chair. The councillor for Ward 36 (Scarborough Southwest) was instrumental in the creation of this body early in the megacity council's first term and worked hard to make it the most attractive of all of council's standing committees.
There has been some talk of removing parks, recreation and culture from the jurisdiction of the econ-development crowd in response to concerns the mayor-elect heard expressed during the election. Ward 27 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) councillor Kyle Rae has expressed interest in chairing the spin-off committee. But it's unlikely to come into existence before the halfway point of this three-year term.
Meanwhile, watch for Ward 35 (Scarborough Southwest) councillor Gerry Altobello to resume duties as chair of the planning and transportation committee. He showed considerable promise in the position during the final 18 months of the last council term. And it probably didn't hurt that the majority of voters in his ward (like those in Ashton's ward next door) marked ballots in favour of Miller for mayor.
The works committee looks like it will probably have Jane Pitfield as its chair. Works committee vice-chair since June 2002, the councillor for Ward 26 (Don Valley West) is very familiar with the important waste management and emergency services agendas. It would appear the only way Pitfield won't take on the lead role is if Bussin decides a deputy mayor's job won't be enough to keep her busy.
Olivia Chow, the workaholic councillor for Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina), apparently declined joining the deputies' triumvirate for exactly that reason. Instead, she's almost certain to return as chair of the under-appreciated community services committee.
This brings us to the powerful policy and finance committee. Miller will chair this group, which will automatically include Soknacki and, most likely, Pantalone. This will leave room for seven more councillors (none of whom can be chairs of the other eight-member standing committees) to play important roles on what has the potential to be council's executive branch. Look for a mix of left, right and centre councillors (including several of the 13 newcomers) to show up here. And watch for Howard Moscoe, the councillor for Ward 15 (Eglinton-Lawrence), to continue directing bus, streetcar and subway traffic as chair of the TTC, while Ward 23 (Willowdale) councillor John Filion returns to head the board of health.
And let's not forget the all-important police services board, to which council names three of seven members, including the mayor or his designate. It's widely believed that neither of the two remaining City Hall appointees (councillors Gloria Lindsay Luby and Frances Nunziata) will be returning to the cop shop to provide the police department with civilian oversight. One probable replacement is said to be Sylvia Watson, former city solicitor and newly elected councillor for Ward 12 (Parkdale-High Park).
"Sylvia would be a breath of fresh air on the board," a City Hall insider said recently.
No argument there.