Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Ballot questions

Read more articles by

The mayoral aspirations of Minister George Smitherman and, to a lesser extent, Michael Pinball Clemons, have been the subject of dozens of column inches lately. But neither seem like viable candidates to me.

Minister Smitherman, recently named Minister of Everything — err Energy and Infrasructure, has categorically denied he has any interest in moving back to 100 Queen West in several media reports. But in spite of Furious George’s denials, an informal Lastman-era campaign apparatus has apparently been scoping out the political landscape on the former Barbara Hall chief of staff’s behalf for some time.

But in the event that Minister Smitherman changed his mind and decided to run, I can’t figure out what he would use as a wedge issue during a campaign against Mayor Miller. New taxes? The McGuinty government gave city hall those powers. Business taxes? The McGuinty government has a slow as molasses plan to eliminate the business education tax while Mayor Miller has offered relief to the commercial property tax base and even more relief to small businesses. Public transit? The McGuinty government hasn’t restored the historically successful funding formula cut by the Mike Harris regime and is funding the Miller-championed Transit City plan. Housing? Premier McGuinty promised thousands of new units and painfully few have come to fruition while Miller has tabled a plan to repair the existing social housing stock that was downloaded on the City. Planning and development? Premier McGuinty hasn’t done much of anything to tame the OMB. Property taxes? The McGuinty government didn’t do anything meaningful on assessment reform, and it’s the runaway increases in hypothetical value that people hate more than a 3% or 4% increase in property taxes.

My list could go on but the point is that while the McGuinty government, in which Minister Smitherman serves as Deputy Premier, has been better to Toronto than the Harris/Eves government by any measure, running a mayoralty campaign on its Toronto-based achievements wouldn’t guarantee any measure of success when going up against a progressive incumbent like Mayor Miller. Plus, Minister Smitherman can’t even tap into the suburban alienation mentality since he represents Toronto Centre-Rosedale (and remember: Mayor Miller won 43 42 of 44 wards last time around, his only losses were the ward represented by Jane Pitfield and the one attached to her ward).

As for Pinball Clemons, he’s sure to be a losing candidate in this town. First, a former football player who continues to choose to live in Oakville will not be welcomed with open arms in Toronto, no matter how infectious his smile. Second, I’m told backroom types have video footage of the running-back-turned-sports-executive campaigning with Mike Harris in the 90s. Enough said.

At this point, I just don’t see a compelling opponent on the horizon. Those who have the potential to put up an interesting fight (say a Karen Stintz) don’t have the campaign machine behind them to be anything more than Jane Pitfield, while those who are getting serious consideration from the old Lastman backroom aren’t particularly viable candidates.

Though that said, the burning question in my mind is, if Minister Smitherman runs, what would happen to the Miller Administration in the 11 months that separate the opening of nominations and Election Day? Mayor Miller has included several Liberals in his progressive bloc, including a few on Executive Committee. What will those councillors do?

Notwithstanding clause

Notwithstanding my comment about Councillor Stintz’s campaign machine, her former executive assistant, Dan Bordonali has joined former Lastman-era Don Valley East councillor Paul Sutherland at Sutherland’s new lobby practice Sutherland & Associates. In the recent past, Sutherland had worked for Hill & Knowlton, a larger public relations firm with a municipal lobby practice, where Bordonali went to work as soon as he departed city hall. Around the same time that Bordonali left city hall, Councillor Stintz hired HK to provide her with $1,590 of media training (according to Councillor Rob Ford’s council expense database). Taken together, it was assumed by many that Councillor Stintz was going to be backed by people within HK. The reason for Sutherland and Bordonali going out on their own could be that they believe in Councillor Stintz’s candidacy more than HK did and are willing to put their professional butts on the line for it. But if they had to go outside HK to do this work (and that’s purely speculation), that would signal just how little institutional support Councillor Stintz is getting.

Photograph by Lone Primate.



  1. Toronto voted for Lastman twice so dont count out Pinball.

  2. “Mayor Miller won 43 of 44 wards last time around”

    Mayor Miller was running against a dilapidated cardboard cutout of John Tory and a job lot of rubber ducks, last time around. Sources tell me that Pitfield’s original campaign slogan was “IS THIS TRIP NECESSARY?”

    I agree that George Smitherman (or any McGuinty cabmin) is not going to be likely to take on Miller and win at the present time. A centrist challenger will probably have to come from outside government altogether.

  3. Smitherman wouldn’t be looking for ex-Mike Harris voters. He’d be after people who are lukewarm to David Miller but voted for him (or didn’t vote) in the last election because he was the best choice on offer. Those folks might figure after seven years that it was time to give someone else a chance. (In left/right terms Smitherman would try to claim the centre, pushing Miller to the left and leaving Stintz on the right.)

    The Globe had an interesting analysis of one possible ballot question: subways vs. Transit City.

  4. Pitfield actually won both Don Valley West wards, 25 and 26 (though only by margins of 53 and 227 votes, respectively).

  5. Well, Adam, you’re right. Much to my despair, you’re right. (I’m not despairing that you’re right, I’m despairing that we’re probably doomed to four more years of this idiot)

    scott d: Really, it was once. The 2000 election pretty well never happened, save my neck of the woods, with the Saundercook/Miller bowl.

    But can we at least try to find someone to run against this pansy excuse of a Mayor? Michael Thompson (councillor in Scarborough) could be interesting. Can we at least get Rob Ford to run? He’d be at least entertaining.

  6. I’d like to see another progressive give it a shot… namely Shelley Carroll or Adam Vaughan… who would atleast poke and prod Miller during debates and make the race competitive (assuming there was not a left-vote split against a single right wing candidate).

  7. It’s tangential to your point but it was Bob Rae who started the major cuts to the TTC which (to be sure) Mike Harris continued and then reversed to a limited extent; in addition David Peterson winning was the key reason Network 2011 wasn’t built.

    Pretty much every political party is to blame for the TTC.

  8. I’d like to see someone other than Miller as Mayor. He’s shown that he is more anti-democratic than Mel.

    And, if he wants more power as Mayor — why didn’t he run on it the last time. And if he wants it that badly, he should run on it the next time and see if the people want the Mayor to have that power. It’s not about Miller – it’s about any future Mayor.

    I hope George runs.

  9. Article leaves out two potentially important issues:

    a) guns (I don’t want to start a debate on this subject, just bring it up; not everyone thinks that Miller has the right approach to this; kicking perfectly above-the-board shooting clubs out of Union station and making it impossible for hunting shows or sporting events to come to Toronto is not a good strategy in my opinion)

    b) Miller’s power grab. I’m quite sure plenty would be happy for the mayor to NOT gain any more power.

  10. It’s no surprise to me that a McGuinty minister thinks he can run Toronto – Gerard Kennedy was education minister for five minutes and thought he could be leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

    As for Smitherman’s wedge issue – given the enthusiasm with which he hijacked the issue I’m guessing food carts.

  11. Carroll isn’t running for mayor this time. Maybe 2014. Her worst nightmare is Smitherman running. She would have to choose between her Liberal roots and loyalty to Miller. Either way she loses.

    Vaughan could run as a gadfly but he’s dreaming if he thinks he could win. He doesn’t care to acknowledge that amalgamation happened and most Torontonians live north of St. Clair.

    Like it or not, any progressive running against Miller would split the vote in favour of a right-wing candidate.

    Thompson has put his foot in his mouth too many times to be a credible candidate in a year-long campaign. Lots of people in the black community think he’s an Uncle Tom for things like calling for racial profiling of young black men.

    Bring on Rob Ford.

  12. I can just see Toronto Life’s top 10,000 things Rob Ford did during his stint as mayor. Bring it.