It's a darned good thing that David Miller endorsed a couple of Liberal candidates in this week's federal election. John Godfrey and Borys Wrzesnewskyj are likely to be of considerably more help to the mayor's cause right now than just one Toronto New Democrat MP - even if that loner happens to be the party's leader. This is no knock to Jack Layton. He did what it took to get himself a seat in the House of Commons. But the fact that he couldn't drag a few more downtown NDP candidates along with him to Ottawa will limit his effectiveness as a voice for Miller's new-deal-for-cities campaign.
By virtue of his leadership position and his responsibility for defining the NDP's relationship to a minority Liberal government, Toronto-Danforth's new parliamentary rep will have to focus on national matters of the greatest importance. The mayor may well be right that "of all the federal leaders, Jack understands city-building issues best." But as a national party leader, he'll be unable to get as Toronto-specific as a regular MP from a city riding.
That's why it was critical for the New Democrats to have Peggy Nash, Olivia Chow and Peter Tabuns sitting in the same green-upholstered chamber.
"Yes, I am disappointed with the result," Miller said of the NDP's failure to pick up the breakthrough Toronto seats that, just a week ago, had seemed there for the taking in Parkdale-High Park, Trinity-Spadina and Beaches-East York.
"I'm disappointed because, even Monday night as the election was unfolding, one of the most prominent pollsters in Ontario was saying the NDP would get between two and five seats in downtown Toronto."
Well, the pollsters and the prognosticators (including this one) were wrong. Hey, it happens.
Miller was particularly stung by Nash's loss to incumbent Liberal Sarmite Bulte in Parkdale-High Park, this in spite of his giving the veteran union negotiator a personal thumbs-up to represent the riding where he lives. Neither did his endorsement of Chow in Trinity-Spadina give the veteran councillor enough of a boost to keep her ahead of now four-term Grit Tony Ianno once the Conservative fear factor started to settle over the political landscape.
Thankfully, from Miller's perspective, his Liberal friends Wrzesnewskyj (of Future Bakery fame) and Godfrey (Martin's supposed point man on the urban issues file) did win their seats quite handily in Etobicoke Centre and Don Valley West. Although the mayor publicly canvassed with both the Liberal contestants, it's unlikely he was a major factor in either of their impressive victories.
Still, Miller made his gestures of support when it looked like the duo were susceptible to Tory assault, and it's unlikely that his calls to their parliamentary offices will go unanswered in this new era, as local Grits try to come to grips with their vulnerability.
Miller expects Godfrey and Wrzesnewskyj will set an important example for other Toronto Liberals, too many of whom have long shown a shameful tendency to ignore the local electorate once the votes have been counted.
"John Godfrey's going to be very important because he clearly has the prime minister's ear," the mayor maintains. "I hope that the prime minister enhances Godfrey's role. I think he has demonstrated that the people of Toronto trust him."
Miller predicts we'll see "a very active and different" government. "I don't think we'll see one that's cautious and doesn't deliver," he says. "I think we'll see some real change."
For the better, we hope. For the better.