50 Reasons To Love Toronto: No. 2, John Tory’s not a right-wing blowhard

50 Reasons To Love Toronto: No. 2, John Tory’s not a right-wing blowhard

50 Reasons to Love Toronto Now
(Image: Philip Burke) 

He either has a thick skin or a thick skull, but it took four humiliating defeats for John Tory to realize he wasn’t cut out for politics. He lost as manager of then–prime minister Kim Campbell’s disastrous 1993 campaign (the most crushing defeat in federal history), and as a contender in the 2003 mayoral campaign, the 2007 Ontario election, and a 2009 by-election. That last setback cost him the Ontario PC leadership and appeared to make him a political eunuch, the archetypal nice-guy-finishing-last.

When Tory announced he’d be taking up a job as a host on Newstalk 1010, most people expected he’d fail at that, too. Yet the Live Drive With John Tory has been a ratings hit: second in its time slot on the AM dial, and first among female listeners. His on-air persona comes across as honest and principled: he’s pro-business, he’s gay-positive, and he believes in public accountability. He’s also fiercely opinionated—an unusual trait among well-meaning public figures, who, for fear of offending anybody, typically filter their true views through mouthfuls of diplomatic marbles. He has views on the gamut of the day’s political news, yet he never seems to manufacture his outrage in the manner of most right-wing blowhards.

Best of all, to his obvious delight, Tory must no longer suffer the antics of fools. On a recent show he summarized that final, mortifying 2009 by-election defeat like so: “I was done in by my own party. It reflects less on me than it does on those who let personal ambition and score settling overcome loyalty and principle—and then pretended they weren’t doing it.” Those words were a long time coming, and they made for compellingly candid talk radio. Any listener who heard him say them could only cheer him on. It turns out that all John Tory ever needed was to be set free.