The Toryfication of Fordism

corporateloveI guess if you’re born and bred in the lap of corporate exegesis, your family, almost the very definition of Bay Street lawyerliness and a career spent near the helm of a private sector titan, it would be impossible for you to imagine any downside to a philanthropic hand-out to help out the city in a time of need. You want to keep some skating rinks open for the rest of the winter? Show me the money.

It’s just what good corporate citizens do. Strings attached? Come on. Stop being so cynical. Quid pro quo? I don’t even know what that means. Buyer beware?

So when it became known again this year that some city run skating rinks would be closing for the season yesterday (skating rinks, closing on February 23rd, February 23rd), noveltychequeMayor John Tory quickly flipped through his batphone rolodex and found two willing corporations happy to do their part. Green 4 Life and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment both cut the mayor a cheque for $100,000, thereby keeping the doors to an additional 12 rinks open until spring officially arrives in town. 3 cheers for the good guys! Hip-hip-hooray, etc., etc.

The mayor didn’t seem to so much as pause to consider the, I don’t know, optics, let alone implications of such a financial arrangement. Both companies have fairly substantial dealings with the city. murkyGreen 4 Life is the private contractor that collects nearly half of Toronto’s trash and recycling. It’s not exactly been a smooth relationship, and with the possibility of opening up the rest of the city to private bidding in the near future, the company may well factor into that as well. MLSE just secured a $10 million loan from the city to renovate BMO stadium, home to the TFC soccer team, owned by, you guessed it, MSLE which itself is substantially owned by telecom behemoth, Rogers, a company the mayor was recently some sort of director mucky-muck of and remains as part of the Rogers family trust. In fact, Mayor Tory had to step outside council chambers during December’s meeting due to a vote on an MLSE owned restaurant.

So you start to get a sense of the murkiness of all this. But wait. There’s more.

Over at Spacing today, John Lorinc writes of a one-on-one meeting between the mayor and the CEO smelltest(and Tory campaign donor) and head of government relations of Bell Inc. just this past January to discuss the ‘unhelpful boilerplate’ of the city’s lobbyist registry. Bell, another telecom giant, is also a co-owner of MLSE, owner of TFC, blah, blah, blah, see two paragraphs above. According to Lorinc, no one has said whether these rink donations were run by any of the city’s oversight and accountability officers to see if they, at the very least, passed some sort of smell test. It’s all been very much, these are friends of Mayor Tory, and any friend of the mayor’s is a friend of the city.

Lorinc writes:

It’s also possible that Tory, who has spent his entire adult/professional life functioning in that rarefied world where corporate, social and philanthropic circles intersect, is simply doing what comes naturally, so to speak – making big money asks of prominent donors and networks of well-connected executives.

“Doing what comes naturally”. Rather than figure out a way to deal with the city’s structural fiscal deficit that leads annually to these sort of funding shortfalls, Mayor Tory makes a couple phone calls to those dwelling in the “corporate, social and philanthropic circles” he’s been running in all his life. Leadership means knowing how to make that big corporate ask and having the connections to be able to do it.

Why bother asking hardworking taxpayers to pay to run their city properly wgladhandinghen the private sector will chip in around the edges?

I think we’ve already reached that point in John Tory’s mayoralty when we get to start asking, What would be the reaction if Rob Ford did this? If, while serving as mayor, Rob Ford cuddled up to a major private provider of a city’s service and asked for some money to help keep rinks open? What if Rob Ford tapped a company he had more than a passing interest in, and that also had a financial relationship with the city, for a little spending cash to help the city out?

What if Rob Ford tried to pull off an unorthodox financial manoeuvre, like the current mayor is attempting to do, in order to balance the operating budget and avoid a serious discussion about revenue tools? A move even the city’s CFO admitted last week was going to cost more in the long run than if we simply adjusted the property tax rate to cover the $86 million budget hole now.

My guess is there’d be a little more vocal pushback. It’s not so much that Mayor Tory is operating with a bit of a honeymoon halo, given the benefit of doubt and a little more time on the job. twofacesHe convinced us throughout the campaign that he was a sound businessman with a sound understanding of numbers. Prudent, he’d be. Fiscally mindful and wise.

Except that, what we’ve seen so far is little more than an attempted institutionalisation of the Ford low tax, more efficiencies, anti-government mantra. The city has a spending not a revenue problem with a nicer haircut. An uncomfortable cozying up to the private sector and special interests who make money from the city and give money to the elected officials who help facilitate that transaction.

It’s simply Rob Ford with better pedigree and a more extensive rolodex. You can try and mask it with a nice cologne but the stink doesn’t really go away.

disapprovingly submitted by Cityslikr

7 Responses to The Toryfication of Fordism

  1. Ron Wheeler says:

    Polling numbers from July 2014 right through to the October election all showed that Tory was the only candidate capable of removing Ford Nation. We now get to dance with the one that brought us here until the music stops in October of 2018.

    If you feel the need to file a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner fill your boots. I myself have seen more than enough of that process and its relative ineffectiveness.

  2. You ask a very good question that makes me stop and think. Yes what would I “say” if it was one of Rob Ford’s friends that stepped up to the plate when approached by Rob for some positive PR in exchange for a few bucks? A friend who had dealings with the city. Would I be outraged?
    Yes I would because Ford’s associates are well known as criminals. And Ford was well known for bullying staff for favours. Tory has no such reputation. In fact he has a very good reputation in the business community.
    As for the lobbyist registry, I know it needs tweeking. It seems to be useful only as a formal record of lobbyists and who they have approached So in the case of future wrongdoing, there is a record. Dunno.

  3. In comparison to the Rodeo-Clown, the new Mayor is a H-U-G-E improvement…and (to be fair) even David Miller to a Corporate donation to keep the Rinks OPEN in 2007….

    There’s a real problem with the City at their “Process over Progress” model on these recurring issues that should really be “Low-Hanging Fruit”.

    If the denizend of the Rotunds can’t FIX the little things like Seasonal-Rink variability, Food Trucks and Uber/Taxi issues…how are we supposed to TRUST them to Competently deal with the BIG issues that face Toronto…?

    I don’t like that it was MLSE and GLF who PAID for the Rinks this year (*at least it wasn’t Porter & Bombardier) — but the long-term FIX is simple, if only the Voters, Media, Taxpayers – and Politicos of #TOPoli let things like MATH & SCIENCE be their Primary source of Decision-Making.

  4. Also, this is Kinda my favourite article EVER – from the way, way, back of 2007….

    If you ever wonder why things like Pools, Skating & Community Centres come-up over-and-over like “Groundhod Day” at the Rotunda….this is why….

    “Outdoor rinks hostage to icy political calculation”

    Real-change will NEVER happen in Toronto, if the Media are always looking for the “Click-Bait” Sad-Skaters photo-ops…rather than actually explaining in PAINFUL detail how these programs are always left-dangling so that they can be jerked-around for “Instant Outrage” effect by Politicos on both Left and Right.

    ..this pattern “mostly” applies to the TDSB School Closure Kabuki as well…

  5. Ron Wm. Hurlbut says:

    Political pandering has made Toronto a charity case.

    Hands out begging for corporate dollars for ice rink time and allowing major infrastructure and housing stock to crumble.

    Rob Ford made promises he couldn’t possibly deliver.

    Billions of Corporate Dollars for Subways, Subways, Subways, Folks.

    Perhaps if he’d aimed lower and got the Corporations to cough up loose change for Libarries, Libarries, Libarries instead….

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