The Mayoral Shakedown

November 30, 2012

There was a moment during the recess. A recess called by Deputy Speaker John Parker after Mayor Rob Ford lost his shit. Vintage Rob Ford losing his shit. angrybirdLosing his shit like we had not seen since he was Councillor Rob Ford.

The matter in hand was about parking. A proposed development in Councillor Adam Vaughan’s ward was going ahead without the amount of parking spaces the mayor deemed appropriate. Parking spaces the developer didn’t want to build.

The mayor thought it inconceivable anyone would want to live somewhere they had to take the streetcar to and from. Or bike in the winter. It was just another project Councillor Vaughan was trying to sneak through under cover of the dying moments of the third day of council meeting.

Heated words. A time out called. Both sides retired to their respective corners.

In that moment of recess, Rob Ford looked very contented. Unfazed by the fact he’d just got walloped in a previous vote over another proposed development in Councillor Vaughan’s ward that the city planning staff was not yet entirely on board with.alrightmrdemille Another item he’d lost his shit over.

But clearly, losing a vote hardly mattered to the mayor. Losing his shit was the whole point. He needed the clip, the sound bite, the TV moment. “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

Throughout the three days of this council meeting, Mayor Ford had been absent, both physically and.. what? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually? He’d checked out. Yet he hung around yesterday long after the higher profile items and motions had been dealt with. Long after his presence had been required. He wasn’t engaged so much as he was lurking.

“A shakedown! A shakedown of developers!” he bellowed on the first item he’d held for no apparent reason other than the opportunity to bellow ‘Shakedown!’ Under questioning, it was revealed he knew absolutely nothing about the development. He hadn’t talked with staff. He hadn’t attended community council meetings on the issue. He most certainly hadn’t consulted with Councillor Vaughan about the development.

He only knew that a million dollars in Section 37 money had been ponied up during the modification period between plans and that city staff still weren’t entirely ready to sign off on the project. hohumThat the gears for an OMB appeal had been set in motion and the city faced not only losing the Section 37 money but also the possibility of seeing an earlier version of the development nobody wanted didn’t factor into his thinking a bit. The mayor never uttered the words ‘corruption’ or ‘skulduggery’. ‘Shakedown’ was going to have to do.

Of course, under pressure, he retracted the statement. There must be limits even he has to going to court to defend his indefensible claims. But his purpose had been served. He’s Rob Ford, dammit! Listen to him roar! The base’ll love it.

Or at least that must have been his thinking.

The fact that the likes of Councillor Frank Di Giorgio saw through the ruse should set some alarm bells off for the dwindling ranks of Ford Nation. As any regular reader here knows, we’re no friend of Councillor Di Giorgio. He is often an object of ridicule for us. But during the insane hullabaloo the mayor triggered, the councillor made his way over to the planning staff, had a conversation with them and came back to make a speech in favour of Councillor Vaughan’s item. He even waved off Councillor Peter Milczyn’s placating motion of deferral. During the vote, with the mayor hissing at him and making menacing faces, Councillor Di Giorgio stood his ground and voted against the mayor.

He saw what we all saw.

Mayor Ford is unprincipled. Mayor Ford doesn’t give a shit about good governance. Mayor Ford doesn’t give a shit about good planning. Mayor Ford doesn’t give a flying fuck about the unwieldy oversight the Ontario Municipal Board possesses on development in this city. Mayor Ford doesn’t fucking respect the taxpayers.runforyourlife

Mayor Ford only cares about the Ford brand.

That’s what this whole unseemly set-to was about. Reasserting the maverick mayor. The lone wolf. Captain Shouty. Admiral Bluster.

Red-faced populism masking a deep seated contempt of democracy.

The mayor had reached back into that reserve in the hopes of reviving his Everyman image in the eyes of those still wanting to believe that’s who he was. It’s all he’s got. He seemed satisfied with his performance, perhaps even emboldened that once again he’d come out, drubbed, on the losing end of a council vote. He’d summoned the black magic that had worked so miraculously before, counting on enough people being fooled a second time to save him from the more ignoble fate that is slowly taking shape and waiting in those dark clouds off in the horizon.

still reelingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Caretaker

November 29, 2012

Through the window of the cafe in City Hall I spotted Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday standing out in the lunchtime chill in Nathan Phillips Square, patiently being interviewed by a television crew. Since the announcement of Judge Charles Hackland’s ruling in the mayor’s conflict of interest case, the deputy mayor has become the de facto face of the administration, issuing stay calm and proceed alerts as the city deals with an official leadership vacuum for the next couple months or so.  Not Winston Churchill in the face of the blitz but still, strangely assuring.

I have an oddly dichotomous opinion of the councillor from and last mayor of Etobicoke. In person whenever we cross paths, he is extremely courteous and gracious, always nods and exchanges greetings with me. I’m fairly certain he has no idea who I am, what I do or why I’m always hanging around his place of work. But I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t matter if he did. Colleagues of mine who have regular dealings with him and share more of my politics than his tell me the deputy mayor always makes himself available and is gentlemanly and cordial.

But then there is the Grandpa Simpson side of Doug Holyday that makes regular appearances on council floor or in a committee room during heated exchanges. Little Ginny. Remember her? That poor neglected child raised by negligent parents in a downtown high rise, destined to die an early death when she’s relegated to playing in the traffic or shoots off the slide on her roof top playground and plunges 95 stories to a bloodied splat on the ground below.

Why, just this week, under pointed questioning from Councillor Janet Davis about the uniformly male, uniformly suburban make up of the members of the mayor’s two most powerful committees, Executive and Budget, going forward in the terms second half. Look, the deputy mayor responded, he’d welcome more downtown councillors, would love to have more women on the team, if only they could get with the program and set aside any independent thinking.  When asked what his problem with entertaining more diverse opinions and views, he seemed nonplussed. Because… because DAVID MILLER! because BRIAN ASHTON! BRIAN ASHTON!!

In no way, shape or form could the deputy mayor be mistaken as anything other than a hardcore, fiscal conservative. No Red Tory is he. But it does seem that he is a more realistic assessor of the political situation in front of him. You don’t spend 125 years in politics, even politics in Etobicoke, and not know how to adapt to a change in the winds.

This is why I put forward the proposal that if Mayor Ford is really and truly put out to pasture, if his appeal in January to overturn Judge Hackland’s ruling falls upon deaf ears, that instead of plunging into a distracting and noisy by-election, city council designate the deputy mayor the actual mayor for the remainder of the current turn.

Believe me, this goes against every retributive instinct in my body. That scorched earth inclination to raze everything and anything reminiscent of Rob Ford’s time in office. A Northerner demands the South’s destruction not reconstruction.

Deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Allow cooler heads to prevail.

Hear me out (and forgive me if any or all of the following suggestions contravene any statute of the City Of Toronto Act. I have not read it in its entirety. You see, back in the 1990s, my daddy was…)

There would be some serious stipulations in appointing Doug Holyday mayor. First, he could not run for re-election in 2014, using this appointment as a high profile platform. He might even consider this his municipal politics swan song.

Second, no coaching football or any equivalent activity to occupy his afternoons. Keep those crazy Kiwanis meetings to non-council meeting evenings, sir.

Third, a Mayor Holyday would remove Councillor Frances Nunziata from the Speaker’s chair, replacing her with the current deputy speaker, John Parker. Going forward, it’s important to restore a tone of civility and decorum during council meetings. Councillor Nunziata has proven herself incapable of providing such an environment during her tenure in the chair.

Next, a Mayor Holyday must share the job with council of completely overhauling the Striking Committee, appointing new members not because of their ideological loyalty but to reflect the diversity of council makeup.  In turn, such a Striking Committee would consider other committee appointments based on the same principle of diversity and inclusion. To try and lessen the whole us-versus-them mentality that has laid siege to City Hall.

On many of the committees, I don’t think there’d be the need for major renovations. A tweak here and there. Maybe flip a vice-chair to chair to bring a more bipartisan look to the Executive Committee. Say, a Councillor Chin Lee or Gloria Lindsay Luby replacing Councillor Cesar Palacio as Chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon takes over for Councillor Norm Kelly as Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee.

There would be two deal-breaking change of appointments before Doug Holyday could take over as mayor. Both Councillor Mike Del Grande and Denzil Minnan-Wong must be relieved of duty from their respective committees. Along with Speaker Frances Nunziata, they are the most non-Ford divisive and destructive forces at council right now. To go forward with any hope of a constructive 2nd half of the term, these two – the Stadler and Waldorf of Toronto politics – must be relegated to where they belong. The backbenches of braying opposition where they’re only allowed to make noise and not a mess.

The final stipulation for a Mayor Holyday would the necessity of appointing a deputy mayor that was his polar opposite in political view, geography, gender and/or ethnicity. While I love the idea of a Deputy Mayor Janet Davis in a Mayor Doug Holyday regime, I think it would be ultimately unworkable, a sitcom in and of itself. So, how about a Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell? Yes, occasionally a Mayor Holyday’s head would explode in righteous indignation but, let’s be honest here. That’s going to happen regardless.

While the idea of such an unorthodox arrangement might run contrary to everything the straight-laced Holyday stands for, I think he could look upon this as his final and finest contribution to a long if not entirely distinguished career in public service. He could be the one who rose above partisan rancour to help heal the rift of a city divided. A grandfatherly figure dampening the heightened emotions of his unruly brood. Wisdom besting acrimony. Good will trumping ill.

And by reaching out this way, appointing the deputy mayor mayor, those currently in opposition in council would accomplish two things. The administration of a Mayor Holyday would be a tough one for Rob Ford or his brother to rail against during  their 2 years in exile. The inevitable campaign to recapture the mayoralty would lack satisfying target to shoot at.

The move would also acknowledge that the voters’ will from 2010 is not being denied. Doug Holyday was Rob Ford’s choice for deputy Mayor. By making him Ford’s replacement, there is some continuity, a peace offering.

If nothing else, what Toronto needs at this point is a little peace.

honest brokerly submitted by Cityslikr


In Flux

November 28, 2012

In the end, it was just another day at the office for Mayor Rob Ford. If you tuned into yesterday’s council meeting looking for fireworks, hoping for the mayor and his closest (albeit dwindling) supporters to be breathing fire, scorching the earth around them in defiance of his judicial ouster from office, yeah, that didn’t happen. It was all pretty much routine.

Council gathered, worked through the usual procedural matters. The mayor moved his two key items – one being the plastic bag ban implementation… yes, that… yet again his key item… *sigh* — over to today. The city’s legal staff then made a presentation as to its take on how the mayor’s battle to keep his job would play out. Interesting nugget. It is their view he could not run in a by-election if one was called, stating that ‘the term’ as presented in Judge Hackland’s decision meant the 2010-2014 term not simply Mayor Ford’s term in office. Of course, there were legal recourses he could take to challenge that opinion if he wanted.

And with that, council moved on to the business at hand.

Word soon came that the mayor’s team would be in court next week to seek a stay of Monday’s ruling pending an appeal which, if granted, would keep Mayor Ford in office until his appeal. That was scheduled for early in the new year, January 7th. All things considered, a quick turn around.

Later in the afternoon, after he’d partied it up in Nathan Phillips Square with the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts, the mayor issued a sincere sounding if not worded apology. “Looking back, maybe I could have expressed myself in a different way,” he said at a grim press conference. “To everyone who believes I should have done this differently, I sincerely apologize.”

Yeah. So if you thought I should have done this different, I’m sorry. I’m not really sorry for doing things the way I did.

With that, Mayor Ford disappeared, off to coach his Don Bosco team to defeat at the Metro Bowl and a pledge, word has it, to be on the sidelines again next year. If so, it’ll be a much less controversial season since it may well not be competing with his official duties as mayor.

In his absence, council carried on, sorting out committee appointments for the second half of this term, all of which could be rendered irrelevant if a new mayor comes to pass sometime in the winter months. There was hours and hours of elephant talk, the fate of the Toronto Zoo 3 finally decided and hopefully, fingers crossed, prayers to heaven, never, ever talked about in council chambers again.

All very dry and technical but with a provisional air about it. A council in limbo, patching together an agenda, lacking in a firm direction of leadership. That isn’t new. Arguably, it’s been the situation for over a year now. But the stakes are different.

It’s not about a mayor in absentia. It’s about a mayor under siege, facing the very, very real possibility of removal and a complete changing of the guard. Proceed lightly, folks. The political sand under your feet is shifting sharply.

ifilly submitted by Cityslikr


Remember, Remember The 26th Of November

November 27, 2012

The head is still a-buzz. I cannot say with any certainty if yesterday was the singularly most crazy-assed day in Toronto political history but it has to be a contender. Yes, Mel Lastman once called out the army to help with a snowstorm but… Seriously?

(The day’s events are compiled in our Trilogy of Terror. Part 1, The Ill-Reckoning. Part 2, Is That Phone Call Coming From Upstairs? Part 3, Karen Black’s Crazy Aztec Doll.)

Suffice to say, we’re in fairly uncharted waters here. If anyone claims to know exactly how all this is going to play out, they are full-fledged liars with their bullshitting pants on fire. We’re through the looking-glass’s looking-glass.

As Edward Keenan wrote, none of this should come as any surprise to anyone. “…his [Mayor Ford] obsessing over small amounts of money; his steadfast refusal to pay any attention to details; his belligerent insistence that normal rules and procedures governing ethics and integrity do not apply to him; and his unique ability to inspire a citizen revolt against him.” Everything is as it was predestined to be. Only our shock at it is what’s really surprising.

If the mayor really cared about the welfare of the city he was elected to lead, he’d call it a day. Throw in the towel, admit he wasn’t all that interested in how things turned out and head off to coach football full time(r) than he already he has been doing. That’s just not the Fordian way.

But now, even the Prince of No Principles, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, has jumped ship, resigning from the mayor’s Executive Committee, citing constituent calls and his gut feeling as reasons to maintain his distance from an administration he’s so rabidly defended for over two years. His love for Team Ford was purely conditional. We all knew that. Still, it signals a council free-for-all. The Thumb has become something more of a middle finger.

So today council convenes for its monthly meeting. Owing to the 14 day suspension of Judge Hackard’s decision in order for the city to get its ducks in a row and the mayor time to launch an appeal, there will be an air of uncertainty. Let’s get through all this quickly and quietly. See you again in the new year when 2013 budgets have to be finalized. When we might have some better idea about the whole mayoral situation.

And about noon or so, a parade will arrive outside City Hall at Nathan Phillips Square to celebrate the Toronto Argonauts’ Grey Cup victory. A parade. For football. At City Hall.

Back in the day, I dabbled in the dark arts of screenwriting. If I had ever delivered up such a script, full of such glaringly obvious analogies and ironies, the critic in my head who sounded a lot like Robert Evans would look at it and say to me, These are the pictures, kid, not a fucking freak show. Go back and write me something believable.

Such is the state of politics in Toronto, late November, in the year of our Lord, 2012. (Give or take).

still head scratchingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Verdict Three

November 26, 2012

OK, wait.

So apparently reaction to the verdict to Mayor Ford’s conflict of interest case isn’t as cut and dry as I thought it should be. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, Tony Baretta kind of thing.

Perhaps not at all surprisingly, the mayor has stated he’s going to appeal the decision. Fair dinkum, I think is what our Australian friends might say in response. Good on ya, mate. Have at it. It’s a free country. Exercise your legal rights.

But no, the mayor couldn’t just stop there. A simple, I don’t agree with Judge Hackland’s decision. I’m going to appeal it. Next question.

Nope. Can’t… not… wave… the… flag… of… division.

“This comes down to left-wing politics,” the mayor said of the decision. “The left wing wants me out of here and they’ll doing anything in their power to.”

That’s right, kids. If ever you’re found yourself having broken a law or a rule, never, ever forget to deflect responsibility for it at the first opportunity you get. Adults do it all the time. It’s how the system works.

But if you want to really tap into the swirling, surly mind of an indignant, unrepentant member of Ford Nation, check out Marni Soupcoff’s disingenuous screed over at the National Post.

Take a little segment of the judge’s decision that dealt favourably with the mayor’s situation — “I recognize that the circumstances of this case demonstrate that there was absolutely no issue of corruption or pecuniary gain…” – mix in a little false equivalency – The Mayor of London, Ontario has been charged with fraud and he’s still in office!! – use a pinch of misunderstanding about the actual law, attributing it to some nameless immigrant bystander — “This makes no sense. What laws did Ford break?” – and a healthy dollop of completely ignoring the damning evidence presented against the mayor – et voila!

An innocent man, trying to do a good deed, mauled by an indifferent and unjust legal system! Democracy denied! An insult to voters whose decisions cannot, will not, shall not be overturned by the preening, intrusive rule of law.

“And when it comes down to it,” Ms. Soupcoff writes, “what the statute [Municipal Conflict of Interest Act] says is terribly anti-democratic… that despite receiving the votes of 380,201 people, a mayor can be tossed on the complaint of one citizen and the conclusion of one judge about a minor and harmless contravention of overly broad conduct rules.”

Minor and harmless the mayor’s contraventions may have been and the conduct rules might be overly broad. But in Judge Hackland’s decision, contravene them the mayor did, and the act left the judge no option but to remove the mayor from office. It has nothing to do with defying democracy or ignoring the voters’ wishes. It has everything to do with upholding the law.

“It seems, shall we say,” Soupcoff scribbles, building to her crescendo of outrage, “incommensurate that Toronto’s mayor should meanwhile be given the boot for insisting on speaking and voting on whether he should have to pay out a few thousand dollars for being overzealous in his charity work.”

… for being overzealous in his charity work.

Overzealous in his charity work?! No, Marni Soupcoff. Despite numerous warnings from the Integrity Commissioner not to use his official letterhead to solicit donations for his football foundation, then Councillor Rob Ford ignored her. When ordered to pay back the donations from his own pocket if need be, he refused. As mayor, he chose to speak and vote on the item brought before council to overturn that order.

In Judge Hackland’s opinion:

It would appear that the respondent’s actions at the February 7, 2012 Council Meeting, in speaking and voting on resolutions concerning the Integrity Commissioner’s factual findings in her report and her recommended sanction, was one last protest against the Integrity Commissioner’s position that he profoundly disagreed with.

Mayor Ford stamped his feet, ignored the will of council, rolled the dice to reverse the sanction and was found to have contravened the conflict of interest act in the process.

There’s no overturning of democracy. The voters’ will has not been subverted. One judge ruled that one man violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. That one man now has to deal with the fallout from that. Claiming anything otherwise is simply fanning the flames of petty divisiveness.

treyly submitted by Cityslikr


The Verdict Too

November 26, 2012

Ummm…

So yeah, that happened.

Lots and lots of details to follow in the next few days. So many questions. An appeal? A by-election? If so, can Rob Ford run in it or does he have to wait until 2014? Does he even want to? He gets so much more joy from coaching football…

The thing I do want to say right now is, if nothing else, the court decision to oust Rob Ford as Mayor of Toronto – or ‘…to declare the respondent’s seat vacant’ — should put to rest the fact that all of this was just some leftist plot to deprive the voters of their democratic right to blah, blah, blah.

No doubt, there’s been an army of people not only unhappy that the man was elected in 2010 but how he went about his business. They saw it as an affront to the city, an affront to how municipal politics was supposed to work. Arguably, he was the most intensely scrutinized local politician since… Mel Lastman.

But surely if all this is nothing more than legal sturm und drang, cheap partisan political posturing, an attempted leftist coup d’etat, the courts would’ve tossed the case out on its ear, declared it frivolous, found the mayor innocent and demanded damages from his persecutors. That didn’t happen. In fact, the mayor’s defense was pilloried by the judge on almost every level.

From Judge Hackland’s ruling (Mayor Ford is the ‘respondent’ below):

For the Mayor, integrity in government should be a top priority.

The Mayor of Toronto has many responsibilities, pressures, and functions, but perhaps the greatest is providing leadership for integrity in government. The Mayor is the face of City government, both internally and externally. Maintaining the integrity of government is the Mayor’s most important job.

In view of the respondent’s leadership role in ensuring integrity in municipal government, it is difficult to accept an error in judgment defence based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement (concerning his football foundation) and a dismissive and confrontational attitude to the Integrity Commissioner and the Code of Conduct. In my opinion, the respondent’s actions were characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to wilful blindness. As such, I find his actions are incompatible with an error in judgment.

In summary, I find that the respondent has failed in his burden to show that his contraventions of the MCIA were the result of a good faith error in judgment.

To shrug this decision off as the work of some nefarious leftist cabal or unelected, activist judges (Councillor James Pasternak incredibly referred to it as ‘judicial adventurism’) is to drown yourself in a briny sea of denial and conspiratorial nonsense. A hijacking of democracy?! No. Ignoring the rule of law is the most fundamental hijacking of democracy.

Regardless of what happens next, and no one really knows what happens next, an appeal, an appointment, a by-election, the one thing to accept right now is that Rob Ford fucked up. He fucked up and now has to deal with the consequences. Looking for anyone else to blame is a cop out, an abrogation of responsibility.

followed uply submitted by Cityslikr


The Verdict

November 26, 2012

There’s not really much else to write about at this point, is there.

Anyone paying any attention to Toronto’s political scene is waiting to hear about the fate of our mayor in his conflict of interest case.

I’ll only say this.

Whatever happens, whatever the outcome, no one should be the least bit surprised that we’re here, hanging on the results of this news. It’s kinda, sorta what happens when you elect a maverick to office. Defying convention. Playing fast and loose with the rules.

Skirting established protocol simply comes with the territory when you want to shake up the status quo.

My only prediction is that a scot-free acquittal for Mayor Ford in this case – still the mayor, no legal admonishment, no financial repercussions – will, in his mind and the minds of his supporters, vindicate his way of doing business at City Hall. Full steam ahead, folks. He’ll even have a court sanctioned mandate.

So the ‘chorus of boos’ he heard at a supposed apolitical event like Saturday’s Grey Cup rally will fall upon deaf ears. As will the concerns expressed about his governing style by one of his closest council allies and political mentors, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday. “You can’t open yourself up to these situations because it’s too much of a drain on you personally,” the councillor said, “a drain on you financially, it’s a drain on your family and I suggest it’s a drain on council.”

An unrepentant Ford? M’eh. The judge said everything was A-OK.

Whatever constraints he felt previously (and there is precious little evidence of any) will be gone. No lessons learned. No modifications to his behaviour. Any further claims made against the way he conducts his business as mayor will be brushed off as nothing more than cheap politics from his most die-hard opposition.

That is the main reason I want Mayor Ford at least legally sanctioned, his wrist slapped. He may not take any heed of it. Past experience shows us he won’t. But at least, the rest of us will know that there are consequences to the actions you take regardless of how much of an outsider and reformer you claim to be.

impatiently submitted by Cityslikr