John Tory's ascension and the Metro's ridiculous narrative
Dec 3, 2014

John Tory's ascension and the Metro's ridiculous narrative

As John Tory is now officially the mayor of Toronto, everyone - particularly the media - is in search of an appropriate narrative to go with it. Some of those narratives are good and some are bad, but the Toronto Metro (a free daily mainly consumed on public transit) choose a just laughably terrible narrative.

Before I get in to it, note that nothing has actually happened to change whatever narratives we had about John Tory before. All that happened was the pomp and circumstance of officially becoming a mayor, and that ceremonial nonsense is more or less entirely uninteresting in terms of telling us something about what the Tory administration might be like. Not that this stopped the Metro.

The cover story doesn't appear to be online (but is maybe loosely based on this). It shows four quirky pictures of Tory smiling with the heading "Tory let's his true face show - His human side". We are quickly told that the "inaugeration taught us a lot about life with our new mayor" and that "bits of his real personality [was] peeking through".

Um, okay. Going through a formal inaugeration ceremony get's at his "real personality", "true face" and "human side"? Well, let's see what this real personality really is all about then! We are told that only partially using notes is somehow meaningful, and he apparently genuinely likes his family in a way Rob Ford apparently didn't. He also dropped a line about people of other skin colours so apparently throwing out a token platitude is getting at his "real personality". Puhlease.

I'm having fun, obviously. Media has to run narratives on events and silly puff pieces about this are everywhere, this is just one of many. It is just sad because these early narratives are so important and to run it as the front page on a newspaper with massive readership when it is so vacuous is frustrating.

The narrative that actually matters:
There actually is a pretty important thing we have learned recently about John Tory recently that will profoundly impact his governance of the city and creates the perfect narrative to talk about. Namely, is first major action is to stuff the executive with conservatives and Ford loyalists, ignoring the left flank of the council. As in, all that bullshit about working together and "One Toronto" was nonsense, as we probably could have guessed. As soon as it came time for real action, it is going to be a very conservative, very Ford-esque mayorship just without the drama (we can hope).

Now that is a real action that one can put a real narrative on. Why isn't this on the front page? Why is it stupid comments about how him walking off camera momentarily to shake someone's hand a sign of him being genuine? Some will be glad he is doing this, other's will hate it, but it is actually consequential in a way that some inaugeration ceremony simply isn't.

Fearing GOP tactics, Toronto style:
Now if all that isn't infuriating enough, you'll like the "expert" analysis from Siri Agrell who was quoted on the front page puff piece but gets into the grittier stuff buried on page 20. Tory is just "hedging his bets, alienating the left to avoid retribution from the right. The people on the left side of the equation will continue to work towards what they want to achieve, but if you spurn people on the right there's a greater possibility that they'll make life difficult for you."

Firstly, how terrible does this make the right look? The right are apparently these little spoiled children who will huff and puff at you if you don't appease them while the left are actually decent enough humans to continue to work towards what they want to achieve. I don't think she is necessarily wrong, but it does make me glad to be on the adult side of the table.

More importantly, this is just terrible strategic advice. Tory is a conservative, OF COURSE the right is going to vote with him. Thinking they are suddenly not going to vote with him if Tory puts in some downtown progressive in the executive is nonsense. The actual problem is that the council has a tonne of left leaning members that he has to win over if he wants to actually accomplish anything. Spurning them for the easy solution of the conservative old boys club is not going to help with that one bit.

This is just such a nonsense strategy, and it is often the strategy we see from the right in the US. Appeasing the right is something that the establishment like Boehner and even moderates like Obama feel they need to do. The Tea Party is given a tonne of deference despite being crazy goons. But the left? No, no, nobody needs to appease those guys. They are going to keep fighting for what they believe regardless. So you get this continual shift to appease the people on the right and do everything to be nice to them and you can't even put a downtown progressive into the executive anywhere.

Rob Ford's fond farewell:
The final issue that is just tickling me is Tory's choice of a first move by proposing a symbolic motion to praise Rob Ford for his service. Are you freaking kidding me? No, I don't think this issue is all that illustrative of Tory's approach to the city either, but symbolically it is just terrible. Rob Ford was literally stripped of every mayoral power council could strip from him due to, well, you know the damned story. He doesn't need an iota of praise, least of all from John Tory who is supposed to be symbolically representing change from that garbled messed. I get it, he wants to try and appease the Ford base or whatever (and clearly doesn't care about Chow's base), but it was still simply the wrong thing to do.





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