David Miller campaigned on cleaning up Toronto and stopping backroom deals
By Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier newspaper Nov.11/03.)
On what must rank as one of the biggest nights of his life, mayor-elect David Miller still remembered the little people: his son and daughter.
In the midst of sheer chaos in an atmosphere resembling a rock concert with people pushing against the stage and asking for Miller’s autograph, he held his eight-year-old daughter Julia’s hand while doing a live radio interview for CBC.
After finishing a Town Crier interview on election night and just before being ushered off to speak live on TV, Miller turned to his wife Jill Arthur and said, “Are the kids okay?”
Miller was quoted saying that the toughest question he faced during this 10-month campaign was from his daughter asking what time he’d be home.
The new mayor will have many late night nights and early mornings ahead and challenges none greater than fulfilling his election promise to stop the fixed link to the Toronto Island.
Speaking to David Collenette, federal transport minister, about withdrawing his support was one of Miller’s first priorities, he said on Nov .10.The Toronto Port Authority, a federal agency that oversees a large chunk of waterfront lands, needs a number of approvals before construction can proceed, even though their intent is to continue regardless. “They don’t have permission to build the bridge tomorrow,” Miller told the Town Crier on Nov. 10. “If they do it’s illegal. I plan to speak with David Collenette tomorrow or the next day.”
On Nov. 12, Prime Minister in waiting Paul Martin said if the new city council overturns the approval of the bridge, he will support that.
Miller said, another big challenge will be the city’s budget. Current deputy mayor Case Ootes has stated the shortfall of the $6.5 billion budget is a projected $340 million. The city has a long list of services it must pay including police, fire, ambulance, transit, garbage, recycling and snow clearing as well as many social services, so its always a fight determining what to fund and by how much.
Getting support from councillors is important for any mayor and no less so for Miller. The newly elected council of 44 includes 14 newcomers as 10 incumbents did not seek re-election and four, including veteran Anne Johnston, were booted out. It has been stated that two thirds of council is centre to left and about 16 councillors are on the right of the political spectrum.
But Miller should prove to be the anti-Mel, as his demeanour and character are that of a career politician and consensus builder, said Neil Thomlinson, a political instructor with Ryerson University.
“I think you’ll see a more organized government,” Thomlinson said. “If Mel hadn’t had Case Ootes he would have been in a lot of trouble as far as getting anything done is concerned. Miller is clearly a lot smoother.”
“First of all Mel was always — which some people found endearing on several levels — a bit of a bull in a China shop as far as the way he approached things. Everything was over the top and hyperbole, where you won’t see so much of that from Miller,” the professor said. “I’d be surprised frankly. I think you’re going to see a lot more little chats and appeals to people’s sense of civic pride and reason.
“He’s still got to have 22 votes, so my guess is he’ll try and be sweet and nice and persuasive, but if that doesn’t work he’s also going to need the iron fist to go along with the velvet glove,” Thomlinson added.
There was no shortage of support for Miller at his victory party at the Bambu by the Lake on Lakeshore. Many of the newly-elected councillors made their way down to join in on the festivities.
“David was best man at my wedding,” Christine Lewis told the Town Crier on election night.
Her husband Nick is one of Miller’s closest friends, she added, and has known the new mayor since he was 14.
Lewis called home and spoke with her nine-year-old daughter Amanda, who has known David since she was a baby. Amanda asked, “Is David really going to be mayor?” “Yes,” replied Lewis, whose husband Nick went to Lakefield College, a private high school near Peterborough, with Miller.
According to Donald Grant, another friend of almost 30 years, Miller always wanted to be a politician. Grant was also a Lakefield classmate of the new mayor. “He’s exactly the same as he was back in high school,” says Grant. “He was our head boy and in charge of the student council. He’s been a leader all his life.”
Fourteen-year-old Taylor Pace is a Lakefield boy and his dad Allan also attended the school when Miller was there. “I’m supposed to be back at school at 10 p.m. (curfew), but this is too exciting I’m staying up,” said the teenager. “Now that David is mayor this is the highest achievement from any student from Lakefield,” he adds.
“Together we will open up the front doors of city hall for the people of Toronto,” Miller said to huge applause in his victory speech. “And we will padlock the backdoors to the deal makers.”
Miller came out on top with 43.25 per cent of the popular vote after a gruelling 10-month campaign that was known more for the attacks and accusations constantly raised among the five leading candidates. Miller’s biggest foe, former Rogers CEO John Tory, had targetted Miller in the latter days of the campaign, mostly attacking him on the issue of proposed tolls on Toronto roads.
But Tory, who finished second in the race with 263,184 votes — about 36,000 votes behind Miller — was gracious in defeat. He said he called Miller to congratulate him, but joked that he had trouble getting through.
“David was on the phone with the Premier or the Prime Minister and I was on the other line with an employment agency,” he laughed. “So we didn’t connect, but I wish him well.”
Barbara Hall, who finished a distant third in the race, also spoke well of the mayor-elect. Others, too, were quick to offer well wishes.
“David ran a strong campaign and I congratulate him on his victory,” she said, adding that even though they stood opposed to some things, they both had a “shared vision” of a better Toronto.
“David ran an exceptional campaign and I congratulate him,” said fourth place finisher John Nunziata, who made waves during the campaign alleging that someone from a rival camp had offered him money to withdraw from the race.
“I think he fought a good fight and he will do well with city,” said former city councillor Tom Jakobek.
With files from Ken Shular and Paul Hutchings.