Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

How John Tory's talking points betray him

By: Matt Elliott Metro, Metro Published on Mon Apr 07 2014

John Tory is good at a lot of things. I’m still not convinced one of those things is being a politician.

During his Metro Toronto interview, Tory was at his least effective when he went to his political talking points. There’s no denying that Tory is a passionate advocate for civic issues, but he seems uncomfortable in his attempts to channel that passion toward political success.

Nowhere in our interview was that more clear than when Tory attempted to answer a question about his support for the Scarborough subway from Twitter user @PaulBretscher, who asked, “Why spend $1B more on Scarborough subway, to serve fewer people, 4y slower?”

In his answer, Tory went straight to the standard talking points. The subway, he said, is, “a long-term investment that will be proven to be very valuable in terms of development and jobs. I think people forget, for example, that we have to rebuild the LRT in 25 or 30 years, just like we have to with the Scarborough RT. With a subway we won’t have to do that.”

It was an odd thing to hear from Tory, because his points were both illogical — why exactly would the subway create more development and jobs than a grade-separated LRT? — and misleading. There’s no truth to the notion that light rail only lasts a couple of decades while subways last much longer — all transit infrastructure comes with maintenance costs.

His arguments were made worse by the fact that under the LRT plan he opposes, all maintenance costs were to be paid for by the provincial government, leaving the city off the hook.

My suspicion is that Tory might understand that, were he not trying to lock down votes and score political points against LRT-supporting Olivia Chow. But either way, this kind of politicking and spin doesn’t look good on a guy who has spent his non-politician years developing a reputation as a non-partisan and honest voice on important issues.

Going forward, Tory needs to remember the reasons people like him as an advocate and a personality. There’s no need to abandon those qualities just because he’s decided — again — to be a candidate.

This post was originally published at on 2014-04-07T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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