Everything else pales. The unsurprising, lifeless re-election of John Tory as mayor. The handful of upsets and pleasant surprises at the council level. Even the uptick toward a more inclusive representation in City Hall, greater (but still unequal) gender balance, fewer pasty white faces (the Tory caucus, I’ll call them). A typical election night in its disappointments and triumphs. Continue reading →
Politics in Toronto right now is how I imagine it feels to be on an airplane when the engines shut down in midflight. It’s not yet a catastrophic failure. Nothing’s on fire. You can’t smell smoke. You are, in fact, gliding, maintaining enough altitude to convince yourself and the hysterical man sitting beside you that everything’s fine, just a glitch. No need to shit your pants at the moment.
You keep repeating Captain Sully Sullenberger’s name over and over again in your head, and remember Air Transat Flight 236, that fuelless Airbus that landed in one piece in the Azores. Besides, what are the chances of your actually dying in an airplane crash? Infinitesimally low. Don’t panic. Everything’s going to be A-OK.
As everybody’s pointed out by now — the latest observation coming from Matt Elliott — Team Ford has moved beyond autopilot at this juncture, and simply switched the engines off, it would seem. Sitting back to enjoy the view, they appear confident that they can re-engage the system in about 18 months and coast smoothly into re-election mode. In the meantime, it’s all, Look, ma! No hands!!
But I have to say, watching the mayor in inaction lately makes me wonder why on earth he’d want to win again in 2014. He really doesn’t appear to be enjoying the job. Why would he inflict another 4 years on himself?
I know the working theory.
The mayor and his councillor-brother are already hard at it, kicking into campaign mode, and preparing to back a slate of pro-Ford candidates that, once installed, will make governing much easier for Mayor Ford. A simple clapping of the hands and His Worship’s will will be done. Just a few more Vincent Crisantis and a few fewer Gloria Lindsay Lubys and we will be truly a Ford Nation Toronto, united under fealty to the Emperor of Etobicoke.
It’s this kind of magical thinking, I believe, that has suspended the mayor in animation at this point. It was all going to be so easy. City Hall didn’t have a revenue problem, it had a spending problem. Stop the spending. Stop taxing. Everything would be gravy(less). Only some sort of career politician not looking out for the little guy would make it more complicated than that.
“You can’t run a government if you hate government,” John Moore wrote in the National Post a couple months ago. Or, in riff on the old H.L. Mencken nugget, you provide clear, simple and wrong answers to complex problems. This isn’t rocket science, folks. This isn’t the private sector. It’s government. How hard could it possibly be?
As the mayor is discovering, yeah, it’s pretty hard. So he’s retreated back into his own little cocoon, hoping for a more favourable roll of the dice, councillor-wise, in a couple years. Then, you’ll see, it’ll be a snap.
Leaving us to do what?
While Mayor Ford and his brother air their views and policy initiatives on their weekly radio show, their once surprisingly formidable team has dwindled to a few unreliable courtiers. Those who still believe do so in a way that is seldom helpful to the cause. I mean, if your movement depends on the likes of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong to provide the voice of reason and sound judgement, clearly there’s some sort of engine problems.
For others, it’s now blatantly just a marriage of convenience. No pressing the ejector seat, pulling the ripcord and parachuting to safety because you’re either too lazy, too unsure how this is all still going to play out or too in love with your committee chair position to risk losing it due to mayoral ire. So you quietly go about your business working matters out with councillors Mayor Ford isn’t in the habit of dealing with, hoping that whatever it is you’re working on has long since disappeared down the mayor’s disinterest hole.
The fact is, getting past ‘the mandate’ the mayor got in his ‘landslide’ election in 2010, he was among very few politicians elected municipally to have much of that Tea Party sensibility. The Fords. The Deputy Mayor. The Budget Chief. The Speaker. The afore-mentioned councillors Minnan-Wong and Crisanti.
As angry as 47% of voters in Toronto were in 2010, few of them hated government as much as they hated the government Rob Ford successfully convinced them had been in control down at City Hall during his time there. Now that the curtain’s been pulled back, revealing nothing more to it than a dyspeptic, dystopian view of government in general that’s fetidly percolated in the psyche of our mayor, his has become a lonely vigil. How exactly do you maintain anti-government momentum toward a government you ostensibly lead? It defies the laws of physics, even electoral physics. (Yes, such a thing exists.)
The best thing councillors could be doing right now, especially those who Team Ford will be targeting in 2014 (and you know who you are), is to govern well. Show your constituents and the city that government is not inherently evil, unhelpful or whatever other term of derision the mayor and his brother will throw at it. Government can only be bad when it governs badly which this administration is doing currently. The surest way to help the mayor now would be to continue to enable him, expending energy propping him up and pretending he’s become anything but political dead weight.
Time to remove the mayor and his brother from the cockpit and switch from auto-pilot over to co-pilot.