The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
Toronto Mayor David Miller doesn’t lie when he says he is "always up front."
Miller, 51, visited Niagara College’s Welland campus Thursday to speak to Journalism -Print and Public Relations program students about his experiences running the largest city in Canada.
While the job would seem to wear down many politicians, Miller candidly engaged the audience, telling jokes and drawing cheeky cartoons of the Toronto Transit system.
Miller touted his career of environmental and social-justice commitment and discussed his "authenticity" while running Toronto.
"I’ve always taken a different approach. People want authenticity."
Referring to his early career in politics, Miller became involved with the New Democrat Party, a party with whom he "shared many of the same ideas." He was first elected to Toronto council in 1994 and became mayor in 2003. He successfully ran for re-election in 2006.
When running for office, Miller focused on city transit and environmental concerns, which he carried into his mayoral term. Miller reversed previous setbacks that he felt were due to Mike Harris’s provincial government-funding cutbacks to the expansion of Toronto’s transit system.
Miller noted that, in 2003, city transit was operating vehicles that were 24 years old. The situation for Toronto was so grim that the city imported scrap parts and vehicles from Montreal, vehicles originally destined for Cuba.
However, Miller currently has models that offer handicap accessibility and a greener method of transportation in the city. Miller gives credit to the amalgamation of the Greater Toronto Area, without which he believes a superior transit system would not be possible. As well, the possibility of light-rail construction in Toronto linking neighbourhoods across Toronto and an increase in bike paths stands to improve transportation in the near future.
Miller spent the latter half of his speech discussing the virtues and vices of social media technology, an issue that reared its head Mar. 10 when his office sent out a press release notifying the public Miller was expected to make an "important" announcement that an additional $100 million dollars was discovered in the city budge. The release was widely criticized by the press, who expected a personal announcement such as his resignation. Miller faced an interview on CBC he called "bizarre" and the lack of research on the part of the pundit "pathetic."
"I’ll come back," he joked with the audience.
Miller urged journalism and public relations students to consider two things: to be "authentic" and "prepared", but also to answer a "fundamental question about the future of journalism."
Social media, Miller feels, is a great means of "improving social communication" but has flaws. While taking pictures and tweeting on his phone, Miller noted Twitter isn’t completely professional in language, as he proved by going through unintelligible photo comments, but he hopes journalism and public relations programs will "refine the facts."
When asked about his future plans, Miller reiterated he plans not to seek re-election, but instead spend time with his family.
Miller is considering following in the footsteps of fellow politicians Al Gore and Bill Clinton by engaging in some level of environmental or social philanthropy.
Being a mayor "is immensely rewarding," Miller said, "but it uses you up."