Of all the characters in the Canadian political landscape, John Tory is the one I find the hardest to explain.
Show me a politician and I’ll sum them up in a sentence for you. Ford is Ontario’s collective unconscious. Wynne is disingenuous progressive smarm personified. Harper is the awkward dork who sees power as a means of revenge. Trudeau is the dangerously idealistic and optimistic flower of youth, while Mulcair is the overly righteous moralizer whose default setting is holier-than-thou, which is why MPs got so much material out of him going through a stop sign.
But John Tory is too reserved to be relatable, too polished to be funny, too clean-cut to inspire disgust or be interesting for long. The John Tory story isn’t a drama of his own making. We cast judgement after judgement upon him and in doing so reveal more about ourselves.
While he may be a mediocre politician who believes in his own persuasive power more than he should, John Tory’s sins are so insignificant when compared to the punishments he receives for making them that at times I wonder if he hasn’t done something secret and terrible. It wasn’t that he made a really stupid call by promising to fund faith-based-schools in 2007 - it was that he himself was a closet so-con who is the same as Mike Harris. When he donated to Rob Ford’s mayoral campaign, Olivia Chow’s campaign reacted as if the money went to the Heritage Front.
John Tory is a guy who makes very, very dumb decisions, but people treat him as though he is a very, very bad person.
But why? Because he is indecisive? Because he’s rich and white? Because he was endorsed by a bunch of Liberals, and because he hired Nick Kouvalis (arguably the best man for the job) to get him elected? Nobody, not even his worst hater, can deny that he is a decent man with an impressive record in public service and a sizable work ethic. Is this the sort of person we should be hating?
I must confess that I, and likely others, have been waiting with bated breath for him to really screw up so we can get back to the sport of John Tory-bashing. John Barber couldn’t contain himself and drew up the full list of indictments against him in the run-up to the vote on the Gardiner East. Oh good, we seemed to be saying, he’s finally going to show himself to be the clueless aristocrat we all know he is by continuing the practice of carding.
And that, I feel, is the problem. When John Tory blows it, we all feel better. He’s not as decent as he appears to be. There is a need to bring him down. He’s a safe target. He won’t hit back.
So if I was to sum up John Tory, I would say that, unfortunately, his function is to be a punching bag for the rest of us. He’ll never be the great Mayor he hopes to be because we won’t let him. He’ll be Mr. Faith Based Schools till his dying moment. Sad.
It is, I feel, a fitting rebuttal to those of us who cry out for a higher class of politician, for it raises the question of how much better than John Tory do you have to be to be liked, or at least not outright hated? And, more to the point, what message does it send to the politicians we do have, if not to keep expectations low so as not to disappoint voters who are never satisfied?
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