David Miller, former mayor of Toronto



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David Miller
Former Mayor of Toronto
By Nick Swift

2 July 2003: The seventieth mayor of the City of Toronto, and its second since its amalgamation into a ‘megacity’, is David Miller. He was elected in November 2003 to succeed the retiring Mel Lastman, and the contrast between the two men could hardly be stronger. In 2006 David Miller was convincingly re-elected.

Update December 2010: Rob Ford is Toronto's new mayor

The flamboyant Mr Lastman, a businessman and long-time mayor of the former city of North York, counterbalanced the stereotype of Canadian reserve with his unabashed salesmanship for Toronto, but became known for ways in which that energy defeated articulacy and clarity both within and without City Hall.

The mayor who rode in a limousine and referred to the World Health Organization on CNN as ‘these people’ has been replaced by one who is a graduate of Universtity of Toronto Law School and Harvard (Magna Cum Laude), and is keeping his promise to continue to personally use public transportation. (At least one letter attesting to the latter has already appeared in the media from an eyewitness.) He has also committed himself to the creation of “The Mayor’s Annual Report, which will”, he says, “chart the City’s progress in achieving its objectives,” the ones described in a series of detailed strategy statements. The report “will demonstrate how efficiently and effectively the City delivers services and how well those services meet the needs of citizens”, and “will be based on an inclusive process that draws together those who have an interest in the City and are affected by its actions”.

David Miller was elected in 1994 to Toronto council; again to the council of the new city in 1997; and again in 2000. In the decade between that first appointment and his leadership as Mayor, his commitment to egalitarianism, consensus and transparency of power became well known. With his wife and two children, he lives in the west Toronto riding he represented as councilman.

Toronto is no exception among the biggest cities in its need of a well run public transportation system. Noting that there was a time when the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) was “considered the best transit system in North America”, David Miller has vowed to “put the TTC back on track”. He will, he says, “be the first Toronto Mayor to sit as a TTC commissioner”, “introduce flexible fare programmes” and, perhaps most crucial, “work with all other governments” to ensure that Toronto “is a signatory to Federal-Municipal Infrastructure Agreements”, and “pursue GST (Goods and Services Tax) exemption for the TTC as a public municipal institution created by the province”.

The new Mayor calls The Ornstein Report on Ethno-Racial Inequality in the City of Toronto “a wake-up call”. “Every year,” he says, “half of Canada’s new immigrants settle in Toronto. The federal government has to recognize Toronto as its partner in serving immigrants. I will negotiate with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to obtain a fair share of resources for Toronto’s settlement services.”

The close integration of the theme of financial health with that of the health of the physical environment in David Miller’s vision is obvious, and the only people who might logically be thought to have been surprised when he moved quickly in this regard are the ones who lost. “Getting rid of the obstacles to waterfront revitalization, including stopping the island airport expansion” was the second in his list of priorities for fiscal salubrity. (The first was “restoring confidence in city government”. To that end, he is establishing an Office of the Integrity Commissioner.) Further along are “greening Toronto – clean air and water”, and “cleaning up Toronto – from litter to urban design”.

In December, Toronto councillors voted with the new mayor to overturn an earlier decision to permit construction of a bridge connecting Toronto’s island airport (not Pearson International), which is jointly governed by the city, the federal government and the Toronto Port Authority, with the mainland, the intention of which was to allow the number of daily flights to increase to elevenfold. At one point before the election it also became known that one of the airlines planned to start flying currently-prohibited jets should the bridge go ahead. Now that the bridge is history, that airline has filed a $500 million lawsuit against the city, alleging a desire on the mayor’s part to reward their competitor, Air Canada. Needless to say, the outraged Miller, as articulate as he is, ran out of synonyms when asked what he thought about it.

The first lesson in the study of ecosystems is the interdependence of everything, and David Miller’s observation of the effects of that interdependence in the political environment as it affects Toronto’s finances was that “for the past decade, governing Toronto has been a struggle to cope with change imposed by unresponsive and sometimes hostile senior levels of government, and to fulfill unrealistic promises to continue freezing taxes... Toronto must be prepared to play a part in funding its own renewal”. While he acknowledged “some encouraging evidence of a shift at the provincial and federal government levels”, with a new provincial government “with a different attitude towards public services” and “a new Prime Minister who has publicly committed to a new financial deal for Canada’s major cities”, he made those statements before Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals failed, in the eyes of many, to keep their own recent campaign pledge to halt construction of thousands of new homes along the Oak Ridges Moraine, an ancient feature of overwhelming importance to the wider environment (because it is the source of the water that feeds so many streams and rivers). They succeeded only in reducing slightly the number of houses to be built, saying that the cost of the inevitable legal battles with the beneficiaries of the deals struck by the previous Progressive Conservative provincial government made anything else unfeasible.



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City Mayors introduces Mayor Monitor (MM), which allows residents and non-residents to rate the performance of mayors and highlight their ‘best’ and ‘worst’ decisions. Mayor Monitor uses the widely understood one-to-ten rating system, where '1' signifies an extremely poor performance and '10' ‘an outstanding one. In addition to rating mayors’ performances, citizens are invited to highlight city leaders' best and worst decisions while in office.

Over time, Mayor Monitor will provide a valuable track record of mayors’ successes and failures as well as their popularity among residents and a wider public. The results will be published on the City Mayors website and updated monthly.

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