Still waiting for the right candidate
Today I went to a walk-in clinic and the magazine on the shelf from this spring had on the cover George Smitherman’s face and the main article was titled: "George Smitherman vs. Himself" (Toronto Life, March 2010). This morning, six months later, all the papers had articles around, “Ford: His Race to Lose”.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone had a race to win? A win-win proposition where all Torontonians could actually win?
Smitherman was winning, far ahead of all. The perception is that he thought it was a done deal. He even decided to adopt a baby in the middle of what would have been the biggest political race of his life. He was mostly out of the picture, while Ford was making wildly absurd negative remarks about the city and its current administration.
All of the sudden, Rob Ford was close. Smitherman, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson panicked and decided to be Ford imitators, focussing on everything negative they could think of, not realizing the doomsayers have a limit, probably a third of the city, and they had already chosen Ford. Nevertheless, they went straight for the same group.
These candidates who apparently had a chance to win, forgot about the majority of Torontonians who like the City of Toronto. Actually more than one in two residents were born in a country other than Canada and made Toronto home. This was not because it is a terrible place but because it is a very good city; it can be better, as all good cities can, and we are looking for someone to lead our very good city into becoming a great one.
It is true that 30 years ago Toronto had a great reputation; it is equally true that it was a fraction of the current city so we would be comparing apples with oranges. We must also remember that just 10 years ago we had as mayor a furniture salesman who insulted Africans and made the worst of the process of amalgamation increasing all costs and decreasing all revenues, in other words assuming all the costs and none of the benefits.
Nevertheless in the last eight years, yes under Mayor David Miller, the city in partnership with the private sector and the non-profit has made impressive gains: the waterfront project is finally showing concrete results, Transit City is a doable and workable plan, its environmental achievements are internationally recognized, the priority neighbourhoods are moving forward in eliminating poverty, the AGO, TIFF and ROM became world class facilities, and many more.
Much more still needs to be done. But we do not need a saviour and we are not in crisis mode. Actually Toronto is one of the cities that has adjusted and thrived best in the middle of the world economic crisis.
We need a Mayor that will lead the process of moving from very good to becoming a great city.
There is still time to find a candidate to vote for and not against, to move us forward and not backward. The small minority of fatalists already have their candidate.
On the other hand, the people who love the city and want to make it even better, those who want a more vibrant, competitive, egalitarian, inclusive place to live, a city for people, are still waiting for the right candidate.
This is still a race to win.
About Gil Penalosa