City Hall


The City’s preservation board investigates designating the entire subway sysem a heritage property — putting it on a collision course with the TTC 

“As the son of an architect, I was always amazed at the architecture of the subway. Once, it was breathtaking and beautiful,” recalls city councillor Adam Vaughan. “When those old trains came through the stations, the primary colours really played off the maroon of the subway cars in a way that was quite rich. The nostalgia around the TTC system was always pronounced with me… I have rich, vivid memories.”
So Vaughan was interested and concerned when he read a story I wrote for EYE WEEKLY (“Signs of dysfunction,” July 12) about Toronto typography expert and transit activist Joe Clark’s campaign to preserve the historically unique signage of the TTC, which has been neglected for decades and is currently threatened by a station modernization project. After visiting the website of Clark’s TTC Signs campaign (www.joeclark.org/TTC), Vaughan, as a member of the Toronto Preservation Board, felt he needed to act.

“It occurred to me that we needed to provide the TTC with a little directional kick in the pants to take care of a couple things,” says Vaughan. “One is the rich design history, which was part of their whole psyche in the early years but has left the station in ways that are really quite deplorable.… The fact that there’s a whole history to the type, a whole history to the station design, a whole history to the different lines and how they evolved and how they represent different periods in Toronto’s history needs to be honoured and recognized.”

He put my article on the agenda for discussion at the preservation board’s meeting Nov. 9 and, after hearing a presentation by Clark (and some brief remarks from me), the board voted unanimously to have staff report on the possibility of designating as Heritage Properties the entire Bloor-Danforth subway line and the Yonge-University line between St. George and Eglinton. Such a designation would require the TTC to consult with the board about any renovations or changes to the stations, and to ensure that such changes respect the historical character of the original design. The motion calls for staff to report first on designating the eight stations currently scheduled for modernization, which could put the board on a collision course with the TTC.

Clark’s campaign, begun this summer, calls on the TTC to respect and preserve the unique typeface and other characteristics — including colour patterns, tile work and original signs affixed to the walls. Stations including Pape, Victoria Park, Islington and Kipling are scheduled to be renovated in the immediate future and, at least in the case of Pape, plans call for a complete overhaul. Such a move would eliminate the design uniformity that currently exists across the entire Bloor-Danforth line, with consistent colours repeating in sequence, consistent tile patterns and one unique TTC-designed font inscribed on the walls. The renovations are part of a 35-year plan to modernize every station in the system at a rate of one per year.

“The trick is trying to prevent the destruction of the subway system as we know it,” Clark says. “What are these [TTC] commissioners doing, exactly? Through malign neglect, they are beginning a 35-year process of destruction. Because if they make over Pape station so that it doesn’t match any of the other stations, if they make it over in artificial stone — which has “fake” right there in the title — then the design uniformity of the Bloor-Danforth line is busted, and that gives future generations of commissioners authorization to make every station different.”

Clark is encouraged by the preservation board’s response to his campaign. “It’s a good sign, an excellent and necessary corrective to what the archaeologist who runs the TTC is doing,” he says, while cautioning that the wording of any designation must be specific to ensure the TTC does not simply preserve the typeface of station designations and disregard everything else.

The archaeologist mentioned derisively by Clark, TTC chair Adam Giambrone, says that he’s willing to work with the preservation board but that he thinks designating every station on entire lines is excessive.

“Usually we don’t expect to see every single station designated. Some of them certainly deserve designation … the system was built out over a number of years and I’d think you’d want examples of each of those stations.”

Giambrone says trying to preserve the look and feel of stations — which require renovation due to the need for wheelchair accessibility and general wear and tear — could be expensive, since the colour, size and shape of the original tiles are no longer produced.

“We could get special tiles, presumably someone could make them, because they do reproductions, but it’s going to be very expensive.”

Pointing to the multi-million dollar budget for each station’s renovation, Clark scoffs at this argument. “Let’s spend the money. Would you like me to chip in? I can set up a Paypal account if you want.”

Vaughan takes a similar view, characterizing the TTC’s recent bare-bones approach as being “too cheap to be special.” He says it’s the wrong way to approach infrastructure. “You can build a city off a budget sheet, but you end up with Tucson…. The reality is if you build Paris, you’ll have an economy. If you build an economy, you’ll have Houston. Or Calgary. The poet laureate [Pier Giorgio Di Cicco] has said it the best. He said ‘beauty has its own economy,’ and he’s right. The old subway stations were beautiful, and they found their own economy. It’s the roots of the wealthiest transit system in the world in terms of being able to generate passengers and off-peak passengers…. The Toronto Transit system is still one of the great transit systems in the world and it performs in a way that’s quite spectacular, despite its underfunding. That finds its roots in the attention to detail of the earlier generations who used to run it.”

While promising to work with the board, Giambrone claims it may be too late for Pape station, where, he says, an artificial-stone redesign is too far along to stop. “We’re going to have to figure this out. We’ll work with them — there are already some stations like Pape, where contracts are being issued. So those will go ahead, I suspect, before designation. We’re going to have to take a look at it.”

Clark thinks it is urgent that the “destruction” of Pape station be halted, and is considering taking the fight to city council.

Vaughan would also like to see the TTC slow down its plans there to wait for the preservation board’s advice. “If it’s too late for Pape, my apologies. But the reality is, we’re going to move to try to curb the way the TTC is approaching this and approach it from a perspective of heritage and not just of refreshing the subway system. We’re going to immediately get a handle on the eight [stations] that are most likely to change and get them to just be refreshments rather than renovations. And then, for the two heritage lines in particular, that have a really consistent set of design principles attached to them, to immediately establish what those principles are and make sure that all future conversions talk to that status.”

Vaughan claims the Bloor-Danforth line is a set and that, aesthetics aside, tells us something important about our history, something worth preserving. “When we built the subway, we built it as one big project. That in and of itself is what the design of the subway speaks to — [a time] when we had the confidence and the ability and the vision to build infrastructure the size and the scope of the Bloor subway line. That’s an amazing mindset compared to what we have today, where if we’re really lucky we could add a station and if we do, it should just be bare concrete because everyone will think we’re rich if we do it any other way. We didn’t just sort of go to a computer and print some signs, we designed a friggin’ typeface. That speaks to a level of design and a level of endeavour, which is, in fact, real city building. Now we just renovate.” 

Originally published November 14, 2007 in Eye Weekly.

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The City of Toronto has studied burning garbage — apparently candidate Stephen LeDrew has not
I’ve been on about this on the blog (check it out at eyeweekly.com/election2006) but the vast influence of my internet audience has not yet altered the terms of the election debate, so I figured I’d commit this to paper, too:

Stephen LeDrew, alongside many, many conservative-ish council candidates, keeps proposing that we should “investigate” or “take a look at” or “study” burning our garbage rather than buying the Green Lane landfill (or any other landfill). Here’s LeDrew, for example, in a press release from last week: “I will commit to diverting 80 per cent of waste from landfill and exploring clean and cost-effective waste-to-energy solutions for the remaining 20 per cent.”

(Nota bene: “waste to energy,” “advanced thermal technology” and “gasification” are all words that mean incineration, just so we all know what we’re talking about.)

It sounds so reasonable when they suggest we should study this option. Who wouldn’t want to investigate all the options? Why is David Miller such a closed-minded hard head that he’s against investigating possible solutions? Right?

Except that, as Geoff Rathbone, director of policy and planning with the city’s works department, confirms, we have already studied and explored waste-to-energy solutions, and in fact we’re continuing to do the groundwork required to build such a facility.

To wit: the city convened a committee made up of experts on waste management and local citizens and activists to study all available options for diverting waste from landfill way back in February 2003. That group (whose name is longer than a Rex Murphy adjective — the New and Emerging Technologies, Policies and Practices Advisory Group, for the record) met for nearly two years, at no small cost to the city, and studied all the new technologies on the market. Their final report is available online at http://www.tinyurl.com/y6lqnj.

As a result of their work, Toronto is conducting an Environmental Assessment on various technologies — including incineration — with an eye to building a test facility. Just this week, the city ran a bunch of
advertisements announcing public hearings as part of that EA process (see http://www.toronto.ca/ceat for hearing dates and a comments form). This is all work that is required before building a waste-to-energy facility.

In other words, not only have we studied incineration, but we’re taking the necessary steps to build incinerators.

Maybe some candidates haven’t explored all the options, but the city has. And if they want to build an incinerator, they shouldn’t hide behind words like “look into it.”

Taking a page from Spacing
Last week in this space, I had a bit of a laugh at Jane Pitfield’s blog. Over the weekend, the story got even weirder. Turns out her posting from Oct. 7 — taking the wind out of some Miller spending proposals — was plagiarized almost directly from a post by John Lorinc on Spacing magazine’s excellent election blog (www.spacing.ca/votes). Further investigation revealed that another post seemed to have been lifted from a story by Anthony Reinhart from The Globe and Mail.

Matt Blackett of Spacing writes, “‘There hasn’t always been a clear plan of what to do with my blog,’ [Pitfield] said. ‘I have a young man looking after it. But I will talk to someone at our office right away.'”

The entire blog has since been removed.

On a related technology note, one of the interesting developments in this campaign has been the emergence of the blog as a form of coverage. In addition to ours and Spacing’s, there’s also Rob Granatstein’s X Marks the T-dot from the Toronto Sun, where I found the LeDrew quote about garbage above (surf over to www. blog.canoe.ca/cityvote and praise the lord Sue-Ann Levy hasn’t figured out how to use the internet yet) and Marc Weisblott’s Campaign Bubble from The Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/campaignbubble).

Meet the next mayor
Both Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star and John Barber of The Globe and Mail have very recently proposed the idea of introducing political parties to Toronto politics.

We suspect they mean party as in have-a-membership-card-and-toe-the-line. But Eye Weekly already has plans to introduce a
political party (as in pass-the-beer-and-hit-the-dancefloor) to this election, and it’s scheduled to take place one week before election day.

The Political Party, presented with our friends at Spacing magazine, will feature speeches and interviews with Jane Pitfield and David Miller and then give you an opportunity to talk to them yourself while the drinks flow and the live music plays.

It takes place at Revival (783 College) on Monday, Nov. 6. Musical guests announced Oct. 19 at http://www.eyeweekly.com/election2006. Admission is free.

Originally published in Eye Weekly on October 19, 2006. 

The TTC is the keeper of a one-of-a-kind typographic treasure: the font used on the walls and old signs of most subway stations. Created from scratch in the 1950s with the launch of the subway system by a now-forgotten designer, the distinctive, unnamed, all-caps typeface features, among other things, near-perfectly circular forms on the O, Q, C and G; sharp points on the A, M, N, W and V; and a cute, almost cartoon-like R with an oversized round and a stubby little leg. This typeface has been the object of some amount of public attention recently, alongside the generalized TTC appreciation that’s sprung up in the Spacing magazine-led activist community. Not that the transit commission has done anything to preserve this heritage or to encourage enthusiasts.

“The TTC had a unique typographic legacy and, by accident or design, destroyed it,” writes Joe Clark in “Inscribed in the living tile: Type in the Toronto subway,” a 50-page research paper he presented earlier this month to the Association Typographique International conference in Brighton, UK, the source of the above font history. The Toronto blogger, accessibility consultant and typographic expert has recently been leading a campaign to address problems with TTC signage, as I reported here on July 12 (“Signs of dysfunction,” City – full disclosure: my reporting on the campaign is cited in several places in Clark’s report). “Inscribed in the living tile,” now available on his website at www.joeclark.org/atypi-ttc, comes complete with photographs and pages of references to make his case comprehensively: the TTC’s slapdash approach to signage has disregarded history, accessibility, functionality and consistency.

Various approaches to way-finding have usually been implemented piecemeal with no formal testing, and when testing has been carried out, it has been disregarded (in the case of a way-finding system tested at St. George station in the early ’90s, Clark reports that the discarded tests cost almost $400,000). Along the way, Clark outlines the previously untold history of the TTC font and other great bits of subway miscellany.

For the TTC, the report should be an alarm to wake them from their signage sleepwalking. But for the general Torontonian, it is worth a read for its well-documented historical accounts of the TTC’s growth and expansion, its blow-by-blow recaps of bureaucratic bungles past and present and, not least, for Clark’s entertainingly deadpan prose (“The Sheppard arrow probably functions adequately. The Paul Arthur arrow might have been used instead had the TTC not forgotten it existed”) as he documents in excruciating detail the way-finding mess of today’s TTC.

Originally published in Eye Weekly, September 20, 2007.

The poetry of the city

What we need are more poets and fewer businessmen involved in deciding how we are governed. Fewer businessmen and lawyers and economists and planners – who see the city as a series of cost-benefit analyses and balance sheets, as so many lines on a map representing problems to be managed – and more painters and philosophers and sculptors.

There’s an inherent danger in putting poets in charge of getting things done, I realize. But what’s almost always missing from the urban debate is an ability to see the city as a relationship we citizens are involved in with each other, both a physical and psychological place in which our hopes and dreams are played out, and where we work and grow prosperous, yes, but also where we screw and hurt and risk ourselves, where we experiment with ideas and identity and fall in and out of love with each other every day. To see the city as an essential part of the drama of life, as a player in the romances and comedies and epics and tragedies of its millions of citizen protagonists. To see the city through the eyes of an artist is to recognize that beauty and truth and soul are not qualities that can be conjured by planning. Rather they come from the citizenry, from the frictions – productive and destructive – caused by rubbing up against one another in the urban public sphere.

“Isn’t the city a poem in progress?” Toronto Poet Laureate Pier Giorgio Di Cicco asks in the introduction to his new book Municipal Mind: Manifestos for the Creative City, launched this week by Mansfield Press. “Aren’t the citizens the authors of the poem they will have to read to their children?”

Yes. The Poet — as my colleague Shawn Micallef simply calls Di Cicco — gets it. The author of 17 volumes of poetry, a Catholic priest and university professor who has lived in Arezzo, Montreal, Baltimore and Toronto, understands the poetry of the city.

This strange little volume — his prose is like a philosophical tract, long on logic and aphorism and shunning case studies — is more mediation than manual, laying out the principles that underlie the creative city. He believes that often the greatest thing a city can do is get out of the way of its citizenry; has insights into the trickiness of urban planning and design; and lays out the many and various ways that corporate imperatives and a culture of technological convenience have eroded the civic arena.

But perhaps his greatest and best-taken themes are that the great and metropolitan city exists to create intimacy — “The purpose of city living is to perfect and rediscover the city as a forum of unexpected intimacies” — and that the city exists not primarily in buildings and squares and traffic patterns and budgets and bylaws but in the hearts of its citizens. “Indeed: the soul of a city is antecedent to the construction of a city. The dream of civic communion precedes the construction of it. The civic dream stems from the desire for a city to be made happy by a common meditation on the good, enacted by literary grace, in a forum where the transaction of mutual delight results in prosperity.”

Yes. We may need fewer books on city planning, as Di Cicco writes in his introduction. But we’ll take more poets, please.

Originally published in Eye Weekly on June 28, 2007. 

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.

Due to a series of miscommunications and scheduling conflicts, Eye Weekly was not able to speak to Jane Pitfield prior to last week’s cover story profiling the leading mayoral candidates. In an effort to ensure she had a chance to answer the questions dogging her campaign, we caught up with her at Revival after our Nov. 6 Political Party event.

EYE WEEKLY: Your plans for the city are fairly bold — building subways, putting more police on the streets — but also seem unrealistically expensive. How are you going to pay for all of it?

JANE PITFIELD: We’ll just pay half of it, and the other half will be the province. And I do think that too, that if I can find it in the budget — [Miller and his team] are wasting money. You just have to trust that I really understand the budget — it’s my great interest and my specialty. You know in nine years, we’ve never questioned the base budget. The time has come to have an audit. Because all that we’ve done is accepted the fact that it can’t be changed. So that is first of all what we need to do: we’ve got to have a good look at that.

So I think first of all you can’t make an assumption that this is going to be increased spending. There’s a lot in the budget that I don’t agree with — we’re providing more than a municipality should. We should get back to what property taxes are supposed to fund and stick to that.

Tomorrow [Nov. 7], when I release my numbers, I’m going to do my best to show what would be an increase, but it’s not as much as people have been rumouring.

EYE WEEKLY: The other big question would be management skills. I want to point to a few things, and they may seem small, but the mistaken vote on the Green Lane landfill, the change of mind on the St. Clair right-of-way, the plagiarized posts on your blog from Spacing magazine and The Globe and Mail

JANE PITFIELD: The plagiarized — that business, with the blog? I have a volunteer on my campaign who has been working and helping me with my web page. What had happened, he had assured me that it was linked. When Matt Blackett [of Spacing magazine] let us know, I then found out that for two days it hadn’t been. My solution, when I realized, I phoned Matthew, apologized, and said that so this never happens again, the only thing that will go on my blog are my platform statements.

EYE WEEKLY: But I guess people raise these things as evidence that you might not have the management skills to run the city. What is your answer to people who ask if mishaps along the campaign like this are a sign of poor management skills?

JANE PITFIELD: I think my comment is simply this: these have been very small trivial things. There have been much bigger mistakes made that have cost the city a lot of money, by David Miller. The fact that you even focus on this? I believe that this is the only thing you can use as criticism. I accept your criticism, but I think again it’s very important in leadership to have the flexibility to change your mind. Sometimes it’s better to change your mind than not.

Originally published in Eye Weekly on November 9, 2006. 

One week before election day, Eye Weekly and Spacing magazine give you a chance to meet Jane Pitfield and David Miller

Three years ago, David Miller rode his broom into the mayor of Toronto’s office on a wave of optimism inspired by his clear-thinking, neighbourhood-minded campaign. Back then, the ballot-box question (as political strategists put it) was, “what kind of city do you want to live in?” Miller’s answer – cities are for people, not airplanes; city hall should invite citizens not lobbyists – carried the day.

As we head back to the polls at the end of Miller’s first term in office, the relevant question comes in two parts: do you think Miller has adequately delivered on his promise of a cleaner (metaphorically and physically) city? And if not, do you think it is possible that Jane Pitfield, Miller’s only serious opponent, could do a better job?

Readers of Eye Weekly and Spacing magazine will get a chance to see the candidates up close to attempt to get answers to those questions on Nov. 6 at Revival in Little Italy, at an event billed The Political Party. There, Jane Pitfield and David Miller will outline competing visions for Toronto’s public spaces, addressing the issues ranging from transit to the waterfront to the spread of advertising in civic squares. Following their speeches, the candidates will face questions from a panel of Eye Weekly and Spacing contributors. And after that, there’ll be live music by New York–Toronto glam rockers Hot One (featuring Toronto’s Emm Gryner and Shudder to Think veteran Nathan Larson) as the candidates mingle with the crowd. It’s a unique opportunity to pin the candidates down in the final week of the race.

But about those questions:

There’s a vocal cadre of Miller’s long-time supporters who feel a palpable sense of disappointment in his first term as mayor. This sentiment was neatly summed up in stories in Toronto Life and The Globe and Mail in October (both stories were titled “Miller’s Crossing,” of course). Toronto Life writer Philip Preville put it, “As his first term comes to a close, however, it’s clear that he never quite delivered on the broad promise he embodied: that he could inspire the city with a clear vision for the future. It’s not that he hasn’t done anything; it’s just that, as mayor, he’s proven to be a visionary plumber.”

In an interview with Eye Weekly last week on a southbound subway car from Downsview, Miller says he’s puzzled by that perception. “I’ve done pretty much what I said I would. I think people put their hopes in me, and I’m very proud of that, but it’s not just about me, it’s about Toronto. And I think people share my frustration that Toronto can’t succeed the way it should until we’ve dealt with the leftovers from the Harris era, the downloading and the lack of funding. [Another] thing is, that’s not what people tell me on the street: people tell me all the time that they’re happy, keep it up – that’s the response I’m getting on the street.”

Even so, he defends his baby-steps, nuts-and-bolts approach against those who would have him focus on more transformative mega-projects.

“It’s not how you build a city and it wasn’t my vision of building a city three years ago – you don’t build monuments. You build a city neighbourhood by neighbourhood. It’s an incremental thing, and it should be,” he says. “Cities are organic, and that’s why things like the community safety plan work, because it’s about neighbourhoods and about investing in young people in neighbourhoods. That’s why Clean and Beautiful works: it’s about bringing neighbourhoods together – the businesses, the people, the city – to make the neighbourhood a more livable place, to make the public space more livable. And that’s my philosophy on how you build a city, that way. Not by monuments like Mel Lastman Square but by doing real change in real neighbourhoods with real people.”

And indeed there are no monuments in his platform this time. Miller is promising slow, surface-route growth on transit with more ambitious additions if the province will invest; his community-safety plan involves a tiny increase in investment in an existing program; he’s refused to seriously discuss taking down the Gardiner Expressway because it would be too expensive; his garbage plan involves purchasing a landfill so we can take our time and “control our own destiny.”

By contrast, Jane Pitfield is promising massive change: she wants to begin construction on subway tunnels, adding a new stop to the system every year for the next two and a half decades; she’d cancel the purchase of the landfill and speed up the process of building an incinerator (she says a six-year environmental assessment process is too long); she’d hire more police officers, sell off surplus land for development as affordable housing and hold a referendum on tearing down the Gardiner (which she says should stay, since it provides “the best view of the lake”). And all this while freezing taxes.

The biggest stumbling block – even for those who like Pitfield’s vision – is that she hasn’t adequately explained how she’ll pay for all of these promises. Her responses tend to assume an investment by the provincial and federal governments that experience tells us is unlikely to be there.

And further, in a related concern, it’s unclear whether Pitfield has the organizational and management skills to lead the city.

Throughout her campaign, Pitfield has been forced to backtrack: after announcing she’d sell Toronto Hydro, she had to clarify that she hadn’t meant it; she’s had to explain why she supported the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way and now promises to cancel it; she voted for the purchase of the Green Lane landfill by mistake. If she can’t operate the voting equipment in council chamber, the thinking goes, how can she manage the entire council and bureaucracy?

I didn’t have the opportunity to put these questions to Pitfield because, in a week and a half of back and forth negotiations, her campaign team was unable to secure me a 10-minute phone interview with the candidate (after asking – during our third conversation – how Eye Weekly is spelled, staffer Leslie Stafford suggested I might attend a debate and try to scrum Pitfield afterward).

But the question was addressed, in a way, during a televised debate earlier in the campaign. “How – h-h-how can you be mayor?” Vanessa Lu of the Toronto Star asked. After pausing, as if stunned by the audacity of the question, Pitfield answered, “I can be mayor because I have the ability – I have the heart to lead this city, and on most issues I am very decisive.”

Torontonians will have the chance to meet both candidates on Monday and make their own assessment.

Originally published November 2, 2006 in Eye Weekly

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