Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

John Tory's SmartTrack plan could use a math check

By: Metro Published on Mon Oct 06 2014

With less than a month to go before the merciful end of Toronto’s marathon mayoral election, candidate John Tory looks nearly unbeatable.

Seriously, it’s hard to overstate just how good the guy’s current position actually is. He’s led every poll since Labour Day. He’s had at least a seven-point lead in the last eight polls. He’s got endorsements coming in every day from Toronto politicians and important-looking men in suits and ties.

And, critically, neither Doug Ford nor Olivia Chow has really found an effective line of attack against the front-runner.

Ford’s attacks are particularly weak. He keeps pushing the absurd idea that Tory doesn’t have enough experience to be mayor, even though Tory has spent decades in business and private life as the man who seems to be involved in everything.

Trying to convince voters that Tory doesn’t have enough experience to be mayor is like trying to convince people Bruce Wayne doesn’t have enough gadgets to be Batman.

Chow’s criticisms of Tory are better, but in recent weeks she’s been too fixated on some of the specifics of Tory’s transit plan. She keeps implying that the western section of SmartTrack will require Tory to literally demolish homes.

There are, in fact, some big and important questions about the SmartTrack alignment through Etobicoke, but it’s folly to attempt to paint Tory as so devoted to his election platform that he’d steamroll houses.

It’s way more likely that Tory will simply alter his plan once he’s elected. He is, after all, the kind of person who’s always shown a willingness — almost to a fault — to change his views.

His opponents would be far better to ramp up their criticism of SmartTrack from the funding angle. In other words, let’s question the math.

This could be more effective for a couple of reasons.

First because there’s a ton of questions about how Tory’s vague tax-increment-financing funding plan will actually work. There are questions about the city’s debt limit, the amount of development required and even about what it’ll mean for the part of our property taxes that funds education.

But more importantly, focusing on Tory’s funding plan could give his opponents — particularly Chow — a chance to remind voters of Tory’s sudden change of heart.

It’s an opportunity to point out that after spending years with the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance talking about how politicians need to have an honest conversation about paying for transit, Tory is now backing a sketchy plan that basically promises transit for free.

There’s an element of opportunism there, so much so that it seems like a weak point — an opening to do some damage. But Tory’s lead is strong, and there’s not much time left. The clock is ticking.

This post was originally published at on 2014-10-06T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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