Voters were still standing in long lines to cast their ballots when the polls closed. Over 161,000 voted in the advance polls, and the total voter turnout was at a historic high, more than 64% of registered voters. By 8:45 p.m., John Tory was at 40.2%, Doug Ford 33.9% and Olivia Chow 23.1%. So it more or less remained for the rest of the evening. The newspapers this morning were full of headlines: “Tory takes T.O.” (The Toronto Star) and “Tory win puts end to stormy Ford era” (The Globe and Mail). For the majority, the result is a relief and a promise of future normality. The Fords “never give up” and vow to return in 2018.
So what is the fall-out from this much-anticipated municipal election?
1. John Tory, business executive, former provincial politician, CFL Commissioner, radio host, and high-profile Red Tory civic activist, has vowed to pull the city together, build an above-ground SmartTrack rapid transit system, and meet the social needs of the city while rationalizing City Hall and watching the bottom line. He plans to build on what he expects will be his collegial relationships with senior governments and with other municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area to lead Toronto to become the “one great city” to which everyone aspires. Whether he can pull it off or not will depend on his capacity to work with disparate members of City Council and diverse communities across the city. He is reputed to have the skills to do just that. We can only wish him well.
2. Doug Ford was defeated; his bluster and bullying banished from the political scene. His defeat, however, has left disappointed the over 331,000 voters (the not insubstantial “Ford nation” largely resident in Etobicoke and Scarborough) who supported him for mayor. That he garnered so many votes, despite his apparent lack of qualifications for the position, is disquieting. How to engage these voters will be a challenge for John Tory. Getting on with the Scarborough subway, upgrading surface transit into the newly extended Spadina subway line, and SmartTrack might help.
3. Rob Ford overwhelmingly won his old Council seat in Etobicoke although, suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, he scarcely campaigned. His nephew, Michael Ford, also won as the local School Trustee. If local voters stay loyal to the Fords, the rest of us can at least ignore them.
4. Olivia Chow did not win, but she retained a solid core of left-wing support which also requires attention. Ditto the left-wing City Councillors who were returned en masse. In her gracious concession speech, Chow urged her followers to keep the faith. “Faith,” she said, “is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen… [It is] up to us to make hope happen.” If John Tory is the Red Tory he says he is, he will work to deal with the housing and employment needs of so many citizens. Some are suggesting Olivia Chow should be appointed Chair of Toronto City Housing. Whether this is a position she would want or not, the City could use her skills and compassion to great advantage, and John Tory would be wise to bring her on board.
5. Thirty-seven City Councillors, all incumbents enjoying the advantages of their positions in municipal elections, were re-elected. Having endured the dysfunctional Ford regime, it is hoped that they will engage with the new Mayor and get on with the business of the city with some dispatch. It is disappointing that there are only seven newcomers: three from Etobicoke, two from central Toronto, one from the north end, and one from Scarborough. New blood on City Council is essential and seven is better than none at all. But hardly any major change.
6. By contrast, 11 of the 22 school trustees on The Toronto District School Board will be new. Five of the previous trustees chose to step down, and six more incumbents were defeated. Among the newcomers is Ausma Malik, in TDSB’s Ward 10, who was subjected to particularly vicious slurs as the campaign came to an end. Her election is a victory for all of us.
It will be a month before the new Mayor and Council are sworn in. With the return of respect and civility, may we also see a return to substance. It will now be the task of John Tory, City Council, and school trustees to make it happen.
Reading Judy Rebick’s tired rhetoric in the Toronto Star last week, under the headline “John Tory not an option for feminist voters,” made me weep. Olivia Chow has trailed in the polls since July and to suggest she can prevail now is a siren call to disaster. The Forum Research Poll done last Monday showed a Tory decline to 39%, Ford surging at 37%, and Chow still trailing at 22%. The polling aggregator ThreeHundredEight.com was more consistent with earlier polls, but still showed a Tory slump, a surge for Ford, and Chow trailing. New polls are pending.
The Forum poll reminds everyone that there is one key issue in this election for mayor: Do the citizens of Toronto want four more years of a Ford as mayor or not? Rob Ford and Doug Ford are interchangeable; their words and actions say so. They personify a brand of populist politics characterized by a belief that what a mayor does on his private time has no impact on the city, rules can be flouted, sectors of the populace insulted, City Councillors bullied, facts distorted, long-established policies overturned by fiat… all justified in the name of “saving taxpayers money.” As if “saving taxpayers money” were the only goal of municipal government.
Recent weeks of election campaigning have diverted attention from the key issue. Transit? The Ford transit plan is a proven “non-plan.” Chow’s reopening the Scarborough subway is not in the stars; Ontario politics have always determined subway decisions. Otherwise, the Chow transit plan and Tory’s Smart Track, put into the hands of experts, should not be mutually exclusive. On social issues, ethical issues, the responsibilities of a mayor in a weak mayor system, Chow and Tory are on the spectrum. The Fords are beyond the pale. Since last November, their track record has been to treat the public interest (and taxpayers’ pocketbooks) as their personal playing field. Their September Triple Shuffle is more of the same. It is time to send the whole lot packing. With the highest voter turnout in the history of the city, this is our one chance to say loud and clear that Fordism and all it represents will no longer be tolerated in this city.
The left has anguished over this election. Olivia Chow is well-respected and has a long track record of impeccable service to the city and the country as a school trustee, City Councillor and Member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina. No one can deny her energy, sincerity and commitment to the public good over the years. She would undoubtedly make a fine mayor. She might even make a better mayor than John Tory. The electorate could have decided that issue squarely had Doug Ford not assumed his brother’s mantle in September. But he did, and yet again we are left with the fall-out. The only issue is which of John Tory or Olivia Chow can beat Doug Ford. ABF* is what it is all about.
People should keep in mind the results of the 2010 mayoralty election. Then, Rob Ford secured 383,501 votes, or 47.1% of the electorate. George Smitherman got 289,832 votes or 35.6%. Joe Pantalone, the Deputy Mayor and candidate for the left, secured 95,482 votes or 11.7% of the vote. Together Smitherman and Pantalone gained 385,314 votes, or 47.3% of the electorate. The left had no chance of winning in 2010 but their votes gave Rob Ford his victory. The left were “the enablers,” and Pantalone the spoiler. Do the people of Toronto want this to happen again?
In my view, Olivia Chow (or any other left-wing candidate for mayor) is probably not electable at this time. For better or worse, she inherits the baggage of former mayor David Miller who, particularly during the garbage strike, alienated centrists. The legacy of Rob Ford has been to move Toronto to the right. Ford did get garbage collection privatized west of Yonge Street; he did get the vehicle registration tax annulled, his “gravy train” myth forced all candidates to trumpet their personal capacity to control costs. This means that no left-wing candidate could get the numbers necessary for victory. Defeating Rob Ford requires a centrist, because it is the centrists who hold the balance between Ford and the rest.
As a life-long feminist, a progressive, and a realist, I will vote for John Tory. The principles at stake in this particular election cross the political spectrum and are fundamental to the city in which we live. These are respect for the law, regard for the equality and dignity of all citizens, and a capacity to work with others to attain common goals. Both Chow and Tory qualify; the Ford brothers do not. Any seepage to Olivia Chow at this stage would only serve Doug Ford. After election, I would expect John Tory to reach out to Olivia Chow so they could work together for what Toronto needs.
As for City Councillor, I endorse leftist incumbent Mike Layton, Olivia Chow’s stepson and ideological companion. It strikes me that leftists ought to work hard to elect councillors who share their perspective. Ours is a weak mayor system. The mayor may have special powers but only one vote. If there were a majority on Council who shared Layton’s perspective, John Tory would be hard-pressed not to pursue a Progressive Conservative agenda. Remember the Progressive Conservatives of Premier Bill Davis? Although a Tory government, his was one of the most progressive the province ever had, especially when goaded by Stephen Lewis and the N.D.P. as the Official Opposition. “Progressive” and “conservative” need not be antonyms.
THE ADVANCE POLLS OPEN TODAY. Best to vote ASAP and then tune out the “sound and fury signifying nothing” which plagues this preposterously lengthy municipal election campaign. On the evening of October 27th, we can watch the results.
Today is the last day to file papers to enter or withdraw from the municipal elections being held in Toronto on October 27. Never before has a deadline commanded so much attention. By 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, Mayor Rob Ford had withdrawn his candidacy for re-election and, instead, entered the race as councillor for the ward in Etobicoke he held for ten years. His nephew, Michael Ford, who had already entered the race for the councillor’s seat withdrew in favour of his uncle. And Doug Ford, the elder brother who has stood by his notorious younger brother throughout his four years in office, has replaced him in the race for mayor of the city.
Who would have guessed it? An abdominal tumour has felled Rob Ford, his prognosis is uncertain, but everyone wishes him well, and his family has rallied to champion his cause. Those who thought that a defeat would send Rob Ford packing may well have him around as councillor for another four years.
Now that Toronto’s municipal election is down to the wire, the field is clear. Karen Stintz, who first stood up to Mayor Ford on the transit file and later squandered the goodwill she gained by reversing her position on light rapid transit to Scarborough, has withdrawn. So has David Soknacki, who ran a thoughtful policy-oriented campaign which won great respect, but few supporters in the polls. In my view, his campaign established him as a solid, smart progressive who may well be a prime candidate for mayor down the road. Today, Rob Ford withdrew; he is in hospital awaiting results of a biopsy on a tumour in his abdomen. That leaves John Tory and Olivia Chow, who entered the race last spring, and Doug Ford, Rob’s brother, who entered the race today.
In the crazy world of Toronto politics, what happens next? The latest poll shows John Tory in a commanding lead, at plus 40%, with Rob Ford falling to 28% and Olivia Chow behind in third place. With Rob out and Doug in, how will the public react?
There are those who say that Doug Ford will carry “Ford nation” (whatever that means) regardless, and that he may be able to capitalize on a sympathy vote for the Fords. As Doug is a new candidate, he can benefit from the campaign expenses rules. Doug has spent nothing to date and can mount an expensive campaign throwing his entire allowable amount into the last weeks before the election. Those expenses which Rob has already incurred would, apparently, not be attributed to Doug. The other candidates are limited to what remains of their allowable expenses. So will we see an expensive television campaign touting Doug Ford for mayor? And will it make any difference?
Prior to these latest developments, I sensed that a consensus was developing that the public would rally to the candidate who had the greatest chance of ousting Rob Ford. Given John Tory’s lead in the polls in September, it seemed that an “anyone but Ford” desire would drive voters to support him at the expense of Olivia Chow. Tory’s campaign is managed by the same Nick Kouvalis who engineered Rob Ford’s “gravy train” victory four years ago. At the Toronto Region Board of Trade Mayoralty Debate last week, John Tory was pushing his “Smart Track” transit scheme which proposes using GO train lines and new inter-connected stations to provide Toronto commuters an alternative route downtown and take pressure off the subway lines. Since transit and the future of Rob Ford seemed the two big issues attracting voters’ attention, it appeared as if John Tory was on target for victory.
In a two-person race between John Tory and Olivia Chow, Tory’s “anyone but Ford” advantage would have disappeared, and voters could have focused on the policy issues between them. Is “Smart Track” really feasible? Is Chow’s emphasis on improving bus service in the here-and-now and restoring light rapid transit to Scarborough a better solution to the transit issue? Do Chow’s many years at municipal council make her better able to build consensus than Tory’s experience in the voluntary sector? Toronto’s municipal politics consists of a “weak mayor” system where the mayor has power to appoint councillors to committees but ultimately has only one vote, the same as everyone else on City Council. Building consensus is the name of the game. In a two-person race, it would have been a breath of fresh air to have the electorate decide between Tory and Chow, based on their respective merits.
That Doug Ford is on the ballot muddies the waters. Rob Ford says Doug is necessary to continue the work that Rob has begun. Others may consider Doug’s track record over the last four years and conclude that “anyone but Ford” remains a priority.
What is clear is that citizens of Toronto cannot be complacent. The one thing Rob Ford said at the Board of Trade Mayoralty Debate last week that was worth hearing is that advance polls open October 14 and voting opportunities extend until October 27. There can be no doubt that Doug Ford, like his brother, will rally his stalwart “Ford nation” using every means possible. In the current climate, when people of goodwill wish Rob Ford well, getting out their vote will be a priority. Those who think that the Fords’ time has passed have to do the same. The clock is ticking.
The Toronto City Council meeting yesterday was an exercise in contradictions. From the beginning of the meeting to the end, Councillors attempted to do their duty while the Fords, the “mayor” and his brother, persisted in bullying and intimidation.Expert municipal lawyer, George Rust-D’Eye, was hired by the Fords before the meeting to write a letter to the Councillors protesting their proposed attempt to curb his non-statutory powers, and to be present at the Council meeting to prepare for the court challenge which the Fords promise will come.Rust-D’Eye’s initial complaints were that the proposal to cut all his non-statutory powers was too vague, and that curbing Ford’s budget could impede his power to perform his statutory duties.
To meet these objections, legal staff assisted Councillors to draft a new motion which addressed the specific powers that were being curtailed. These included: assigning the Deputy Mayor to chair the Executive Committee and other key administrative committees, removing the Mayor from sitting on Standing Committees by virtue of his office, depriving the Mayor of his powers to designate or set times for items on the Council agenda and to choosing whether to speak first or last, providing City Council with power to fill vacancies on the Civic Appointments Committee and the City Housing Committee, and delegating to the Deputy Mayor those powers taken from the Mayor. In addition, the budget set for to the Mayor’s Office was cut by 60% and reallocated to the City Clerk’s Office to be administered under the oversight of the Deputy Mayor, effectively reducing the Mayor’s staff from twenty to eight. Staff currently working for the Mayor would have the option to transfer to the Deputy Mayor. There was considerable discussion how this budgetary allocation was determined and Councillors clarified with the City Manager that, should Ford find that he could not perform his statutory duties with the more limited budget, he could apply to the Council for further funds.
In their questions, Councillors were concerned to ensure that what they were doing could be defended in court. The City Solicitor’s opinion was that these were powers which came within the scope of the procedural bylaw of Council, and were not referable to Ford’s statutory responsibilities. In their speeches, the Councillors lamented that the Mayor had repudiated all their efforts to help him do the right thing. With the Mayor unresponsive, and his conduct more discreditable daily, the Councillors felt they had no choice but to do what they were doing. They voted on the amended motion, clause-by-clause. The votes carried with overwhelming majorities: 36-6, 38-4, 37-5, 32-10, etc. This was no left-wing “coup d’état.” It was the overwhelming decision of everyone, right, left and center, with only his brother and a handful of other supporters.
As conducted by the Councillors, the meeting was a sad and somber event, consistent with the seriousness of the occasion. The Fords, by contrast, treated the Council with contempt throughout. Both spent much of the meeting standing, Doug draped over the speaker’s dias (why was he not required to take his seat?), two hulking presences staring at the councillors seated at their desks in front of them. When Doug Ford spoke, he referred to the public in the gallery as “special interests,” “unions,” and the Mayor started to chant “NDP,” “NDP,” “NDP.” The meeting was about two hours old when a smirking Rob Ford left his desk and walked slowly along the aisle in front of the public gallery, his assistant taking photos of the people in the gallery. It is very intimidating to be photographed in such a situation. When people objected, Doug Ford joined his brother to bait individual members of the gallery. When there were calls of “shame,” “shame,” “shame,” from the gallery, the speaker Frances Nunziata ordered security to clear the public from the meeting. Needless to say, neither I nor anyone else moved. She called a fifteen minute recess when the shouting continued, and Mayor Ford knocked Councillor Pam McConnell to the ground. Fifteen minutes later, she rescinded her order, again admonished the gallery to keep silent, and demanded that Mayor Ford apologize to Councillor McConnell. Eventually he did.
At the end of the meeting, Ford’s last words to Council were that this was a “coup d’état,” and, as George Bush said to Saddam Hussein, “I warn you. I warn you. I warn you.” What they were doing was “the invasion of Kuwait” and would lead to “war” in the next election. Andrew Coyne in the National Post this morning caught the real flavour of the “menace” and “contempt for social norms” which has characterized the actions of Mayor Ford, and which was on display yesterday. As Coyne writes, “The mayor’s actions Monday were quite deliberate. They reflected the influence, not of intoxicants, but his own limitless ego and unformed character. As such it is not Ford who has the problem; it’s the city. The message he needs to hear, from every corner, is not get help, but get out.”
And with this, I will cease any further discussions of the Fords for as long as possible.
One of the great perks of retirement is the chance to attend historic events which occur during normal working hours. Being there live is to feel in your bones the drama and the pathos of current affairs. The unprecedented Toronto City Council meetings dealing with Mayor Rob Ford, which I attended on Wednesday and again today, are examples of such events.
Stripping the Mayor of his Powers
This morning, the Council first passed a motion “to improve the Decision Making Environment at City Hall.” This suspended the powers of the Mayor to appoint and dismiss the Deputy Mayor and the Standing Committee Chairs, confirmed the incumbents in their office for the balance of the term, confirmed their cross-appointments to the Executive Committee, and made consequential changes in the event of vacancies. These were powers that had been conferred by Council on Toronto’s Mayor effective December 1, 2006 under the city Procedural Bylaw. Questioned about the legal authority of Council to strip the Mayor of these powers, the City Solicitor indicated that these were not powers conferred on the Mayor by statute (which the Council could not change), but further powers conferred by Council which Council had power to take away.
The Ford brothers threatened legal action challenging the motion and insisted that defending a court case “would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.” The resolution passed 39-3, and the bylaw 40-2. An overwhelming expression of Council’s wish in the face of overt legal threats from the Fords.
Later this morning, Council also passed a motion “Reassigning the Powers of the Mayor under Chapter 3, Accountability Officers, and Chapter 59, Emergency Management, to the Deputy Mayor until November 30, 2014.” Again, the City Solicitor was clear that the Mayor still retained statutory authority to declare an emergency; Council could not strip him of that. But his administrative responsibilities as chair of the First Responders Committee when the Emergency Operations Center is activated (as during the G20, the 2012 Grey Cup and the recent summer floods) could be redirected to the Deputy Mayor. Similarly, Council could provide that the Deputy Mayor be delegated to appoint the selection panels and chair the process for the appointment of the Accountability Officers, most particularly the Integrity Commissioner whose term is up shortly.
Again in the face of explicit threats from both Rob and Doug Ford that this action could be challenged in court “costing the taxpayers money,” this resolution and bylaw passed 41-2, the Fords in the dissent.
A third Special Meeting is planned for noon Monday. More on that to follow.
Watching the Fords attempt to intimidate City Council with explicit threats of lawsuits over these provisions is very disquieting. They have deep pockets; the taxpayers do not. Someone in the Public Gallery called out the obvious: “save taxpayers money, resign.” The voice of common sense; the voice of the people; out of order. The Ford strategy is becoming evident. Buoyed by the success of their appeal over the conflict of interest issue a year ago, they appear intent on taking the City to court. And so, the Fords will fight on, and the saga will continue, not only in “the court of public opinion” but also “in a court of law.” The issue is apparently not the good of the City; the only issue in their minds is the good of the Fords
A Retrospective on Wednesday’s meeting
Wednesday’s meeting was not the “public flogging” or the “rumble in the jungle” the Ford brothers predicted. Contrary to some press reports, it was a remarkably restrained meeting, focused, somber and sad, with Councillors across the political spectrum painfully alert to their distasteful job at hand. Chair Frances Nunziata, a notorious Ford partisan, handled the meeting with unaccustomed aplomb, disrupted primarily by the bullying and bluster of the Ford brothers. The Council and the public were dumbfounded, embarrassed, even shell-shocked, by the Mayor’s further admissions of his discreditable conduct (this time buying illegal drugs) and his obtuse intransigence in the face of the obvious. And Ford’s response to the motion requesting he take a leave? He insisted that he would stay, would attend every meeting, and would “continue to save taxpayers money for the next five years.” And then he attempted to introduce a motion requiring all Councillors to undergo hair, drug and alcohol testing by December 1st “paid for by Mayor Ford.” The motion was ruled out of order.
Members of Council (particularly his former colleagues on the right) put some hard questions to Mayor Rob Ford. Why the double standard in sanctions for a sleeping employee and for himself? What about his repeated promises to avoid public drinking? To which he replied that he had apologized and “never repeated it at the Air Canada Centre.” When asked if he had purchased illegal drugs in the last two years, there was a long silence, seven seconds reported in the press but it seemed longer, and then Ford admitted that he had. When asked if he had violated the City Code of Conduct, he said he “may have,” but “we all have skeletons in our closet….”
He was asked: “Do you have an addiction to alcohol? “Absolutely not.” “Do you have an addiction to illegal drugs?” “Absolutely not.” He insisted that he did drugs out of “sheer stupidity.” “In (the) photo, you seem to have a relationship with individuals who do not do good for the city?” He replied that he did not know them, he had met them only once, and never saw them again. On not cooperating with the police, he said he was doing so on the advice of his lawyer. When asked if he realized the implications of this position when he, as Mayor, was also the Chief Magistrate of the city, charged with encouraging at risk communities to cooperate with the police, he yelled that he was “a positive role model for kids. I have taken them under my wing hundreds of times….” When asked if the Chief Magistrate should walk the talk, he replied, “you listen to what your lawyer says.” Bingo… but he didn’t get it.
The debate on Wednesday focused on a motion put forth by Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong which “requested” the Mayor to apologize for lying about the existence of the video and for writing a letter of reference for an alleged drug dealer on city letterhead, to cooperate with the police, to answer questions put by Council directly and not in the press, and to take a leave of absence to deal with his personal issues. Everyone knew that Council was constrained by their existing statutory powers, that the motion was symbolic and that Council could not compel Ford to take a leave.
A minority of the Council wanted to “use the existing processes” and refer Ford’s conduct to the Integrity Commissioner requesting her recommendations for action by April, later amended to “as soon as possible and no later than February.” This amendment was defeated by a vote of 18-26. The majority thought, in my mind rightly, that the citizens of the City wanted a strong statement of condemnation from the Council now, and that, with all Ford’s admissions to date, there was no need for the Integrity Commissioner to determine if his conduct was discreditable. The answer was obvious.
Eventually, by a vote of 37-5, the symbolic “request” to the Mayor passed, with the amendment that the issues also be referred to the Integrity Commissioner for her recommendations. Her powers include the potential to recommend Ford’s suspension for three months without pay. It should be noted that one of the Councillors who opposed the motion was John Parker, who felt strongly that Ford should not take a leave, but should resign.
Shifting Public Opinion
Wednesday midday, Ford told City Council “as far as [he] knew… everything was out there.” By supper time, there was much more. Hundreds of pages originally redacted from the police Information to Obtain at court had been released, and the media, yet again, was dissecting line by line more details of Ford’s sordid history while in office. Yesterday, Mayor Ford, while speaking to the press, used unprecedented sexually explicit gutter language that was universally condemned. He later dragged his wife before the television cameras (for the first time since his election) to stand beside him as he apologized yet again. (“Apology not accepted,” said Councillor Minnan-Wong and others.) He threatened to sue his former staff who had spoken with the police. He also admitted he sometimes has been drinking and then driving.
Now the demand is not that he “step down for rehab” but that he resign. The Toronto Argonauts, the Santa Claus Parade officials and Mothers Against Drunk Driving are distancing themselves from the man who calls himself “Mayor.” All the Toronto papers are calling for his resignation. Just to stir the pot, and to prove that “law and order” types also stand up for “the little guy,” Sun Media has stepped up to provide the Ford brothers with a Monday night television slot to talk to “Ford Nation.” Some little guys. Some nation.
The Position of the Province
The Globe and Mail this morning called for the provincial government to remove Mayor Rob Ford from his office. Yesterday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn announced that the province could potentially step in with new statutory tools to oust the Mayor, IF City Council found that they could not function with Rob Ford persisting in office, IF they asked the province for specific new powers, and IF she had cooperation from the other provincial political parties. All three are big ifs.
City Councillors are in no mood to concede that, in “a weak mayor system,” they cannot work around a mayor who is isolated and without any influence on Council. This crisis has brought Council together in a manner not seen in recent years. Their actions Wednesday and today show that nonpartisan support can be obtained for stability and good government in the City. They say they have been doing “without the mayor” for much of the time up until now anyway. They say that the new situation merely limits the capacity of a dysfunctional titular mayor to harm the City or its official processes, and to prevent retaliation against Councillors doing their job. Given this evolving Council consensus, Minnan-Wong did not go forward on Wednesday with his proposed motion to ask the province to intervene.
At the provincial level, Premier Kathleen Wynn’s minority government faces the prospect of a likely spring election. Without all party support at the provincial level, she would be foolhardy to intervene. Both the NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, and the leader of the provincial Tories, Tim Hudak, have gone underground on this issue. Hudak had been courting the Fords previously, as had the Prime Minister of Canada. Now Hudak is invisible. The NDP would undoubtedly be happy to see Olivia Chow elected as the next Mayor of Toronto, a prospect which the polls say is increasing as Ford’s popularity wanes.
I indicated in my post on November 2nd that there is a clear need for updated legislation to expand the powers of municipalities to oust or recall an official who loses his legitimacy and brings his office into disrepute as has Mayor Ford. In my view, however, this should not be “one of” legislation, after the fact, directed only to the situation in Toronto. This is not a good precedent, nor is it good public policy. Whatever provincial legislation is introduced, it must have general application to all municipalities across the province. And it must be based on widespread consultation. Absent a party system when the leader of the party can be deposed by his caucus, unseating an elected official should be a difficult process. Updating the Municipal Act to provide local Councils with some mechanism to rid themselves of a discredited mayor or councillor, or to introduce a recall provision, will be a difficult operation. There is a delicate balance required between protecting the due process rights of the discredited official who refuses to resign, and the public right to hold their elected officials accountable at election times and also between elections. How to achieve that balance is not easy. And it will not, and should not, be done overnight.
The problem is squarely on the table. Where someone “pulls a Rob Ford,” what mechanisms should be in place to deal with that situation? Monitoring the Toronto situation will be a useful case study. Mayor Ford’s actions in Council, and those of his brother, speak for themselves. Is this going to be a year of ongoing bullying and blustering disruptions in Council meetings? Of vacuous motions intended to harass? Of ongoing lawsuits against the decisions of Council? “Working around the Fords” may be a Herculean task that will challenge the spirit of the Council and waste gobs of public money. Some actuary or economist should tally the incremental cost all the Ford saga has imposed on the public purse. All of this will be grist for the task of updated legislation at the appropriate time.
In the meantime, as I said previously, and as now seems to be a growing consensus, Ford’s failure to resign in the circumstances which he has brought upon the city, is proof positive that he is not fit for re-election. There are now 345 days until the next election… and counting.
October 27, 2014. One year from today will be the next Toronto election for mayor and councillors. Those elected will run the city until 2018. Mayor Ford has put Toronto on the map, but not necessarily as many of us may have wished. The existing show has been just that: one debacle after another. High profile pronouncements reversed, and reversed again. Important public policies bandied about by politicians of all stripes purely for political advantage, without regard to expert professional advice. A promise to weed out an alleged “gravy train” degenerating into a tawdry record of ignoring the rules, coaching football on city time, shutting out the media, etc., etc., etc.
Soon the ball will be in our court to decide the future of this city.
Earlier this month, Rahul Bhardwaj, President and CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation, spoke to the Canadian Club about the TCF’s 12th Annual Vital Signs Report on the state of the city. The local press provided comprehensive coverage of their findings. The basic conclusion is that all that has made Toronto 4th out of 140 cities around the world on the Economist liveability scale is not sustainable in the current climate.
What the press did not cover was Mr. Bhardwaj’s assessment of the local political scene. He did not mince words. He made a call for “network thinking” and for a City Hall that is not a “debating society for the deaf.” He referred to Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s vision of Calgary, and how even the Calgary Sun praised their mayor because “he gave us hope, made us proud.” Similarly the unlikely example of Bogota, Colombia, where the city is thriving. Why? Because both cities “have strong political leadership and a singular vision. Toronto has neither.”
Mr. Bhardwaj indicated that leaders who have vision achieve smart growth, do more with less, and achieve support for change. He said that there are five things Toronto needs:
- connectivity, including transit that actually meets people’s needs
- an affordable housing strategy
- more public spaces that are “people-centred”
- an integrated approach to youth unemployment (check out the German model), and
- the need to “rebuild the Toronto brand” so that “the world knows what Toronto stands for”
He asks who will kickstart this? What he termed the “cringeworthy leadership in the city” shows a “complete unwillingness to take a risk. Real leadership depends on taking real risks” and a capacity “to heal the trust deficit.” He noted that the 2014 municipal election is October 27, 2014 and we “can’t indulge in magical thinking twice.” Nor can we wait for “somebody else.” “It is time for all of us to act as “somebodies” and “get engaged again.” He called for “network thinking, big time,” suggesting that each of us “create, nurture, and deliver our own networks” for the good of the city.
Maybe Rahul Bhardwaj should be our next mayor. If not him, who has the vision, the skills, and the credibility to move Toronto forward? That is the key issue.