If the saying ‘The only real poll is on Election Day’ was true of the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012 and the 2014 Ontario provincial elections, John Tory’s victory in the recent Toronto mayoral race could sport the motto, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try again.’ John Howard Tory had earlier run for mayor of Toronto in 2003 but was defeated by David Miller. Four years later, as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, Tory attempted to become premier of that province but lost to incumbent Dalton McGuinty. Finally Tory’s ship came in: he was elected mayor of Canada’s most powerful city on October 27, 2014.
Now perhaps the question is why Tory triumphed. First, we might do well to examine why his two main rivals Olivia Chow and Doug Ford lost. Ironically, in the beginning Chow, widow of federal NDP leader Jack Layton and a former Member of federal Parliament herself, was ahead in the polls. Her popularity gradually dropped, though, to the point where in the actual elections, she received a mere 23% of the vote. From the start, many people claimed Chow would ‘tax [them] to death.’ It was her idea of collecting an extra 1% on the land transfer tax from home sales of over $2 million to fund school nutrition programs, however, that struck fear in the hearts of even those who could not possibly afford a house of that price. With regard to Doug Ford, even though until the end there was always a slight possibility – judging by the polls – that he might emerge victorious, he was unable to shake off the tarnish of the ‘Ford era’ left by his brother Mayor Rob Ford, who resigned from the mayoral race on being diagnosed with cancer after a four-year term marked by scandals and international ridicule.
What was most remarkable about John Tory’s campaign was that despite his past as a leader of the Conservative Party, he received endorsements from a number of capital-l Liberals. They included Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Mitzie Hunter, federal MP Arnold Chan, and others. Tory also enjoyed support from many so-called ‘ethnics’ in Toronto, such as Hunter, who is Black, and her colleague in provincial cabinet Michael Chan (relationship to Arnold Chan uncertain – the last name ‘Chan’ among Chinese is like ‘Smith’ among Anglo-Saxons). The local Toronto paper the Caribbean Camera, which speaks for people from the Caribbean of all races (Blacks but Chinese and East Indians as well), went a step further and recommended in an editorial that readers vote for John Tory. Tory got a more cautious but definitive endorsement from the Italian-Canadian daily Corriere Canadese. The Corriere described him as the best person for the job on hand. Although some said it was in ethnic minorities’ self-interest to vote for Olivia Chow, her low percentage at the polls suggested members of the city’s cultural communities felt differently. (Perhaps in addition the ‘ethnics’ did not like being told they didn’t ‘know what’s good for them.’)
I also believe that John Tory’s moderate conservatism appealed to a considerable number of Torontonians. He has been called ‘socially liberal, fiscally conservative.’ It’s a label sometimes scoffed at by self-described progressives. For example, in an article about Tory in the Toronto Star, feminist leader Judy Rebick questioned whether one could be liberal solely from a social angle when ‘most inequality is due to the conservative restructuring of the economy.’ Toronto voters, like the ‘ethnics,’ seemed to think otherwise, however. In other words, they might appreciate a mayor who will march in the Gay Pride Parade, which Mayor Rob Ford always found an excuse not to do, but who won’t raise taxes arbitrarily. Interestingly, one of the people who expressed happiness at Tory’s victory was Ontario (Liberal) Premier Kathleen Wynne, an open lesbian.
Personally, I did not vote in these elections. There was no one candidate I could say I really ‘believed in’ enough to support. If I had been forced to vote, though, I most likely would have chosen John Tory. His low-key conservatism would have appealed to me. That is why, as I’ve mentioned in some of my other articles, I’ve generally veered between the Liberals and Conservatives at the ballot box. Like the writer in the Italian-Canadian paper, I believe Tory is the right person for the job. Let us hope he does well in his new role.