Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

JOHN LORINC: Deconstructing Giambrone’s mayoral bid

Read more articles by

Is there anyone in the audience who understands what Adam Giambrone is thinking?

In the run-up to this week’s formal start of the municipal campaign, speculation about his mayoral aspirations has grown ever more insistent, with NOW Magazine last week going so far as to predict he’ll prevail in October.

But the fact that he wants to run — and that the labour movement needs a standard bearer — doesn’t answer a basic question: why?

Giambrone is not 2010’s David Miller. What’s more, the political zeitgeist feels more like 1994 (Bob Rae/Barbara Hall in power, Mike Harris in opposition) than 2002 (Ernie Eves/Mel Lastman in power, Dalton McGuinty in opposition).

I suppose a back-of-the-envelope calculation may be bolstering Giambrone’s rationale: the right is crowded and getting more so – George Mammolitti, George Smitherman, Rocco Rossi, perhaps John Tory. Heading into the campaign, they trip over one another promising to be $1-a-year-men while Giambrone steers his Queen streetcar through the carnage and directly into the mayor’s office.

Or something like that.

Without a doubt, Adam is also reminding himself, as Rossi is on the centre-right, about the Miller creation myth, which saw a relatively unknown figure start with negligible polling numbers, only to vault to victory eleven months later.

Yet absent a clearly articulated goal, Giambrone’s bid seems to be constructed on several shaky assumptions:

• That Smitherman will let fiscal conservatism define his candidacy. My guess is that George, looking at the mounting traffic in the right-hand lane, will soon begin to target downtown, socially progressive voters with a handful of urban-minded wedge issues.
• That the field in October 2010 remains as large as it will be come January 2010. Does anyone remember John Tory’s bid to buy out John Nunziata in 2003? Any left or centre-left candidate who thinks they’ll be competing through the home stretch against a slate of right-wingers is fooling themselves.
• That voter anger towards Mayor Miller, with whom Giambrone is so closely aligned, will have subsided. Mel Lastman didn’t run in 2003, but Miller’s campaign drew an enormous amount of energy from his attacks against the symbols of Lastman’s tenure (lobbyists, airports, etc.).
• That he’s paid his dues. Giambrone had the mayor’s endorsement blowing in his sails for both the past two elections. And seven years in, he still radiates far too much personal political ambition, council’s version of the smart kid with the MBA who arrives in an corporate hierarchy, determined to snatch his boss’s job before he’s 30.
• That the middle class homeowners who supported Miller in 2003 and 2006 will back a labour candidate this time. Miller won those votes on the strength of his intellect and charisma. But after the levies, the strike and vehicle registration fees, that constituency certainly isn’t Giambrone’s for the taking.

The most problematic aspect of his run, however, is that it puts in play an important council seat, with no guarantee that Davenport will end up in the hands of another lefty. Indeed, if Joe Pantalone throws his hat into the ring, the centre-left could find itself two wards down at a time when municipal progressives will need to do everything they can to protect Miller-era gains on things like public transit and the environment.
Maybe Giambrone’s real game plan here is the usual career-building tactic: generate some city-wide name recognition with a gusty run and then win the federal NDP a fourth Toronto seat in the Commons.

From where I sit, Giambrone would do far more to prove himself as a Toronto pol to watch if he chose to fight for his local seat on council and stick around City Hall when the going gets tough.

photo by Rannie Turingan



  1. We need a big player who knows the ins-and-outs of the Provincial and Federal government who will lobby from the inside and get us the money we need to run this city. As of right now, it’s not Giambrone’s time.

  2. “NOW Magazine last week going so far as to predict he’ll prevail in October.”

    Predict? Desperately hope more like. It’s been a comfy time for NOW what with Eye doing their best to implode (losing Sasha, cigarette advertising, Kate Carraway) and one of theirs as chief Miller spinner. Perhaps they feel a chill wind approaching.

    Giambrone lacks the Teflon quality, which is needed more and more as you seek higher and higher office. His foray into television makes him seem stilted and awkward.

    Anyway, it seems like destiny that we’ll have a gay mayor for World Pride (though I still wish it were Glen Murray rather than the Smitherthug) and he ruled himself out of that category after Enzo di Matteo’s ridiculous gaffe last week.

  3. Does anyone know the story of how Adam Giambrone became TTC chair? There must be stories behind all the frogs he’s lept over.

  4. If I had to give a 10am observation about Adam Giambrone it would be that he doesn’t seem to have any particular vision or even a penchant for having them.

    I would also argue that the increases in TTC service have largely been part of a natural upswing in service, not the result of his stewardship. Furthermore, he’s had it so easy as TTC chair with David Miller burning most of the calories as the “Champion of Transit”.

    And running under the “Champion of Transit” banner can have it’s own problems. Especially if Giambrone tries to run on his record. For every service increase about which he can brag, there’s a fare increase he’ll want to duck. And the small issue of a couple of strikes and the declining level of customer service on the TTC doesn’t help him either.

    So what’s left for him to run on? His good looks, engaging oratory or captivating personality? Those things matter to the young and ambitious set and for Giambrone…well…in those departments, Obama he’s not.

    So I suppose I want to know…why is he bothering? I’m with Lorinc on this one; fight for your ward and wait to run for the big chair until you’ve had some time to stand on your own, out of the shadow of David Miller and the safety of his inner circle.

  5. I had already made up my mind to not vote for Giambrone for Councilor again, and now I know who I’m not going to vote for for mayor. He has alienated diverse groups in his ward, from business people to Bloor/Lansdowne homeowners. I don’t agree with every group’s beef with him, but the important thing is that he doesn’t seem to be able to get anyone on board with him for any neighbourhood issue – his attitude is always, “oh well, not everyone’s going to agree, but stuff needs to be done.” True enough, but he doesn’t seem to be interested in, or capable of, forming consensus. If you aren’t going to listen to the people, at least create the illusion that you’re listening to them.

  6. I agree with the posters who say Adam should run again as councilor. Gain some more experience before tackling the daunting job of mayor.

  7. Next time we formulate a $15 billion TTC expansion plan, can we have some debate as to what Torontonians want to see, Adam?

    It’ll be good to see him gone. Hopefully he doesn’t get a job with Metrolinx.

  8. With the looming budget shortfall, I am not surprised a number of incumbents are throwing their hats into the Mayoralty race. Better to lose there than as an incumbent councillor.

    BTW just what has Mayor Miller done for the environment that has not be undone by the continual increase in the percentage of residents that commute outside the city for work?


    Toronto has the money it needs, it just refuses to have those in the residential property class pay for it. It would rather have renters and businesses pay. As the erosion in Toronto’s assessment base has shown, these policies were foolhardy and of short term benefit only.

  9. Seems to be alot of confusion on left with Pantalone’s constant repitition that he is pretty sure on running. After the pre Christmas reports of Giambrone trying to get unions’ support, the why could be simply that the Left does not want Miller’s election machine supporting anyone but one of their own even though they do not have a strong candidate.

  10. I agree with you John… Smitherman may turn out to be an awesome advocate for urban issues.

    He doesn’t seem to mind saying whatever he thinks, and he seems to be cognizant that traffic congestion is not only costing Toronto economically, but that the solution ISN’T to build more highways.

  11. I had the impression he was aiming for being Prime Minister from when he was elected President of the NDP. Losing the mayoralty race, then becoming a federal MP would make sense.

    From there he can become Federal NDP leader. Probably not the next one (Layton is expected to retire after the next election), but the one after that. That’s just one step from being Prime Minister.

  12. As Miller’s golden boy given authority over the TTC without any credentials for the job Giambrone is a hopeless candidate. The only reason he is in play is that Miller’s NDP political machine wants one of their own to keep their union alliances in house. The recent reports of Giambrone seeking union support in the form of Union paid election workers working for the candidate without having to declare the benefits of union support as election expenses is the bottom line. If public sector union emloyees and salaried Construction Trade representatives can give their time to Giambrone without declaring their financial contribution to a candidate the Mayor’s claim to not accept union or corporate contributions is a farce.
    Spacing should be demanding all candidates to declare such contributions, whether union or corporate as part of their election expences.
    But I doubt they will as the advantage of non exposure favours the Millerites not the democrates.

  13. As TTC Chair, Adam has presented a fresh face and approach after years of Howard Moscoe in the job where Chief General Managers were spinning through a revolving door because of his belief that he was the absolute ruler of the TTC. I personally don’t know how well Adam and Mr. Webster get along, but the fact that Webster has remained in the job after originally being appointed interim CGM and then being made permanent must indicate that they respect each other and are comfortable with their roles with respect to each other.

  14. I think Giambrone could make a very fine mayor someday; that day is some years away yet, however. He should stay on council and show what he can do outside Miller’s shadow.

  15. Giambrone as the kid wonder of the NDP is much to closely allied with Miller’s fiscal mismanagement of Toronto’s budget and has no chance at all in runnimg for Mayor. So let him run and we will be rid of him at council and he will be free to run for federal seat he wants and lose there too. A total fiscal basket case who should not have any position of monetary implications.

  16. Adam should stay on as city councilor and TTC chair, but needs a lot more experience before taking on the mayor’s job. Smitherman or Tory for mayor to clean house, minus Miller’s broom of course.

  17. There’s no “cleaning house”…with that kind of naivety it’s no wonder Harper’s allowed to run ripshod over this country and we’d even consider electing and untested kid like Giambrone as mayor of our largest city. Times are just that bleak. It’s cynical optimism…if no one’s thought of that term before I’m gonna copyright it.

  18. Well, if these comments are any indication, Giambrone would be well advised not to run.

    Just to put my two cents in: Giambrone is ridiculously young to run for mayor. Maybe, as Lorinc suggests, he’s planning on making a gutsy mayoral bid to generate name recognition. But that’s not what’s best for Toronto; that’s careerism. And Giambrone already looks like a sort of golden child who hasn’t paid his dues in full. In any case, he’s way too inexperience to run for mayor, and he’s not too good at talking to citizen’s concerns (at least from what I’ve seen.)

    And the TTC fare hike can’t help, even if it isn’t realy his fault.

  19. I like Adam and have found him to be a good councilor for my area, far better than Mario Silva who I never saw. I am somewhat fearful that loosing him as councilor will retard the progressive growth and new spirit that Davenport has started to experience over the last 8 years. I don’t want the Neanderthals back in control.

    Would Adam be a good mayor, I am not sure. I agree with him on many points but being mayor is a different kettle of fish. I have to admit the thought of Furious George ripping into some of the deadwood on Council appeals to me. It seems to me that the “mad as hell” climate out there right now is not looking for nuance and not looking for anything that reminds them of Miller: the scapegoat of the ignorant. I suspect that all one has to do is say Miller liked him and he raised TTC fares or likes unions and it would be over.

    The one chance Adam may have is if the Ontario Liberals get in more trouble this year and Smitherman gets painted with it. Otherwise I really wonder if this is a very bad reading of the public mood at this point in time and a run in 4 years would make a lot more sense.

  20. Maybe if Adam gets to be mayor he’ll get around to some more of those new bicycle lanes he was working on a few years ago.

  21. I wonder if Giambrone ran again in his riding if he would win. I agree with Cass — he’s pissed off quite a few people in his Ward. Perhaps this is why he’s running for mayor? I think he’s an intelligent guy and a good speaker but not really someone to get behind. He shows no passion/compassion. Unlike most people who seem to be making comments in the media, I think that Miller did a pretty good job over the past 7 years (did everyone forget Lastman?). I would vote for him again. I was hoping for a decent left leaning candidate on the ballot. So far I don’t see one. But I would definitely vote for Pantalone before I would vote for Giambrone.

  22. Saying Giambrone is too young and inexperienced strikes me as an ad hominem attack.

    If his youth and inexperience has caused him to make bad decisions you should criticize those decisions. If not, then argument has no weight.

  23. I’ll keep this simple: Adam, if you’re reading this, please don’t run for Mayor. Stay on as a Councillor in our Ward. (Though don’t assume the position is yours for the taking, either.)

  24. After the revelations re: Exhibition Hotel I’d vote for Giambrone waaaay before Pantalone.

  25. I also hope Giambrone stays in ward 18 for another term. Someone is giving him really bad advice if he thinks he’s got any hope at winning the Mayor’s seat. There are a lot of whiners in his ward, but I think most of his constituents have been pleased to have a dynamic, visible representative on council.

  26. Careerist is a good word to describe him. Why build a subway line when “120 km of higher-order transit” sounds so much better on your resume.

  27. Paul… the “whiners” happen to be his constituents who don’t always and they happen to be entitled to as much due process as the constituents who agree with his agenda. I don’t for a moment think that a Councillor’s job is to do whatever his/her constituents want. But a Councillor who can hold 4 community meetings over a public toilet in a park in one part of the ward THEN in another part of the ward claim to have done adequate consultation for a $2million project on the basis of an alleged “door to door survey” has no sense of proportion or understanding of what governance means. That person isn’t fit to be Councillor let alone mayor. Yeah, he’ll get elected as Councillor again because of name recognition and because he’s careful to curry favor in particular areas of his ward. But I think it’s quite telling that most of Giambrone’s supporters want to ignore the class/ethnic lines that seem to mark who supports him and who doesn’t.

  28. Lansdowne looks lovely. Lets start north of Bloor now.

  29. Scottd, Paul……nothing wrong with starting north of bloor so long as there is due process. The issue I brought up was due process, which should apply regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with a course of action. It’s one thing to defend a given political decision. But to try to defend lack of proper consultation because you happened to agree with the outcome is a very arrogant attitude indeed. Peace.

  30. As for the changes taking place in Davenport that many want to attribute to the Councillor, let’s get real… gentrification is a process that has been taking place throughout the inner city and was bound to happen in the areas you are talking about regardless of who sat at Council.

  31. Sam

    I can point to specific changes for the better that were led by Adam. Davenport is going through a natural regeneration and that too is bringing new interest to the area as well. They are not exclusive in my mind.

    I am not defending anything and please stop, as I have noticed you tend to do, calling people things. It in itself is in your words “arrogant”.

    There is an election coming up so why don’t you test your ideas in the public marketplace?

  32. Scottd’s comment… “I am not defending anything and please stop, as I have noticed you tend to do, calling people things. It in itself is in your words “arrogant”.”

    Not sure what you are saying in the first sentence… but I still by my comment that it’s arrogant for one to defend lack of process on the basis of one liking the outcome. If that doesn’t apply to you, then my apologies. If it does, then no apology. Some people like to use the word “activist” for those fight for things they believe in and “whiners” for those who fight for things they are against, but then one person’s “whiner” is another person’s “activist”. Bottom line is that all should be entitled to due process.

    Scottd’s comment… “There is an election coming up so why don’t you test your ideas in the public marketplace?”
    I’m not sure if you are suggesting I run for office, but that’s not something I’ve ever been interested in. That said, a lack of interest in running does not preclude me (or anyone else for that matter) from making comments about various issues. Am I to understand that you post comments here because you do have an interest in running? If so, good luck on your campaign.

  33. regarding NOW magazine’s political commentary the quality is NONEXISTENT. as an example the last provincial election published an article that tony ruprecht would be defeated (I WISH). the “reporter” based this on he had gone to the ndp headquarters and found a bunch of very busy campaign workers there! no analysis, no polls, no nothing – just wishful thinking (ruprecht of course won easily). then the ridiculous comment about giambrone being gay – doesn’t NOW have editors??? even given the reporter is stupid enough to write it. no, NOW magazine has ZERO credibility on political issues – they have not one clue what they are talking about.