Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Sarah Thomson: When she's not riding horses and taking drug tests, she actually makes sense

By: Metro Published on Mon Aug 25 2014

When I put out the call to readers last week to send in questions in advance of my interview with Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson, the most common submission was a simple one: why?

As in, why run for mayor again? After a hang-tough run in 2010, called off before election day, why would Thomson go for it again against opponents like Rob Ford, Olivia Chow and John Tory?

People also wanted to know what the deal is with the horses.

Let’s start there. Thomson has involved horses in two campaign events so far, more than any other candidate. She showed up at city hall on a horse-and-carriage and rode into a FordFest event on horseback.

When Thomson and I met for coffee, she explained the equestrian antics have a greater purpose.

“The horse was a way to basically get people’s attention on the fact that we need to invest in transit,” she told me. Her point is that the city’s transit issues are so dire that it might be faster to travel by horse.

Horses aside, it’s that focus on transit that best answers the question as to why she’s running again. We spent most of our 45-minute conversation going over her big vision transit platform, which includes about $25-billion in new rail, backed by highway tolls and a congestion charge levied only on those who come from outside Toronto’s borders.

That’s why she’s in it. “My worry is if it ends up being Ford, Tory or Chow, we’re never going to get the funding we need,” she said.

But are horses and YouTube music videos (Thomson has done three) really the best way to argue for transit funding?

It’s an important consideration, because when Thomson gets down from her horse she actually brings a unique perspective to things.

When we talk about her congestion charge, for instance, she launches into a utopian vision for Toronto. “Let’s dream really big,” she said. “My vision for this city would be very few cars on the roads anymore. Let’s keep (the cars) out at the malls, like Yorkdale Mall — they’ll come in on transit. We take back our city. There’s patios and cafés along Yonge Street. That would be fantastic. Bike lanes everywhere.”

It’s an appealing image, and at the end of our chat I’m almost convinced that, if Thomson could minimize the stunts and focus on that message, she could build some momentum.

But that thought doesn’t last.

After our interview, there was a new release from her campaign in my inbox. Thomson had taken a drug test and released the results. She wants other mayoral candidates to do the same. It was yet another campaign stunt.

Thomson, it seems, just can’t stay away from the horses.

This post was originally published at on 2014-08-25T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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