David Raymond Miller hopes people remember him as an ethical mayor with a heart, who focused on transit, environment, helping people and good financial management.
Miller swept into power in 2003 with a broom as his symbol promising to clean up Toronto — literally and figuratively. Sitting in his city hall office during his last week as mayor, Miller reflected on his tenure.
Miller touts the fact his administration has not had scandals like the previous government with the MFP computer-leasing mess.
As a councillor, Miller helped push for an inquiry into the computer scandal that unveiled allegations a former politician got bribes over connection to a city contract.
“The (current) city government has come under some criticism for relatively minor things like a councillor renting a squirrel costume, which I would suggest rather pales in comparison to the MFP scandal, where hundreds of millions of dollars (in contracts) went out the back door,” Miller said in an interview a week before his term ended.
In the last seven years, Miller hired an integrity commissioner, ombudsman and lobby registrar at city hall and council banned corporate and union donations in elections.
Some paint Miller’s leadership as heavy on taxes and wild on spending, but he said that’s false.
“It’s ludicrous in the extreme to suggest that there was a wild spending spree going on. It’s just not factual,” Miller said.
Owners of single-family homes in Toronto pay the lowest property taxes in Ontario.
“If you pay the least and get the most, something must be going well,” said Miller, first elected as a councillor in 1994. “(Plus) taxes on tenants and businesses have gone down under my administration.”
No free lunch
While Mayor Ford campaigned on “ending the gravy train” — stopping “perks”— Miller said he tried to lead by example by not accepting such things.
“I bring my own lunch from home. I think setting that kind of example is really important. I don’t trumpet that kind of thing, but I have always sent back all the freebies you can get as a councillor and mayor until I earned a Metropass by being on the TTC commission.”
He admits, the city’s gross budget has gone up in seven years.
“We spent more on police because we wanted to put more police officers on the street as part of a community safety strategy,” he said. “Which has resulted in crime being cut in half.”
There was also more spending on transit including replacing a fleet of buses that was 24 years old, he added.
Some budget increases are because provincial legislation mandates these programs.
“When welfare goes up, technically our spending goes up. We are legally mandated to do that by the province.”
Suburbs vs. downtown
He disputes the idea that his city council spent more money downtown and ignored the suburbs.
“Amalgamation exposed that there’d been a consistent under-investment in North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke, particularly in neighbourhoods marked by poverty,” he said. “So the major investments over the past seven years have been in those (suburb) areas because they were needed.”
The city manager’s office released 40 pages listing city policies accomplished under Miller’s seven-year reign.
“People may not know the details, but generally speaking they know that we invested in the city. We were city builders as a government,” he said.
On Nov. 24 he wasn’t saying what his next job would be, but he is staying on in an advisory role to the World Bank plus the C40 climate change cities leadership group.
Have a heart
Miller hopes to be remembered as a mayor who cared and created a city that helped people.
“They know who (Mayor) David Miller was. He had a heart for people who needed a hand up. He supported the environment. He supported public transit and he was ethical and led a government of integrity,” said Miller, a Harvard economic grad and lawyer by trade.
“That’s the legacy I wanted to leave.”
About this article: