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Tory's Toronto

Metro's Matt Elliott, formerly of Ford For Toronto, keeps the light shining on Mayor John Tory's city hall.

2017 is the year John Tory needs to leave the phrase 'war on cars' behind

Metro's Matt Elliott suggests the mayor's New Year's resolution should be to stop pandering to the 'war on the car' crowd.

Mayor John Tory talks to Dominic Pileggi who is having difficulty on his shifts with cars not stopping for him while he assists kids crossing the Avenue and Wilson intersection.

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Mayor John Tory talks to Dominic Pileggi who is having difficulty on his shifts with cars not stopping for him while he assists kids crossing the Avenue and Wilson intersection.

Mayor John Tory’s decision in November to support putting tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway signalled a surprising shift for the mayor. With his talk of getting real about the city’s budget situation and prioritizing transit construction, it was as if we were witnessing the debut of a whole new Tory.

But in the weeks following the announcement, Tory has seemed a little uncomfortable with his new self.

The best illustration of this came just before the holidays, when Tory introduced the media to his new transportation chief Barbara Gray. Gray, formerly of Seattle, has hit the right notes so far on pedestrian safety and transforming our streets.

Tory, weirdly, made a point during the press conference of bringing back a phrase that should have been confined to a dumpster (and then maybe set on fire) after the Rob Ford era: the war on the car.

Specifically, Tory said he wouldn’t be waging one. It’s not clear why he thought this was a necessary thing to reiterate. But it prompted a front page response from the Toronto Sun claiming the mayor was, in fact, waging a war on cars. In response to that response, Tory penned a column for the same paper, denying again the war on the car thing.

Enough.

Tory does himself no favours with any of this. To suggest that “war on the car” is even a remotely valid criticism to ever level at a Toronto mayor is to give credibility to an argument that deserves none.

Tory should never even use the words. There is no war. There’s no possibility of a war.

Instead, there’s a pressing need to address the appalling and unacceptable number of pedestrian deaths over the last year.

There’s also the simple fact that the city has little room for more cars, so transit, cycling and walking become the obvious priorities.

Yes, Tory’s acknowledgement of this reality – and his decision to support road tolls as a way to pay for the fixes – has made him new enemies.

But to heck with them. With an approval rating north of 60 per cent, virtually every political insider I’ve talked to lately has Tory as a shoe-in to win re-election in 2018. And highway tolls, long dismissed as political kryptonite, are already supported by about half of Torontonians.

There is no need to worry about — or, worse, pander to —the “war on cars” crowd. Doing so only risks alienating the support he will draw from those who want to build a better city and fix our deadly streets.

A new year is the perfect time for the mayor to leave the old crowd behind. Embrace the new you, John Tory. Don’t look back.

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