What I’ve been hearing these days is that Toronto mayor David Miller, elected with considerable fanfare and high expectations in November 2003, has disappointed a number of Torontonians. He may be miles better than Mel Lastman and his crew, but he has not lived up to his promise. The city continues to struggle with its finances, continues to be gridlocked, and continues to struggle with the perception of violence. It may not be wholly fair, but one cannot help but foresee a harsh judgement from Toronto voters… if they had someone decent to replace him with.
And therein lies the problem. Toronto councillor Jane Pitfield has been the only candidate of note to step up to challenge Miller, and I use the phrase “of note” rather liberally.
Case in point is the recently released report on what to do about the Gardiner expressway. David Miller took considerable heat for advocating that the report be kept away from the eyes of the public until after the municipal election this November (he immediately made his critics say, with considerable justification, “what does Miller have to hide?”). The report is now out, suggesting that the expressway be replaced with a $490 million, ten lane grand avenue running at grade from Spadina to the Don Valley Parkway in order to remove one of the biggest barriers between downtown Toronto and its waterfront..
Pitfield, whose election campaign has, to put it charitably, stalled, has tried to pounce on the report as a means of setting herself apart from the incumbent. Fair enough. Miller is on record as favouring the dismantling of the Gardiner, but has moderated his position by saying that the city doesn’t have the funds to tackle this project. So, you’re Pitfield; what do you do? Do you:
- Say, “The Gardiner is a vital component of the downtown road network, and we have no means of getting rid of it without expanding gridlock throughout the core. The mayor is irresponsible for even considering this.” (this is an arguable point, but one which many voters, especially suburban voters, themselves believe).
- Say, “It is irresponsible for Miller to be pursuing this pipe dream when we’re having difficulty maintaining the infrastructure of the Toronto Transit Commission” (again, an arguable point, since the elevated nature of the Gardiner makes it more expensive to maintain than an at-grade road, but the price tag of $490 million does produce sticker shock).
- Say, “the Gardiner is not the only barrier to the Waterfront, you know. Those tunnels beneath the railway tracks are still going to be quite a barrier, even if the Gardiner is taken down. You’re spending a heck of a lot of money to just deal with part of the problem.” (A fair point).
However, if you were Pitfield, you instead pick Door Number 4, and say:
“The Gardiner is not a barrier to the waterfront. Everyone knows the best view of lake is from the Gardiner.”
(blink! blink! blink!)
Where does one begin with a statement like that? “You can’t walk on the Gardiner” comes to mind, along with admonition that perhaps Jane should be keeping her eyes on the road rather than watching the passing scenery. Either way, it shows that Miller has no serious competition for his job, though competition is sorely deserved.