After a (mostly) uninspiring snooze of a mayoral election campaign, political watchers were reduced to betting on the equivalent of over-unders and personal stats: could David Miller win a majority in every single ward in the city? Would voter turnout reach above 30 per cent? Could Stephen LeDrew manage to come in third place after a humiliating, thrown-together insult of a campaign? (The answers: no, yes, just barely.)

You’ve got to take your surprises where you find them: who are Michael Alexander, Jaime Castillo, Douglas Campbell, Hazel Jackson and Lee Romano? How did they manage to place fourth to eighth place in the balloting, ahead of press fringe favourites Shaun Bruce (the precocious school kid), Kevin Clarke (the homeless perennial), Mitch Gold (the Aboriginal loudmouth) and Rod Muir (the environmental gadfly)?

High drama, all right. There was little of that drama accompanying David Miller’s Nov. 13 acceptance speech at the Steam Whistle brewery, a contrast to the scene three years ago when, foisting a broom above his head, Miller invited the city’s hopes to climb on his shoulders and ride along as he took the city back from the greedheads and hustlers who’d been selling us out for the short money for a generation.

Last Monday, former Miller maniacs chastened by experience had to settle for a cautious optimism that we’re moving slowly in the right direction, trusting Miller’s word that the foundation had been laid for inspiring feats to come.

Job one on that agenda: get “a 1 cent share of the existing sales tax” from either the federal or provincial governments. Such an arrangement would be great news for the city. As Miller says, it would provide real city-building freedom to grow. As Miller says, it would be fair. It’s also a long shot.

Despite the “1 cent” rhetoric, Miller’s asking for much more than a penny. He wants roughly 16 per cent of the GST collected in Toronto or 12.5 per cent of the PST. The senior levels of government won’t part with that cash easily, and it remains to be seen how persuasive the ballot-box power Miller threatened to exercise will be. Toronto’s voting muscle certainly hasn’t impressed provincial and federal Conservatives before, who’ve managed to get along just fine by royally screwing Hogtown and kissing off our 22 parliamentary seats.

The other end of Miller’s big speech – making Toronto an environmental leader – actually reached the heartstrings a bit. The Churchillian echoes (“The impact of humanity on the environment is the issue of our time – perhaps the issue for all time”) and determination that cities need to lead in the biggest crisis in the world were overdue and welcome.

With 57 per cent of the vote, he’s got a solid mandate. With the election or re-election of some key allies, he’s got the support. With the executive privileges in the new City of Toronto act, he’s got the power. It’s Miller time, for real this time. Let’s see what he does with it.

The Good
There were partisan cheers around the Eye Weekly office as Gord Perks won a council seat in Parkdale-High Park. Until this election campaign started, Perks was our Enviro columnist, and his victory snaps a string of five consecutive electoral defeats for various Eye Weekly columnists over the years.

In addition to feeling chuffed to have one of our own in the corridors of power, we’re also excited because he was absolutely the best man for the job. Gord Perks knows more about what needs to be done in this city – on the environment and on most other issues – than nearly anyone else who’s ever set foot inside City Hall. What’s more, he knows how to get things done. As an activist without a council seat he lobbied votes and managed to get more of his own bylaws and initiatives passed than the majority of councillors. His presence will help give some teeth to Miller’s environmental promises.

I’m also excited by the victory of Adam Vaughan in Trinity-Spadina. The longtime Citytv reporter (and very occasional Eye Weekly contributor) is a strong independent voice and one of the smartest critics of Miller. That he beat the Layton-Chow machine to win his ward (an outcome I actually bet against) is a tribute to how effective I expect him to be.

And that Joe Mihevc trounced former Eye Weekly columnist John Sewell and right winger John Adams is also good news – his convincing victory and that of Howard Moscoe show that all the anti-TTC, anti–St. Clair ROW cranks who draw so much attention are the ones out of step with public opinion.

The bad

Rob Ford, Doug Holyday, Mark Grimes, Michael Thompson and Mike Del Grande re-elected by landslides…. Case Ootes, the enemy of bike lanes, pulls out a 20-vote squeaker in Toronto-Danforth…. Cesar Palacio beats inspiring Alejandra Bravo in Davenport…. Paul Ainslie, who defrauded council with a bald-faced lie to earn an appointment during the last term (he promised not to run for council), wins in Scarborough East.

The future?
Twenty-four-year-old Desmond Cole ran a hell of a campaign in Trinity-Spadina. Someone who cares about the future of Toronto ought to give this guy a job at City Hall.

 Originally published in Eye Weekly on November 16, 2006.

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