Viewpoint: Our bland, blond hope

By Frank Touby –

He was our great blond hope: The man with the broom; the man who was going to make a clean sweep at city hall and rid us of the civil-service ineptitude and backdoor dealings that peppered the place under the Mel Lastman regime in the nasty wake of Mike Harris’ unwanted Amalgamation.

The Bad Old Boys who had run rampant at city hall—we thought—were no longer able to run things. Development decisions and recommendations would be made by a different bunch than the North Yorkers Mel brought in: the likes of Paula Dill as development chief and treasurer Wanda Liczyk. Dill disgraced herself in the Union Pearson deal scandal by “unreasonably” tilting a re-vote that awarded a 99-year lease to a group of influential locals who lost the first vote. (The “unreasonable” description came from an ex-judge who examined the issue at the city’s behest.)

She rebounded back at the public trough as interim head of the pie-in-the-sky Expo 2015 initiative.

Cuddlebunny Wanda, of course, was the city’s treasurer who supported a married ex-lover’s big-bucks contract proposal at city hall and was intimately involved in the city’s computer leasing scandal that saw her close confidant, an inexperienced but well-connected salesman—dashing Dash Domi—reap a $1 million commission in a deal that cost city taxpayers millions of dollars above what council thought it had authorized.

Wanda bounced back to the trough as treasurer for Toronto Hydro but is now gone from there.

The city hall that was run by (now City Manager) Shirley Hoy when Miller became mayor is still run by her. It made sense to Miller, no doubt, since she knew the ropes and he undoubtedly didn’t. That’s an unlikely combination when the top elected official has swept into office on a pledge to clean out the city hall run by his number-one bureaucrat.

Amalgamated Toronto is such an administrative monster that it encourages empire builders in the civil service. Departments—administrative silos—often duplicate or obstruct each other’s operations in various turf-saving modes. It’s a perfect Tory-style image of government as unworthy and untrustworthy in management compared to market- and profit-driven big business. That’s perhaps why city-hater Mike Harris dumped on Toronto with Amalgamation: to make it unmanageable and even more vulnerable to powerful special interests. Was he made a fellow in a right-wing think tank as a result of his neocon mismanagement of Ontario? Imagine: Harris, a skirt-chasing golf pro while in office, is actually a member of a think tank.

But Miller didn’t have to contend with Harris directly, only the evil results of Harris which didn’t change a whole lot with Dalton McGuinty, another neocon but wearing the Liberal label.The downloading on cities is still in place. The nutbar balanced-budget nonsense plaguing school boards is still in place.

As council candidate Adam Vaughan astutely pointed out, Miller courted the Conservatives in Ottawa in hope of exorcising the Toronto Port Authority and its ridiculous airport from the waterfront. Rather, he should have held the federal Liberals’ feet to the fire while they clung by their toenails to power. Rural-led Tories have no stake in big-city issues, while the undeserving shaky band of Toronto MPs might have been more responsive.

In his dealings with McGuinty—whose first move in power was to back down on his word about the Oak Ridges Moraine and turn over much of the precious land to developers—Miller has been a glad-hander.

He praises the prem’s promising more city power even while the developer-friendly, concrete-consuming provincial government refuses to give the city that 1% sales tax bite a previous Liberal doofus, David Peterson, slapped on Ontarians during his benighted reign.

The ruinous Ontario Municipal Board still rules over Toronto’s development that has cursed us with some of the ugliest Clockwork Orange residential crap on earth. It hasn’t been reformed in any meaningful way.

Where was Miller when McGuinty pledged to spend a fortune of provincial and city money building a Toronto Transit Commission subway to the northern wilds where developers control piles of vacant land (to become precious by being near a subway stop) at York University in another city?

The Ottawa Tories, of course, have absolutely zero interest in anything seen to help big cities and their suburbs, so they’re already pulling back on any pledge of funding for the boondoggle.

Toronto needs good transit inside the city. Scarborough needs it. But Miller isn’t blasting the subway plan at Queen’s Park and demanding more and better buses and trolleys to really help Toronto transit users.

He’s done damned little to improve the city he was elected to cleanse. The unsolved garbage issue looms as a threat. And yet he now faces no real competition for the job he has done so poorly because the power brokers who influenced things in the bad old days that Miller was supposed to clean up are now on his reelection team.

Tory brainsmith John Laschinger is running Miller’s reelection campaign. Miller tricked the city’s best-intentioned voters in the last election.

This time the malaise that comes after numbing disappointment has sunk glorious hope will flush him back in the mayor’s throne.

And thanks to the bozo at Queen’s Park, he’ll have four years to drive a longer stake through the hearts of those who are vitally concerned about our city.