EDITORIAL: Dreams of a serious election campaign

Now that all the expected major candidates have declared themselves in the contest for Toronto mayor, the media is excitedly engaged in calling the horse race: “They’re off! And Stintz stumbles at the gate! Tory takes an early lead, but Chow comes up fast on the left side! Looks like Ford is stuck in the mud! Wait, he’s up again and…!”

Covering the “race” is so much more fun than sober analysis of actual issues. The polls! The attacks! The images! The personal foibles! The pundits’ predictions!

When serious debate does get started, the important questions are likely to be obscured by simplistic slogans and short clips of talking points, especially on the two issues that consume Toronto politics: economics and transit. At least one, probably several, candidates will be offering simplistic slogans like the previously successful “Respect for Taxpayers,” “Cut the Waste”, and “Subways, Subways, Subways.”

If we vote on the basis of such marketing, we’ll suffer the consequences. Whatever their expressed intentions, politicians of all stripes seldom end up either cutting taxes substantially or finding waste enough to cut budgets substantially, and any quick, poorly thought-out cuts they do make are likely to end up costing us more in the long run.

And do you have to be reminded of the messes that knee-jerk decisions on transit get us into?

Wouldn’t it be great if in this election from the beginning the candidates are pressed to spell out in detail how they propose to find the savings they boast of, how they plan to pay for the proposals they make — and how they expect to be able to implement those plans by drawing on the city’s very knowledgeable staff and building consensus among our wide-flung and diverse communities?