I Don’t Think Mandate Means What You Think It Means

October 3, 2011

Let’s take a brief ride in our time machine, shall we? Step back about a year ago to the very day. Just over three weeks to go in our municipal campaign, Councillor Rob Ford has unexpectedly assumed the lead in the race to replace outgoing mayor David Miller. The battle is still a toss-up, however. Councillor Ford’s to lose.

During a typical stump speech, the councillor tosses out his catch phrase pledging to Stop The Gravy Train. City Hall has a spending problem not a revenue problem, he tells us. If elected mayor, Rob Ford promises to put an end to all the wasteful spending that is drowning the city in red ink.

When questioned how exactly he will do this, what he’ll cut in order to balance the budget without increasing taxes, he steps up and tell us that, well, he’d start with a 10% cut to all departments especially the ones that are bloated with labour costs. Like the police budget, for example. That’s a major money suck on the city’s coffers. Lots of fat to trim there. Sure, the city could afford to lose 500, 650 police officers and we wouldn’t even notice. Guaranteed. Next question?

Repeat that answer, replacing the TPS budget with, reduction of library services, elimination of windrow clearing, reduction of street cleaning to once a month, and I’m going to hazard a guess that Rob Ford would not be the mayor of Toronto today. In fact, I’d guarantee it. He sold us a bill of goods and somehow 47% of those casting their ballots either didn’t care and were happy with the concept of a major slash and burn at City Hall or didn’t bother to read the fine print, eyes unable to see anything past their red hot anger.

So this notion, in the face of dwindling support and outright antipathy to the path Mayor Ford is currently on, that he has a mandate from the people based on his election victory is simply bogus. Anyone who floats it or uses it as a shield to deflect criticism endorses the notion that democracy is about winning and winning only. By any means necessary. No matter how much you obfuscate, fudge facts, distort reality or just outright lie, lie, lie, a win on election night becomes a mandate.  See you in four years, folks.

And to all you out there shrugging your shoulders and saying that’s what politicians do, that anyone with even a lick sense knew that Councillor Ford would never be able to keep his promise of no service cuts, well, that’s the kind of cynicism opportunistic and underhanded politicians feed on. You’re helping to prop up a sick system. You are the heart of the problem.

I’m not here to argue that the TPS budget is sacrosanct and cannot be touched. There may very well be enough bloat that we wouldn’t notice any difference if it underwent a 10% cut. The point is Mayor Ford didn’t run on a platform of reducing the number of police officers. Just the opposite in fact. He said he would increase the number by 100. That was part of his mandate.

Earlier this year, a few months after being elected on his platform of curbing excessive spending, the mayor trumpeted a decision to give the TPS a wage increase, burnishing his pro-police cred. Now he’s demanding a 10% cut in their budget. To match political rhetoric to reality, there has to be a corresponding cut somewhere to balance the equation. Are there the inefficiencies within the TPS that Mayor Ford claimed were rampant at City Hall but has yet to find? If not, cuts, firings, layoffs will have to happen. Surely no one’s going to claim any of that was in the mayor’s mandate.

If a politician possessing lighter right wing stripes than the mayor had campaigned on a promise to buy everyone a house, build them a stable and fill it with a pony family without increasing municipal spending, well, they probably wouldn’t have been elected in the first place. But if they had, if 47% of voters cast bought into the feasibility of such a promise and voted this house-for-everyone, a-pony-in-every-stable politician into office, what would happen when reality settled in and either no one got themselves a new house or pony or everyone’s property taxes increased by 27 billion % to pay for such things? Would we still be saying the mayor had a mandate not to buy everyone a house? His mandate included raising property taxes 27 billion percent to pay for the increase in municipal spending increase he said he wouldn’t need?

Obviously not. So let’s stop allowing the empty claim Mayor Ford has a mandate to do things he was never elected to dot. He promised one thing and is doing the exact opposite. That’s called mendacious not a mandate.

truthfully submitted by Cityslikr