Olivia Chow has John Tory and Doug Ford grasping for power

Man who made this mayoral election possible, in the sense of necessary, is John Tory. For a moment, he seemed to truly vanish into a noble quest to “rebuild” his family’s trust. (Though they’re full-grown and mightn’t have exactly needed him 24/7 for that). Then this — bam! He’s back. .


First, the deputy mayor he left in charge, Jennifer McKelvie, who promised to stay out of the election, endorses Ana Bailão, who was also Tory’s deputy mayor, before she fled to the corporate sector till Tory’s job came open. Then, when that proved ineffective, came leaks saying Tory himself would endorse, and the endorsement.

Tory said he did it because people were coming up to him on the street asking about the race — some of them perhaps managers of Bailao’s failing campaign. Tory’s weird twin, Doug Ford (yes, a bit like Schwarzenegger and Danny de Vito) vowed to stay out of the campaign too, then this week said he’d vote for Mark Saunders, our ex-top cop, who also quit early to “put his family first,” no further explanations.

Ford added in his witless way that we could “vote for whoever you want.” Thanks for that. Next day, having said he wouldn’t endorse anyone, he endorsed Saunders. Why? Because Olivia Chow as mayor would be an “unmitigated disaster” — the kind of term my dad used when he didn’t know what unmitigated meant but wanted to sound well read.

So now we’re getting to it. Tory and Ford can’t bear the thought of someone — Chow — in charge at city hall who they don’t have their hooks into.

Poor, underperforming John Tory. He botched his public roles as leader of Ontario’s PCs and mayor of Toronto. He did himself no favours as head of Rogers Communications, likely the most hated company in Canada. The one role he shone in was commissioner of the Canadian Football League, an unglamorous gig but he saved us from a fate in the NFL and the CFL does continue to limp along. It’s a legacy.

How Poilievre lost his smirk

A day after Monday’s four byelections, opposition leader Pierre Poilievre rose in Question Period and did not smirk. I hadn’t known that was possible. It seemed the most authentic thing about him though, as often happens, I didn’t fully realize it till it wasn’t there. The little upturns at the ends of his mouth followed by the mocking, derisive voice that seemed born from the smirk. It was the clearest sign the Tories themselves felt they’d lost the previous day’s elections, long-winded punditry notwithstanding.

Did the caucus tell him to can it? Or staff? That the disdain that played well to the Alberta base and the convoy crowd was unproductive in broader electoral contexts. His shift to smirkless was fairly seamless; who knew he even had another face to put on. But it left the question of how effective a sneer-free Poilievre will be. By Wednesday the smirk had started to wriggle back in.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s equivalent to the smirk is an irritating high school drama teacher’s inflated vocals, as if trying to force you to acknowledge how sincere he is, rather than letting you decide yourself. He seemed to drop it briefly, when Poilievre did. For a moment they looked like two exhausted touring actors slumped side by side taking off their makeup after the show.

Boris Johnson’s finest hour

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned and won’t run again. Many supporters told him to do so “for his own dignity” but, to his credit, he rejected that, saying, “Dignity is a grossly overrated commodity.” It was a brilliant, even dazzling, exit line.

The point and genius of his career has been to endear himself by lampooning the kind of false dignity that has bamboozled their entire society, culminating in the idiocy of their royalty obsessions and his own ludicrous, pointless ascent to PM. He pulled back the curtain on those self-damaging delusions. It almost redeems him.


is a Canadian novelist, playwright, journalist, and critic and has been writing for more than forty years. Until October 1, 2010, he wrote a regular column in The Globe and Mail; on February 11, 2011, he began a weekly column in the Toronto Star. He currently teaches a half course on Canadian media and culture in University College (CDN221) at the University of Toronto. He is a contributing editor of This Magazine. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Near Eastern and Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and got his Master of Arts degree in religion at Columbia University. He also studied philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He was once a trade union organizer in Toronto and participated in the Artistic Woodwork strike.[