Mayor David Miller’s decision not to run in next year’s municipal election is a graceful exit by a classy guy. Maybe he could have successfully wooed Torontonians for a third time, but the odds weren’t in his favour — the stench of political blood in the air has been overpowering.
So now what? Miller will be around for another 14 months and says he wants to use the time to consolidate his legacy. Good luck with that.
The mayor is still mayor until November 2010 and in theory, at least, he will continue exercising his moral and political influence to implement his agenda. In reality, Miller’s ability to force feed councillors anything they consider even slightly unpalatable evaporated the minute he made it clear he won’t seek re-election.
Councillors no longer have to fear crossing the mayor and never again being appointed by him to chair a committee. Councillors who are considering their own run at the city’s top political office will be pushing their own agendas, rather than that of the lame-duck incumbent.
Councillors who aren’t running for mayor will be currying favour with those who are.
On the 2010 budget front, the city faces a shortfall of between $300 million and $500 million for day-to-day operations. Federal and provincial governments that are drowning in red ink of their own will be reluctant to ride to the rescue with infrastructure stimulus funds or one-time cash bailouts, so something will have to go. It’s a good bet some of Miller’s pet projects will be targeted even as his ability to champion them is severely diminished.
Some of those pet projects, however, should be protected. The Transit City system of new, light-rail lines that will knit together neighbourhoods badly served by transit must remain a priority. The mayor’s tower renewal project, which involves redeveloping the lands around low-income, suburban highrises and making the towers themselves more sustainable, is an experiment worth continuing. The admittedly imperfect bike plan, which promises more bike lanes and bike parking, deserves to survive.
The fate of these Miller legacy projects will be decided by the present city council during budget making this fall and winter. The mayor no longer has the clout to fend off those who would hollow out these initiatives. But then he shouldn’t need it. Councillors should put the city’s interests ahead of their own and ensure the projects are kept alive.