Mayoral hopeful Joe Pantalone pushes the positive because there’s good reason to.
Further proof - besides looking out the window - that Toronto is not the anarchic, chaotic, tire-fires-in-the-street Gomorrah that mayoralty candidates Rob Ford and George Smitherman would have us believe came this week with the release of the Toronto Community Foundation's Vital Signs report.
The group's annual report of Toronto's health details the kind of good news the two tax-cut candidates swear doesn't exist in this city and instead paints a picture that's in sync with candidate Joe Pantalone's claims that Toronto is "fantastic, a garden that needs pruning and care," not a complete slash-and-burn.
The Vital Signs report shows the city's GDP has gone from $86 billion in 1987 to $121 billion in 2009. Poverty rates for seniors and children are on the decline, the crime rate has dropped for the third year in a row (3.8 per cent since 2008), residential taxes are the lowest in the GTA, and the cost of doing business is relatively low in Toronto compared with London, New York and Paris.
At the same time, PricewaterhouseCooper says Toronto is number one in terms of livability, and the Mercer Quality Of Living Survey ranks it 16 last year among 221 cities around the world.
These good-news reports formed a delicious subtext to the latest mayoralty debate, Tuesday, October 5, hosted by Metro Morning's Matt Galloway and broadcast Tuesday night on CBC Radio in part because Toronto Community Foundation chair Rahul Bhardwaj co-hosted the event. (A podcast of the debate is up on CBC's website.)
The radio broadcast reduced the candidates to voices and tone for listeners, and Ford emerged as peevish, tired and repetitive. He not only looks like overweight funnyman Chris Farley, on radio he sounds like him, without the intentional laughs. Ford kept citing athletics as a way to help disadvantaged youth but got flustered when Galloway said, "What about people who aren't athletes like me?"
Ford sputtered and claimed he can't do it all. "I'd be in theatre if I could."
Smitherman was glum and ghostly, sounding beaten down and perhaps forced to be flat as he pounded out his message of a badly broken city in need of dramatic intervention.
Pantalone was upbeat and positive, in part reflecting his image of the city he sees.
"Toronto is fantastic and can be super-fantastic," he gushed as he cited achievement after achievement, from the world-leading greening of Toronto to the promise of Transit City.
Pantalone told of emigrating from his tiny Italian town "where everyone looked like me, tall," and moving with his parents and seven siblings to a city where his classroom was filled with Jamaicans, Portuguese, South Asians and more. He reminded listeners that his father was "a pick and shovel man" who helped build the Bloor-Danforth subway.
In fact, the only negative news from the Vital Signs report was the emergence of dangerously disconnected suburbs, a problem the in-motion Transit City light rail plan would help fix.
Pantalone attacked Smitherman and Ford's subway dreams, saying they would take too long and are unaffordable. We are building Transit City now, said Pantalone, and the problem can be addressed.
A beleaguered Ford claimed he could somehow get a subway built in three to four years, in part because he is buddies with federal Tory hatchet man Jim Flaherty.
Galloway challenged the naysaying candidates, claiming, "The theme of this election seems to be running against the city people want to run."
Smitherman, sounding tired of his own downbeat claims, managed one good laugh as Ford taunted him for voting himself a pay raise as an MPP. "That's because I didn't have two jobs," a swipe at the day-job-holding Ford, who works at his family's decal business.
Another of Ford's unintended laughs occurred when he complained "Toronto is a dirty city," noting how he keeps his decal shop clean. "First thing in the morning I get the janitor to pick everything up."
As the negative-campaigning candidates themselves seem weary of their message of mayhem and the city is filled with fall colours - newly posted election signs as well as the leaves - the race is still very much on to save us from those who would save a city that doesn't need saving.
David Miller's Wednesday-morning endorsement of Pantalone raises the stakes even more as he claims his deputy mayor is the only one who can lead Toronto. Miller noted that ship-abandoning lefty councillor Joe Mihevc, who's endorsed Smitherman, tried to get Miller to quit the race that the mayor eventually won seven years ago.
"You don't vote for someone because they are less awful than someone else," said Miller in endorsing Pantalone, as he proved this election is still very much in play.