Mayoral primer: George Smitherman

The Globe and Mail

George Smitherman

Age: 46

In the polls: 40.5 per cent*

Last seen:

As deputy premier and energy and infrastructure minister, bulldog to Dalton McGuinty's Premier Dad. Mr. Smitherman credits himself with the province's Green Energy Act, which creates built-in subsidies for renewable energy. His critics also credit the former health minister with the "billion-dollar boondoggle" that was e-Health.

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Quote he wants you to remember:

"I'm a man with a plan. … It's time for Toronto to get its groove back."

Feature film in the works? We hope so.

Quote he doesn't want you to remember:

"I don't negotiate with terrorists."

Taliban? FLQ? Nope: Optometrists fighting cuts in health-insurance coverage. (Then-health minister, Mr. Smitherman later apologized for the statement.)

Campaign high point:

The good news: Hundreds of starry-eyed supporters, enthused to the point of incoherence, have crammed themselves into a chic College Street resto-lounge, chanting his name as he gets a ringing endorsement from Liberal all-star Justin Trudeau.

The bad news: The fire marshal's coming. And the supporters are sweaty.

Low point:

After taking months of flak for running a cagey frontrunner's campaign, there's nothing like waking up to phone calls asking you why you're trailing in the polls by 24 percentage points.

Wake-up call, Mr. Smitherman? Try "evacuation siren."

Where he stands on...

Transit:

Light rail and subways to the suburbs: Mr. Smitherman would keep most of Transit City, but add to the edges - Downsview, Sherway Gardens, the Port Lands, the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, the Woodbine Centre and Weston Road.

Reality check:

The money's not there: Mr. Smitherman's transit plan relies on $5-billion in debt over several years.

Money:

Freeze property taxes for a year, save $61-million a year by only replacing two-thirds of employees who retire and sell the city's minority stake in Enwave. Give seniors free rides on transit and spend $10-million on programs for youth employment.

Reality check:

2011 budget depends on $100-million from the province for which the city doesn't yet have a commitment. Like Mr. Ford, he relies (albeit not as heavily) on savings from attrition to make his fiscal plan work.

Governance:

Has promised to localize city decision-making, pursuing "community-based planning" and appointing neighbourhood councils of unelected residents and business owners, although it's not clear how much decision-making power they would have.

Reality check:

All the candidates have tried to tap into lingering dissatisfaction with a post-amalgamation Toronto. But the risk of hyper-local councils, observers warn, is that they'll balkanize neighbourhoods and render the city incapable of functioning as a single entity.

Superpower:

Centrist clout. Mr. Smitherman has sought to model himself as a progressive who's into "city-building" but isn't afraid to get tough when it comes to balancing the city's books.

Fatal weakness:

Mystery man. A year into his candidacy, many voters are still trying to figure out what this guy stands for.

* Based on figures from a Nanos Research poll of 1,000 very likely Toronto voters conducted Oct. 14-16.

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