Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Mayor John Tory should consider lending his political endorsement to the province for cash

By: Metro Published on Mon Apr 06 2015

By pointing last week to a new report that highlights the need for investment in affordable housing repairs, Mayor John Tory did what he’s already done a bunch of times: he asked the provincial and federal governments for some cash.

It’s become a regular thing.

Not only does Toronto need Queen’s Park and Ottawa to pitch in for housing, the city also needs money to build public transit, and to operate transit, and to adequately provide social services, and to… well, look, Toronto just needs a lot of money, OK?

Tory isn’t wrong to ask for it. The report on the state of affordable housing he presented last week was just the latest piece of evidence pointing to the fact that Toronto has been dealt an unfair fiscal hand.

But still, by going all-in on getting money from other levels of government, Tory has taken a big political risk. He’s made it very easy for voters to judge his performance.

If he succeeds in getting a better funding arrangement, he’ll have done a good job. But if he fails, then, um, why keep him around?

Tory has even gone as far as saying he doesn’t have a “Plan B” — putting together a back-up strategy to fund the city’s needs solely with Toronto tax dollars would weaken his negotiating position, the mayor explained last week.

Negotiation requires two sides, and it’s not clear what Tory has to offer Premier Kathleen Wynne or Prime Minister Stephen Harper or anyone else who might hold power in return for all the money the city needs.

Except, perhaps, for his political endorsement.

That’s a weapon Tory will likely be reluctant to use — he’s more the type to stay neutral during elections and talk about how he can work with anyone — but I would argue he shouldn’t shy away from it.

In a lot of ways, it’s all he’s got.

With the federal election coming later this year, for example, Tory has an opportunity to really take a stand for Toronto’s needs. Ask for specific promises in party platforms — real promises with real numbers. If a party includes them, consider making a qualified endorsement. If a party is non-committal, then let Toronto voters hear about it.

Will it happen?

I’m not sure.

In addition to the notion that this kind of rabble-rousing seems out of character for Tory, there’s also concern that the party he’s traditionally aligned himself with — the Conservatives — is probably the least likely to commit to city building initiatives.

But that shouldn’t matter, really.

Tory isn’t representing a party any more. These days, he speaks for a city.

And I’d like to see him speak up.

This post was originally published at on 2015-04-06T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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