Frank Touby —
John Tory is a magnificent thinker and communicator in the right forum. He has found that métier at CFRB, the AM talk-radio station at 1010 on the dial whose call letters stand for Canada’s First Rogers Broadcast.
So you can see that there has long been a Rogers-John Tory link.
What’s so unique about this link isn’t that he has owned, perhaps since birth, an inside track on things Rogers, including most recently the top chair in that corporation.
It’s that he’s so spectacularly adept at this particular broadcasting job. In the talk-radio format, John Tory is the penultimate voice of reason and so often also of uncommon sense.
He is humane, understanding, empathetic and eminently sensible in so much of how he handles callers to the Live Drive show he hosted until he was called by misguided partisans to replace Mayor Rob Ford.
It’s hard to believe that Doug Ford, or indeed any member of that benighted family, could get anything right about this mayoral campaign. But Doug actually has.
He recently took a shot at John Tory’s born-with-a-silver-spoon career and indeed he was correct and having inherited his own wealth, knows whereof he spouts. Tory’s leadership as CEO of Rogers Communications likely wasn’t based on any executive ability. Instead it was due to his relationship to Ted Rogers who was also born with a silver spoon, even a platinum one, nestled betwixt his gums.
Ted’s father was lucky enough to get a series of federally anointed monopolies that turned into money-printing empires. Broadcast radio and later early entry into cable TV financed and opened the way to a cellphone, gadget and entertainment empire that’s still sucking up space in the oligopoly universe.
Tory actually oversaw Rogers when it tricked its customers into paying for things they didn’t know about. It was called “negative-option” billing. Unless a customer scrutinized the complicated Rogers bill and caught the unwanted “service” it charged for, the customer was hoodwinked into paying.
Like other oligopoly cellphone empires, Rogers charged a “system-access” fee. That’s the equivalent of Loblaws charging you to walk into one of its supermarkets.
Hard to believe that the same kind-hearted John Tory we heard on the Live Drive would knowingly do such a black-hearted deed as negative-option billing. I would prefer to think that it happened sub rosa, out of his sight.
John has had peripheral experience in government. He was chief-of-staff to ex-Ontario Premier Bill Davis. His stint as boss of the Canadian Football League is probably not in the same political league.
He hasn’t held an elected office unless you count his benighted stint as top Tory in Ontario.
But keep in mind that while he was in that post, he showed a penchant for proposing changes that few people could understand or relate to. They were so arcane to voters that only experts could understand. And experts almost unanimously opposed Tory’s brainstorm.
That was surely true with his proposed education reforms while he was head of the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario. Since voters already had a Tory-style premier in Dalton McGuinty’s regime, there was no reason to change, especially for some sort of school-board shift few really cared about or understood.
In the current campaign for mayor, Tory has yet another hare-brained scheme (in the view of many transit experts) to make some sort of complicated changes to the subway system that is detailed in a simple coloured route map few people care to poke through.
It’s not the simple message that resonates so clearly as Rob Ford’s epic Gravy Train scenario. Nothing complicated there. Simple and straight-forward: There are people in our pay who are taking advantage of us and living the high life and we taxpayers foot their bills. Rob was a good communicator. When he would appear on AM640 (CFMJ) on the John Oakley morning show, Rob always had his lines straight and he sounded clear-headed and reasonable.
City hall was a basket case and some clear-headed leadershp could reverse that in a reasonable period of time. Since his main opponent was ex-MPP and ex-Deputy Premier George Smitherman, that was much easier.
Smitherman had the misfortune of also being health minister during two huge scandals (E-Health computer and the Ornge emergency-helicopter), as well as being energy minister while the province, in liege with Samsung, was sprouting irritating windmills that wrecked the living environment for birds and people while doing nothing to conserve anything except profits for a few.
Rob seemed like a good bet to a voting majority because he had done nothing at city hall to get himself in trouble and because he sounded so sensible and so willing to help any Toronto resident.
John Tory, on the other hand, will do as showpiece CEOs do. He’ll listen to staff and do their bidding, which is to say take their suggestions under advisement and then do their bidding.
That’s not to say city staff also have their own agendas. (It goes without saying.)
How much different he’ll be from that doofus Mayor David Miller is unpredictable. Miller, a tall, blond mop-headed 3-piece-suit model looked as mayoral as anyone a show-biz casting agent would put in that role.
He waved a broom to symbolize a clean sweep of disarray at city hall. He sounded knowledgeable and had spent a few years sitting on council. Posing, perhaps, more than anything else mayoral.
He fooled us. City staff dragged him around by his belt and told him what he thought. He repeated that with verve and élan, signifying nothing.
He institutionalized corruption at city hall by forming, for $1 million, a lobbyist registry. Lobbying is a debased practise where high-paid flacks button-hole politicians and civil servants and try to bullshit them on behalf of a paying client to put your money into their client’s bank accounts. And not impossibly, compliant politicians and bureaucrats might end their post-politics careers on a payroll of a corporation they have assisted.
Nearly all the wheel-spinning schemes lobbyists tout end up costing more for less. They can sprout a huge scandal like the $85 million MFP computer-leasing ripoff in the late-1990s that jailed no one.
Lastly there is Olivia Chow who jumped in at the first possible chance to put her hat in the wring (pun intended).
Tactically it was a huge blunder. What she should have done was keep the pressure on the other candidates by not disclosing whether she relinquish her seat in Ottawa as a Member of Parliament.
She should have kept us guessing right up until she registered as a candidate just behind Doug Ford in the last possible day.
As our columnist and former Toronto mayor John Sewell suggested last month, her stated policies have been unfocused and more on the order of “let a million flowers bloom.”
So now it’s an uphill battle for Olivia, who actually has active, positive city-council experience and know-how. She knows the ropes there. Olivia is the least likely of any candidate to be snowed by city staff into adopting their agendas instead of those of her constituents. A David Miller she isn’t.
She, too, has proposed bone-headed changes such as squaring off sidewalk corners at the street instead of curving them as they are everywhere in North America.
A motor vehicle would have to go farther to make a right turn past a square-pointed corner and that puts it even deeper into the pedestrian crosswalk.
Tearing down the Gardiner is another dumb idea. Nonetheless, Olivia is the most qualified to be Mayor of Toronto.
Let’s hope that will become even more apparent to voters and that except for the beer-soaked yokel vote, the Anyone-but-Ford vote will feel safe having Olivia Chow as Mayor of Toronto.
And equally important, John Tory can return to the Live Drive show on CFRB to the delight of his many fans and probably to a job he really loves more than any he has had.