After Miller, we’ll get the Machine.
The election for the next mayor of Toronto, now that David Miller is stepping aside, will be a battle of political machines. The megacity is so big and ugly that there’s no other way to raise the million or more dollars needed for a successful campaign and to cut through the media haze that will surround the event.
David Miller ran by patching together people from different parties who wanted a mainstream, attractive, mayor after the disaster of Mel Lastman and the ridiculous image he cut for Toronto across the world. Party labels weren’t nearly as important in the minds of movers and shakers as finding someone different.
City politics has hardened in the last three years and the mayor’s office is now seen as a significant prize. The city’s $8 billion budget makes it the fifth largest government budget in Canada and the mayor’s position holds much power and international prestige. The political parties want to own this centre of power to align it with the premier or the prime minister. Thus it was no coincidence that when Miller said he was stepping aside, the media focused on George Smitherman (for the Liberals) and John Tory (for the Conservatives) as candidates. Maybe neither will ultimately be the machine candidate, but you can be sure that in each party the background boys are looking for a good candidate to carry their banner. They want candidates who stand for nothing in particular, individuals who won’t take the city in any interesting new directions, challenge senior governments or seek a larger role in self government. They want candidates who are subject to the demands of the political machine, not of city residents.
None of this is good for the city which desperately needs to rethink the megacity, the dysfunctional city council, and its gigantic and lethargic bureaucracy. Political machines do not exist to deliver that kind of change and that’s big trouble for Toronto.