It was somehow fitting that john Tory ended up sitting centre stage at a mayoral debate in the grand hall of the Design Exchange on Tuesday. From his assigned position at the head table, the veteran backroom boy with considerable cable TV experience could reach easily to both the right and left for ideas to preview on behalf of other contenders for the role of Toronto's next chief magistrate. But there's a certain perception that the guy who quit his job as CEO over at pay-per-view central to play full-contact politics is starting to look a lot more at ease with the game he has chosen. Heck, Tory managed to pick the policy pockets of both Miller and Nunziata without either of them hardly noticing they'd been robbed.
Nunziata was particularly hard-hit in the early-morning raid. He's been putting himself across as the law-and-order hard-liner in this mayoral contest.
It barely seemed to matter that several weeks before, Tory showed up in Regent Park to announce his "Criminals Out" neighbourhood protection plan. He'd talked about putting 400 more cops on the street, cracking down on sex offenders and imposing a moratorium on any more of them being allowed to come here.
Drug houses would be shut down on his watch at City Hall. Illegal immigrant criminals would be deported and panhandlers put out of business. Even dangerous driving would be curtailed thanks to his influence on police headquarters.
"The time for talk is over," Tory said. "It's time for action and results."
But the protection plan was something of a one-day wonder insofar as public impact was concerned. And then along came Nunziata with his all his "tough love" and "zero tolerance" lingo, so the chair of Lastman's last two elections campaigns found himself looking for something else to put his name on.
At some point, Tory took a liking to the transit ridership strategy Miller helped conceive while serving as a TTC commissioner. He went on about how an improved transit system is the only way to get people out of their cars.
"People will say we don't have the money, and they're right," Tory advised. "But that's no excuse for us to sit around and say we're just not going to develop transit. We should be building something every year."
Just so long as the money doesn't come out of the police budget, of course. "We have to clean up crime, clean up the streets," Tory told the forum audience of about 200 commercial realtors.
But after listening to Nunziata's complaints that "the public isn't supporting the police in the way they ought to be supported," Tory chose to take a slightly different approach. In a speech to supporters in North York the night before, he pledged to "stop the vicious spiral of violence that is sweeping Toronto."
But at the debate he said the cops also have a responsibility "to maintain the confidence of the entire community." In other words, the police department has some work to do in the public relations area. Tory insisted one of his first acts as mayor would be to sit down with cop brass and say, "We cannot have a situation where we have conflict between the police and elements of our community.
"I would stay in my office with those people until we sorted something out," he advised.
John Tory - the crime fighter with a Metropass.