on for an exciting ride|
Welcome to the
municipal election, Toronto. And in case you needed an exciting mayoral
race to command your attention you are about to get it, less than a month
to voting day, Nov. 10.
Barbara Hall, David Miller and John Tory are locked in a three-way
race, with Miller making the largest gains, Tory steadily climbing and
Hall's support falling like autumn leaves. John Nunziata and Tom Jakobek
are so far out, and fading, they're relegated to playing the role of
In election years, the day after Thanksgiving is when Torontonians
traditionally turn their full attention to who's running for mayor, city
councillor and school trustee. For some voters, it's the first time they
start paying any attention.
How the top three candidates perform under the scrutiny leading to
election day will determine who leads Toronto, likely for the rest of the
Inside the bubble that surrounds each political campaign, the
candidate is often the last to spot the trend, especially one bending
downwards. That's because handlers and volunteers and followers and
workers are there to boost the candidate, keep his or her spirits up
through the peaks and valleys of the contest. It takes an independent
outside force to inject reality into a campaign.
That reality check came from a Toronto Star poll published last
Saturday. It provided a troubling snapshot for the Hall team. Though she
still leads with 34 per cent of decided voter support, that number was
once as high as 47 per cent.
As voters begin to listen up, she's being exposed as vulnerable.
Hall jumped out early in January, along with Nunziata, Jakobek and
Miller. Tory jumped in by spring. And after 10 months, we are down to
three with a real chance of winning. Miller (27 per cent) has vaulted into
second place, with Tory third at 21 per cent.
Polls are not infallible; but modern research methods make them
most accurate. This Star/Ekos poll is considered accurate to within four
percentage points, 19 times out of 20. This could have been the rogue
poll. But it would be foolish to believe so. The fact is that Hall has
run, from what we can see, a disastrous campaign. Miller has parlayed one
issue — opposition to the island airport — into an article of faith, a
branding method, a means of separating him from the crowded field. And
Tory has presented voters with the most comprehensive and thoughtful
platform so far, propelling him from near zero recognition to a real
Hall still leads. And her solid campaign organization that has its
tentacles out into the suburbs may be able to sustain her through the
difficult last month and deliver the votes on election day. No doubt she
will step up media advertising and roll out a series of platform papers to
show she still has the fire and drive to win this contest. But momentum is
not on her side. She doesn't play well at debates, especially against the
very proficient Tory, Miller, Nunziata and Jakobek — all possessing
greater debating skills. And we are into the big debating season, with
three televised debates in the next three weeks.
Miller knew he was the man on the rise, even before the Star poll.
He can expect greater scrutiny now that he's in this position.
"I had a fabulous week," he said
Friday, before the Star poll results came out. "Weeks like this make my
steps light. We are starting to close the gap. We are going to need all
the way to election day to get there. I can feel it happen."
His opponents are going to play up his weak spot, his NDP
connection as the only party member in the race. Sources close to the
candidate say he considered dropping his NDP membership to make his
candidacy more palatable, but dropped the idea because it would have been
too transparent for a city councillor who consistently votes to the left
As the city's fiscal condition becomes more of an issue, voters
will want to know how Miller's pro-union position will affect budget, when
almost 80 per cent of city spending goes to salaries.
"His Achilles heel is he's seen as a union supporter," says one
supporter. "Can he get changes to the union contracts? Can he get the
unionized workers to play ball?"
Miller's position will be, "Who better than me to get the unions to
listen and be reasonable?"
Tory is the only non-politician of the bunch. But he will have to
fend off questions about his days as a kitchen cabinet adviser to retiring
Mayor Mel Lastman. He was also a strategist and fundraiser for the
Progressive Conservative party and served as principal secretary to former
premier Bill Davis.
Opponents will paint him as part of the old boys network that
ruined the city's reputation — even as he sells himself as the businessman
who can turn around the city's fortunes and bring a needed rigour and
self-discipline to city hall.
Toronto is extremely fortunate. None of the three will embarrass
the city. There is not a dim bulb among them. Each is substantial,
thoughtful, capable, energetic, intelligent and entirely supportable —
depending on the set of issues important to a particular voter.
With nearly half of the voters undecided, Tory, Miller and Hall
will be the subject of much discussion and debate for the next month.
The next mayor could be elected by less than one-third of Toronto
voters. The proverbial "every vote counts" may turn out to be true.
`Weeks like this make my
steps light. We are starting to close the gap.'
Mayoral candidate David Miller
Royson James usually appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Email: [email protected]