Liberal politricks: Tory oui, Chow non!

Too many of us fall victim to the all too convenient explanation that the electorate is asked to vote strategically: Anyone but Doug Ford for mayor.

Though there is some merit in the determination to keep Ford out of the running, we failed to see another “set-up” that works in favor of the other undeclared Liberal objective to keep Olivia Chow out of Toronto’s mayoral chair.

On the one hand, it may be true that some trade unionists and NDP supporters are still angry at the party and especially the NDP under Andrea Horwath for betraying the party’s traditional progressive policies in this year’s provincial election. So they may be sitting on the sidelines instead of working hard for Chow to become mayor.

On the other hand, it would normally be assumed that the Liberals, not having a candidate of their own, would support the progressive agenda of Chow rather than the slightly pink conservative agenda to be expected of John Tory.

Not so! It appears the Liberals have a trump card that can hang two jacks at the same time. They know that Ford has neither the votes to win, nor the consensus-building skills and the desire to get balanced plans and policies approved at city council.

What they are not openly indicating is that they have strong reasons to keep Chow and the NDP out of any key position of influence in Ontario. They are especially keen on ensuring that the NDP is significantly weakened ahead of the federal elections next year, both in this province, and further afield, in Quebec.

Justin Trudeau’s incoming majority government will therefore not just chase the Harper Conservatives into a very limited number of opposition seats in Parliament; the second objective is to reduce the NDP to a federal also-ran party that is barely visible in Ottawa.

What do you say? Some voters genuinely see John Tory as less of a hard-nosed conservative, different from the likes of the angry Tim Hudak and aggressively uncaring Mike Harris. Others strongly prefer the social agenda of Chow that recognizes the need to strengthen and renew the city’s outdated transit and physical infrastructure, but that will not sacrifice social needs (education, health and poverty reduction) on the altar of fiscal discipline that includes vicious budget cuts.

The Liberals want their federal majority in order to roll back the Harper legacy of big business; big oil; de-regulation of industry; high levels of unemployment among youth and new immigrants; total abandonment of any long-term and structured approach to aboriginal rights and needs; harsher requirements for permanent residence and citizenship; and an enhanced place for the monarchy and military in Canada’s national identity.

That is a rollback that most Canadians can welcome after next year’s federal elections.

For that reason, the Liberals have decided to anoint Tory as mayor of Toronto, leaving Chow as the proverbial sacrificial lamb.