Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More commentary on the Toronto mayoral race

Much as the prospect of teabaggers winning control of the US Congress is a bit worrisome (but see here for some perspective on that), the prospect of someone who is a teabagger in all but name becoming mayor of Canada's largest city is more than a little stomach-churning. But as noted before, not everyone thinks Smitherman is enough of an improvement on Ford to be worthy of support. The Star's Royston James has this to say:

So, before you hold your nose and vote Smitherman, you should ask yourself: What is it about Ford that scares me? Who and what am I voting for? Why am I voting against someone? Because, holding your nose and voting, well, stinks — especially after the vote.

So what are you want from next Monday’s vote?

If your priority is to get someone at city hall who can stand on the international and national stage and represent Toronto — because he speaks well and “looks like a mayor,” then maybe Smitherman gets your vote hands-down. His years as deputy premier were a rehearsal for the role. He is motor mouth.

If your priority is to continue the legacy left by outgoing mayor David Miller — an ethic of growth in city services and civic staff, bike lanes and European-style streetcars, environmental initiatives and making Toronto the greenest city on the planet — then Joe Pantalone is your candidate.

And if you are concerned about city hall spending and the growth of the city’s budget and the perennial fiscal deficit even after hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been added to the ledger, then Ford has earned a penny-pinching reputation.

Now, if you find Ford’s anti-spending policies so repulsive that he must be stopped, then you might be careful with your dalliance with Smitherman, especially if your concern is the diminution or destruction of city services. On that score, both candidates are closer than the Anybody-but-Ford crowd lets on.

From the city budget perspective, Smitherman may even be worse for you.

That sounds strange given what we already know about Ford, but James makes some good points:

First, he advocates a tax freeze in 2011, turning his back on some $60 million he obviously needs. Not even Ford does that.

Second, Smitherman plans to run up to Queen’s Park for a $100 million subsidy to balance the books. Again, he’s alone on that. And he suggests he will get this money even though his budget numbers show the city with a surplus of $50 million. In other words, his friend Dalton will give him $100 million and add to the province’s ballooning deficit so Toronto can net a $50 million surplus.

These two points are relevant because Smitherman intends to spend more on a range of platform promises than either Pantalone or Ford. So, he needs more “savings” to balance the books.

Now on the other side of the coin, of course, is the fact that Ford is so personally offensive. No need to go over the reasons again and again; the guy is ridiculous. And there's no doubt that the next four years will be rather embarrassing for Torontonians if Ford wins (perhaps even worse than Lastman's final term). Nonetheless, I stand by my prediction that if Ford does win he will either serve a single term, or else moderate his behaviour. And in any case, it's not a case of the entire city council being taken over by Ford clones; I'm pretty sure he won't have the votes on council to do all the crazy things he says he wants to do. So all things considered, if I lived in Toronto, I'd feel fine about casting my vote for Pantalone.

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