Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Politics: Crombie and Miller

David Crombie spoke during the Heritage Toronto "Great Toronto Roast" at the Carlu on 13-October-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Having seen him at various community events around his native Swansea, I knew that former Toronto mayor David Crombie is a great story-teller. Thus, it came as no surprise when he included some wonderful anecdotes during the Heritage Toronto "Great Toronto Roast" last week. My favorite was that he described being asked to write a letter to the Pope. He didn't understand why he was being asked, but upon being told that the Vatican viewed countries as transient and cities as the real constant in human organization, he proceeded--and took great pride in addressing a letter to "His Holiness" and getting to sign it "His Worship."

What had strangely escaped my mind until hearing Crombie speak that evening were the similarities between Crombie and current mayor David Miller. Somehow, the fact that Crombie was mayor from 1972 to 1978 made him seem out of a completely different era that couldn't possibly have anything in common with the contemporary mayor. Yet, in listening to Crombie lay praise on Miller's contributions to transportation and neighbourhood planning, it became clear that they had much in common.

Mayor David Miller spoke before the formal beginning of the Heritage Toronto "Great Toronto Roast on 13-October-2009... since a mayor can't roast a city, "but a city can roast a mayor," as host Albert Schultz put it.

Both Crombie and Miller have progressive, urbanist views of their city. Crombie was mayor in the era of Jane Jacobs and control of development, famous for a 40-foot height restriction; Miller in the era of defeating big box stores and managing the shape of the waterfront. Both emphasized transportation, with Crombie in an era of subway expansion; Miller in the Transit City era of light rail. Interestingly, Crombie would go on to be a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament, while Miller is associated with the New Democrats--but that may be more indicative of their eras than their policies.

As for Mayor Miller's announcement during the event that he planned to push for Old City Hall to become a museum for the city of Toronto, that sounded familiar to Crombie. "I'll have a gift for the mayor," Crombie said, "As soon as I find the plans we had to do that in 1974."

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