We tried to fact-check John Tory's latest major speech. He made it difficult, and not in a good way.
Here is the thing about John Tory: he has gotten much better at political rhetoric over the course of this campaign, and is now, in fact, much better at it than he’s been at any point in his career.
To be clear, this is not a compliment. Excelling at political rhetoric often involves saying as little of substance as humanly possible, and Tory, in his recent speech to the Board of Trade and in this regard, spoke very well indeed. In this political sense he spoke better than Olivia Chow did, or Rob Ford did, when he was still running for mayor. (At this point Doug has no major speeches planned between now and election day.)
Speaking a lot while saying very little is one thing that drives people away from engaging in politics at all. It is obfuscation via exhaustion; worse, it is a refusal to commit to specific policy, about which you can then be challenged. For any politician it is the safe—and thus many assume savvy—play. But when you are ahead in the polls by 20 points, when you are vying for the highest political office in our city, it is also profoundly arrogant and deeply irresponsible.
Because Tory gave a speech that was political whipped cream, all volume and almost no substance, fact-checking was almost impossible. There were lengthy anecdotes and long cascades of words that gestured in the direction of believing in the city and its potential, but very few things that actually attempted to be facts, or promises, or statements that are subject to verification. In short, though he spoke at great length Tory gave us very little to check. This was not an accident, and it does not speak well of him.
Those caveats in place, on with the actual statements he did manage to include. As with our previous speech fact-checks, straight-up falsehoods are marked in red, and statements that are distortions, convenient omissions, or problematic in more nuanced ways are marked in orange. And to mark Tory’s notably lengthy asides that contained no substance we’ve introduced a new colour, green, which is the one he uses on his campaign signs.
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for the invitation to lunch today. I would like to begin by asking you to spare a thought or say a prayer for Rob Ford and his family, who are no doubt still reeling from the news of the mayor’s cancer diagnosis. I know it weighs heavily on the minds of all of us in this room. The sad truth is that many of us have been touched in one way or another by this terrible disease.
I will say, as I did yesterday, that I think the doctor’s expressions of optimism about it was encouraging. We do know this much we know: that Rob Ford is a fighter. He will face these health challenges head on, with his head and more importantly perhaps with his heart. And I think Torontonians will be pulling for him every single step, every single day along the way of his battle.
I would also like to thank Carol Wilding for her leadership here at the Board of Trade. She’s been in charge here for seven years—they’ve been seven very challenging and interesting years in the life of the city of Toronto—and while the board has always been the voice of business and enterprise in the city, Carol has made sure it has also been a voice of civic engagement and leadership.
She did, as she mentioned, serve—with distinction, I might add—as a member of the board of CivicAction, and that in itself is evidence of her belief that, as important as business is to the life of the city, it’s never just about business.
As business leaders, Toronto is where you make your living, but it is also where many of you make your home, and raise your families, and spend your time. Carol always understood that, and I think she always understood as well that the cities that work the best are the ones that offer the whole package: a welcoming business climate with plenty of jobs and opportunity, safe streets, great transit, strong schools, and a wide array of supports for those needing a hand up. She always understood that, and, Carol, I just want to wish you well on the next chapter of your very interesting career as you move on, I think very soon.
Now, as Carol mentioned, the mayoral campaign is in the home stretch. I find in the beginning of the campaign it was dark when I woke up in morning, and now it’s dark in the morning when I wake up again, and I’m not sure what all that means, but a lot of time in the dark in the mornings, but the bottom line is that it’s dark in the mornings. It gets brighter during the day, thank goodness. But more and more Torontonians are tuning into the final weeks of the campaign, and I think the key question they want answered, and they want to answer it with their votes, is this one: which candidate is best qualified to get Toronto back on track by getting things done for the city?
Toronto, as we know, is North America’s fourth-largest city, and the City of Toronto is Canada’s sixth-largest government, with an annual capital and operating budget exceeding $12 billion. Anyone wanting to become mayor has to understand the tremendous impact that all three levels of government have on life in the city and how important it is to have all these moving parts working together. Whether it’s transit, economic development and job creation, care for the environment, or building housing, the question facing Torontonians in my respectful view is: who can bring everyone together to get things done?
Who can build and continue to develop in a positive way these most important relationships to deliver gains for our city? Who can get their agenda through a new city council and actually get things done? Which candidate can walk up the street and deal with the provincial Liberals and their new majority on shared priorities like transit and infrastructure to build our city? And who can, at the very same time, get the needs of Toronto firmly on the radar with the Conservative majority government in Ottawa and get a fair share for the country’s largest city?1
And you know it isn’t just government-to-government. Business, labour, the not-for-profit sector, and advocates for various causes all play important roles in building a stronger, fairer city, which is what I think we all want to do.
1 Or, if he actually believed in efficiency: “I will attempt to govern in a non-partisan, inclusive fashion.”
When I was chair of CivicAction—and I was one of the founders of CivicAction together with David Pecaut and others—it was all about sitting together at the same table and building these relationships. We would have, as Carol well knows, a banker sitting next to a union executive, sitting next to a professor, sitting next to an anti-poverty advocate. And it not surprising when you think about it, but it was amazing how much we actually had in common in terms of ideas of how to fix things, and how much we could get done.2
2 It is certainly true that CivicAction has always included community leaders and academics along with prominent members of the Toronto business world, but any honest assessment of CivicAction’s leadership history will show that the organization has traditionally been dominated by the business sector. CivicAction’s current board of 12 features eight individuals from the business sector and only four outside of it.
Also, there’s nothing particularly special about CivicAction’s relationship building. High-level business leaders, high-level academic leaders, and high-level charitable sector leaders are, bluntly, all more or less the same people—mostly rich and/or mostly white—travelling in the same circles. CivicAction’s current board and current steering committee are drawn almost entirely from this community. CivicAction runs some excellent programs that aim to increase diversity in our municipal leadership, but its own current leadership does not, currently, reflect the population of Toronto at large.
Building these relationships is a sign of strength, not weakness, and they are at the heart of the very kind of leadership—the very different kind of leadership—that I am offering to replace the politics of division that has taken us so far off track in recent years. You know what I’m talking about: the left versus right, the downtown versus the suburbs—standoffs that all too often prevent us from turning a good story here in Toronto into a great one.
To be very direct, I don’t think we’ll get back on track with Olivia Chow as mayor when she will, on her first day in office, start a long, drawn-out fight with the provincial and federal governments2, and the city council, on the already agreed-to and fully funded3 Scarborough subway.
2 There is no reason a reversal to LRT has to be a “long, drawn-out fight,” considering all it means is reverting to previous financial commitments for which we already have signed agreements. What Chow would need is 22 votes on council. Other levels of government might not like abandoning the Scarborough subway (for reasons mostly to do with vote-pandering), but from a financing perspective the money for LRT is already there.
3 The Scarborough subway is only “fully funded” in the sense that council passed a significant property tax increase in order to pay for it. Contrast this with the fully funded LRT (no quotation marks) which already has funding from current government resources and requires no new sources of revenue.
Some of you may have heard Olivia Chow this morning on CBC radio. She was asked about her plan to increase bus service—”now,” that’s her word—to increase bus service “now,” which for months she has been saying would only cost $15 million. Not only did Matt Galloway, the CBC interviewer on Metro Morning, get her to admit that her plan would require new buses and a brand new storage facility for those buses—a bus garage that will not be ready now, to use her word—but likely years from now.4
He also pinned her down on the real cost. Ms. Chow admitted that it would cost $105 million for the new buses, and another $100 million would be needed to build the new garage. So we seem to be quite a long way from $15 million. So where will you get the money, Mr. Galloway asked? Well, Ms. Chow answered, the billion dollars that was to go to build the Scarborough subway.
Now let’s look at that for a moment. That was $1 billion over 30 years. That doesn’t get you to $205 million next year, or the year after, or the year after that.5 And keep in mind she’s also promised that very same money to fund her downtown relief line. Here’s what Mr. Galloway said, and I quote: “It sounds like you’re playing the shell game.” And I couldn’t have said it better myself. Ms. Chow is fond of saying truth matters. I would go one step further, and say the truth hurts.
4 Steve Munro has suggested that in the short term, the new McNicoll Garage could handle more buses. Obviously a new garage will have to be built, and sooner rather than later, but we could see some increase in bus service before that garage is built.
5 If Munro is correct about McNicoll Garage being sufficient in the short term, then what is actually needed for Chow’s proposed bus expansion to begin is $105 million for the new buses. Practically all of that would become available within the next three years of the re-allocated Scarborough money (approximately $100 million). Chow has also suggested that part of the plan could be refurbishing older buses to extend their operating life, which would further reduce the cost.
More importantly, this is an excellent example of how Tory has become a remarkably adept speaker. He’s not saying anything technically untrue (although he’s ignoring expert argument that Chow’s plan is relatively viable)—but that isn’t really the point. The point is to suggest that Olivia Chow is a clueless tax-and-spend liberal for advancing a bus plan that most transit experts agree is necessary and for which she has provided a spending plan that is not unreasonable, if imperfect.
Like most of you, I love Toronto. I’ve spent my whole life here: it’s been my home, we’ve raised our children here, now our grandchildren are growing up here (some of them, not all). I have been very clear in stating that it’s time for a change—a change to a leader who will bring Toronto together and work with others to achieve real results instead of four more years of division and turmoil.
And I’m running for mayor to get Toronto back on track as one city, with a very different type of leadership style, grounded in what I think frankly are some old and time-and-true tested qualities: accountability, honesty, and trust. Those qualities have always been part of the mayor’s job description. I think they’ve been part of every job description I’ve ever had, and frankly for most of you in this room they’ve been part of the job descriptions you’ve had as well. But I think they’ve gone missing. They’re absolutely essential to building the modern city of today.
Can you imagine how much better off we would be if we could trade in even a small fraction of the recent attention we received on the world stage, trade that for a few articles touting Toronto as a great place do business. Imagine if we had even more saying this is a great place to do business. In reality, I believe there has been a shocking lack of determination on the task that I believe is one of the mayor’s first and foremost tasks, which is to attract jobs and investment to Toronto, and make sure people can get to work.
In a global economy—you know this in this room, and people across the city know this in their hears—we have to be continually looking for the next source of investment and jobs, and the next source after that, and the next source after that. And that’s why as mayor I will move quickly to restore our international reputation by taking up duties as the city’s ambassador and chief sales person. I will also be calling on all of you in the business community to join me in working for the economic and environmental renewal of our city.6
6 “I will be an effective advocate for Toronto on the international level and, I promise, no crack or drunken stupors.”
I will tell you one of the downsides, I suppose, of having been the chair of CivicAction is that I’m quite used to both recognizing the need to reach out to people in all parts of the community to ask for their help in getting involved in addressing the issues of the day, and not assume that all the answers rest with government, or anyone else for that matter. So I will be asking and asking and asking for your help, and for the help of union presidents and officials, and for the help of activists of all kinds in the community, and academics, and everybody else—because you know what, it’s all for one and one for all if you want to build a great city. Those divisions, that weeding out of people who have a view that maybe doesn’t coincide with our own—those days are going to be over.
I will be calling on you to help our city to create, together, thousands more employment opportunities for young people. Olivia Chow thinks this is best done through the expensive, stifling hand of big government. I will successfully challenge—successfully challenge—business, labour, and non-profit organizations to do much better than we have done in creating real opportunities with a future for Toronto’s unemployed youth.7
I will also look to you to partner with government to achieve the essential renewal of some of our isolated and marginalized neighbourhoods. That must be done and it’s going to require your active partnership to get it done—a partnership with government, a partnership with non-profit organizations. It is again all for one and one for all, because it is simply too important not to do it. A City Hall with John Tory as mayor will significantly speed up action on this file so we can look each other in the eye, as I think we would want to do, consistent with Canadian values and our own individual consciences, and say that we are not leaving people behind.
7 “I am a businessman. I do business. I know business, and things related to business. In conclusion: business.”
Another area we’re going to have to work on together is building transit.
As you all know, reducing congestion on the streets of our city is something, and building transit, is the main issue of the campaign. Torontonians are looking at the different transit plans to see which candidate has the best plan to literally get Toronto back on track and to deal with all of the chaos of the Yonge and Bloor subway lines and the interchanges between them. The loss in productivity due to traffic congestion and increased commute times is costing our local economy—we’ve read this from the Board of Trade—$6 billion annually. Six billion dollars. Sometimes those numbers are hard to grasp, but I’ll just mention two examples cited to me in recent days by people I’ve run across on the campaign trail. One was a business where they make food—sandwiches and other kinds of food to be distributed across the city to various restaurants and places where people buy their lunch. And the people running that business told me they were having terrible trouble; they can’t get the lunch on time to the place because they get tied up in traffic.
And I heard from both ends of the Coca Cola delivery channel, which is people who have the plant and the distribution facility, which is just outside the city, and people inside. One of the people inside got a call last week saying, “We’ve just given up, our truck is in traffic, we’re not going to get to you today with your delivery.” This is where the $6 billion comes from: people who are not able to get to where they need to be, people who are not able to get their products that they’re trying to sell, and it’s not acceptable to let that go on. And that’s what’s happening. We’ve had years and years where people have said, “We’ll deal with it tomorrow, we’ll do something about it later.” The loss of productivity has to be brought to an end, yet again it goes on and increases every year.
Earlier in the summer I spelled out the elements of my own transit plan, a short-term plan to ease congestion being the first thing that I talked about: basic items like zero tolerance for delivery trucks. I just came across, the reason I was a few minutes late, was because there was a Canada Post truck double-parked, there was a car that shouldn’t have been parked in the right-hand lane, a Canada Post truck double-parked, and the traffic was backed up on Adelaide Street all the way behind me. This kind of thing cannot go on. I know the money and the mail and the Brinks trucks and the deliveries are all important. But I think that we have to do something about that, say that you can’t just inconvenient hundreds and thousands of people. We’ve got to find a better way. Synchronized traffic signals, co-ordinated 24/7 construction wherever it’s possible—I think these are things that will help get traffic moving in the city again. And in that traffic, by the way, are a lot of public transit vehicles with a lot of people. These are things City Hall can and should be doing already, but isn’t.8
8 “Traffic is a very serious problem.”
But it’s when we come to my ambitious-yet-sensible transit plans for the medium term that we really seize the future. I have three initial priorities here, and again, to achieve them I will be calling on the skills and talents of Toronto’s business community, among many others, to make sure we find the best way to get this done.
The first is to work with the TTC to dramatically improve the reliability of the current system. Much of that is better management, but I am also committed to more express bus service, for example.9
9 Tory has just criticized Olivia Chow’s bus expansion plan at length, and Chow’s plan is not particularly extravagant. The TTC cannot expand express service without new buses and that means spending money on buses. Tory’s plan for bus expansion in fact includes new routes (with no plan to finance them). Given how aggressively Tory has been attacking the Chow bus expansion plan for problems with numbers (which the Chow campaign has acknowledged and corrected), he cannot claim to be “committed to more express bus service” without backing it up.
The second is to build the Scarborough subway. We have a deal, we’ve made a decision, we’re going to get this done. I will not start my term by starting another fight with Prime Minister Harper and Premier Wynne. The Scarborough subway is a go.10
10 Except for the environmental assessment; the drawing up of new formal agreements with the provincial and federal governments (which are different, funnily, than fancy press conferences); the payment of tens of millions in penalties for cancelling the LRT; and having to pass several more votes in council to sign off on all of those things.
The third priority of my One Toronto transit plan is to build the SmartTrack surface rail subway line to bring rapid surface transit to all four corners of the city and relieve the pressure, as I mentioned earlier, on the Yonge and Bloor subways, so important to getting workers into and around the city. The SmartTrack line will offer electrified, frequent all-day, two-way express rail service, largely along existing GO train lines from the Airport Corporate Centre in the west,11 through Etobicoke, down to Union Station and back up through Scarborough and ending in Markham in the east, all for the price of a TTC fare. This will provide relief to the Yonge Street subway. It will give people who presently all funnel into the Yonge Street subway an option as to how to get where they need to go in this city.12
11 SmartTrack is deeply flawed both in its planning and its financing. The proposal does so little of what Tory claims, and is beset by so many unanswered questions, that it may as well be called “S-M-R-T-Track.”
12 To quote Steve Munro: “Any service that operates in the GO rail corridors will have the most benefit for passengers whose trips originate in the outer 416 and the 905. Travel time savings and a 15-minute headway represent a real improvement over today’s offerings on that front. If the intent is to provide some relief for the current system, it must come by diverting that type of rider away from the outer ends of the subway network, not by intercepting trips that are already on local TTC services closer to the core.”
Thanks to our history as an important junction, Toronto is blessed with a comprehensive surface railway system. The SmartTrack line will put those rails to even better use by wiring them for use by electric trains that can run a subway-like service all day.
That means, for the most part, no tunnelling and no impact on existing roads, to get that done.13 And that’s why it can be up and running in seven years—in seven years14—not the minimum 17 years it will take to tunnel and lay track for the conventional downtown relief line favoured by Olivia Chow. I will say this as simply as I can: we can’t wait for 17 years to bring transit relief to the people of the city of Toronto. I just don’t believe we can.
13 This is simply an impossibility. Tory has already been forced to admit that in order to make the logistics of the line work there will have to be some disruption on Eglinton and possibly on Jane as well, and Tory in recent weeks has begun suggesting that drilling may be necessary and part of SmartTrack will have to go underground. Mount Dennis residents, who would bear the brunt of the tunnelling, are already starting to raise concerns.
14 Even if all of Tory’s assumptions had been correct, this seven-year figure was always a long-shot, requiring the province to agree to electrify corridors on Tory’s schedule rather than their own. But given that Tory’s plan relied on projections about land availability that are incorrect, and that SmartTrack, as laid out, does not account for the turning radius of railway cars, that timeline has no foundation whatsoever.
We should have been building at least one new transit stop every year for the past 20 years. We chose—our governments did—not to do that. SmartTrack will give us 22 new transit stations in seven years, and I think that’s something worth fighting for, it’s something that I’m prepared to bring my absolute determination and energy to getting done as mayor, working with the city council and working with the other governments. We have a chance to do something bold and distinctly un-Toronto-like in terms the sense of urgency. I think it’s something we may laugh about it here—as great as the city is—is the sense of urgency about these things. I want you to know I have that sense of urgency, and I’m prepared to do something bold, and SmartTrack is that. I’m going to proceed with it, we’re going to get it done, and it’s going to get done because we absolutely have to do it.
Let me make two important concluding points about this proposal. The first is this: this plan has received significant support in many corners. And I think that’s because not only will it bring real relief to Yonge subway riders in North York and North Toronto, but it will also offer relief from congestion on a city-wide scale15, as drivers who used to take the 401, 427, and the Don Valley Parkway turn in their keys for a seat on a SmartTrack train. Finally, a lot of these people will have a convenient, affordable transit option that will take them somewhere in much less time than the transit options they have in front of them today.
SmartTrack will also bring rapid transit to corners of the city that have never had it: northwest Etobicoke and northeast Scarborough. This represents a huge potential market of transit users who will be able to use this line to connect with employers and jobs in other parts of the city, not just downtown.16 I’ve talked to people who tell me stories, I’ve talked to people in Markham, for example, who operate a software business—a lot of people who live in Scarborough work in Markham—and they would say right now they have no way to get there other than in a car, no really feasible way to get there other than in a car. With SmartTrack they will be able to get on the train in Scarborough and to Markham, and I think that’s going to take cars off the road and help relieve congestion and get people where we want them to be as often as they possible can.
15 John Tory isn’t alone in claiming that his transit plan will offer relief from congestion—every mayoral candidate says it, and every single one of them is lying when they do. And so let us repeat what we wrote when Olivia Chow tried to pass off this line: nothing—no measures taken just on the transit side—will reduce gridlock. Our streets are congested because there are more cars, trucks, and taxis than there is available road space, and they are becoming even more congested because our population is growing while the available road space is not. Reducing gridlock will not come via transit service improvements alone. Reducing gridlock will probably not come at all. Realistically the best we can hope for is holding the line, and that requires not just building more transit but also taking cars off the road.
16 Tory is overselling SmartTrack’s capability to bring users to Toronto’s largest “edge employment regions” (the airport area in north Etobicoke/Mississauga and the 404/Highway 7 cluster). In order to truly provide transit access to these regions, SmartTrack would need to integrate with local (“feeder”) bus routs in order to make a true impact: people would need ways to get to the stations he wants to build. But Tory can’t realistically promise bus service in those regions because they’re largely or entirely outside of Toronto. As designed and proposed by Tory’s campaign, SmartTrack is really only good for people commuting into Toronto rather than to the edges of it, and for people who can access the terminal stations by car.
In a city with 20 per cent youth unemployment is something that’s a fundamental priority we must have. We need to connect the young people and people of other ages who don’t have jobs on the one hand, with employers on the other hand, who tell me they can’t recruit people. I did meet the CEO and owner of a software company that employs 175 people and he said he simply can’t recruit a lot of the younger people who want to live downtown because they say “there’s no way I can get up to Markham.” And so he understands why SmartTrack is going to be a good thing for him, and for the people who want to take those jobs.17
Just last month I held a roundtable on the subject with about 30 youth leaders. They told me that lack of transit is one of the key barriers to getting to job interviews and getting to work if you’ve got a job. These young people were enthusiastic about SmartTrack and what it offered, and about my One Toronto youth employment plans.
It is essential that we promote Toronto as a great place to do business—to get that start-up going or expand an existing enterprise—and my One Toronto jobs plan will do just that together with my One Toronto transit plan. You can see how these pieces fit together. SmartTrack and other parts of the transit plan knitting the city together in a more meaningful way and connecting people to jobs.18
17 See point 16.
18 See point 16.
And this brings me back to the importance of relationships, competence, and reputation. Closing the SmartTrack deal will require a mayor who can actually work with the city council, the premier, and the prime minister to wire up these tracks and to get Toronto itself back on track. So I cannot tell—and I’m emphasizing this, mentioning it more than once today, because it is so important—I cannot tell you how disruptive it will be and how damaging it will be if we spend the next four years trying to undo the agreement to build the Scarborough subway, as Olivia Chow proposes to do.19
I said the other day, it’s rare when all three levels of government in this country agree on what day it is, never mind on a major project that they will agree on and put up their money. And I think we have to get on with that for the sake of building a great city.
19 Actually, Olivia Chow proposes that we stick with the signed agreements we already have, to build a transit line that’s already been designed and assessed. Should she be elected she would need to get this through council. If she did the other levels of government would more or less have to come along for the ride.
For many years when it came to a lot of these kinds of things, in particular transit, some might have argued that we had time on our side. But time has slipped away. Time has slipped away. We need to get on with it. Today I’ve asked you and I’ve told you I’ll be asking you to help me make the city stronger, but I realize you can’t do that unless you are strong yourself—and I’m referring to people who are in business. So I’m going to do my part by addressing some of the obstacles and pet peeves that come with doing business in the city today.
The first is going to be to streamline the way the city and businesses work together. You’ve heard that before but you haven’t heard it from something with the experience that I have in dealing both with regulators and government as a business leader, and also in being around government. Somehow the same mentality that has made food truck licensing in this city become some kind of a complicated nightmare seems to be applied to everything, from a corner store to a major innovation centre in the city. Business owners—I say this plain and simple—should not have to be municipal legal experts or rocket scientists to get their permits in a reasonable amount of time and with a minimum of difficulty. Enough already. Enough.20
20 Tory’s position on food trucks is a little murky but his campaign’s most recent communication on the issue indicates that he supports current food truck regulations (which are awful). Of course, Tory most likely decided he had to take this stance after realizing that business owners (and more specifically restaurant owners) were opposed to food trucks operating near their businesses or in fact operating at all. This is a good example of why John Tory prefers to avoid specifics. It’s easy to say “regulations and red tape are bad”—right up until constituents say they want those regulations and red tape in place to protect their livelihoods.
As your mayor, I will create a single touchpoint for business permit applications and other business services sought by those seeking to invest in our city. We want to find a way to say yes to people who want to invest in Toronto, and find a way to say, “Yes, how may we help you?” as opposed to, “No, we couldn’t possibly do that.”
I will work with the council to make the investments in technology needed to bring Toronto City Hall into the 21st century. You’ve seen examples yourselves where there are people pushing papers back and forth and so forth and putting people to a lot of trouble, and costing the government a lot of money because of all the process of that paper.
Secondly, I will clean up the jumble of organizations trying to attract business to Toronto. Invest Toronto, the city economic development department, and the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance—of which I have served as a co-chair; it’s not a government organization but it’s out there—are all trying to do the same thing, but a little bit differently. But they have a common objective: bringing jobs to Toronto. And I’ve said today how fundamentally important I think that is. It is absolutely fundamentally important, both for the people who are here and don’t have work, and for the children and grandchildren of the people in this room, and for the 85,000 people coming here every year seeking opportunity. I will unify and streamline the way these three organizations and others work, and this will mean a better outcome on jobs and lower costs.21
We have to put behind us—not all the time but as much of the time as it’s going on—this notion that Toronto, Mississauga, and Pickering all show up in Brazil or Beijing separately at the same time, all seeking the same jobs and investors. We’ve got to go more often than we are today as an effective team that sells the reality that is the Toronto region.
21 “I will cut bureaucracy and that will create jobs!”
Thirdly, I will focus on making Toronto the research and development centre of the world for smart city technology. I think we need to have some goals like this that mirror our excellent in financial services, to take one example, and there are others as you know. I want Toronto to be in the forefront of the implementation of these technologies that will make urban living more pleasant, more efficient, and create more jobs and investment. How can it be that we were the first city in North America to have synchronized traffic lights—the first city. The problem is the same Commodore 64 that was put in place that day is still running. Some of the best traffic management technology has been developed at the University of Toronto, and yet we’re lagging behind as a city that adopts that technology.22 How can that be? I’d say it’s a lack of will, by and large.23
22 Tory is perhaps overselling an experimental technology that has not yet been implemented in real life.
23 “Lack of will” is a nice thing to say because it implies general haplessness rather than a conscious decision, but the reason Toronto lags on adopting new technologies is really quite simple: people—and more importantly, politicians—don’t want to raise taxes in order to raise the money to do new things. We barely manage to fund our own ongoing critical infrastructure maintenance needs, let alone keep pace with good repair standards, never mind implementing expensive new systems. The fault for that lies squarely with (mostly conservative) politicians who have underfunded Toronto for decades—be they provincial and federal politicians who know that campaigning against Toronto is a decent way to get votes everywhere else, or municipal politicians who are too cowardly to say that Toronto’s property taxes (the largest revenue-generating tool available to the City) are disproportionately low. John Tory, for his part, has committed both sins: in the 2007 Ontario general election, the Progressive Conservatives promised the least provincial uploading of municipal costs of the three major parties, and this is the second time he has run for mayor and promised to limit property tax hikes to the rate of inflation (he did it in 2003 as well). Bluntly: John Tory is in no position to be a moral scold on this issue.
My friends, we need a mayor whose going to get Toronto back on track, who will come at our challenges with a fresh perspective, absolutely committed to bring us together each and every day, one for all and all for one. And after four years of chaos, we also need a sense of urgency. I’m not at all satisfied with where we are. I’m not satisfied on transportation and traffic. I’m not satisfied because we have left people and continually leave people behind in some of our isolated neighborhoods. And I’m not at all satisfied that we have attacked the inefficiency in spending down at City Hall the way we need to. I will be the leader who really brings a culture of accountability to City Hall because I know what such a culture is and I know how to do it.
You all know this type of exercise is hard work. It’s rolling up your sleeves and going line-by-line. There is no easy way to do it. It just hard work, and it’s sensitive work. We have only scratched the surface.
Competence, accountability, honesty. If these three words describe the so-called safe and stable hands that I am offering, I think Torontonians are ready for that. But that they’re even more ready for is results. Results on transit. Results on congestion. Results on keeping taxes low. Results on growing and marketing the city and finding the jobs and opportunity for young people, and for the 85,000 new Canadians that are arriving here in the GTA every year—thank goodness—and results for single moms who raising kids in parts of the city, in many parts of the city, on their own.
And as romantic as the solo figure may seem in movies and literature, the message from recent times, I think, is clear: you can’t act alone. You can’t get things done all by yourself. As mayor, you need to believe in your head as well as in your heart that success and progress come from bringing people together, not dividing them. You need the city council behind you, all pulling in the same direction. And you need to listen to Torontonians.
I’m doing a lot of listening these days, and what I’m hearing is that Torontonians are ready for a very different style of leadership, one that brings us together, one that brings out our best, and and gets results and gives us a city that goes from good to great to even greater. And that is why I’m asking for your support on October 27 so that, together, we can get Toronto back on track to an even brighter future.22
Thank you very much.
22 “Did I mention I’ll be a mayor for everybody? Non-partisan? Because I will be.”