Dear Santa, I want a new Mayor for Christmas

Toronto City Hall
Toronto City Hall (c) Bigstock Images

Dear Santa,
I’d like you to bring us a mayor who can finish delivering on the promise Rob Ford made 4 years ago.  Much of that promise has already been delivered:

  • a new attitude toward spending.
  • a new culture of fiscal responsibility.
  • a budget that no longer grows at an unsustainable pace.
  • a willingness to include the private sector and private citizens in public solutions.
  • and a respect for the people who have to pay for everything, whether they’re called taxpayers, citizens or residents.

But there’s still much to do.

We still need a mayor with intestinal fortitude.  Someone who’ll always stand up for what’s right, no matter how awful the opposition is.

Council will follow a mayor who leads by example and who stands strong on principle.  But, it means setting a good example.  Establishing good principles.  And, picking the right battles.

We need a mayor who can get things done at City Hall.  That means working with Councillors of different political stripes and moving important plans through Council.  That means listening, understanding and knitting together different interests to achieve important objectives.

But, it doesn’t mean avoiding necessary battles because they’re hard.  Or, going against principles in order to come out on the winning side of a vote.  We cannot afford a mayor who does that.

Our mayor must understand the job is not about being everyone’s friend.  It’s not about being well-liked.  But, it should never be about making enemies.

It’s about being respected.  It’s about being effective.  It’s about motivating, inspiring and leading council and the city to get things done.

We need a mayor who believes Toronto is the greatest place to be.  It’s a fantastic place to raise a family.  It’s an amazing, fun and exciting city to visit.  And, it’s one of the best locations on Earth to invest in and build a business for the future.

We need a mayor who takes pride and pleasure in leading our city.  Who can inspire people and businesses to come together and excel.  Who can sell Toronto to the world.

But, we also need a mayor who understands that – while everyone in Toronto is proud of our city and its services – what we want is not always more, more and more.  What we want – is to continue enjoying our life here.

That means managing the city in a way we can afford.  Keeping the city accessible for average people – not just the rich.  Serving the needs of the majority – not just the poor.  Making the city work for those in the middle – as well as those at the margins.

To do that, we need a mayor who believes government is about creating opportunities for people to succeed.  Not about building programs that employ city workers.

A good mayor must understand how City Hall works.  How the Mayor’s Office functions and from where it draws power.  How the Toronto civil service works and how to lead it.

We need a mayor who has experience leading change.  Who can help reshape the Toronto civil service into a high performance team.

Someone who brings a broad range of skill and experience to the job.  Not just a career politician – especially not one who’s been perverted by years on a dysfunctional city council.  But also, not someone who has succeeded only in corporate boardrooms.  Because, while the city should be run in many ways more like a business – it is not a business.  And, the mayor of Toronto doesn’t have the same powers as the CEO of a private corporation.

Our next mayor must focus council on a few big strategic objectives over the next four years – while at the same time honing the city’s ability to get the day-to-day things done better, faster, cheaper.

One of those big initiatives should be to redesign our city’s government for the 21st Century.  Because, what we have now fails us.

We are Canada’s largest city, bigger by population than 9 of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories.  Only the premiers of Ontario, Quebec, BC and Alberta represent more people than the Mayor of Toronto.  Yet, Toronto’s government is structured much the same as any small Ontario town.

Canada has become an urban nation.  It’s time our governments recognized this. We need a mayor who can engage with Council, with the public, and with the provincial and federal governments, to build a new, more effective city government that will meet our needs moving forward.

I’m not sure who our next mayor should be.  I haven’t seen him or her step forward yet.  Maybe some of the likely candidates can become this mayor I’ve asked for – but they haven’t shown us that yet.

I’m hopeful though, that with a little Christmas and New Year’s magic – and a long campaign ahead – that Toronto will find the mayor we’re looking for.


P.S.  It would also be nice, if the new mayor doesn’t smoke crack.


Towhey’s Take is a regular 5 minute editorial segment at the end of my Sunday radio program on CFRB Newstalk1010 in Toronto.  It normally airs at 2:46 pm.  This editorial was originally broadcast Dec. 29, 2013.  It was scheduled for Dec. 23, but pre-empted by breaking news coverage of Ice Storm 2013.