I’m writing to you not to mock or belittle you, or to denigrate your candidate of choice for mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. I’ve participated in such easy activities in the past but now want to build a bridge between us. Your man just might win the election in October, so I want to understand how that could possibly happen and how you imagine a Mayor Ford administration is going to help make your lives better. Consider this a letter asking for some clarity from you.
In his column last week, the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume suggested that Ford represents the suburban anger that has reached a boiling point more than a decade after the enforced amalgamation made us all one. Your concerns have been marginalized by downtowners such as myself, shrugged off while we’ve been busy eating our brie and sushi, sipping lattes and demanding bike lanes, increased transit in the core and conducting our War on Cars, your cars no less.
Fair enough, and undoubtedly true. None of us wanted to be part of the megacity and it seems that those of you living in the outer ring of it in places like Scarborough, North York and Rob Ford’s home turf of Etobicoke feel you got the raw end of the deal. You’ll get no arguments from us here about that. Amalgamation’s miracle of efficiency and money savings never really worked out as well as we were to told it would, especially for you folks out there on the fringes.
Interestingly, Mr. Ford, the fighter for the little guy, takes every opportunity to evoke the memory of his beloved late father, Doug Ford who, as a backbench M.P.P. in the Mike Harris government, sat on his hands during the debate over amalgamation except to raise it in favour of the motion when it came to vote it into law. In direct defiance of over 70% of his constituents, Rob Ford’s father helped usher in an era of municipal governance his son and his supporters now rail against. Nothing more than an example of irony, I guess, but I do hope his father’s anti-democratic tendencies didn’t brush off on his son.
So let’s say your man becomes mayor and is able to muster a majority of the new council to support his way of thinking. (The second scenario much less likely than the first.) A frenzy of cutting taxes and slashing spending ensues. You wind up with a little more money in your pocket and fewer services at your disposal. Now what? How is it your lives are going to be improved because of that?
Transit City – a plan put into place to deliver better service to the areas of the city you live – will be gutted. Replaced by some mystical, magical building of subways your candidate insists the private sector will do for some strange reason that they have not yet thought of. That’s as detailed as his transit plan goes. Aside from making the TTC an essential service, the matter isn’t even referred to in the Issue section of his website. How is that going to get you from point A to B any faster or lessen the traffic congestion that is now part of your life?
I’m also mystified how cutting council numbers in half is going to increase Mr. Ford’s vaunted customer service agenda. I know you love to believe that every other councillor except Rob Ford simply sits around doing nothing more than counting ways they can steal your money except for when they’re partying with Kyle Rae but that is nothing more than an ideological fantasy. Fewer elected officials at City Hall (plus their respective staff) can only deliver better customer service if there’s less services to deliver. Maybe you’re content with that. Fair enough. That’s a different vision than making people’s lives better.
And all that money the city will supposedly save? Even taking Mr. Ford’s numbers at face value which is always an iffy proposition (take a moment to read Simon McNeil’s Writing and Tutoring blog post for an analysis of candidate Ford’s questionable numbers and spotty savings), he claims that eliminating 22 councillors and their staff will save the city $9 million a year in direct savings plus another $6 million due to some sort of nebulous “reduced burden on City Hall staff”. Reduced burden? Would someone please explain that one to me? Less demand on City Hall because it’s doing less?
Even giving Ford the dubious $15 million annual savings with cutting the council in half, what’s that going to do? In terms of a $9.2 billion budget it represents less than a percent. Much, much less. How much less? Let me write it out to 18 decimal points if it helps. 0.0016304347826086956. You know what $15 million will get you in terms of subways even factoring in the lowest estimated cost to build one subway stop? Half one percent of one. So with that cost savings, Rob Ford will be able to build one subway stop every 20, 000 years.* Oh right, I forgot. In Rob Ford’s world the private sector will step right up and build subways once governments get out of their way.
His candidacy just makes no sense to me, Rob Ford supporters, and it’s not like I won’t personally benefit if he becomes mayor. My taxes will go down (although user fees will very likely gobble up much of those gains.) I don’t depend on the city services that a Mayor Ford would attempt to cut. Oh sure, I’ll probably lose a bike lane or two but mostly my life down here in the core will be unaffected if your candidate wins in October. Except that, the city will feel a little more… vindictive.
Because that’s the vibe I get from your campaign. Vindictiveness. It doesn’t feel like what’s driving you is justified anger or outrage. It’s more of a temper tantrum. Rather than fighting to secure a better place for yourselves within the amalgamated city and thereby making the entire city a better place to live and work, you simply want everyone to be as pissed off as your are, as your candidate is.
It’s purely the politics of destruction and wherever it’s been tried before has never made anyone’s life better. How will it work this time around?
— earnestly (and unironically) submitted by Urban Sophisticat
* Math may not be exact but it’s no more than one decimal point off. Either way, savings are going to miniscule.