Dear Mr. Smitherman,
Toronto is where you have called ‘home’ for your entire life, so it is hardly surprising you would want to become its Mayor. You have been a stalwart pioneer of sorts, becoming the first openly gay politician elected as a Member of Provincial Parliament, and the first openly gay cabinet minister to boot.
Sadly, you have no shot at becoming Toronto’s very first openly gay Mayor.
When this campaign began you were considered the front runner in several polls. As the months ticked by however, your eHealth albatross proved to be the weapon of choice for your opponents, most noticeably Rob Ford. And while you have repeatedly taken responsibility for your role in the 1 billion dollar debacle, as well as rightly pointed out the roles of other politicians who also share the blame, that albatross became much too heavy for any mayoral candidate to carry. It is now ingrained in the public consciousness – Smitherman = 1 billion dollar loss of Ontario taxpayer money. As you know, politics can be cruel, but if you stood outside yourself for a moment and imagined someone else trying to shed that label you would see what the rest of us see (excluding your base of steadfast supporters) – a man with exactly no shot at becoming Mayor of Toronto.
Don’t take it personally. eHealth is your Howard Dean scream, as it were. It is your accidental branding in a game that can change overnight, provided you have an accomplishment that can overshadow the setback. Unfortunately, the campaign is almost over and the time for tangible accomplishments has long expired. You can’t create policy that will un-brand you, so to speak. You can’t crunch numbers, hold them up and say “See?! See?!?!” in an attempt rightly discredit Rob Ford’s alien math when it comes to budgets and taxes.
So, what to do….what to do…
Drop out of the race. Yes, the time for officially withdrawing has come and gone, but you can still do the right thing. This just wasn’t your year. The words ‘too soon’ might as well be emblazoned on your forehead. That Furious George thing would have actually helped you if eHealth did not exist. Toronto, clearly, has an appetite for a fiery politician, but it just isn’t you. It just isn’t Sarah Thomson, and it certainly isn’t David Miller sidekick, Joe Pantalone. As much as it hurts you to hear this, and despite what the polls may say, the only candidate who stands a chance at defeating Mr. Ford is Rocco Rossi. I know, it’s crazy. He’s polling lower than you, had trouble resonating with voters and has an unsettling smile, but he has been consistently polling as the person voters would select as their second choice, meaning he is the only candidate left who can save this city from becoming Lastman 2.0.
Even when you drop out, it still is a long shot Rossi can pull it off. He will need to scare the shit out of Torontonians, asking them to imagine Mr. Ford at the helm, a lame duck Mayor from day one who can’t build consensus and will be barking his elementary orders from the king’s seat, a picture too disturbing for voters to allow. He will also have to convince your supporters to rally behind him, no small feat given the ideological differences between you two. This, by the way, can also only be successful if Rossi can shrink voter apathy, especially among young voters. If turnout can swell to 50% Mr. Ford will not become Mayor. Bet on it.
Take that love you no doubt have for this city and put it ahead of your political ambitions. You still have time to make your mark. It’s not like this eHealth thing will stick to you forever a la Bob Rae and social contracts. You got time to rebrand yourself. Take that time and help Toronto escape the clutches of Chris Farley…please.
And no, Mr. Rossi did not encourage or suggest I write this letter. In fact, I don’t think he likes me at all after the beating I have given him in my blog. This is just an honest effort to keep a buffoon out of office.
James Di Fiore
Toronto Mayoral Candidate (who knows he can’t win…bummer, I know)