Fight For City Hall

April 27, 2012

OK. Here’s an idea.

During Mayor Ford’s unofficial leave of absence, instead of tucking back and sharing the same shell of disengagement, why not expand your municipal politics horizons. Get to know your city councillor, say. Who’s that, you ask? Don’t even know what ward you’re in? Well, now’s the time to do a little brushing up on your civics as I imagine they say in show business.

If you need a little help, David Hains has a series going on over at Open File Toronto, Better Know a Ward, featuring councillor interviews. The Toronto Star’s David Rider works similar terrain with his occasional councillor focussed articles. These are your actual local representatives, folks. The ones addressing your day-to-day concerns at City Hall.

The timing’s also good because it seems the mayor is reaching out to individual councillors even some he wouldn’t have had the time of day for back when he was the king of the castle.  He’s looking for ideas that city council should pursue going forward since apparently he’s done everything he was elected to do already. A small checklist it must be because I’m not needing more than two hands to count off the accomplishments. And I lost 3 fingers in a deep sea fishing accident. (Thank you. Next show at 10. Remember to tip your waitress.)

On top of which, as the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat reported, a group of the more centrist councillors met yesterday in order “…to hash out what issues they want city council to tackle next.” Ranging from TTC Chair Karen Stintz to TCHC task force chair Ana Bailão (an average of 52.5% on the Matt Elliott Ford For Toronto Ford Nation scale), the sit down seems intended to combat the inertia that settles in at City Hall with Mayor Ford’s abdication of authority. “Councillor Colle says agendas are pretty light at City Hall lately,” Peat tweeted, “nine items on four committee agendas.”

Just a whole lot of chin wagging, according to the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy in a screed intended to diminish any attempt at consensus building that Mayor Ford seems unable to build himself. And while the group emerged with no concrete list of ideas they did agree to continue talking and meeting. Rome wasn’t built in a day and to expect a group of politically disparate councillors to deliver a package of working proposals in a matter of hours after 18 months of divisive and contentious battles at City Hall may well be the height of deliberate sabotage.

So the timing of this is favourable to all those who want to get their voices heard, opinions counted. With power in flux on council, chime in to your local councillor, let them know what you think is important and how you’d like them to proceed. If everyone’s looking for ideas, now’s the time to speak up.

The vacuum that has materialized at City Hall is no accident and neither is it the result of some evil cabal of scheming councillors bound and determined to undermine the will of the people and push Mayor Ford to the sidelines. This administration is based on the principle of reducing the size and role of government in our lives. While they will use innocuous sounding terms like ‘finding efficiencies’ and ‘culture of entitlement’ and, yeah, ‘stopping the gravy train’, it’s all about putting a hurt on the public sector and roll back its ability to do the job it was it was designed to do.

Mayor Ford, his brother and deputy mayor have made it known on more than one occasion that in order for them to fully implement their anti-government agenda, the people of Toronto need to send councillors to City Hall more attuned to this sensibility. They’ve declared war on dissent and gone as far as to threaten electoral ‘execution’ on those who do not toe their line. Council has stepped up and asserted its power and the administration has petulantly reacted by asserting some sort of divine mayoral right, claiming a mandate to override the will of majority rule.

The mayor is one voice, the loudest voice since the office is the only one elected city wide, but still just one voice of 45. That’s how this is supposed to work. Councillors should adhere to that and continue to assert their authority. This authority comes from the voters, the people of Toronto. Start letting your local elected representatives know that this is what you expect of them, to represent your best interests and those of the city.

Paul Ainslie Ward 43 Paula Fletcher Ward 30 Denzil Minnan-Wong Ward 34
 

Maria Augimeri Ward 9

 

Doug Ford Ward 2

 

Ron Moeser Ward 44

 

Ana Bailão Ward 18

 

Mary Fragedakis Ward 29

 

Frances Nunziata Ward 11

 

Michelle Berardinetti Ward 35

 

Mark Grimes Ward 6

 

Cesar Palacio Ward 17

 

Shelley Carroll Ward 33

 

Doug Holyday Ward 3

 

John Parker Ward 26

 

Raymond Cho Ward 42

 

Norm Kelly Ward 40

 

James Pasternak Ward 10

 

Josh Colle Ward 15

 

Mike Layton Ward 19

 

Gord Perks Ward 14

 

Gary Crawford Ward 36

 

Chin Lee Ward 41

 

Anthony Perruzza Ward 8

 

Vincent Crisanti Ward 1

 

Gloria Lindsay Luby Ward 4

 

Jaye Robinson Ward 25

 

Janet Davis Ward 31

 

Giorgio Mammoliti Ward 7

 

David Shiner Ward 24

 

Glenn De Baeremaeker Ward 38

 

Josh Matlow Ward 22

 

Karen Stintz Ward 16

 

Mike Del Grande Ward 39

 

Pam McConnell Ward 28

 

Michael Thompson Ward 37

 

Frank Di Giorgio Ward 12

 

Mary-Margaret McMahon Ward 32

 

Adam Vaughan Ward 20

 

Sarah Doucette Ward 13

 

Joe Mihevc Ward 21

 

Kristyn Wong-Tam Ward 27

 

John Filion Ward 23

 

Peter Milczyn Ward 5

 — helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Creating A City Hall Potboiler

April 23, 2012

You know, I’m not going to lie. Having no functioning mayor in place really makes for tough writing at this end. I’ve been trying to experiment with my colleague’s suggestion here yesterday not to write about Mayor Ford if he isn’t doing anything worth writing about and, wow, it all just kind of grinds to a halt. I got zip. Zilch. Nada.

It’s like fucking August around here. Except for the weather.

If this keeps up, I’m going to have to start writing about provincial politics or something.

I have to totally agree with Councillor Doug Ford who said on the radio yesterday that governments don’t create jobs but the conditions for job. When the mayor stops working, my job becomes that much more difficult. The conditions just aren’t right for me to write. And it’s all Mayor Ford’s fault!

As the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat reported on Saturday, a group of the more centrist councillors are planning to meet this week in order “…to hash out what issues they want city council to tackle next.” Ranging from TTC Chair Karen Stintz to TCHC task force chair Ana Bailão (an average of 52.5% on the Matt Elliott Ford For Toronto Ford Nation scale), the sit down seems intended to combat the inertia that settles in at City Hall with Mayor Ford’s abdication of authority. “Councillor Colle says agendas are pretty light at City Hall lately,” Peat tweeted, “nine items on four committee agendas.”

Have you seen this man?

I would imagine their first big challenge is going to be finding the mayor. They’re probably going to have to use the city’s new graffiti app as a way to entice him out from his secret location and ambush him as he’s water cannoning some defaced wall. Hey, Your Worship. We’ve got some ideas we could possibly talk about at the next council or committee meeting. What do you think?

I know there’s no official path of tossing or impeaching a badly/under-performing mayor from office but there has to be some sort of expiry date. One of those clauses that stipulate if your account has been dormant for a specified period of time, it gets closed up. If Mayor Ford doesn’t actually perform something mayoral in that given time, he’s asked to pack his things up and move on.

Not too long ago, I jokingly opined that if the mayor can’t turn this thing around and starts to approach the 2014 election with dim prospects of re-election, he might pack it in early. Claiming health reasons brought on entirely by left wing animosity and perfidy (my words not his), he will officially leave office. He’ll do it when the weather turns miserable in order to spend the winter in Florida.

Which totally explains his brother-councillor’s behaviour of late!

In covering the mayor’s radio show (which, natch, the mayor missed yesterday) Open File TO’s David Hains expresses unease with Councillor Ford’s references to his brother’s KFCgate. “1:22: Doug calls out his sick and absent brother Rob, saying that he might be in front of some KFC right now.” “2:13: Doug invites Angel to meet with the mayor, saying that he meets with anyone and everyone. Angel takes him up on the offer, and Doug adds that if he brings some KFC he can jump the line to meet Rob.”

This after the councillor joked about taping his brother’s mouth shut and feeding him through a straw to stop him from eating fast food. Don’t worry, buddy. I got your back. As the mayor flails on the weight loss gimmick Doug dreamed up, his own flesh and blood gleefully mocks him. I can joke. I’m family.

It’s only the latest in a growing list of examples where older brother councillor undermines younger brother mayor. The Portlands. The Sheppard Subway. All taxes are evil.

You know what I think? I think Councillor Ford is Gaslighting his brother. Driving Rob crazy, making his life as mayor completely unbearable until he runs, screaming from office. Come 2014, Councillor Ford rides the sympathy ticket into the election, vowing revenge and retribution on all those who persecuted his baby brother from public life. This Ford is Ford tough. Doug Ford for Mayor in 2014!

Ahh, such behind the scenes intrigue and machinations. Municipal mystery fiction at its finest. I don’t like it anymore than you do but you can’t blame a guy for filling in the blanks left in the void of a mayoral absence.

 — hackily submitted by Cityslikr


An Empty Mandate

April 16, 2012

The timing of this is absolutely going to come across as pure sour grapes. Two days after being snubbed, left on the cutting room floor by the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee in his article about Toronto’s City Hall bloggers and tweeters, here I go about to attack him. But let me just say in my defence that I think Mr. Gee did me a favour. In hindsight the decision to let fly with my impressions of various councillors during our interview was probably ill-advised.

“I used to beat up twerps like you in high school,” I bellowed at Mr. Gee, bringing my Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti A-game to the table. “Give you wedgies and dunk your head in the toilet bowl.”

Yes, as a matter of fact, I really do need to re-think my PR strategy.

Besides, this won’t be the first time I have disagreed enough with the Globe columnist to write a response. In fact, it was pretty much on this very same issue that I expressed my displeasure with him back in March, long before we ever chatted in person. Just so we’re clear on my motivations here.

On Friday, Marcus was at it again, bemoaning the aimless drift of the city under Mayor Ford’s watch. “After a string of whuppings on transit, Mr. Ford is looking more and more isolated on the council he is supposed to lead,” Mr. Gee wrote on Friday. “With two and a half years left in his four-year term, his ability to implement his agenda is fading. That may strike many Torontonians as a good thing. It’s not. For one thing, a city with as many pressing challenges as this one can’t afford to drift rudderless till 2014.”

OK, again. Just because the mayor appears to be drifting aimlessly does not mean the city is. The mayor is one component of municipal governance, a very important component certainly, the only council member elected city-wide and with slightly better access to the levers of power, but still only one vote of 45 ultimately.

Mr. Gee rightfully characterizes Mayor Ford’s last few months as a display of ‘abysmal leadership’ which should be his story, end stop. A mayor is elected to lead, in Toronto is given some tools to help further an agenda. After a year or so of doing exactly that, this mayor has ceased performing that function. No one has taken it away from him, tied up him ‘with a thousand tiny bonds’. He’s just continually failed to muster the majority of votes needed to win crucial votes at council. There’s nobody to blame but himself and his staff for that.

And yet, the business of the city carries on. While Gee sees last week’s council vote on contracting out cleaners as a victory for those looking “… to handcuff the city’s attempts to get private contractors to take over some cleaning jobs…” and some sort of plot by ‘a resurgent left wing’ on council “…to block any attempt to contract out services to private companies”, that’s an angle seen purely through an ideological lens. Councillor Ana Bailão, who put forth the motion, stated right up front that it wasn’t about stopping the practice of contracting out. She wanted better oversight of how and to whom the contracts were given.

Her motion seemed to be largely in reaction to the mess that emerged back in 2010, before Rob Ford was even elected mayor, with the contracting out of cleaning services for Union Station. The possible use of undocumented workers, not paying them the agreed upon hourly wage and a questionable renewal of the contract all suggested the city needed to be more vigilant in its contracting out process. As we go further down that road, Councillor Bailão’s motion looks more like a strengthening of safeguards rather than merely putting on the brakes to a mayoral initiative.

While Mayor Ford’s former press secretary and now Toronto Sun something or other, Adrienne Batra, sees the same leftist plotting and nefariousness at City Hall as Marcus Gee, she puts the blame for its success squarely where it belongs: in the lap of the mayor. “The mayor — not his staff, not his brother, not his executive, not his unpaid advisors — needs to dig down and find the same passion for the job he had when he was first elected,” Batra writes, “to carry him through the remainder of his first term. That is, if he wants a second one.”

A second term?! What on earth would Mayor Ford do with another 4 years? He doesn’t even know what to do with the next 30 months.

Both Ms. Batra and Mr. Gee miss what, I think, is the major cause of the mayor’s sudden flirtation with irrelevancy. His 2010 election platform was the thinnest of thin gruel. Because it was exclusively based on unfounded rhetoric and almost impossible to implement promises, there was no way it could sustain one term, never mind two. To the city’s fiscal detriment, he pushed through the repeal of the Vehicle Registration Tax and kept property tax increases below the rate of inflation. The savings from his major accomplishments of cutting councillors’ office expenses and securing concessions from city workers without any labour strife don’t appear to cover the loss in revenue from the tax cuts and freezes which doesn’t bode well for another campaign promise of the mayor’s, eliminating the Land Transfer Tax.

Mayor Ford did get the ball rolling with contracting out waste collection and nothing in Councillor Bailão’s successful motion last week threatens that. Hopefully, it will serve to alert not only city council but the public also to the possible problems that come with contracting out. If we’ve learned nothing else from the last 16 months or so, it’s that the easy peazy manner of running a city the mayor promised was pure delusion. We do, in fact, have a revenue problem and the spending problem that was so out of control? Yeah, not so much.

When a politician romps into office based on such out-and-out fantasy, it’s hardly surprising that he, sooner rather than later, gets bogged down in the mire of reality. Marcus Gee implores city councillors to ‘let’ Mayor Ford get ‘at least some things done.’ I’d suggest they already have and are now hard at work trying to mitigate the fallout of having done so.

not bitterly submitted by Cityslikr


Me Myself And I

April 12, 2012

There’s safety in numbers
When you learn to divide
How can we be in
If there is no outside
All shades of opinion
Feed an open mind
But your values are twisted
Let us help you unwind
You may look like we do
Talk like we do
But you know how it is
You’re not one of us
Not one of us
No you’re not one of us

— Peter Gabriel, Not One Of Us

“My advice to the taxpayer would be don’t send us anymore activists, don’t send us anymore unionists, don’t send us anymore cyclists.” Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday

While Mayor Ford quietly reclined, lost in his own thoughts as his team was about to lose another key vote at council yesterday, his deputy mayor was not about to do down so tranquilly. With Councillor Ana Bailão’s motion – ostensibly to secure more city council oversight of the terms and conditions by which city services are contracted out – Councillor Holyday simply could not mask his dyspeptic reaction to the proceedings, noisily heckling Councillor Bailão to the point of tears as she told her own private story of cleaning office buildings as a teenager.

“My mom had to have two jobs,” Bailão said. “At age 15, I was cleaning offices downtown for two years. I know this industry, and these are new immigrants coming to this country. These are the most vulnerable people in this city.”

“You’re just protecting jobs for your union friends,” Holyday badgered. Repeatedly.

At which point, what had been a fairly orderly, amicable meeting, at least by Ford era standards, broke down into the usual rancor and disorder with Speaker Frances Nunziata moving to call an early lunch break to let matters simmer down some. It didn’t come to that. Council tussled through the last 20 minutes before recessing at its usual 12:30 time.

The deputy mayor then hustled up the chamber stairs to the press gallery where he continued to rant out loud about all the activists, unionists and cyclists who were, evidently, making his life at council damn near unmanageable. (The Toronto Sun’s Don Peat must just love the sight of Councillor Holyday walking toward him, spewing forth. It’s a bottomless pit of content.) Evidently, in his earlier life as a Etobicoke politician in pre-amalgamation Toronto, Mr. Holyday never had to contend with anyone who wasn’t just like him. Simpler times.

I can’t be alone in seeing the deputy mayor as that uncle everyone has who you inevitably wind up sitting beside at big family functions and he can’t stop talking about how things were in his day. When you didn’t have to ask for respect, you just got it. Where everyone knew their place, every one. And the surest entry into politics was through the Kiwanis club.

In other words, eminently unqualified to be anywhere near the levers of power for a major metropolitan city of 2.5 million people with an annual operating of over $9 billion. Yeah, taking care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves is a governing philosophy that simply doesn’t cut it.

The dubious and short-sighted economics of saving the city money by contracting out work at reduced wage rates and decreased benefits – god bless `em – aside… I mean, how could it possibly hurt the local economy in the long run, having people in the community make less money and need more social assistance to offset a loss of benefits?… the politics of the deputy mayor’s manner is mind-boggling.

Never mind his dismissal of the usual suspects since it’s hard to imagine his natural constituency is made up of many activists, unionists or cyclists. But his treatment of Councillor Bailão seems not only callous and cold-hearted, which smacks of overkill since Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong is a teammate who traverses that territory much more regularly, but ultimately self-defeating. While the deputy mayor very likely sees the world in the same black-and-white terms as Mayor Ford and anyone with differing opinions must be a union affiliated bike rider who hangs out in hash cafés where the NDP hold their municipal nominations, most others see Councillor Bailão as a moderate voice at council. Shit, the mayor tapped her to chair a special task force on the Toronto Community Housing Corp. and there he is, sitting back and watching the deputy mayor go all Abe Simpson on her?

It just seems like terrible politics.

In the end, Councillor Bailão’s item won and won big. Once more, the mayor found himself on the losing side of a two-thirds vote, flirting ever so close to further irrelevancy, he and his brother’s dream of selling off anything not nailed down suffering a severe setback. Yet, neither one said anything in an attempt to sway any of their colleagues their way. Only the deputy mayor spoke up and in the process did their cause no favours.

If anything, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday reinforced the exact opposite example of what he suggested would help serve city council. Maybe taxpayers and citizens should stop sending angry, out of touch old guys to City Hall whose ‘common sense’ toward city building began and ended with regular viewings of Mayberry RFD. Given their dwindling numbers, it would be much easier turfing them then it would be the ever increasing activist councillors that they’re helping to create.

calmly submitted by Cityslikr


Dreaming Of A True Ford Nation

March 26, 2012

Hey.

Did everybody see that? At the NDP federal leadership convention this weekend, councillors Karen Stintz and John Parker, locked arm in arm, cheering the radical left crowd on, belting out Le Internationale.

Yeah, me neither. But apparently that’s exactly what Councillor Doug Ford and his brother mayor witnessed. “You’re on our side or against us,” Mayor Ford said yesterday on his radio show. “You’re on the taxpayer’s side or against them. There’s no mushy middle. It’s left or right down there.”

In what must be the most ridiculous case of repositioning ever, Team Ford is desperately trying to cast the world of municipal politics here in Toronto as a simple binary system, a black-and-white world of simplistic right-versus-left, us-versus-them. You’re either with us or you’ve been brainwashed by the vile and manipulative NDP. The mushy middle has drunk the koolaid.

Councillor Karen Stintz, a dipper. That must be news to the previous incarnation of Councillor Stintz who stood in strong opposition to former mayor David Miller. She was a chartered member of the Responsible Government Group. The other Councillor Karen Stintz speaking out passionately if misguidedly against a motion to reclaim about $19 million in service and program cuts in the 2012 budget.

And former Progressive Conservative MPP and Mike Harris backbencher, Councillor John Parker. Another member of the anti-David Miller Responsible Government Group, now suddenly a left leaning councillor, his blue hues changed overnight to that bilious orange.

Let’s not forget fellow Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, a long time foe of the Ford family, clearly because of her political stripes. You see, way back in 1999, she had the temerity to oppose Doug Ford Sr. in a political nomination showdown for the… wait for it, wait for it… Progressive Conservative party. Clearly, a lost cause left wing wingnut. So much so that she was a member of Mayor Miller’s Executive Committee before resigning. “I never felt part of that small inner circle”

In the magical world that exists in the Ford family mind, bona fide conservatives become evil socialists the moment disagreement emerges. There is no middle ground, no third way. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, in her 2010 race to unseat David Miller Speaker, Sandra Bussin, endorsed by former provincial Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, is now a left winger. Councillor Ana Bailão ran in the 2003 municipal election against very left leaning Adam Giambrone and then won the ward in 2010 by beating Giambrone EA, Kevin Beaulieu. Councillor Josh Colle, offspring of Liberal MPP Mike Colle, and up until the recent rash of transit votes, sided with the mayor more than 40% of the time. Councillor Chin Lee, another member of the Responsible Government Group back in the day, backed Mayor Ford more than half the time.

Now, because of their disagreement with him over transit plans have all been hopelessly lost to the dark side, left wingers all.

There was a reason some of the more outspoken critics of the mayor and his brother began calling them ‘radical conservatives’. Actually, two. One, because the Fords are radical right wingers. Despite the election promise not to cut services and programs that’s exactly what they’ve done. They want to make government smaller under the banner of efficiencies. They are endeavouring the smash the unions. They want to privatize everything not nailed down.

That is, in fact, a radical right wing agenda.

The other reason to colour them with this label is to differentiate the Fords and their hardcore supporters on council from actual moderate conservatives. Despite what the brothers will try and tell you over the course of the next 2.5 years, city council is made up with a fair rump of moderate conservatives, those who are able to reach out and form a consensus with a majority of council members. That is what occurred on the transit vote. A consensus of 24 councillors from the moderate right to the left (29 when it came to assuming control of the TTC board) to take  the transit file from Mayor Ford when he failed to bring forth a workable plan to build a Sheppard subway that would almost get to Scarborough.

But the mayor and his brother see such cooperation as nothing short of betrayal and treachery. In their us-versus-everyone else who disagrees with us on any issue worldview, true conservatives march in lockstep. Since they are conservatives, you can’t vote against them and still be a conservative.

So now they’ve pledged to run a slate of candidates against any councillor that dares to defy them. This isn’t new. They did it on a limited scale in 2010. They nearly unseated Councillor Lindsay Luby as well as Councillor Maria Augimeri. Councillor Peter Milczyn similarly had to fight for his political life with a Ford backed candidate in the race. He, unlike councillors Lindsay Luby and Augimeri, has largely turtled and become a pliant supporter of the mayor except for some of his recent votes on transit.

In Ward 1, the Fords did manage to boot then councillor Suzan Hall, locking in undying fealty at city council from one Vincent Crisanti. Councillor Crisanti immediately assumed the position as a largely silent deadwood paper weight rubber stamp yes man for the incoming mayor. When he does rise to speak, he invokes the babbling oratory of councillors Frank Di Giorgio and Cesar Palacio. In the debate over transit and the Sheppard subway, Councillor Crisanti insisted busses ran faster than LRTs and endeavoured to ensure Etobicoke would not see improvement in transit in our lifetimes.

That, folks, is the slate of candidates the mayor wants to put together. Team Ford and Vincent Crisantis in 2014.

sirenly submitted by Cityslikr


Colle Cocked

January 19, 2012

A remarkable day starring two, up until now, unremarkable councillors.

And I don’t use ‘unremarkable’ in a pejorative sense. Just not noteworthy. Bereft of distinction. Having made no real dent or splash yet. A kind of, who’s my councillor again kind of councillor.

Until budget day on Tuesday. In one swift motion (ha, ha), rookie councillor Josh Colle made his presence felt and established himself as a very real force to be contended with. Not only did he catch the mayor and his guard flat-footed with a move to reinstate some $15 million of the more controversial cuts back into the 2012 operating budget, he withstood a blustery, cantankerous line of questioning from a brigade of under-prepared Ford Teamsters in a polished and confident manner that suggested a much more veteran politician. He was politely aggressive with the baiting line of queries and also very funny. When a more friendly colleague, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon rose to ask him her questions and accidentally referred to him as the other Josh, Matlow, Colle waited for the laughter to subside before responding, “Yes, Councillor Doucette?”

His performance and not unreasonable motion changed the tone of the day’s debate and paved the way for moves by other councillors to stave off another $4 million in cuts including the additional savings demanded of the Toronto Public Library. Councillor Colle nudged Mayor Ford from the driver’s seat, sending the administration into scramble mode in the hopes of beating back the motion and preserving the mayor’s budget.

In the end, they didn’t. The mayor suffered a string of defeats, close, close, close but inevitable defeats and as much credit as Councillor Colle deserves for that, so does Councillor James Pasternak. Arguably traversing much more political ground than Colle to wind up on the opposite side of the mayor – he had been pretty much a sure thing for Mayor Ford for most of the year+ he’s been councillor for Ward 10 – Pasternak wound up being the very unlikely swing vote that pushed Councillor Colle’s motion over the top.

Not for a lack of trying to keep him in the fold by the mayor’s forces. At one point during Tuesday’s meeting, both the mayor and his brother, Doug, made their way across the chamber floor in Councillor Pasternak’s direction. The mayor gestured like a grade school principal who’d just caught a child running in the hallway for the councillor to follow them to backroom. Councillor Pasternak willingly obeyed and the three of them disappeared from the room.

What was said and how, I couldn’t tell you. One would assume it took more dark, threatening tones because for the mayor to be offering up goodies in return for the councillor’s vote, well, that would just be antithetical to what we’ve been hearing from the mayor’s office for months now. The cupboard’s  bare, there’s no money for ‘pet projects’. So as important as the vote was, and we’re talking really, really important, like 4 new libraries, 3 new community centres and a subway right up to the councillor’s door important, it would be monstrously hypocritical for the mayor to be promising favours in return for votes.

Whatever was said, offered, threatened behind closed doors failed. Councillor Pasternak didn’t blink. He defied the mayor and voted for Councillor Colle’s motion.

As did another right of centre councillor, Chin Lee who continued his drift from the administration. And let’s not forget, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, the only girl allowed in the Etobicoke Councillor Boys Club that includes the mayor’s brain trust, his brother and the Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, along with the hangers-on, Councillor Vincent Crisanti, Mark Grimes and Peter Milczyn. While her intentions might not have been the most noble (“Leaf collection, for me, was absolutely important”), she stood her ground, gleefully flashing her thumb in the opposite direction of the one Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti insisted on displaying despite its noticeable lack of efficacy.

Combined with the other members of the newbie mushy middle, Councillors Ana Bailão, Josh Matlow and Mary-Margaret McMahon, it was enough of a faction, along with the left of centre crowd of councillors, to best the mayor in every budget motion save two, I believe. It was a rebuke if not quite a repudiation of the direction Mayor Ford wanted to take the city. It put on the brakes but did not turn the car around.

The budget that passed remained chock full of highly questionable cuts. The mayor and his team can still rightly claim that they are spending less than they did last year which, to their way of thinking, means something significant. Before losing control of the budget meeting, Team Ford deftly managed to snip off any nascent move that may have been building to increase the property tax increase from 2.5%. Budget 2012 can still rightfully be called a Mayor Rob Ford budget.

But at what cost?

There’s now clearly disorder in the ranks. If they can lose an ally like Councillor Pasternak on such an important vote as a budget vote, who’s next? Fellow rookie councillors and Executive Committee members, Michelle Berardinetti and Jaye Robinson, must feel as if they were hung out to dry. They now have to wear things like their vote in favour of demanding a full 10% cut to the TPL and explain it to their constituents. For what? Where an unwavering allegiance to the Ford brand might’ve seemed like just good politics last year, six months ago, two weeks ago, it’s suddenly more like a millstone around their necks.

Ditto Councillor Crawford. Another Ford stalwart, Councillor Michael Thompson was awfully quiet during the budget meeting. He dutifully voted along with the mayor but certainly kept his head low while doing so. And how long will even Councillors Grimes and Milczyn – both of whom were targeted for defeat by the Ford campaign during the 2010 election – blindly follow him, realizing the mayor can’t even win over city council on important matters let alone orchestra a successful race against them in 2014 if they don’t now obey his every command?

Yes, Councillors Josh Colle and James Pasternak may’ve just skimmed a speck of dosh from the surplus stash the mayor tucked away on the capital side of the budget on Tuesday. A mere less than .2% of the operating budget, as Edward Keenan pointed out in his comprehensively excellent article yesterday. But there is every reason to suspect that they succeeded in blowing up the prevailing Ford era dynamic at City Hall where the mayor pronounces and it is so.

They’ve opened the floodgates. The Curtis Flood-gates, that is. Free agency has come to city council.

borasly submitted by Cityslikr


Ford Nation Decimation

October 7, 2011

A fitting end to an uninspiring provincial election campaign. The best one could say is, at least the worst possible outcome did not come to pass. Or as the Toronto Sun put it: Welcome to Hell. OK. Maybe that’s the best thing to emerge from last night. The mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are totally in a tizzy.

Actually, that’s completely untrue for two reasons. 1) I assume the mucky mucks at the Toronto Sun are always totally in a tizzy for some reason or another. 2) The best thing to emerge from yesterday’s provincial election is the absolute repudiation of any notion of a Ford Nation. As Councillor Adam Vaughan predicted a few weeks back, “Ford Nation is a notion. It’s just a notion. It’s not a factor, it’s not going to be a factor. It does not translate to the province, it won’t translate beyond the last election. Some people voted for Rob Ford, based on some promises of tax cuts with no service cuts. They found out that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to build subways, that’s not going to happen. They voted for him to get rid of the gravy down here, and he’s found no gravy.” Or as Sol Chrom more succinctly put it last night: “Can we officially retire the phrase Ford Nation now? There’s no such fucking thing.”

The complete shut out of the provincial PCs in the 416 area code would point in that direction no matter how much the mayor tries to distance himself from the result. What’s that he said on Metro Morning today? (Yes, Mayor Ford actually stepped into enemy territory at the CBC. All by himself.) “My name wasn’t on the ballot.” He didn’t endorse anyone.

Yeah, but how about this from March, Mr. Mayor? “If he [Premier McGuinty] says no [to the mayor’s request for additional money], obviously there’s a provincial election coming up on October 6 and I want to work with him, not against him, but obviously if he’s not helping out the city I’ll have no choice to work against him.. I’ll have no other choice but to call Ford Nation, and make sure they’re not reelected in the next election. But I do not want to do that.”

So maybe it was a case of the mayor not wanting to unleash Ford Nation as opposed to being unable to.

Either way, Mayor Ford is today facing a somewhat different scenario at the provincial level than he was yesterday. The Liberals are still in power and no longer entirely in election mode although with a minority government, you never can tell. Toronto and much of the GTA, if no less Blue, the Red and Orange are shimmering a little brighter. His own home turf of Etobicoke remained a Liberal stronghold as did neighbouring Mississauga. And, horrors of horrors, right on the doorstep to the north, an NDPer was elected in Bramalea-Gore-Malton!

The political ground beneath his feet may not have shifted drastically but it sure got a whole lot rockier. Will it force him to start playing nice, or as nice as he is capable of, with those he so despises politically? The left wing kooks. The bike riding pinkos.

The answer to that may lie in how the premier chooses to play his cards. Having survived, albeit not unscathed, what was supposed to be another Blue wave here in Ontario will he stop pandering to a more vulnerable mayor here in Fortress Liberal/NDP Toronto? Incoming newcomer, Jonah Schien was a big proponent of Transit City. Will he and the other downtown NDP MPPs use their minority government leverage to put the plan back on the table? I’d be happy just to see the mayor forced to bring it to council for debate. That seems like a very minor demand to make. More importantly, perhaps the timeline for the province resuming their obligation to pay for half the operating costs of the TTC can be pushed up. That’s something the mayor can get on board with.

At council, it’ll be interesting to see if the game’s changed a little bit too. Two fairly solid supporters of Mayor Ford may now be able to stop helplessly toeing the line now that the election’s over and their respective relatives were easily re-elected on the Liberal ticket. Executive Committee member Michelle Berardinetti’s husband, Lorenzo, retained his seat in Scarborough as did Josh Colle’s dad, Mike, in Eglinton Lawrence in what was supposed to be a hotly contested race against former mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi. It wasn’t. So are these two councillors now more free to display an independence of thinking from the mayor?

And what about Ana Bailão? Her ward has been consumed both federally and provincially by the NDP. Looking down the road to her own re-election fortunes, will that change in colour force her to distance herself a little more often from the mayor?

For all the lifelessness of the provincial campaign, a lifelessness that helped contribute to the worst voter turnout in history in Ontario, it has certainly detonated some reverberations here in Toronto. Very, very noticeable cracks in Mayor Ford’s once seemingly bulletproof veneer have been fully exposed. Having endeavoured to make no friends with anyone not possessing similar political stripes, he’s now at the mercy of those he bullied, berated and otherwise alienated while in his briefest of ascendancies. He left himself no wiggle room.

It’s going to be fun to watch him squirm.

not unhappily submitted by Cityslikr