John Tory

“John Tory is a decent, hard-working, worldly and intelligent man… He never had a chance.” – Andrew Steele

For the record (immature reactive cheap-shots notwithstanding), I like and respect John Tory, and my heart goes out to him today. I disagree with him on many issues, but he comes by his positions thoughtfully and defends them with honesty and integrity. Would that we could say that about more politicians.

In the end, it turns out Tory was a bad politician—not because of who he is, but because of who we expect politicians to be.

That’s not to excuse or exonerate him completely. I would not have made many of the same decisions he did, and ultimately only he can be held accountable for his own performance. I just think it’s worth reflecting on what kind of political leadership we want in this country, and comparing that to the types of people we tend to vote for. Seems to me there’s a disconnect.

And finally, still for the record, the great religious schools debate of October 2007 (sometimes referred to as the Ontario General Election) should live on as Dalton McGuinty’s great shame, not Tory’s. At least Tory was taking a principled position on equality (it was the wrong principled position on equality mind you, but still). The Liberals and the NDP, on the other hand, formally adopted the position that they favour and support religious discrimination, and played on xenophobic sentiment towards people of faith in order to do it. As Andrew Coyne puts it:

History will record that the premier of Ontario, in the year 2007, could begin a televised debate with a veiled — you should pardon the expression — warning that the Conservatives’ religious schools proposal would mean “strife in the streets,” of the kind witnessed in “Paris and London.” Hmmm. Paris… London… What sort of strife could he have meant? Could he have had in mind… the Muslim kind? The beauty of it was, the Liberals never had to say it out loud: “eek, a Muslim!” The premier could appear to be singing the same old hymns to tolerance and pluralism, even as he was exploiting much darker sentiments.

Yes, let’s hope historians—and voters—are paying that much attention.

UPDATE (Saturday, 8:10 am): Today’s Globe editorial:

Both his personal defeat, and the party defeat, can be interpreted as a setback caused in some measure by a principled stand taken by Mr. Tory. He thought it proper to run in a constituency in which he had personal ties, and he thought that Roman Catholics should not be the only faith group to receive publicly funded religious schooling – that addressing this historic inequity was the correct thing to do. But as political decisions both were failures, and Mr. Tory was aspiring to be premier, not an ethicist.

…His critics will now have an opportunity to find a better leader, although they will be hard-pressed to find a better person.

4 thoughts on “John Tory

  1. I admit I laughed aloud in incredulity when I heard Tory lost. I feel a little shame now, because you are absolutely right. Has my cynicism trumped rational thought yet again?
    However, I have to say that the Religious Schools debate was not so cut and dried as far as principled stands go. My family is steeped in Liberal Party politics, going back to the turn of the previous century. The generational battle for seperate school funding was in large part about undoing the ‘Presbyterian Mafia’s’ stranglehold on Ontario. It wasn’t just that the majority was obliged to fund a school system in which they didn’t participate. It was about religious bigotry on BOTH sides of the battle lines, and two generations were steeped in hatred over this issue. John Tory was fully aware of the dormant passions, as he worked with Bill Davis when seperate school funding was introduced, so there’s no question that he was ignorant of the potential to re-awaken marching Orangemen, and re-arming the Knights of Columbus so to speak. My blood boiled to think what re-awakening the violent passions of the past could have meant, when the old wounds were at the point of literally dying out.

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