Where’s John Tory?

“Where’s John Tory?” might sound like a dumb question given that the man hosts a radio show five times each week but the prospective mayoral candidate hasn’t popped up in any significant way since the day David Miller announced his retirement. Don’t think that’s an accident, and if you’ve heard those rumours that the former Rogers CEO isn’t running, don’t fall for that misdirection play either. This game of hide-and-seek is meant to keep politicos and the media talking about whether or not Tory is running instead of the more substantive questions about his candidacy.

The Tory campaign strategy, being led from all accounts by Liberal war room vets Warren Kinsella and Bob Richardson (who were also strategists on Tory’s 2003 campaign team), has been to lay low for as long as possible, knowing that their candidate would start as the front runner with about 30% support. Having watched Barbara Hall go from shoo-in to also-ran in the 2003 race, the Tory campaign wants to avoid for as long as possible being the primary target of all other contenders in 2010.

That strategy, which kept Tory’s name in every discussion without him having to say a word, was working out as expected until George Smitherman decided that he was serious about vying for the job.

Smitherman saw what was happening and forced Tory out of his hiding spot in early September by offering to the media that the two men had made a deal that only one of them would enter the race. Tory then had to declare that he was seriously considering a bid for mayor and would not be striking deals with Smitherman to prevent Smitherman from getting too far out in front of him in the process of lining up key Bay Street backers.

Then came David Miller’s surprise announcement that he would retire at the end of this term. Tory uncharacteristically jumped at the chance to put himself in the election spotlight by inviting the media for a scrum outside the Newstalk 1010 studios at St. Clair and Yonge. He had no news to share with the media. Tory simply repeated that he was considering a run, that he thought things at City Hall should be done differently and then thanked Miller for his service. A written statement would have sufficed and received equal coverage in the media the next day while being considerably more dignified.

From that point on, Tory seems to have had his leash yanked back by his advisors, who surely warned him that over exposure this September would mean that by next September he and his ideas will be stale. The state of affairs around Smitherman also warranted a major pull back on the media front as news of a hard-hitting Auditor General’s report on the e-Heath scandal began to swirl at the start of October. Though it was Tory who initiated the investigation into spending at e-Health, letting the media, the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP all focus on Smitherman allowed Tory to stay above the fray.

The general consensus now is that thanks to e-Health Smitherman’s candidacy is stillborn. So with other potential mayoral candidates on the centre-right side of the mayoral equation basically saying that they will defer to Tory if he wants to run, Tory has put his campaign back into hiding, preferring to keep his candidacy fresh by refocusing attention on the question of “Will he or won’t he run?”

Photograph by Jason Bain

12 comments

  1. Why is spacing trying to trigger a year-long mayoralty race? The media should ignore them all until Labour Day next year.

  2. I am also wondering what the purpose of this thread is about. Are you suggesting that John is doing something improper?

  3. The sooner it becomes conventional wisdom that John Tory is an empty haircut whose upward failure trajectory was curtailed some years ago, the sooner Toronto’s risk of ending up with him as mayor is mitigated.

    In the meantime, analysis of how this n-time loser might keep his name in the papers is interesting.

  4. Though policy debates are hopefully what settle this election, getting there starts with months of political maneuvering. The outcome of this phase of the mayoral campaign will define the slate of candidates we, as electors, get to choose from on Election Day. It’s an entirely relevant topic of discussion.

  5. “The media should ignore them all until Labour Day next year.”

    I don’t get Angus’s comment at all: you want 2 months of just reporting on what candidates say to the media during the election instead of 12 months of in-depth analysis that will clearly help voters vet potential candidates?

    I suspect you’re from the Kim Campbell school of thought: “elections are no time to debate the issues.”

  6. Angus has a point.

    Two months is plenty for a mayoral election. Our federal elections are only six weeks.

    The longer the campaign, the more money is required.

    If you want to emulate the Americans and make electioneering a big business of taking donations/bribes for future favours, go ahead.

    But don’t think democracy wins.

  7. Two months is plenty for a mayoral election. Our federal elections are only six weeks.

    And do the press, as Angus suggests, ignore the various parties until the writ is dropped?

    Longer campaigns may require more money, but ignoring the candidates until the last possible moment only increases the chance of one with no substance managing to pull the wool over the eyes of the electorate.

    There’s probably a middle ground between avoiding offending the delicate sensibilities of the public with unseemly talk of policy and zillion-dollar eternal campaigning that we should explore.

  8. Anne, with due respect, you either haven’t watched federal politics for the past four years or you’re willfully blind. There has been a non-stop election campaign federally since Paul Martin’s minority government was elected. The electioneering isn’t just on Parliament Hill either. Every week there are several stories in the press about confidence votes, campaign strategy, new polling numbers, policy platforms, etc.

    Your other contention (starting election talk now makes elections big business) is also bogus. There is a hard spending limit on campaigns and rules that prevent candidates from raising or spending money before they are registered to run. Considering Toronto’s size, that makes raising the maximum funds not impossible for a truly popular candidate. Since this election actually began before the summer for every serious candidate, if bribes/favours are being traded here, it’s happening regardless of whether the media speculates about election strategy.

    @Glen: You and your buddy John sound like old pals.

  9. How about the some ‘in depth’ analysis of those whom have declared there candidacy then?

    Between this and John Lorinc’s thread today, it seems that Spacing is more interested in criticising John Tory than having any real debate.

  10. Glen, you seem awfully touchy about Tory. I was just kidding before but seriously is Tory a friend of yours?

    Today’s Lorinc piece was about dysfunction on the left. It featured a very healthy shot at Giambrone’s electability and Giambrone hasn’t declared anything but strong interest. The effort to clear the deck of other right-wing candidates to give Tory a better shot at winning was also highlighted but that’s less criticism than reality. If you don’t like that practice then maybe Tory’s the wrong candidate for you, even if he is your BFF.

    Also, you seem to be forgetting the attention given to Glen Murray’s likely candidacy. While Murray seems more compatible with Spacing’s ethos, Lorinc didn’t exactly write him a love letter last week.

    And for all our sake, I hope Spacing doesn’t write a word about the only candidate to say definitively he would run, Georgio Mammoliti. I don’t care whether you’re on the right or left or whatever, that man is a joke. His supposed candidacy is as big a stunt as balloon boy.

  11. Glen said: How about the some ‘in depth’ analysis of those whom have declared there candidacy then?

    You can’t declare your candidacy until January. As Gary notes, only Georgio M. has said he’ll definitely run, if the money is there for him.

  12. Eric,

    The problem with the media is that it mostly covers politics like a horse race. Who’s ahead? What do the polls say? Who’s that underdog about to make a move? etc…

    Unless you are a political junkie, two months is plenty to figure out who is the best candidate for mayor.

    Gary,

    I am very aware of what is happening in Ottawa. Do you think our democracy has gotten stronger because of the permanent campaign mode going on in federal politics?

    The constant yapping about polls, who sang well at a concert, who drinks what type of coffee does nothing but turn off Canadians from voting.

    Electioneering is big business.

    Last year, the Dems and GOP raised about a combined $150 million.

    That’s a lot of favours to repay.

    While the mayoral election is small in comparison, the money being raised and spent by the candidates and the cost for the election is nothing to sneeze at.

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