If I have been preoccupied this year, and at this point in my life there is a lot to keep me occupied, the Toronto municipal election was the most emotionally stressful. It's probably the closest I have come to being a sports fan; obsessed with watching, but not actually particpating. Due to current life priorities, I don't have the time to volunteer like I did in 2003 (or 2006) , and I'm not a believer in social media campaigning. This leaves me a passive observer reading the paper/Internet and worrying.
I am not a Ford supporter. It's partially because of his politics, as I am more skeptical of the private sector then he is, but mainly because of the man himself. I often said that I disagree with Harper but I believe that he is a thoughtful man; he has a mind bent to task of running the government and truly is serving Canada first. I do not believe that is the case with Ford. Manners matter, and there is something to be said for kindness, principle and understanding the need for compromise. Ford is a reckless bully, ill suited to government where power is shared (versus the private sector where boss rule is supreme) and he didn't really understand all the neighbourhoods he was mayor for.
And so I have watched the year long campaign with the main hope that Ford would lose. Unlike most people I was happy with either Chow or Tory and believe our city would both be well by both. I leaned to Tory more for political than policy reasons. One, he is new to council, and gives the councillors a chance to show how they can cooperate and give a sense that Ford was the problem. I feel Chow would have difficulty making the council "turn the page". Two, I feel he is in a better position to neogitate with the city union and service providers, I fear Chow would have the similary problems that Miller had in 2009. These reasons are mostly rationalizing, the main reason I preferred Tory is that he is a compromise candidate. Also, he is not Ford.
I found the campaign interesting, except that the Fords kind of poisoned the debate. The election was about getting rid of Rob Ford. I feel that Chow ( whose platform I liked for the most part) did herself in. She was the aggressive anti-Ford, attacking Ford while letting Tory be the sunny "we just need to work together" candidate. I think she got tangled up in the "circus" and citizens were looking for a break. I remember reading that her campaign team actively worked on other potential progressive candidates to keep them out of the race. I wonder now if that was a mistake. The campaign was 1 Progressive and a bunch of Conservatives of different temperant. If there had been more progressive voices, there would have been more debate on issues of the left, moving beyond transit, development, and fiscal management (they are important but they are one part of the city's life). There is a sense a lot was missed in this campaign.
The final nail in the coffin was Doug Ford coming in the last month, able to spend all his campaign finances in one month whereas everyone else had been spending it over the course of a year. Doug also brought in a relentess attack on Tory. The last month of a campaign is always the worse as the desparate runners go negative hard and fast to try and create doubt about the frontrunner. It is just awful to watch.
Still, at the end of the day we have a candidate who knows the city, has been active in it most of his life, really wants council to work and get things done. It is like the first term of Mel Lastman, before the nonsense begins. I guess in a democracy that is all you can hope for.
At the end of the day, Ford is not Mayor. He is still on council, but I feel his short era is over. The populism that he used to get to power (which he wasted) will likely be taken up by a more able "Every man" rich man in 2018. But for now, we can focus on issues. The city's arguments will not be about morals and bullying but instead about highways, subways, jobs, parks, budgets, and details.
If there is one wish I have after this frustrating four years, is that people take Bill Davis' words of wisdom to heart; "Bland works". We can disagree on what should be done, but we should all agree that details matter. Knowing stuff, be it fiscal math or door to door understanding of the city, is a key strength in our city doing the right thing and moving forward. Let the Scandal and Intrigue be left to the arts, in our novels and movies. Let our government be beautifully dull. Let Policy win the day.
On a personal note, the election has inspired me to get involved, somehow, in making this city better. Now, I just need to figure out how and when. It will be more challenging than yelling at the newpaper or television on how the world is wrong, but I believe it will be more fulfilling in the end. Wish me luck.