Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

To fight for Toronto, John Tory needs to pick a side in the 2015 federal election

Mayor John Tory.
Mayor John Tory.

In the early days of a federal campaign that will feel really long unless you happened to cover last year’s mayoral election in Toronto, John Tory laid out his strategy for the politics-heavy months ahead.

His priorities, the mayor said, are securing money for transit and affordable housing.

Fine priorities, no doubt, but Tory also made it clear he wouldn’t be wading too far into the electoral fray to push the parties on these issues.

“I’m the mayor of all the people, and it’s my job to get the best deal for Toronto and not to get involved in the campaign,” he explained to reporters.

Two days later, we got an indication of how effective that strategy will be in getting federal leaders to talk about Toronto’s issues. At last Thursday’s federal leaders debate, there was no talk of Tory’s priorities.

Nothing about transit funding. Nothing about affordable housing. Nothing about municipal infrastructure. Nothing about Canadian cities at all.

It was just one debate, sure, but it wasn’t a great omen for the remainder of the campaign. Despite Toronto’s importance as an electoral battleground, I fear the issues critical to Toronto’s future will be overshadowed by talk of other things: oil, the senate, etc.

To ensure that doesn’t happen, Tory should recalibrate his strategy. This is no time to be passive. Toronto needs a mayor that will use this prolonged campaign to actively push the federal parties on municipal issues.

That’ll mean being vocal. It’ll mean being relentless. It’ll mean being kind of annoying, probably.

It might even mean making an endorsement.

Last week, Tory again ruled out the idea of formally endorsing any of the federal parties. He cited the same reasons he always does: The need to work with whoever gets elected and a desire not to alienate Toronto voters by appearing partisan. (That’s what he means by his “mayor of all the people” stuff.)

I’ve never really understood it. A formal endorsement — especially coming from a popular mayor like Tory — is something all the federal parties would like to have. Which means Tory can use his endorsement for leverage: to get promises on the issues he cares about it.

I see nothing partisan or alienating about Tory taking the next couple of months to challenge all the party leaders on their policies, and then making a reasoned endorsement based on who’s got the best plan for Toronto. Leave partisanship out of it — policy is all that matters.

In fact, it would be a missed opportunity not to do it. A measured endorsement might be the only surefire way to bring Toronto’s most pressing issues to the forefront.

Matt Elliott lives and writes in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @GraphicMatt

This post was originally published at on 2015-08-10T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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