Please, let’s not start talking about who’s going to win the 2018 Toronto mayoral election: Keenan
Because I don’t know, and you don’t either.
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It’s too early for predictions.
That’s true for the Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup prospects — training camp doesn’t convene until later this week, and there’s a 50-year history of shattered dreams and crushed hopes available to deter anyone tempted to start planning Auston Matthews’ parade.
And it’s also true of the 2018 Toronto mayoral election, which is more than a year away and doesn’t even officially start until May of next year.
It’s too early to figure out what might happen. Not that that is going to stop anyone from trying, in either case.
“You can see a Stanley Cup from here,” Steve Simmons wrote this week in the Toronto Sun, as if he didn’t think the city has suffered enough heartbreak and needs to be set up for more.
“John Tory would easily defeat Doug Ford in a head-to-head race for mayor, but his lead will shrink considerably if a progressive candidate enters the race, a new poll has found,” Chris Fox wrote at CTV news this week, as if the city hasn’t suffered enough Doug Ford and needs to begin dwelling on the man again as soon as possible.
Look, people. Nobody knows anything. Not newspaper columnists, not pollsters, not talking head experts who are supposed to know it all. They think they do. They display every confidence as they ramble on about what is absolutely certain to happen. But they can’t predict squat. Certainly not a year ahead of time. And they never could.
Forget sports for a minute — an area that supports a multi-billion-dollar gambling industry specifically because no one knows what will happen and everyone thinks they do — and look a moment just at Toronto politics.
I began writing professionally about Toronto elections in 2003, when we were all absolutely certain that Barbara Hall was going to walk into the mayor’s office. I remember 2010, when George Smitherman was said to be an unstoppable force. I remember 2014, when it was thought that Olivia Chow was a lock to win. In three-quarters of the elections since 2003, the person who was supposed to be a sure thing a year before the election lost. In half of those years, the early favourite didn’t even finish second.
The walls of a hallway I walk through every day here at the Star office are papered with front pages from the past telling the same thing about elections through the decades. From 1990 — 27 years ago this week — Bob Rae’s shocking victory as premier over David Peterson, whose re-election was thought to be “as certain as anything in politics” when the campaign launched just over one month earlier. From 1976, the banner “JOE WHO?” about the unknown underdog who had just been elected leader of the Conservative party. From 1972, the headline “I didn’t think I could win” about how new mayor David Crombie had been elected after a campaign in which he was such a long-shot he almost dropped out.
A year before their respective elections, Naheed Nenshi, Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau were all expected to lose — if they were expected to run at all.
So please, let’s not talk about who’s going to win the Toronto election, because I don’t know. And you don’t either.
What seems fairly certain now is that Doug Ford is going to run, since he announced as much late last week at a party in his Mama’s backyard.
It also seems fairly certain that John Tory will run again, since he’s always said that’s his plan. His poll numbers look strong, though it’s an interesting sign of how inspired some people feel by his candidacy that one of his deputy mayors, Vincent Crisanti, showed up at the Ford Family Compound to make a speech introducing Doug’s mayoral bid and has endorsed Ford already.
What’s less clear is whether any high-profile progressive candidates will step into the ring with Tory and Ford. Pollsters have run some names up the flagpole — Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, Jennifer Keesmaat — but it doesn’t seem to me those people have done anything to encourage speculation about their possible candidacies (indeed, Keesmaat, at least, has flatly rejected the idea of running.)
One progressive councillor I spoke to earlier this summer explained that most high-profile contenders would probably keep their powder dry this time, expecting Tory to be unbeatable. They would focus instead on some key council races that could turn the balance of city power — trying to find a leftist majority to either work with or oppose Tory in his second term — and then think about running to replace him in 2022.
I know former Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Richard Peddie has been looking around for a progressive candidate to support — without ruling himself out entirely — but last I’ve heard he had yet to find someone.
I would expect that Peddie, as a former sports executive, would realize that now is not the time to start forecasting the results of the championship contest, but the time to lay the groundwork for it.
Take Auston Matthews: asked about his team’s prospects for this season, he didn’t make any certain predictions — he wasn’t warning about a sophomore jinx or talking about booking permits for a parade route. What he told Star reporter Kevin McGran was, “Everybody is fired up to get the season going.”
What about progressive city hall types? They talk a lot about what Tory is doing wrong, about the many ways they think he is simply Ford-lite. Ford-heavy has made it clear he plans to force a rematch. What about the Ford-free faction? Are they prepared to put their vision to the people?
It isn’t time for them to start conceding defeat. Nobody knows anything about what will happen in a campaign that doesn’t begin until May. But anyone who wants to have a chance has to start preparing a game plan now, as Ford and Tory are. And as the Leafs are.
It’s too early for those of us watching to make predictions. But it’s the perfect time for those who hope to influence the result to get fired up to get the season going.