John Tory makes a decision, torpedoes Karen Stintz

Pic of John Tory announces he will run for Mayor of Toronto, Feb. 24, 2014
John Tory announces he will run for Mayor of Toronto, Feb. 24, 2014

That, alone, is news.  The people of Earth have been waiting for days, weeks, years even… for John Tory, afternoon radio host at Toronto’s Newstalk1010, to decide whether he will run for mayor of Canada’s biggest city.  Finally, he has decided.  He’s in.

Tory is an impressive candidate and immediately becomes the “man to beat” in Toronto’s mayoral campaign.  He has a lot of strengths, which will serve him well in the campaign.  He’s widely respected and admired.  He’s thought to be a skilled private sector manager, having served as CEO of Rogers Communications Inc. and maintaining a seat on its board of directors.  He’s been a “civic leader” in Toronto for many years, active in the community and a prominent voice in all matters social and urban.

With today’s surprise announcement, Tory sailed upwind of Stintz, collapsing her sails and stealing her headlines.  It was not a gentlemanly move.  That’s good news for Tory supporters.

For many progressive conservatives and Red Tories, and a legion of radio fans, John Tory is the “mayor we never had.” Many more “conservative conservatives” hope he will bring the staunch fiscal conservatism of Rob Ford, without the rough edges, the substance abuse issues or criminal social circle.  How fiscally conservative Tory actually is, however, has never been tested.

But, Tory also has many well-known vulnerabilities. He has appeared indecisive about whether he’s running and this has become a source of mockery. Witness Marcus Gee’s recent column in The Globe and Mail.  While thoughtfulness is a virtue, indecision is a serious weakness in a leader.

Tory values consensus over confrontation.  Another virtue, and one many think this is exactly what Toronto City Council needs after four years of Rob Ford.  The fact is, though, you can’t lead Council by consensus alone.

The only way to reach broad consensus without confrontation at Toronto City Hall, is to appease councillors; the only way to appease councillors is to fund their pet projects.  In 2010, Toronto taxpayers were, and I believe they still are, fed up with the bloated, out of control spending that results from such appeasement by tax dollar-funded inducement.  The Mayor of Toronto must be good at working with others on Council.  But she or he must also have the cojones to stand up and lead by brute force of will when required.  And, it will be required.  Only the mayor has a broad public mandate.  He or she must be willing to wield it.

John Tory, the politician and radio host, has shown little evidence he’s willing to throw his weight around.  He wanders around, circles, dips in and out, then backs into opinions… sort of… sometimes.  But, on the other hand…

Perhaps, in part as a result of his preference for a gentlemanly approach to politics that does not exist, and never has, in real life, John Tory is a three time political loser.  He ran for mayor in 2003 and lost to David Miller.  Later, as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario he not only led his party to defeat in the 2007 general election, but lost his own bid for a Toronto seat at the same time.  Finally, in 2009, he ran in a by-election to regain a seat in the legislature but lost to Liberal candidate Rick Johnson.  He subsequently resigned as party leader.

The good news for Tory supporters is, he appears to have toughened up a bit.  Today’s surprise announcement he will run for Mayor was clearly timed to torpedo Councillor Karen Stintz’s entry into the race, long planned for this day.  By jumping in the same day, Tory effectively sailed upwind of Stintz, collapsing her sails and stealing her headlines.  It was not a gentlemanly move.  It was a political move.  Maybe he’s learning this politics thing after all.

That’s not a bad thing.