Floating Like A Moth

March 3, 2011

I am trying my damnedest to stop underestimating Mayor Rob Ford. The guy did transform himself from a joke of a city councillor to mayor after all. He built a nation in his image, apparently. It should be easy peasy not to underestimate him.

But he makes it so difficult not to. So, so difficult.

Maybe his erratic antics are the key to his success. It’s impossible to nail him because you just don’t know where he’s going. Like the chaotic flight of a moth that confounds even the stealthiest of hunters, the common housecat. A political whack-a-mole popping up unpredictably right in front of you and you just can’t catch him with a good one.

The mayor’s latest gambit? Picking a fight with Premier Dalton McGuinty, our dark overlord and somewhere between benevolent and malevolent benefactor. Give us the money we want, Dalton, the mayor threatened, or I will unleash the hounds on you come election time in October. I’m sorry, Tony Danza. Who’s the boss?

Such a gesture would be much more impressive if it wasn’t so abjectly hypocritical. As a councillor, Mayor Ford brayed constantly about the then mayor, David Miller, begging for handouts from the province, telling him to get his own fiscal house in order. On the campaign trail, it was all about city council having a spending not a revenue problem.

Now? Not so much. As was reported earlier this week, Mayor Ford fired off a letter to the premier in late January asking for a $150 million or so to plug up holes in the budget, some of which had sprung open due to the mayor’s own sharp stick of tax cuts and freezes. Oh yeah, and if the province wouldn’t mind kicking in its share of the TTC operating budget, that’d be great too. The request was rebuffed and the mayor upped the ante. That this request on the mayor’s part was a startling about-face seems not to have made much of an impression on him.

Another crazy aspect to this move on this mayor’s part? Who’s he going to support in the election fight against McGuinty’s Liberals? The Conservatives, naturally, but how is that supposed to help the city exactly? (And the mayor does want to help the city, I’m assuming.) Conservative leader Tim Hudak was a certified member of Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution that killed the Eglinton subway, spending money to actually fill in the hole that had already been dug. On top of which there was that little thing of enforced amalgamation that nobody wanted and everybody remains unhappy with nearly 15 years after the fact.

We’re now to believe that if Mayor Ford delivers and a blue tide sweeps over the 416, rippling out into the 905 and environs, that a new, city friendly Conservative government will suddenly fall in love with Toronto? They’ll seek to undo all the damage they did when they were last in power? I’ll need to be seeing some evidence of that way of thinking before I’m prepared to hop aboard the Ford Nation Express.

And what if this little roll of the dice on the mayor’s part turns up craps? (That’s bad, right? I don’t play Craps, so I’m not sure. It sounds bad. Let’s go with it being bad.) What if the Ford Nation ain’t the force the mayor reckons it is and the Liberals are re-elected? Awwwww-kwarrrrrrrd! That’ll guarantee a 3 year frosty-to-frigid relationship, with the city getting very little love from Queen’s Park as long as Mayor Ford’s at the helm.

But the craziest, craziest aspect of all this is that we should be fully backing the mayor. The province does need to be confronted. Despite election promises to be better partners, the Liberals have only succeeded in being less worse than the Harris/Eves Tories. We’ve been waiting 8 years now for them to fulfill their promise of paying their half of the TTC annual operating budget like they used to before the Harris Conservative government pulled out of the agreement. They’ve been slow in uploading services the Harris Conservative government had downloaded onto us. Metrolinx and the whole regional transit system has felt scattershot and as if no one’s heart at the provincial level is really in it. Their whole approach to municipalities has been crassly and calculatingly political.

The irony is, from Dalton McGuinty’s standpoint, had he been a little more accommodating with David Miller, been quicker to right the Conservative wrongs, he might not have Mayor Rob Ford and his vaunted Nation to contend with. Now we’re looking at a game of chicken. Who veers first?  It’d be fun to watch if there wasn’t so much at stake and if it felt like a win-win situation for Toronto. Right now, it’s looking more like heads, they win, tails, we lose.

tornly submitted by Cityslikr