The Current Situation Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Adam Giambrone’s Stories

imageAnd so, with both a bang and a whimper, Adam Giambrone’s campaign to become mayor of Toronto came to an end, a mere ten days after it began.

What fascinates me about the whole thing isn’t the impropriety or the controversy, but the stories that came out of them. Stories about a career-climbing overly image-conscious politician who’s having a premature mid-life crisis, an equally overly image-conscious “other woman” who took the revenge of a 21st century woman scorned, respectable and not-so-respectable newspapers racing to the bottom, gossip sites striving for more “hits”, clashes of archetypes, oppressed white men who need a hero and how technology has changed our personal lives. Not bad for ten days!

With Friends Like These…

image “The White Tiger”, as some wags now call him, had enough going against him before the sex scandal, what with his being the Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission in the midst of a fare hike, customer complaints and a cold war between its workers and passengers, as well as the presumed endorsement of outgoing Mayor David Miller, who lost a lot of support after last summer’s garbage strike.

If you want an interesting indicator of David Miller’s standing in the business community, try mentioning his name at the Island Airport during the middle of the day. At that time, it’s mostly business commuters taking the magnificent Porter Air. I’ve heard his name mentioned many times while waiting for my flight in the lounge, and he’s generally regarded in the same light as pond scum. On my last trip, I heard an older business guy who felt that he had to precede the name “David Miller” with the phrase “the socialist” every time. All this may have something to do with the fact that Miller’s not a fan of the airport, despite the fact that it’s incredibly useful for businesspeople – myself included – and that regular city noise is still far louder than the sound produced by the (rather quiet) planes.

White Man’s Burden

Mike StrobelWhen Giambrone announced that he had had an “inappropriate relationship” with someone other than his live-in partner, there was the usual tsk-tsking in the press. There was one notable exception, however: Mike Strobel, columnist for the low-brow Toronto Sun, had been won over:

Well, he’s got my vote.

I mean, who knew? Who knew what a lusty, savage heart beats under Adam Giambrone’s pale, puckered chest?

Sex with a sultry lass on his City Hall couch? No wonder our wunderkind councillor and TTC chairman wants that nice, big, comfy mayoral chair.

Good for Giambrone.

C’mon, Adam, fight back. Clearly, your mojo is working. So embrace it, like madcap Smilin’ Bob in those male enhancement commercials.

You may have lost the prude vote, but the testosterone vote is yours for the tapping. All us suppressed male electors pine for a champion.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry in this town has done what you did, or something like it — or wishes he had.

The line about “suppressed male electors” pining for a champion is pathetic and laughable. He’s a white guy in a white-collar job in North America who makes money writing at the grade 6 level; he has precious little to complain about. Despite the best efforts of that humour-impaired wing of feminism (Michele Landsburg, I’m lookin’ right at you), that status of women has improved without any significant cost – and a fair bit of benefit – to men. His remarks remind me of a conversation I had with a guy who worked in Maxim’s advertising department – he said that the magazine was for the younger guy who’s been robbed of much of the joy of life because of the social changes brought about by the rise of women. I couldn’t take him seriously, since we were both enjoying martinis in the swanky lobby bar at the W Hotel in Manhattan, talking to women who were approaching us to look at my accordion, saying “My father used to play one of these!”

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Archetypes

I’m still amused by the construction that went into the Toronto Star’s photo featuring Kristen Lucas (the “other woman”), Giambrone and his long-time partner (he always referred to her with the rather clinical term “partner”) Sarah McQuarrie. As I’ve said before, it screams “Madonna/whore complex”, with McQuarrie as the fantasy librarian contrasted with a sultry Lucas, leaning against a wall in an overcoat, looking at the camera with an expression that says “I will do things to you that most women can’t even pronounce”, all with a beaming Giambrone looking off into the distance. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but wow, what a story it tells!

lucas giambrone mcquarrie

What the photo doesn’t tell you is that neither woman knew about the other. McQuarrie thought she had a faithful live-in boyfriend and Lucas thought that Giambrone lived with his brother.

High Tech Meets Hijinks

If we were in the film noir era, Giambrone’s infidelity might’ve been proven through a love letter or perhaps photos taken by a private eye following him around. Since we’re in the era texting and tweeting, the damning evidence that Lucas brought to the Toronto Star after discovering that Giambrone was living with his girlfriend came in the form of text messages on her mobile phone.

The text messages told an old story about nebbish-y student council types who go into politics: they try to have their (mangia) cake and eat it too, sticking with one woman for appearances and to further their career, while enjoying the other for the sex and illicit thrill.

Sex and State Secrets

From Lucas, we got another old story about politicians: revealing inside information to their lovers. As the chairman of Toronto’s rapid transit system, Giambrone let her know that there would be a twenty-five cent fare hike at the start of 2010. This seems rather lame to me; we all figured a fare hike was coming, and I’d have been more impressed if he’d revealed the secret of how they get the caramel into a Caramilk bar.

Controlling the Story, Millennial Style


Lucas also tried to make sure that her story was told. As someone who’s just left her teens – she was 19 when she and the early-thirty-something Giambrone hooked up – she did so in the way that makes complete sense to an aspiring actress/model from the Millennial generation who grew up with MySpace and Facebook. She sent photos of herself – some of them heavily airbrushed in Photoshop — to local celebrity-chasing/party-scene reporting blog Drink the Glitter (she is said to have attended a number of their parties). Her reason? According to Drink the Glitter editor David Robert, “She didn’t want ugly pictures of her out there…she wanted good pictures.”

Drink the Glitter is the sort of blog where they end an article about Hillary Duff and her boyfriend with the line “SEX! TAPE! PLEASE!” and where Harrison Ford’s recent appearance in Toronto at a movie premiere was given the headline It’s Harrison, Bitch! They’re not the only gossip site trying to get the scoop on Giambrone’s illicit goings-on; Zack Taylor’s site is doing the same, and the Toronto Sun is reported these unsubstantiated reports as news.

The National Post’s Posted Toronto blog is on to something when they suggest that in the end, Giambrone, for all his claims of being social media savvy, was out-social-media’d by Lucas. She seemed to be aware, unlike Giambrone, that certain modes of communication leave an electronic trail.

When Others Tell Your Story


Giambrone’s case is the first one where a politician was brought down due to an error in fact-checking. According to the Toronto Star, Lucas came forward with her evidence because in an earlier article, they incorrectly reported that McQuarrie was his wife, and not his live-in girlfriend. This is going to end up as a cautionary story at Ryerson’s School of Journalism.

The day the story broke, Giambrone’s campaign team insisted that he would continue to run for mayor. He implied that the relationship was non-sexual, but that was contradicted by his text to Lucas telling her that she “looked pretty good naked”. In response to the text messages that Lucas brought to the Star, the team produced a “threatening email” purportedly sent by Lucas to Giambrone, a strange bit of evidence that was never mentioned again. If you’re looking for a PR team, you should find out who Giambrone used – and never, ever hire them.

In the end, Giambrone held another press conference in which he delivered a teary apology and revealed that there were more “other women”, and then abruptly left the stage. An aide stepped up and finished the story with the announcement that Giambrone would drop out of the race for mayor, sparing the city of the possibility of “Mini-Miller” running the show.


image(Photo from David Topping’s Flickr stream)

In what might be an interesting idea for a short story or a movie but a terribly and painfully awkward real-life situation, Giambrone and McQuarrie (who seems to be sticking with him through all this) have travelled somewhere out of the country, presumably to work things out and save the relationship. I don’t know what the best outcome for that story is – personal experience leads me to believe that the best way to deal with a cheating significant other is to dump them – but I hope they get it.

14 replies on “Adam Giambrone’s Stories”

Adam wasn’t brought down by his refusal to correct the record regarding the “wife” statement. He was brought down by his deception and his lying to the media and the public at large. If he would have just said “none of your business” or “My relationship is complicated” or “yes I did have sexual relations with that woman” he would still be a mayoral candidate.

It’s indeed painful, but let’s apply a little WTF to the situation to see if that helps:

WTF is he doing still employed after the threatening texts messages to fellow counsellor Cesar Palacio last May? He’s actually getting a second chance?

WTF is he doing with any girl whose Twitter username is Pornomouth?

WTF is a 32 year-old career politician doing as TTC chair? Why did the board elect him as their chair? Is this an undesirable position? Was he backed by big players?

WTF is with his YouTube promo. Is everyone blind? He makes Kenneth from 30 Rock look like Vito Corleone.

There, that’s better. WTF; TGIF.

Nice job, Joey! If the media stayed OUT of our bedrooms and focussed on the actual mayoral race, we’d all be the wiser. Sure it wouldn’t be as entertaining, but the TTC and the city of Toronto need leadership.

We here in Ottawa are jealous of the Mayoral Soap Opera. It beats the pants off of anything we got here, even after our Mayor was on trial

I am disappointed. Instead of the media ripping him apart for his track record at TTC (possibly resulting in his non-continuance in that post), they focused on the least important story that could possibly stick to him. He could bang a different woman every hour; the important thing is how he’s doing his job, not who he’s sleeping with.

Now he’ll get to slink away and lay low for a while, right at the moment when ATU 113 is ratcheting up the stakes and trying to get the public on-side with a series of town hall meetings.

Chris, I’d suggest you take a moment to read Adam’s TTC bio or Wikipedia page. Did you realize he closed over $8 billion in new funding to construct seven new light-rail lines, which go into neighbourhoods that currently don’t have rapid transit?

Or that Adam executed the largest expansion in bus service in Toronto’s history, and that TTC now has record ridership after steady declines due to fare hikes?

I don’t know many people who have the record of professional achievement that Adam Giambrone does. My lawyer has closed about $2 billion in financing and licensing deals, and he did it over 30 years, not 3 years.

It’s amazing how crowds pick at people who try to do something with their lives. Few of the remarks directed at Steve Jobs begin with “My own $40 billion a year, industry sparking iconic enterprise is so much better than the one Steve Jobs started because…”

What bothers me is the fact this girl keeps being presented as a “fame whore” when she hasn’t been seen or heard from since. I work in graphics and all the photos I’ve seen of this barely legal girl look pretty untouched to me.

Mr. Rowland, big capital projects are nice, and certainly a necessity from time to time, but more useful metrics than simple capital expenditures might be schedule adherence, on-time performance, objective utilisation rate (UTE, or average number of hours per day that the primary vehicle inventory drives), operating ratio (revenue per employee), et cetera.

These are the kinds of metrics used in air mobility and other transportation industries to measure how efficient the fleet is; it would be nice to know how TTC has fared in these areas over the past few years.

A few more metrics: noise level of subway trains (just the trains, not the riders — it’s gone up a couple of orders of magnitude over the last 15 years), frequency of equipment failures, number of unscheduled delays per day, number of passengers impacted by said delays daily, number of 1-meter-or-bigger holes in subway tunnel and station walls and ceilings… I could go on and on.

Basically, Giambrone has managed to obtain funding to build new physical infrastructure (yay) while obtaining no funding to fix and keep operational the *existing* infrastructure (WTF?).

Hell, instead of fixing said gaping holes in walls and ceilings, the TTC on his watch has been retrofitting automatic doors onto subway stations with only stairs going down. Seriously — what’s the point of an expensive, power-consuming, frequently-disabled automatic door if all you can do is enter the surface level of the station?

The good thing about this scandal is that it’s taken him out of the mayoral race. The bad thing is, it’s left him as chair of the TTC.

Simon Rowland: That’s the problem with Adam, and Toronto in general. Spending $8 billion in three years doesn’t make you wise or accomplished. Successful results do.

Is there an LRT on Eglinton? A subway on Sheppard? How did the St. Clair street car project go?

If anything, spending the $8 billion in just a few years with the results we have makes him incompetent, not accomplished.

Matt, the money secured for new construction projects hasn’t all been spent, which is why you don’t see a rapid transit line in Rexdale. I’d hoped the distinction between closing funding, awarding construction contracts, and taking delivery of new facilities was clear. Most large construction projects have a timeline measured in years.

The TTC is under-funded, as I recall it is one of the only major transit services in the developed world that derives over 80% of its operating costs from fares. Everyone would like the subway to be quieter, but given the option to expand service into low-income neighbourhoods, I’ll take the noisy train for now. (It is noisy because of design decisions made 30 years ago.)

As for the TTC’s operating metrics, many of them are excellent, and have been for more than the 3 years Adam has been in the job. Notice how old some of the buses are? The maintenance crews deserve a medal, because their stats are among the best in the world.

Adam has secured new money for the TTC. The TTC’s problem is and has always been getting the money to improve service. Adam is part of the solution.

Also, instead of comparing him to Jesus, try comparing him to the results from Howard Moscoe (previous TTC chair) or other transit agencies with comparably low levels of outside funding. Moscoe built a tiny fraction of what Giambrone has got funding for.

I don’t think that people realize that it is not trivially easy to make the subway perfect; every five minutes, silent, and with an attendant to deliver a latte to your seat. The TTC gets almost no outside money. Considering that many people can barely do a simple office job, it is amazing how fast people are to criticize.

Mr. Rowland, your example of new buses is, again, a capital expenditure, versus actual performance. I hope you can understand that there is a difference between buying stuff and making a system (with new or old equipment) run efficiently. New gear does not automatically equate to good management, I’m sorry to say.

You may be interested to know that in 1998 TTC developed a computerised system to monitor headway (the time between buses/streetcars) and eventually deployed it systemwide in 1999. Then they subsequently shut down the system’s monitoring consoles and no longer required senior staff to monitor them. The system was used in reserve for emergency situations only and staff were only required to monitor them for schedule adherence starting in 2005. I note that Mr. Howard Moscoe was the chairman at that time, with Mr. Giambrone as his deputy.

You may further be interested to know that TTC’s headway adherence for bus routes averages out to about 67%; they have fluctuated up and down bu remained in the mid-60s consistently for the past ten years. The Commission’s own target, incidentally, is 75%.

New York and Los Angeles routinely attain 74% headway adherence; only TTC’s streetcar routes manage a headway adherence average of 74%. Streetcar routes inevitably have better headway metrics because they run more frequently than many bus routes.

TTC uses a different metric for subways, an on-time “index” on a scale of ten. Most of the other metro subway systems use a simple percentage, so there is no easy apples-to-apples comparison. TTC’s performance on the last report I could find was 8.1 systemwide, vs. an 8.0 target for the Yonge line and 9.0 target for the Bloor line. New York’s on-time metric is about 94%. I could not locate a current stat for Los Angeles but I know their targets are 70% on-time for buses, 99% for light rail, and 99.2% for heavy rail.

Those are ambitious targets, to say the least.

I leave it to individuals to decide for themselves whether TTC is being particularly aggressive in its pursuit of better performance.

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