I’ve said some terrible, terrible things about John Tory over the years.
I’ve also said nice things too, but they’ve usually come as a condescending pat on the back after a serious face-slapping.
Here’s my typical stance on John Tory from back in 2010 (and later repeated in this 2013 Nosey Parker blog post if you want to delve deeper into my antipathy):
“John Tory is a really nice guy (I can tell you that from personal experience) with a razor-sharp intellect and great skills as a committee member, a facilitator and a mediator.
“But he’s a complete loser as a frontline street brawler and he has the political survival instincts of a rabbit.”
Doesn’t sound too, too bad really — but that was just the friendly warm-up to a piece listing “10 or 20 or 100 reasons why John Tory should, in my opinion, forever forgo the idea of running for mayor of Toronto or dogcatcher of Dogpatch or grand poobah of LOWB Lodge No. 26 or whatever.”
Here’s a bit more from that 2010 assessment:
“Tory has always reminded me of former (briefly, because of his own ineptitude) PM Joe Clark, a political junkie, a nice guy with a good mind, and a complete putz when it came to making the right political decision. Neither of them has the deep, driving gut feeling that they know the ‘right’ thing to do in any given crisis — sometimes even when the ‘right’ thing they know in their guts isn’t the thing they would rationally choose to do based simply on calculation and inclination…
“Tory’s decision (to not run for mayor in 2010) did not ‘open the field up’ — it just reduced the field of losers by one.
“Yesterday I heard John Tory described as ‘charismatic’ and ‘the best mayor Toronto never had.’ He is neither. He might have made a better mayor than David Miller. Maybe not. We’ll never know. But John Tory was never ‘best’ at anything in politics except ‘second best.’ I know that sounds rough and unfair, but politics is rough and unfair. John Tory took his lumps but never had the royal jelly to turn them into political sugar.”
So that’s been my very consistent stance on candidate John Tory through his long and disastrous political losing streak.
Right up until he finally won the mayor’s job, that is.
Now I didn’t change my opinion just because Tory finally won something. Far from it — I applauded Tory’s victory, but only because it meant that neither Olivia Chow nor Doug Ford got to wear the mayor’s chain of office and possibly hurt Toronto even more than Tory was capable of doing.
I still didn’t hold out much hope for anything good to come from John Tory’s term in office. I thought he would probably strut and preen and pontificate and service his friends and clients on Bay Street … and not actually do much to deal with the real problems eating away at our big, bumptious city.
It’s been less than two months since Tory assumed office, so it’s way too early in the going to draw a definitive conclusion, but I’ve already come to a tentative preliminary assessment.
I may have misjudged John Tory.
I’m not 100% convinced yet, but I have to admit I’m already very impressed by the many things the new mayor has done in just a few short weeks to improve the quality of life in Toronto, to make it easier for citizens to get around, to sort out some of the city’s administrative chaos — and he’s done it quickly and confidently, efficiently and productively, without fuss or blather or wasted effort.
Just do it. That seems to be Mayor John Tory’s motto.
And he’s more than willing to take informed advice and admit when his previous positions are proven wrong by the reality of the situations he faces as mayor.
But mostly I’m impressed by how decisive and cut-to-the-core-of-the-matter he’s been.
I had been expecting Tory to be more than a little wishy-washy, to let the status quo slide along sluggishly, to push tough decisions off into endless committee debate and staff reports.
He’s done none of that — so far. He’s been tough and assertive without being brash or a bully. He’s grabbed the bull by the horns without shovelling the bull. He’s taking a few chances and calculated risks to shift the playing field without being reckless or irresponsible.
And he’s done it with relative good humour, excellent PR savvy, (perhaps genuine) modesty and charm, admirable consensus building, sharp calculation and undeniable energy. And all without taking his eye off his long-term goals for the city’s advancement.
Now some or all of that may change in the coming months and years. The current state of affairs may just be the exciting days and hot nights of a political honeymoon. Tory may get bogged down in the endless, inevitable political squabbles and personal pettiness of real-life council stable-mucking. He may lose his way and revert to the tepid, ineffectual behaviour I had previously been ascribing to him.
But I don’t think so. I certainly hope not, anyway.
I am truly coming to believe that the John Tory we see now is the mayor we’re going to get for the next four years (at least).
And, if that’s the case, I will be overjoyed to eat crow, to take back my terrible words, to admit my (continued) failure as a political prognosticator and student of human nature … and to apologize profoundly, profusely and genuinely to Mayor John Tory for all the bad things I’ve said about him over the years.
We haven’t reached that point yet, but it may be coming.
As I said before, two months is really too short a time to make a conclusive shift in judgement. I’m going to give it at least six months, maybe even the first year, before I jump to new conclusions with both feet.
After all, Rob Ford did some pretty impressive things during his first year as mayor — before going haywire, alienating even his friends on council, and choosing bombast, chicanery and self-inflation (not to mention drug abuse) over real leadership and accomplishment.
And Tory has a lot of big-ticket, controversial issues to deal with in his first year as mayor — from his own SmartTrack transit plan to the future of the Gardiner Expressway and the island airport to the inevitable fallout from the Pan Am Games to full privatization of garbage collection and a new round of municipal labour contract negotiations in the fall.
UPDATE: I’m going through Tory’s proposed city budget right now and I have more than a few concerns. He really seems to be going off in 30 different directions — and throwing money in every one of those 30 directions. Hmmm. We’ll see. Maybe he’s just trying to get a few of his many proposals passed. Maybe he’s striking while the iron is hot and getting some needed cash infusions into areas he’s concerned have been neglected in the Ford years. Maybe he’s … you get my drift. Why am I suddenly making shit up to defend a guy I was calling a loser short days ago? I want to hear HIM explain the where-as and what-fors.
So we’ll see. But at least now I’m looking forward to John Tory’s first term as mayor with more hope and optimism and not with so much cynicism and trepidation (although some still lingers).
Don’t let us down, John. I would much prefer that I ended up being the failure rather than you.