Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

John Tory campaign still merely dabbling in substance

By: Metro Canada Published on Fri May 16 2014

John Tory sent out a media release Wednesday announcing that he had a plan to create 70,000 jobs in Toronto. That was a bold promise, mostly because 70,000 is an oddly specific number and a hell of a lot of jobs.

So it had to be seen as disappointing Thursday when Tory stood in front of cameras at and announced that his plan amounted to little more than supporting an existing development strategy for the lands east of the Don River.

He didn’t even add anything new to the plan, which has been around since earlier this year and was previously backed by Karen Stintz, Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and probably every other person capable of reading words and thinking about things. Tory made no promise to contribute funds to the plan, nor did he commit to any kind of timeline. He just said he’d support the plan — including the hybrid solution for the Gardiner —, streamline some approvals and promote the area.

It was just the latest in a string of policy announcements from the Tory campaign that haven’t offered much substance. On Wednesday, a day after Olivia Chow unveiled her plan to address youth unemployment, Tory unveiled his plan, which included a promise to act as an “employment ambassador” for Toronto youth. On May 9, he pledged to turn Toronto into a “Music City” which again seemed mostly to piggyback on an existing plan. Meanwhile, his “One Toronto” jobs and economy plan is similarly vague — again with promises to streamline and modernize — and his famous Relief Line pledge still doesn’t have any funding attached to it.

Tory’s not the only candidate coming up light on details, of course. With the long campaign period, it’s natural that candidates want to space out their platform announcements so they keep their names in the headlines. But Tory is unique among leading candidates in that he continues to hold policy announcements even though he doesn’t really have any policy to announce.

As a result, four and a half months into the campaign, Tory seems to be running the campaign everyone worried he would: one marked by indecision and excess caution.

The political strategy is understandable. The theory is the electorate will regard Olivia Chow as an extremist on the left — the other side of the Rob Ford coin. Tory wants to sit right in the middle as a neutral option between two extremes, with the hope that when confronted with a selection of bold flavours, voters will opt for vanilla.

If you buy that logic, Tory is right to shy away from clear stances on important issues. His goal is to not alienate anyone — he needs to remain every voter’s second choice.

But could it work? Maybe if the campaign period was shorter, or there weren’t so many pressing issues facing the city, he could get away with it. But with a long slog until voting day and a ton of issues at the forefront, these kinds of non-policy policy announcements aren’t going to be enough. He’s just going to frustrate voters who are looking for candidates offering real ideas for Toronto.

In that light, Tory would do better to come up with some real ideas of his own.

This post was originally published at on 2014-05-16T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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