Daily Archives: October 27, 2014


The new mayor of Toronto will be John Tory. The election campaign was hortatory, sometimes minatory, often accusatory and inflammatory, possibly defamatory. It was, as they are, a great civic laboratory. It was not – I hope – aleatory. Now that we have passed through that purgatory, the media have declared the victory, the losers have given their obligatory valedictory, and the mood is congratulatory but anticipatory. How will Tory write his story in history? How will his articulatory faculties hold up? And the councillors’ auditory ones? Will oratory and policy coming from his idea factory pass the olfactory test? Will his approach be desultory, dilatory, improvisatory, dictatory? Excretory, flagellatory, discriminatory? Or placatory and conciliatory? What inventory will he leave us in the end?

Well, for this evening, the tone is potatory. We can take a respiratory moment. The revelatory will come soon enough.

Canadians and Brits will find it fitting – though Americans may miss the connection – that John Tory is known for being generally on the conservative side and tied to the Conservative Party.

For the Yanks, I’ll explain. In both Canada and Great Britain, the Conservative parties are nicknamed Tories (singular Tory). This comes from the English Conservative party being the successor to a party that proudly wore the name, co-opting what had been directed at it as a term of abuse (sort of like Yankee). The Oxford English Dictionary gives a nice explanatory quote from 1740 by Roger North: “Then, observing that the Duke favoured Irish Men, all his Friends, or those accounted such by appearing against the Exclusion, were straight become Irish, and so wild Irish, thence Bogtrotters, and in the Copia of the factious Language, the Word Tory was entertained, which signified the most despicable Savages among the Wild Irish.” The word comes from Irish tóraidhe (pronounced the same, but with an Irish accent), literally ‘pursuer’ but in this case applied to a set of dispossessed Irish who had become outlaws.

So that’s the story of Tory. In the case of Toronto, John Tory (which truly sounds like a generic name for a Conservative) was aided considerably in his quest to become mayor by not being a Ford. The previous mayor, Rob Ford, of whom you have probably heard, is heartily detested by a significant part of the population here, and many people who might have voted for Olivia Chow, the more progressive major candidate (liberal, but not Liberal – actually New Democratic Party, although at the city level there are no parties), instead supported Tory because he looked like he could beat Ford where Chow could not. The late-game switch from Rob (diagnosed with cancer and in treatment) to his brother Doug did not change that. Also, Tory is anodyne in his blandness, and will probably play nicely with just about everyone, whereas a certain section of the councillors would line up against Chow.

Well, it’s nice to have a campaign where all the main candidates are four-letter words (Ford, Chow, Tory) but they don’t all inspire four-letter words. So now we sit back and watch the Tory unfold.