Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Voters will forgive Mayor John Tory for changing his Gardiner vote

Published on Mon Jun 08 2015

Picture this:

After weeks of turbulent debate over the future of the Gardiner Expressway, Mayor John Tory steps up to his podium and announces he’s changed his mind.

Picture the mayor explaining that after listening to the experts and reviewing the case studies from other cities, he’s come to see the wisdom of replacing the section of elevated expressway between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway with a more affordable boulevard.

Imagine Tory announcing, as an alternative to maintaining the elevated expressway, that he will invest in cost-effective transportation infrastructure.

To pay for it, he could use the savings achieved by not pursuing the expensive “hybrid” option for the Gardiner, plus revenues from waterfront land sales that can only be fully achieved if this part of the Gardiner is removed.

Some of the money could be spent on world-leading technology for dynamic traffic signal synchronization for the intersections along the new boulevard.

The rest could go to transit improvements, including an accelerated first phase of Tory’s SmartTrack plan, with frequent regular-fare service on the existing GO Transit corridor between Union and Danforth stations.

He could promise to fast-track construction of new SmartTrack stops, with one serving the new West Don Lands neighbourhood and another serving the Unilever factory site east of the Don River.

Done right, the plan could ensure that some new transit is in place before that stretch of the Gardiner comes down.

But, of course, unless something extraordinary happens between now and Toronto city council’s meeting on Wednesday, none of this is going to happen.

Over the last week, even as experts, developers and former mayors have lined up to tell him he’s wrong, Tory has been unwavering in his support for keeping the elevated expressway connection.

But if he wasn’t — if Tory was willing to change his mind — would voters judge him harshly? Would they deem him a ditherer? A flip-flopper? I don’t think so.

On the contrary, as long as they come with rational explanations, voters can and do find virtue in a reversal of position. Done right, a timely shift from an elected official shows willingness to adapt and listen — to get beyond rigid ideology.

That’s what former Ontario premier Bill Davis showed when he led his cabinet in 1971 to withdraw support for the Spadina Expressway.

Decades later, it’s still his most defining moment.

Though the stakes are different now, Tory could follow in those same legacy-making footsteps. He doesn’t need to feel locked in to his established position. He’s got a chance to build something more enduring than a couple of kilometres of elevated highway.

It starts with a change of heart.

This post was originally published at on 2015-06-08T00:00:00.000Z

About the author

Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
Website / Twitter / Email Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott


Follow Me on Twitter

Recent Posts

Recent Comments