Hmm... If (and this is by no means certain) John Tory loses the race to become mayor of Toronto, he will not have lost much. Sure, he lost to David Miller, an NDPer that the hysterical Sun has tried to portray as a vampire-toothed tax-and-spend socialist, but Miller is a very capable man, and both he and Tory were in single digits just six months beforehand, well behind Ms. Goliath, Barbara Hall. Mr. Tory has campaigned well, and has significantly intrigued over a third of the Toronto electorate, even in the face of a very strong opponent. Even among the Miller camp, John Tory is respected.
So, where does he go from here? Richard Gwyn has a suggestion. The idea of John Tory leading the merged Conservative Party of Canada (assuming that gets off the ground which, like the Toronto mayoralty race, is by no means certain) made me raise my eyebrows and nod appreciatively, rather than roll my eyes whenever Stephen Harper's name is mentioned as a possible leader, or bear my teeth whenever Mike Harris' name is put forward.
John Tory would give a lot of credibility to a merged Conservative party in Ontario. He is very familiar with the party apparatus, working on Kim Campbell's failed election bid and (more promisingly) the Bill Davis election victories. He seems moderate, and is able to duck the nasty connections with the Mel Lastman and Mike Harris administrations. He would put an Ontario face on what would otherwise be a Western regional protest party. And with a last name like his, doesn't that just make him the candidate of destiny?
There would be questions, of course. Running as well as he has for mayor of Toronto is a good line on his resume, and a boost for his national profile, but as a federal leader, he is untested. His long experience in the backroom makes him as credible a candidate as Hugh Segal, but the lack of front-line experience could make him an Ontarian Stockwell Day.
A bigger question for me would be, would the new merged Conservative party have him as leader? He's Ontarian. He appears to be a Red Tory. He has been critical of the Harris Administration's treatment of Toronto, and Mike Harris is possibly the one PC candidate that the former Alliance members would embrace.
Personally, I would like John Tory to stay in Toronto. If Miller wins, Tory should be brought on board as a senior advisor (and vice versa if Tory wins). Both are good men with good ideas and both are committed to the future of the City of Toronto. I give the edge to Miller because, like Andrew Spicer, Miller appeals to me more as a visionary, a civic architect, while Tory's strengths are as a manager, a sort-of engineer. The city would be well served with either man as mayor, and it would be a shame to see 50% of that talent go to waste.
Well, with the municipal elections not yet over, all of this is just speculation. But it will be interesting to follow Tory's next moves in the coming weeks, as the proposed merger between the PCs and the Alliance comes together, or possibly flies apart.
Proof that party politics has little place on the municipal level is not hard to come by. This article from the National Post has a good catalogue of municipal candidates and campaign advisors crossing provincial and federal party lines with impunity. Not only is Warren Kinsella helping an ardent Tory, Miller himself has Conservative and Liberal support, and Barbara Hall is taking help from all sort of sources.
How is it that party lines have become so entrenched in the provincial and federal levels? I'm sure textbooks have been written on this with no conclusive answer as to why...
Not only will I be watching the Toronto mayoralty race and the various races here in Waterloo Region, I'll be casting an eye to Caledon, where blogger Rick Jessup is putting on a good showing in his first ever election campaign. From what I read, the voters of Caledon need look no farther for someone who is honest and enthusiastic and will take their issues to heart. Not that this means much, but I'd like to go on record as endorsing Rick Jessup for municipal councillor.