Hopefully Councillor Jaye Robinson wasn’t looking to keep her low profile at City Hall intact. To use some mixed football terminology, Mayor Ford has handed the homelessness ball off to her, called a timeout and left the field to enjoy the halftime show. Run, Robinson! Run!
Only the most obdurate ally of the mayor, at this point, refuses to acknowledge that there may be some question about the numbers city staff is giving in terms of shelter space and beds available to the people living on our streets. The official line is everything’s OK, hunky dory. The supply meets the demand for anyone needing a place to stay. Those using and working in the shelter system disagree. They’ve declared an emergency and point to 8 dead bodies in 2013 as proof.
How to get to the bottom of this quandary? Yesterday twenty-three councillors voted to debate the matter, to get city staff to show that their numbers are valid and that the city is doing all that it can to provide shelter to those who need it. Now. When weather conditions are at their most unforgiving. The mayor and twenty other councillors including Councillor Robinson, believe everything is fine and that the matter will be handled all in due time at next month’s Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting.
Respect the process, people. Mayor Ford is all about respecting the process.
That argument was persuasive, at least coming from Robinson who is the chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee. More palatable certainly than Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong waving around staff numbers and accusing their colleagues of crying wolf. Or Councillor Doug Ford’s insisting that the real problem with people out on the street was that they didn’t want to use the shelters. So what could we possibly do about it?
So debate done. A two-thirds majority was not achieved. Everybody, as you were. We’ll talk again in March. Fingers crossed no one else dies in the cold and inclement weather between now and then.
Having provided cover for the mayor on the matter, Councillor Robinson must now realize this is all on her plate. Mayor Ford has washed his hands of it and will continue to tout the numbers he likes in order to maintain everything’s being taken care of, nothing he’s done with the budget (the best budget ever in the city of Toronto) has adversely affected shelters or people living on the streets. His conscience is clean.
But if he’s not right. If with further digging, it’s discovered there is a discrepancy. If city staff numbers don’t ultimately match up with the facts on the ground, Mayor Ford will shrug and say he only proceeded using the information he was given, so he can hardly be held accountable. What was everybody on the Community Development and Recreation Committee doing? Were they asleep at the wheel?
By managing to quash the emergency debate yesterday, the mayor has put this matter behind him. He was never a big fan of dealing with the homeless and shelters anyway. Ultimately, his core constituency doesn’t have a problem with that. I’m not sure Councillor Robinson has that luxury.
While she helped spearhead the derailment of the mayor’s brother’s Port Lands plans nearly 18 months ago, Councillor Robinson has otherwise quietly stick-handled playing along with Team Ford. She is the remaining female face on his Executive Committee and votes less often along party lines on key issues than any of the other committee members. Such independence is going to be put to the test while in the spotlight of a very hot button topic.
In her role as CDR Committee chair, Councillor Robinson is going to have to challenge city staff to show that their data on shelter space and beds is robust without Mayor Ford having her back. He will hold tight onto the numbers we’re being given now because they back his claim that all is well and good. Councillor Robinson will be driving full on into a solid wall of resistance while being pursued by a whole truckload of denial wanting to hear only one answer.
Her reputation as a nonpartisan member of council is at stake. If the information coming from city staff is what they say it is now, Councillor Robinson should walk away unscathed. If there’s any sort of suggestion that all is not what we’re being told, she’s going to have some difficult decisions ahead, starting with a mayor not wanting to hear what she’ll need to say.
But it’s a position she put herself in by standing up and arguing against having a council debate on the question. She assumed full responsibility. Going forward, Councillor Robinson will be the face of City Hall’s response to homelessness in Toronto.
That’s Councillor Jaye Robinson, Ward 25 Don Valley West.
— coo-coo-coo-chooly submitted by Cityslikr