The Fords' reign of error is over. On Monday, Torontonians elected John Tory, the best of the leading candidates, as mayor. Canada's largest city will not have to endure Ford More Years. Hallelujah.
Mr. Tory's successful sales pitch was built of two elements: a promise to be everything Rob Ford was not – conciliator, bridge-builder, planner, thinker – and a pledge to get things moving on public transit, the city's most urgent file. The two are closely related.
On transit, Mr. Tory faces a big challenge. He campaigned on a thoughtful plan known as SmartTrack, and in his early days in office, he must take steps to move that ball forward. One of his first orders of business should be to get proper engineering and costing studies under way, so that the project will eventually be in a position to be given a green light. He needs to send a clear signal that he committed to leading the way to big improvements in Toronto's transit infrastructure. In part, that means pushing what he campaigned on, namely SmartTrack. But it also means being willing to negotiate and compromise in order to make progress on an issue where he'll need not only the support of city council, but also two higher levels of government.
Remember, Mr. Tory hasn't been elected prime minister of Toronto. Far from it. The city has what's known as a weak mayor system: He has just one vote on council, and he's not the head of a party or a government. To improve transit, he has to work with 44 councillors, Queen's Park and Ottawa.
Is the transit file horribly politicized? Yes. Is Toronto's progress on public transit so slow in part because politics keeps getting in the way of timely, economically rational decisions? Yes again. Mr. Tory can't change the rules of the game, at least not overnight. But he can choose to lead the way to something better than the paralysis that has infected the transit file. And he can do that, in part, by being himself.
The former provincial Progressive Conservative leader was backed by a host of Conservatives, Progressive Conservatives and Liberals. He won by being the consensus candidate of the wide middle of the spectrum, Toronto's not-so-silent majority. To succeed as mayor, that's how he has to govern.