A Toronto Star article published yesterday quoted a lot of unnamed sources who are supposedly very close to John Tory, saying the man was going to run for Mayor. Or likely to run for Mayor.
I'm sure these folk mean well. After all, "they've put a lot of effort into this and will be very disappointed" if he doesn't recognize all the hard work they've done to get him out the door.
This reminds me of when my first son was born; we were given a free photo shoot and free picture courtesy of some studio that had a deal with the hospital. I made it clear to the photographer that we had zero inclination to pay for anything - we'd do the freebie and take his card, but that was it.
Of course the photographer went in with a sales mentality regardless; during the photo shoot he took dozens of pictures with dozens of outfits, putting a lot of effort into it. I reminded him as we left the shoot that, when the pictures were developed, we'd be taking the one we liked best and that would be it.
When it came time to pick the picture, however, the photographer pulled every trick in his book to get us to buy. He tried to guilt us into not acknowledging all the effort he'd put in. He tried to shame us - how could we let such beautiful pictures of our first born go to the shredder?
As his last-ditch effort, he revealed more of his true nature - he had an almost faultless record of closing deals off of these free photo ops, who did we think we were to add a blemish to that?
I smiled, thanked him for the picture and we left. Free market, etc; I'm not buying what I clearly indicated I had no interest in. Good for him, making the effort, but that's the risk - you eat what you kill and you don't make a kill every time.
I've got no idea what the backstory is on the internal Tory conversations. What little I've managed to glean from headlines, though - fully recognizing that's only the tip of the iceberg - the impression I have is that Tory's organizers were organizers first, looking to back a winning candidate, and Tory supporters second.
I'm sure they've worked very hard to pull together a campaign machine for their man. I'm sure he's appreciative of their efforts. But I wonder if he has at any point made it clear that such efforts were a guaranteed investment.
It could be they're not.
Over the past several months, I've been approached by a number of would-be candidates, gauging interest in joining their teams. What's interesting, though, is that I'm seeing a lot more individuals looking to build teams and then find candidates. They don't have a vision, really, nor do they have one individual they believe in - so what, I ask, are they after?
To me the answer seems clear. They want skin in the game and they want the chance for access to a winner. It's good for their CV, it's good for their ego - but is it good for our city, or province, or country?
But back to John Tory.
He may decide to run, he may not; he's made it clear that he won't be making his choice until February, and has clarified that it won't be February the 1st in accordance with the press cycle, either. So there's at least some cause to believe that leaks and anonymous quotes are efforts by his "supporters" to force his hand.
In so doing, what they've really done is expose the man they're trying to force into the game to unnecessary criticism. Olivia Chow supporter Warren Kinsella has already used this opportunity as a way to preemptively brand Tory as a ditherer, nudging the public perception of him into negative territory. This is a trend that will only continue, meaning that when and if Tory decides to jump in, he'll already have an albatross to contend with.
When you're fighting against smears, you're not selling your message. And that is how politics works.
And of course, that's what people are tired of. We aren't dumb; we get the games being played and increasingly, are becoming real familiar with the people playing them. If we're sceptical about politicians, it's the professional campaigners that make us despair, fueling our well-recognized democratic deficit.
A few months ago, John Tory was a guest speaker at Why Should I Care. During his presentation, he talked a lot about political cynicism and how the focus on partisan wins through partisan attacks, vote-buying one-offs ranging from Fake Lakes to Scarborough Subways were crippling the sustainability of our society as well as starving politics of public good will. It has to end, he said.
I agreed with him then. I hope he still feels the same way now. It's a message he should pass on to his friends and, ideally, foes out there in the municipal election arena.
When you back a horse or try to create a candidate because you want to win, it's your credibility that takes a hit.
When it becomes about winning, and winning is in no small part about defeating, you've lost. We've been sold that bill of goods before and it's starting to lose its veneer.
We don't want to be sold on the faults of the competition; we want something to believe in.
It's time both candidates and campaigners start to stand for, not against.