Riding to Miller's victory party at Steam Whistle Brewing, I passed through a part of Toronto I have little occasion to visit. It has always struck me as unsure of itself - not quite waterfront, not quite downtown, neither residential nor industrial.
After last night, add to that "a region that's changing faster than my ability to recognize it."
The place is being dug up like a gold rush in reverse: things are being put in the ground, not taken out. My first thought was that when it comes to the waterfront, developers are getting there first. My second thought was, maybe Miller's not racing them.
My third was that no one has said much about it either way. At the Miller party, after traversing this strange netherland of wealth, most of the conversation was about the ward races. The mayoral contest most talked about was the 2003 race.
That's only natural. No one expected Miller to lose, so now it's back to business, and it's the makeup of the new council that determines what that business will be.
And oh look! The same. But more of it. At first blush, the results are hardly shattered earth. What they amount to is cautious approval, what you'd expect for a cautious mayor of a cautious city leading a tenuous and altogether cautious council majority.
So we had no real hangover, except for those who went to bed early and missed the 11th-hour news that jubilation over Case Ootes losing had been premature. That wave of sadness moving across the city started when the last 200 votes put Toronto-Danforth bike-lane destroyer Ootes over rival Diana Alexopoulos by a mere 70.
But last time, an Ootes ouster would have been unthinkable. This time it very nearly happened; same with Cesar Palacio, who inched by activist Alejandra Bravo by a mere 200 votes. (Note to north Davenport: you are the only ones who think this man is a real councillor).
Progressives seem to have more cred than before, and for the first time in recent memory Parkdale is exclusively repped by the NDP, which is getting more radical as it gets closer to the ground, just as it should.
Let's hope this is what Miller sees not just the return of a voting bloc. Lefty downtown incumbents Pam McConnell, Kyle Rae and Adam Giambrone all got solid support. They also had no real challengers and garnered proportionally the same support they got last time. Same for Miller lieutenants Sandra Bussin and Joe Pantalone.
It was the energetic Paula Fletcher and Shelley Carroll who scooped up what could truly be called triumphs. They vote with the mayor, they often agree with the mayor, but they aren't Millerites.
On balance, voters gave Miller only what he needed to work with and some diligent watchdogs. In the right corner, there's Karen Stintz. The councillor managed to gain 700 more votes despite 7,000 fewer voters than last time. She's fought with more subtlety than any other right-winger and she'll be around longer than Ootes.
In the other, we have Adam Vaughan. His dislikes include rampant development and the mayor. His pastimes will include making maverick Michael Walker feel nostalgic and voting with the mayor but there will be a price for his vote, and that's what he was elected for.
Let's just hope he remembers that he was indeed elected.
Even Gord Perks is a double-edged sword. He'll be supportive of any visionary initiatives coming from the Miller camp, but he'll also be unflinchingly ascerbic when council drops the ball.
Miller said he would open up City Hall. This election was the collective peek through that door. We're ready to bolt if this gets weird.
So perhaps the folks at the big office will permit a few humble suggestions:
1) It can't be lost on anyone that both Stintz and Vaughan are on record as opposing, from right and left, the way development is being handled. I'm thinking here of the monied towers I passed on the way to the mayor's fete. There are certainly no groundswells for those who crusade for the status quo on this issue. Genuine local planning involvement could bring people closer to City Hall.
2) And that was the point, wasn't it, after all? The round tables on the environment, seniors, a beautiful city were a good start. If folks aren't allowed to offer deeper, more meaningful input, we're stalled. And the dinosaurs aren't that far behind.
3) On that note, this is the time when a mayor decides how to placate his opponents. Last term, Miller feinted right with cops and a homeless sweep. Maybe less of that? Instead, the mayor should be less stridently secretive on deals like Bombardier and Green Lane. This would remove his opponents' secret weapon.
4) Maybe now is the time to salvage the bits of Pitfield's campaign that made sense. (Don't worry, most of them weren't really hers anyway.) Reaching out to Scarborough in a significant way would make sense, especially in light of Michael "mayor of Malvern' Thompson's remarkable showing. Perhaps any new streetcar ROW's could go there. Miller might find that the councillors would actually pull for him on this, and that would pre-empt any more silly subway talk.
5) The best thing for Miller and everyone else to remember is that voting doesn't necessarily tell you what people want; it only tells you what people feel ready to expect from the political system. Really, they want a bit more. These results are, despite all the naysaying, a sign of hope, and that's something of a compliment.
By the same token, it would be an insult to disappoint them.