David Miller took the mayor's chair Tuesday with ceremony, conviction and class. From his speech pointing to the "undeniable wind of change blowing across Canada's urban centres" and dedicating all future actions to the public interest, to the rinkside party with the citizenry, the new mayor signalled that this city is starting over. The question is, are the old right-wing curmudgeons on council ready to start over as well? Or are they poised to coalesce in some dangerous attempt at neutralizing the new agenda?
You certainly can't get a reading on this from watching John Tory.
The unemployed corporate executive made it clear he hadn't lost his touch when he joined the crowd in the council for the swearing in.
Tory gave the mayor's oratory high marks and expressed the hope that Miller would be able to deliver on the political platform he so skilfully constructed during the marathon election campaign. His remarks were upbeat and clearly genuine. Nary a disparaging word passed the lips of the one-time cable guy concerning the candidate who beat him at the polls.
Fortunately, the cream of the right-wing crop seems prepared to work from within the new administration rather than obstruct it just for the sake of being obstructionist.
Too bad the politician who invited Tory to Tuesday's ceremony at 100 Queen West, Denzil Minnan-Wong, appears to be intent on fighting the battles of an often acrimonious campaign over and over again for the next three years.
Even on this largely ceremonial occasion, when other councillors - including some very dedicated right-wingers with numerous ideological differences with Miller - were doing their civil best to show some interest in teamwork, Minnan-Wong had to signal that he has no intention of participating.
While the rest of council enthusiastically applauded what the mayor had to say about cleaning up Toronto and reversing "that unacceptable display of decline in city services," the councillor, who splits his time between City Hall and an immigration law practice, sat motionless, then brought his hands together in super-slow motion.
His contempt was most obvious when he stayed seated as the rest of the room rose to their feet to give Miller a standing ovation at the end of his 20-minute pep talk. Perhaps he was expecting other councillors who don't share the mayor's vision of the city's future to keep their butts planted in the upholstery, too, but they didn't.
After a few awkward moments alone in his seat, the former mayor Mel Lastman lackey finally rose to his feet with a tortured look on his face.
The Ward 34 rep liked things the way they were under the old regime, where he could work the backrooms to help deliver taxpayer dollars to an unelected port authority so it could build a bridge to Toronto Island Airport for the benefit of a few downtown business types.
Miller's words about council being "elected on a mandate driven by desire for open, responsible government defined by public, not private, interests" elicited the same response from Minnan-Wong that a silver cross and a wreath of garlic would get from a vampire. Too bad for the disgruntled councillor, but it's great for the new mayor. In fact, Miller should consider himself lucky that it's Minnan-Wong who's trying to become a beacon of opposition to his reform agenda and not someone who might actually be able to articulate an alternative vision.
Like Minnan-Wong, David Soknacki backed Tory for mayor and voted in favour of a bridge to the Island Airport. But that didn't stop Miller from clearing the way for Soknacki to assume the role of council's budget chief.
Councillor Mike Feldman was another Tory supporter who's been a vocal proponent of bridging the Western Gap. Yet Miller has chosen the Ward 10 (York Centre) councillor to be one of his three deputies. And Feldman was also granted his wish to be a member of the economic development committee.
Ditto for former deputy mayor Case Ootes. Not only did he get the econ development gig he wanted, but the Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth) councillor will be a key member of the critically important Toronto police services board.
What Miller has effectively done is ensure that Minnan-Wong will not have any capable allies. The inclusion of other wannabe renegades like councillors Norm Kelly, George Mammoliti and David Shiner in an opposition quartet is unlikely to make the mayor and his allies quake in their boots. And renegade loners like Doug Holyday and Doug Ford are more likely to do their own thing than to throw in with Minnan-Wong.
Maybe John Tory can have a talk with the boy.