This is a special edition of the series of opinion columns written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.
This piece is not an exoneration of John Tory, a man who has now failed at every single political position he’s sought after or won. He is, to be absolutely clear, one of the all time great political failures, not just in a Canadian context but in the wider scope of history, a man whose judgement is so legendarily poor that he may just have been born without the capacity to make a single good decision.
But blaming Tory’s all-time record of career-ending moves on some sort of hard-wired tendency would be ignoring the true cause—the social forces inherent and unique to Canada, that compel a character like him into existence.
Jean-Paul Sartre said that if the Jew did not exist, the antisemite would invent him. And we Canadians—the right-thinking, left-leaning, socially progressive, fiscally conservative, compromise-and-niceness-obsessed Majority of Canadians that regard any public disagreement as a threat to the federation—invented John Tory, and set him on the impossible path that was always going to end in disgrace.
By means fair or foul, Canadians will have politicians that offend no one’s sensibilities and reach across the aisle for the benefit of those they serve. These pols will proclaim the uniquely Canadian virtues of humility, kindness, and boring safety to the world.
Never once, not even by accident, will these politicians appear partisan, raise their voices, engage in lewd or base or relatable behaviour, or display any disagreeable “ethnic” attributes that might confuse or upset.
Naturally, such people will come from the upper crust, which is not to say class or wealth creates barriers in Canada. And because such politicians will be such shining exemplars of humanity, the rest of the world will quietly go about their business and quietly acknowledge their betters instead of speaking back.
And it was into this mould that John Tory was poured. The generational wealth, the corporate connections, the effortless access to the backrooms of power (such as they were) were all tools he was to make use of to achieve the noble ends.
And if the means became less noble ends in themselves? If Tory was abusing the power he was given? Well—so we were told—it certainly wasn’t anyone’s else’s place to point that out.
And so for decades, Conservatives have simply had to work around the man’s political ineptness. We are all acquainted with the larger stumbles, but for me, it was the smaller offences that rankled the most: The tendency to spend minute after minute of precious time chatting aimlessly with people who would never vote for him. The bizarre attempts at humour, like this bizarre Kanye West-inspired bit of cinéma vérité on the TTC. The way he would never, not even once, acknowledge his matrilineal Jewish roots in public settings.
As I type this, we still haven’t gotten a proper resignation letter—suggesting more of that good old Upper Canadian “consultation” happening behind the scenes as to whether he should actually shove off or wait this out like Mel Lastman did, even now!
Everyone who can run as opposed to everyone who should run is exploring their chances, and the possibility of yet another divisive scrimmage for the mayor’s chain looms, terrifying and immense. Who’s going to be the true blue Tory candidate? Will one, or more, of the many Fords take their shot? What about midtown councillor Josh Matlow, who could unite the city behind his centrist vision and who’ll just have to grant The Canadian Jewish News as many exclusives as we want?
Ah, but anyone who comes after Tory will be a mere placeholder, another vulgar creature of the ballot box who will only represent some Torontonians to the world. They’ll have an even harder time keeping their flaws and misdeeds hidden, and fewer hangers-on and underlings will feel compelled to keep quiet.
And so it goes, in the endless search for the perfectly angelic Canadian politician.
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.