Here’s To You, Councillor Robinson

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. forrestgumpRun, 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. stifledebateMore 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. hotpotatoIf 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. tworocksSuch 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.

jrobinsonThat’s Councillor Jaye Robinson, Ward 25 Don Valley West.

coo-coo-coo-chooly submitted by Cityslikr

Crazy, Crazy, Crazy

Crazy Hazel McCallion, McHellion I’ll call her, as I’m sure no one ever has before, she’s at it again, spouting off nonsensical blatherings. Won’t this woman ever retire? Talk about your career politicians.

At a pre-meeting of big city mayors before this weekend’s gathering at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Mississauga mayor McCallion pooh-poohed a call for a new, more equal partnership between all three levels of governments. According to last Thursday’s Toronto Sun, “…McCallion said a new partnership is not enough — it’s time to open the “can of worms” that is the constitution to give recognition to the important role of cities, enshrining powers and revenue sources needed to keep municipalities viable.” Has grandma finally lost her marbles? Surely she can’t mean opening up the always divisive constitutional process just for the sake of such a trifling matter like municipal powers?

“It really means a look at the constitution, there’s no question about it,” McCallion said.

Now I know there are some who would say that perhaps we should cede a little ground on this issue to someone of McCallion’s… errr… experience. I mean, the woman just might be old enough to actually know the intention of the makers’ of our constitution, going all the way back to the original British North American Act of 1867? Maybe old Hazel has some insider information.

But if there really is “no question” about looking at the constitution why hasn’t anyone else suggested it?

Where's Hazel?

In order to give cities the powers they need to sustain and upgrade infrastructure and build stronger communities, wouldn’t our elected officials in Ottawa and Queen’s Park utilize every means at their disposal to make sure that happens, including looking at the constitution? Surely to god our Prime Minister and Premier, M.P.s and M.P.P.s aren’t so petty and rigid that they would blindly adhere to some document written back during the middle years of Queen Victoria’s reign simply in order to keep power (and revenue) in their grubby little hands while municipalities heave and convulse under the weight of increasing fiscal and human responsibility. That can’t be what McCallion’s suggesting.

And if there really was “no question” about looking at the constitution wouldn’t this be a major topic of debate during our current municipal election campaign? With all the tough talking hombres we’ve got running for mayor in 2010, you’d think at least one of them would be pushing the idea of increasing Toronto’s share of power and revenue through constitutional reform instead of nattering ineffectually at each other and casting highly dubious aspersions upon the present council and the mayor. If Hazel McCallion — who has been mayor of the 6th largest city in Canada for longer than most of Toronto’s mayoral candidates have been old enough to vote — has decided that the only way for cities in this country to continue to grow sustainably and prosper is for a constitutional rejigging, and none of our candidates seem to agree on that or even deign to bring the subject up on the campaign trail, well obviously, Hazel McCallion is talking through her hat on the issue.

Perhaps McCallion needs to take a little time out (nap maybe? Don’t old people need naps in order to keep themselves functioning properly?) and then read Carol Goar’s take on the matter in the Toronto Star. “…local taxpayers have lost their appetite for mayors and councillors who see Canada as a dynamic urban nation,” Goar informs us. “… the debate about building strong, sustainable city-regions has almost petered out,” she continues. You see, Hazel? If the Toronto Star has decided that we should just shut up, sit back and let senior levels of government ignore the needs of the some 80% of Canadians who live in cities, that’s the end of the discussion. We don’t want to hear talk of provincial status for Toronto or the GTA. Or pie-in-the-sky, pipedream calls for constitutional reform in order to put power and actual decision making in the hands of, you know, citizens.

It’s off the table, old lady. Municipalities are the playthings and pawns of our higher ups, regardless of how negligent and detrimental the policies of senior levels of government may be to our lives. You’d think after more than 30 years of being mayor, you’dve cottoned on to that fact.

insanely submitted by Cityslikr