Joe Pantalone at May’s faith debate. Photo by Christopher Drost/Torontoist.
Joe Pantalone took another baby step down the long road to the mayoral elections this morning when he made a presentation to the Toronto Board of Trade on his “vision of prosperity” for the city.
According to Pantalone (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), we’re doing okay. Our core services are intact despite the recession and our finances are (mostly) in order, thanks to years of good management. “The only people who are super-critical of Toronto are Torontonians,” he said.
His opponents, however, would threaten this good order with their “half-baked” plans to fix what ain’t broke. Pantalone’s campaign has been steadily producing metaphors to make his small-change platform seem like the only healthy approach. The city is a tree, and “we don’t need to chop down the tree, we just need to give it a good pruning.” The city is sick, and “the scalpel is much more powerful than the sledgehammer.” The other candidates are “bulls in a china shop” and we assume he is the assiduous shop-owner who is running around holding everything in place.
Transit City is still at the centre of his platform. According to Pantalone, this plan is affordable, workable, and “may be Toronto’s most important economic strategy.” Instead of a stop-and-go approach to transit, we should pace transit expansion with the city’s ever-growing population. Heck, he’s already suggesting a blockbuster sequel: Transit City II.
As for funding, he pointed his finger directly at the province. The city’s financial crisis is not an expenditure problem, but a downloading problem; the budget would be balanced if only the province had chipped in its promised share of transit funding. Restoring this funding is a matter of political pressure—if Toronto stands behind Transit City when the provincial elections roll around in November 2011, the province “will have no choice but to give in” and funding will follow.
Pantalone trotted out a list of projects and programs as proof of what he could accomplish. The Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. The green agenda. The Exhibition Place windmill. The MLS franchise at BMO Field. His most recent and popular accomplishment? Allowing Toronto bars to start serving alcohol an hour earlier to accommodate the 10 a.m. start-time of some World Cup matches. He described this achievement as a one-man mission that spread to other municipalities, and eventually, the province. This, he said, is “what you can do with experience.”
And in case you forget who to toast when you raise your pint at 10:01 a.m., Pantalone has produced a pocket-sized schedule of the matches to remind you of his power to stand up for soccer fans citywide.
Pantalone tried to capitalize on his likeability. What every good mayor needs, he claimed, is collegiality. He called Smitherman “kind of a pushy fellow” and accused Ford of being stubborn and isolated from council. He sees municipal politics as a loose collection of councillors who are “princes and princesses” of their wards: “either you get along with them…or you don’t go anywhere.”
While Pantalone calls himself a proud progressive candidate, the claim’s at odds with his careful defence of the status quo. We need change, he claims—just not too much and not too fast. Pantalone faces the balancing act of eking out a compelling political platform without abandoning the left-leaning agenda that has dominated City Hall for so long.