Torstar News Service Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Coun. Peter Milczyn, pictured together at Toronto City Hall.

Tomorrow, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday will square off against Coun. Peter Milczyn. Both members of Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee, they’re the two leading contenders in a race to fill a vacant provincial seat in the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

They’re basically the same guy.

Politically, I mean. Politics aside, there are some differences between the two. Holyday is older. Milczyn is shorter. Holyday was recently pictured in a Delorean. Milczyn, in 2010, celebrated a narrow election night victory by reportedly drinking a lot of scotch. Differences!

But if you’re the kind of voter who likes to mark your ballot based on a candidate’s actual policies, the similarities between the two are striking. According to my most recent City Council Scoreard tracking council votes this term, Holyday has supported Ford on 98.73 per cent of major items that have come before city council this term. Milczyn has supported the mayor 88.16 per cent of the time. The council average is just 51.73 per cent.

Milczyn and Holyday have voted the same way on most items. They voted to eliminate the Vehicle Registration Tax. They voted to close a library in 2011. They voted to eliminate the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. They’ve voted for the Scarborough subway extension without a plan to pay for them.

They’ve even stood with the mayor on votes where a majority of councillors went against Ford, generally  supporting the mayor’s budgets even as council has voted to rewrite them and reverse spending cuts.

The occasions where Milczyn and Holyday voted differently are so few that I can actually list them all.

  1. In 2011, Holyday voted with the mayor to try to eliminate the city’s Aboriginal Affairs Committee. Milczyn opposed.
  2. In 2012, when TTC chair Karen Stintz responded to Gary Webster’s firing by asking council to dissolve the TTC board, Milczyn supported her. Holyday did not.
  3. Later in 2012, when David Shiner brought a surprise motion forward to ban plastic bags in the CIty of Toronto, Milczyn (also surprisingly) went along with it. Holyday refused because he likes bags.
  4. When the provincial government asked council to approve a master agreement laying out the plans for LRT in the city, Holyday opposed it along with the mayor and nine others. Milczyn came out in support. (He’d later change his mind.)
  5. In October 2012, Holyday moved a motion — driven by the mayor’s testy relationship with the city’s ombudsman — that would have had staff look at finding efficiencies at the city’s accountability offices. Milczyn opposed him.
  6. During the 2013 budget process, Holyday opposed adding funds to maintain student nutrition programs and 264 new childcare spaces. Milczyn approved of both.
  7. Also during that budget process, Milczyn supported a Ford-backed compromise on potential budget cutbacks at the city fire department — essentially delaying any cuts until after the release of reports. Holyday voted in favour of making cuts now.
  8. During the debate on transit revenue tools this spring, Holyday supported a motion that would have seen council clearly reject all such taxes, tolls and fees. Milczyn opposed.
  9. Holyday rejected a sensible move toward needed electoral reform when he voted against asking the province to allow ranked ballots in municipal elections. Milczyn, to his credit, voted in favour.

Beyond their records, Holyday also wins points for consistency. With him, there’s no doubt that his record on the council floor reflects his personal ideology and principles. Sure, that ideology is such that I’d never suggest voting for him, but still: his consistency is a plus. With Milczyn, there’s a constant sense that he’s being led by political forces more powerful than his own convictions. Milczyn, like a lot of card-carrying Liberals on council this term, has seemed too eager to fall in with Ford Nation.

In the mad dash to the by-election, his campaign is now trying to change that, promoting Milczyn as a better choice because he doesn’t have Holyday’s close ties to the mayor. But that narrative conveniently brushes aside Milczyn’s own voting record, and voters shouldn’t let him get away with it.

With these by-election races having no direct bearing on the future of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minority government, there’s little reason to vote strategically tomorrow. The NDP has fielded a very solid candidate in P.C. Choo. The Green Party deserves a look, too — I’ve been impressed with both their Toronto candidates, and Angela Salewsky is holding her own in this race. For progressive voters, both make for far better choices than the two candidates from Ford Nation.

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