I had a good vent in my last post about what Toronto’s election could be. Were it not of course for he who shall not, except in search warrants, be named. This election may not be focused on the issues I’d like it to be, but it is underway all the same. Which brings us to our first debate.
Tonight is the first debate to feature all major candidates, and is important for more reasons than that. Tonight’s debate represents, to quote Churchill, “perhaps, the end of the beginning”. The time for speculation on candidates, campaign launches, and other preambles is done. The table is set, time to eat.
With that, here’s what I think we’ll see from everyone. I’ll get Ford out of the way first. If he shows up relatively on time and relatively sober he will have exceeded the expectations of many. If I was on his campaign I’d consider it a success if in response to a tough question he either answers in a complete sentence, or doesn’t just stomp out.
Many consider Olivia Chow to be the early front runner in this campaign, and I think that she will be treated as such by the other candidates. If they come after her for supporting the LRT she will have both math & Soknacki on her side. Early attacks on her for living in a co-op twenty-something years ago were as predictable as they were false. It will be interesting to see if that comes up tonight, and disappointing if it does.
John Tory will likely continue to sell himself as Ford without the drama. While there is an appeal there to a segment of voters, Ford’s problems as Mayor extend beyond the personal. For example, Tory talked about finding efficiencies this morning in a radio appearance. Ford hired KPMG to do just that. They failed to find any without involving major service cuts.
Karen Stintz faces one of the tougher challenges tonight. Her campaign has had issues in terms of their message and in my opinion hasn’t distinguished herself from her closest competitor, Tory. She should face questions about flipping her support to the subway extension, having led the charge to revive the LRT when Ford’s subway proved to be going nowhere. Her answers may signal if her campaign is going anywhere either.
Last is David Soknacki, full disclosure, I am a volunteer on his campaign. Even if I wasn’t I’d say he has the most to gain tonight for two reasons. First, his biggest challenge remains name recognition compared to the other campaigns. His team have had some fun with this and done well, but TV time can only help him on this front. Also some of his policy ideas are quite in depth, a.k.a wonkish. Being able to explain them in more detail than sound bites allow should be a plus.
As the first debate of what will hopefully be many, political junkies’ appetites are not likely to be satiated by this evening’s appetizer. They will simply have to be satisfied that at last, everyone is seated at the dinner table.