Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains of 2007––the people, places, and things that we’ve either fallen head over heels in love with or developed uncontrollable rage towards over the past twelve months. Get your dose, starting Boxing Day and running into the new year, three times a day––sunrise, noon, and sunset.
By all accounts, John Tory is an individual of impeccable character and integrity who planned to restore civility to Ontario politics. But after positioning this fall’s provincial campaign as a question of leadership, he showed himself to be an unmitigated disaster as a candidate and party leader. And his ignominious defeat revealed everything that’s wrong with contemporary elections. Apart from a tax cut here or a slight increase in funding there, Tory never distinguished himself from Dalton McGuinty. His pièce de résistance—a Conservative fumble of historic proportions—was to attempt to introduce actual ideas into an arena where leaders squabble over the middle of the spectrum. Tory offered to extend public funding to private religious schools, a relatively minor policy idea. The Liberals seized upon the issue, McGuinty blatantly fear-mongered, and Tory never again controlled the message. Ultimately it was Tory’s fault that all other issues—the fragile manufacturing sector, the health care levy, the neglect of Toronto’s crumbling infrastructure, or the laughable Liberal funding of cricket clubs—receded into white noise.
First Tory tried to explain the idea away to a jittery public. Then, with mounting criticism from the media and from within his own party, he backpedalled as fast as he could to escape the public’s taste for schadenfreude. His compromise of a free vote on the issue made Tory one of those rare politicians who broke a promise before being elected to office, as well as the best advertisement for the robust statesmenship of McGuinty. Now he sits in an unhappy purgatory. Unable to let go of his thirty years of political ambitions, he still leads a party that is traditionally unforgiving of failed leaders. His colleagues say the right things in public, of course, but are inevitably sharpening knives in back rooms, ready to revolt at a moment’s notice.
Photo from the Progressive Conservative Party website.