And we don’t even have to say who. You already know: John Tory.
Full disclosure: I’ve known him — and been friends with him — for 25 years. I helped run two of his campaigns, in 2003 and 2018. I stepped away from his 2022 campaign because (tellingly) he had closely associated himself with a political bottom-feeder.
I didn’t know about what he blandly called “a relationship” with a woman to whom he was not married. I was shocked by that.
I was appalled, too, when the Toronto Star transformed itself into a broadsheet Drudge Report, and broke the “story” that every newsroom in Toronto had known about for weeks. I was proud, however, that my own editor refused to let this paper get down in the muck with the Star.
Oh, and this: I’m not worried about John Tory, and you shouldn’t be, either. He’s a white, wealthy man of privilege, and he’ll get by.
Personally, I’m more preoccupied with his wife, an extraordinary and decent person I have also known for a long time. His kids, too, who are wonderful.
For what it’s worth, I also sympathize with the unnamed young woman, who I don’t know. She doesn’t deserve to get the Monica Lewinsky treatment, with her life turned into a punchline. But that sordid process now seems to be well underway.
I told John Tory he needed to resign, and — when he seemed to be wavering — I also told him I would publicly condemn him if he didn’t. But, as he promised, he formally tendered his resignation right after his administration’s $16-billion budget passed. So, that’s settled.
What isn’t settled, however, is the state of Canada’s biggest city. Because, in the Tory years, some things got manifestly worse in Toronto. And, now that he’s gone, I am conflict-free to write about them.
There are five main ones. Each represent a critical failure of leadership over the past eight-plus years.
CRIME: Under Tory, crime got dramatically worse. Period. Every category of violent crime surged. And while murders have dipped slightly in recent years, Tory was at the helm when the city endured a record-high 98 homicides in 2018, smashing a record that had stood for 28 years.
You don’t need to hear the shocking litany of crime statistics to know the truth — in Toronto, crime has become a veritable growth industry. Everyone has heard about the seemingly never-ending stabbings and beatings and robberies. What they haven’t heard, from anyone at City Hall, is an intelligent and practical plan to combat crime.
GRIDLOCK: As in every other major city in the world, the pandemic scared the public away from public transit in Toronto. It isn’t clear if they will ever return because of that, and the near-daily reports of assaults and attempted murders in the transit system certainly haven’t helped matters.
What is clear, however, is that Toronto’s streets, always congested, have become much more so. The city’s total inability to plan, along with its addiction to development fees — and its Byzantine fetish for bike lanes where they are unwanted and unneeded — have rendered Toronto streets virtually impassable. Toronto is getting more and more people every day, and not all of them can ride a bike to get around. Those people deserve less gridlock, and an easier way to get to work, school and the like.
DECAY: Toronto politicians famously like to describe the city as “world class” — whatever that means. But if it means a clean, attractive, prosperous city? Well, Toronto is no longer that.
Overflowing and neglected trash bins. Graffiti and vandalism in every neighbourhood. Shuttered and/or bankrupted businesses. Decline, debris and decay everywhere you look. But we sure have a hell of a lot of cannabis stores. There’s that.
Meanwhile, the services for which Toronto residents pay plenty of taxes are too often nowhere to be seen. Apart from trash and recycle collection, what service do city residents regularly get in exchange for the tax dollars they fork over? Precious little.
FINANCIAL PROBITY: The city has a spending problem. As my colleague Brian Lilley has often pointed out, spending by the city’s managers is essentially out of control when compared to inflation. And the city counts far too often on the province and Ottawa to bail it out.
While this year’s city budget passed relatively quickly, municipal leaders need to exercise more restraint and better judgment. Look at their announced plan to change the name of Dundas Street — at a cost of more than $6 million. Now it turns out their sole reason for doing so — Henry Dundas’ alleged support for the slave trade — is very much in question. Not impressive.
VISION: Taxpayers actually don’t ask for much. And they don’t expect that every wish on their list will always be fulfilled. What they do want, however, is leadership that stands for something. They want a leader, or leaders, who possess a vision for the future, and a plan for executing it in the present.
That necessarily means saying no to some vested interests. That necessarily means planning the way households do — with a budget, and a timeline. That means possessing a real, honest-to-goodness vision.
Because of crime, because of decay, because of reckless spending and decision-making, Canada’s biggest city needs the best leadership it can get.
John Tory very often provided that, but sometimes he and his administration just didn’t (see above). The historians will write his chapter soon enough.
Toronto residents need to start thinking about their city’s future — because, right now, that future is unwritten.