Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Ignore Rob Ford, let’s pay attention to David Soknacki

Mayor Rob Ford spent some time this week doing some things and saying some stuff. None of what he did or said was very interesting or at all relevant to the future of the city.

So let’s try to ignore him. There are better places to direct our attention.

Take, for example, David Soknacki, the first major candidate to officially register his intention to run against the mayor this year. While Ford has spent much of the time since he registered for re-election staging photo ops with storm clean-up crews and trying to get Premier Kathleen Wynne to send him a text message, Soknacki has been out actually talking about civic issues and making policy announcements. It's refreshing.

This week, Soknacki pledged to cancel the Scarborough subway and revert to the LRT plan. It’s a bold policy and one that flies in the face of the kind of desperate pandering we saw from a bunch of politicians last year. It’s also fiscally sensible and good for transit riders, making way for both lower taxes and a faster construction schedule. Provided killing the preliminary subway plans wouldn’t somehow stick governments with more cancellation costs, it’s an everybody-wins kind of policy.

And besides, what are the possible objections to it? More whining about how Scarborough simply deserves a subway, as if governments should spend billions on transit just to help inspire civic pride? Or the ridiculous notion that it’s unwise to re-open a Scarborough subway debate that has been re-opened a half-dozen times over the last few years?

I don’t have a lot of time for either argument.

Soknacki’s Scarborough subway policy joins a couple of other sensible policies recently unveiled by his campaign. On accountability, he’s made the revolutionary promise to actually show up for work and let us know what he’s doing. On partisanship, he’s pledged to work with councillors, which is kind of important considering that mayors who don’t work with councillors end up losing votes and getting nothing done.

Overall, I’m impressed. It’s early days, so the campaign always has the potential to ruin all my goodwill by promising something stupid, but so far the Soknacki campaign is hitting some of the right notes.

There are, of course, still big questions left to answer. Soknacki’s greatest challenge has nothing to do with policy. Instead, it’s that in a prospective field packed with candidates with high value name recognition, he’s got none. That could change, but it won’t be easy. If Soknacki isn’t polling at least in the double digits by the end of March, there will be good reason to conclude that smart policies won’t be enough to vault him to the mayor’s office.

This post was originally published at on 2014-01-17T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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