Guest post by David Hains
The other day Grid senior editor Edward Keenan wrote about the viable options to appoint a mayor to replace Rob Ford, and how they are in short supply. As he pointed out, the peculiarities of appointing someone to replace a mayor mid-term prevent most of the usual candidates—councillors won’t want to choose someone who could run for the job they want in 2014, because hey, that could be their gig. Nor do you want a radical ideological shift, because no one wants it to feel like a coup. But you might not want to appoint Ford, because that sets an awful precedent that the law, if the Divisional Court upholds the decision, doesn’t really matter. So who fits this narrow criteria?
Enter Gloria Lindsay Luby. The moderate conservative from Etobicoke is not particularly flashy and usually flies under the radar. Unlike the mayor, she gets along with most of her colleagues, and she has said she won’t run for mayor in 2014 (another potential appointee, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, refuses to rule out a possible 2014 run). In other words, she’s perfect.
The 27-year veteran of council (first in Etobicoke, and now in Toronto) recently floated her name as a potential interim mayor after Etobicoke Guardian journalist David Nickle asked her whether she would be up for it. She insists she hadn’t thought of it beforehand, but it made some sense to her upon consideration (when asked, she added she has not lobbied councillors for an appointment yet, although Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday has been doing so to line up votes for a Ford appointment if he is removed).
She has strong credentials for the situation. Before becoming a councillor Lindsay Luby trained incoming politicians on behalf of the province. (Ironically at the type of municipal seminars the mayor refused to go to as a first-time councillor. He told the court his father was an MPP, so he figured he knew how city hall worked).
While Toronto’s state is exceptional, Lindsay Luby has seen these kinds of situations before. When she worked in the private sector for a consulting firm that merged to become PricewaterhouseCoopers, she resolved issues for local governments. One included a New Brunswick town where the RCMP was called in to investigate their mayor (a former dump attendant) who continually flouted city rules. “There was all sorts of media from all around the province,” she said in a phone interview. The mayor routinely argued procedure with the city clerk, and Lindsay Luby was called in to provide advice. She told the rest of council that they had to work together, “I asked them not to all run for mayor, so as to split the vote. Of course, they did, but [the incumbent] was so disliked he didn’t win.”
The situation has some similarities to Toronto, and council would be wise to adopt her consensus-building advice. Lindsay Luby promises that style if she’s appointed; She often finds herself as the decisive 23rd vote on major issues like the budget or transit, and has seen herself on both sides of major issues. While she doesn’t always agree with Ford’s approach, she likes his principles, “I agree with much of what he says on a policy level. We need to be effective with tax dollars and deliver resources efficiently.”
They’ve had their disputes too. Rob called her a ‘waste of skin’ in one 2005 council meeting, an escalation from an ongoing dispute that started with a small pothole in her ward (for her part, she called him a ‘jerk’). Lindsay Luby also beat him in a competitive 1997 election.
But if you want experience, stability and the type of mundane competence the city so desperately needs, Lindsay Luby fits the bill. She won’t inspire a generation or change the world, but at this point all Toronto needs is a little perspective to begin a political turnaround. Gloria Lindsay Luby is not the perfect mayor for Toronto, but she may be perfect for the unique situation in which the city finds itself.
PHOTO: COLIN McCONNELL/TORONTO STAR