Don’t Speak Unless You’re Spoken To

September 8, 2011

Another outrageous, highly dubious plan of action crawls up and out, Creature From the Black Lagoon style, from the mayor’s office. Another outbreak of indignant cries of foul (and worse) from opponents, compromising the typical cadre of left wing kooks, academics and not Toronto Sun readers.
Predictable, really.

Why doesn’t everybody just chillax, take a pill. The mayor’s just one vote on council, we’re told. What he says doesn’t automatically go. You’re just being hysterical. Team Ford loves making you hysterical. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

OK but, upon assuming office the mayor declared Transit City dead and in its place, Transportation City and a Sheppard subway that remains very much in a pie in the sky state.  He then pushed a plan through council for a report – and a report only — on privatizing waste collection west of Yonge. Now he proclaims throughout the land that he’s privatized waste collection west of Yonge. And on Tuesday, the mayor’s rubber stamp Executive Committee challenged council to stop him from seizing control of the Port Lands plans and disfiguring them completely.

It’s hard not to see this as a pattern. Mayor Ford declares it. The court of public opinion says it is so.

One can’t blame the media entirely for continually giving him a soapbox and bullhorn. It makes for great reading/viewing. Crazy statement ensures over-reaction. Conflict, conflict, conflict. That would be, what do you call it, their bread and butter.

But it is does a great disservice to our discourse, front loading it with what appears to be a done deal and foregone conclusion, relegating those standing opposed to the mayor’s moves to rolling the rock back up the hill. Why are you continuing to argue about this? What’s done is done. Let’s move on to the next apple cart we can tip over.

Without substantive pushback, the mayor isn’t just one vote of 45 at city council. There is an atmosphere of fait accompli in everything he does, everything he says. Councillors who defy his wishes are either whining left wing kooks, their noses all out of joint because they no longer have any power, or they’re obstinately denying the will of the people who gave Mayor Ford a mandate to do anything he wants.

Now, as in with every other criticism of the mayor, the usual response is that David Miller did the exact same thing. Well, bad behaviour should not beget bad behaviour. Post-war German leaders did not go on holocaust sprees and turn around in their defence and claim Hitler did it too. (Just for the analogy-challenged: in this particular instance I did not compare Mayor Ford to Hitler. I compared David Miller to Hitler. How’s that for bipartisanship?) Besides, a quick look at who Mayor Miller surrounded himself with, those that sat on his Executive Committee, reveals that it was nowhere near as ideologically hidebound as the current administration’s crop of councillors; nor were they as happy to simply sit around, silently nodding in agreement, ready to raise their hands in automatic agreement. (See the Saga of Brian Ashton.)

A semi-strong mayoral system that we now employ courtesy of the City of Toronto Act allows for our mayors to have an elevated upper hand. Great if you like the mayor who’s in power, not so good if you don’t. It’s the criticism of the mayor’s critics that seems new. While Royson James of that lyin’ rag, the Toronto Star, has set his sights on the performance of Mayor Ford, let’s not forget his shrill anti-Miller voice in the waning days of that administration and his single-minded crusade to chase Adam Giambrone from last year’s mayoral race. Did the Toronto Sun and its followers call him out on any of that? Was he just some kind of right wing kook then? David Miller was fair game and all criticism was justified.

Now, we’re supposed to sit back, keep our opinions to ourselves since Mayor Ford was elected with a mandate from the people of Toronto. To question is to whine. To disagree is simple jealousy or just disenguousness to use Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong’s favourite new word.

Reasoned disagreement doesn’t seem to stick. Much of that has to do with the fact that, well, facts seem to be irrelevant currently. The Port Lands debate is a good case in point. Of the mayor’s allies only Budget Chief Mike Del Grande is being upfront about what the administration is doing. “The truth,” Royson James claims, “is [Del Grande] needs revenues from the sale of the Port Lands to fix holes in his budget.”

If that’s the case, let’s debate the issue on that basis. Quick cash for a one time budget solution. Pros and cons? Instead, we must contend with obfuscation, misdirection and an outright distortion of the truth. We hear that Waterfront Toronto is a bloated, boondoggle of an organization that has done nothing to earn its keep. There is no plan. At the Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Minnan-Wong deliberately blurred the roles both Waterfront Toronto and the Toronto Port Lands Corporation play in the waterfront development. Read this from Jonathan Robson to see just how disenguous the councillor is being.

Faced with such an onslaught of ‘truthiness’ (and I’m being very generous using that label) what recourse do we have except to scream and holler and continually call out bullshit? If one side insists on conducting business in the mucky goo of misinformation and innuendo, some of us have to wade in there with them and start slinging mud. It may be noble and honourable to take the high road but it leaves us lagging behind in the race to save our city.

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