Mayor for all New Democrats

Mayor for all New Democrats

It’s front page news in today’s Star that Mayor David Miller is no longer a member of the New Democratic Party. He says that, since he must work closely with federal Tories and provincial Liberals to achieve things for the city, he thought it best to avoid accusations of partisanship. Good idea, but actions speak louder than membership cards. Let’s recap recent events.

1. The Mayor is taking the province to court over the Ontario Municipal Board’s ruling in the West Queen West Triangle. The announcement put Queen’s Park Liberals on the defensive over its handling of the OMB.

2. At the Toronto City Summit, Miller launched the One Cent Now campaign to secure a share of the GST for cities. The next day Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, speaking at the summit, rejected the idea out of hand. The Conservatives, predictably, did the same.

3. The Mayor is taking the province to court over a $71 million shortfall in the city’s budget, once again putting Liberals on the defensive.

4. City council has voted in favour of re-unionizing the garbage collection services in the former City of York. They could have waited until the existing private-sector contract had run its course, but decided to make the switch prematurely, which means city hall will have to buy its way out of the contract.

As for the last item, council voted based on a staff report that said the city would save money through the switch, but that report did not include whatever the buy-out cost would be, since no one knew. To watch the debate in council, it sure struck me as a matter of political philosophy rather than cost savings: the mayor and his allies favour union labour, while his opponents favour private sector contracting. Which is fine. But neither side argued their case in terms of what’s best for Toronto.

As for the first three, they paint a portrait of the new, second-term Mayor Miller: combative, fed up, almost as litigious as Conrad Black. I enjoy a good political fight, and Miller’s full of pith and vinegar right now, so huzzahs for the mayor. But these fights he’s picking in the best interests of the city are also having the effect, intended or not, of preparing the ground very nicely for both provincial and federal New Democrats. Which party is left to support the push to get GST money for cities? And which party stands to gain most from painting Ontario Liberals as Toronto-unfriendly? Here’s a hint: in mid-February, provincial NDP leader Howard Hampton announced, apropos of nothing, that New Democrats were poised to make gains in Toronto. The mayor is proving to be a helpful ally, whether he holds a party membership or not.

Image credit: Colin McConnell/Toronto Star