The People’s Mayor

January 6, 2011

Having rid beleaguered Torontonians of the scourge of a vehicle registration tax and the Cecil B. DeMille excessiveness of councillors’ office budgets, Mayor Rob Ford has now set his sights on the 5¢ plastic bag fee. Why? Because over the holidays, the mayor talked to a lot of people who didn’t like it. No matter that all indications point to such levies reducing the demand for plastic bags and therefore doing their part, however humbly, in reducing our contribution to landfills. No matter that it’s just 5 fucking cents we’re talking about here. The mayor’s spoke to a lot of people. The people don’t like it. So it’s gone.

I wish, I really wish, I could share the magnanimity toward Mayor Ford that Eye Weekly’s Edward Keenan exhibits. Mr. Keenan wonders if our mayor isn’t more of a populist, just giving the people what the want, than he is a right wing, anti-government ideologue. The mayor as a mere conduit through which the peoples’ will is done.

Certainly, the mayor’s been talking up doing the people’s will with almost every pronouncement that he’s made lately. Why just yesterday in response to a study suggesting that his move to scrap Transit City made little sense, either fiscally or any other way, Mayor Ford stated, “It’s very simple. I campaigned on subways, I was elected as you know by a large mandate…People supported my subway plan and that’s what we’re going to go ahead with.”

Yet he seems much more flexible in regards to his ‘large mandate’ when it comes to property tax increases. That should be very simple as well. The mayor campaigned on a platform of keeping any property tax increase in line with the rate of inflation, I believe, poo-pooing his opponents’ call for a 0% property tax increase as being fiscally irresponsible. But now, well, the people “…just need some breathing space.”

The fact is, Rob Ford’s ‘large mandate’ was predicated on nothing more than restoring fiscal sanity to City Hall. He was given a ‘large mandate’ to put an end to wasteful spending. 47% of Toronto voters elected Rob Ford mayor on his pledge to (say it along with me) Stop The Gravy Train.

But as the budget process looms, nothing he’s done would suggest that he feels the least bit bound to doing the people’s will. Killing Transit City and replacing it with his subway scheme will be, he claims, revenue neutral but service far fewer people. That’s before any financial penalties manifest themselves for broken contracts and agreements now in place. Can you say, ‘wasteful spending’? His symbolic gesture of slashing office budgets amounts to a tiny, tiny fraction of the revenue lost by abolishing the VRT. Add to this the $55 million lost by not raising property taxes, and the mayor has dug himself a serious money pit that needs to be filled. Let’s not even bring up the subject of the 100 extra police officers the mayor promised.

None of which smacks of fiscal sanity. We certainly know cutting any services that the city provided was not part of his ‘large mandate’. Guaranteed. The mayor can hardly go to that well, claiming that’s why the people voted for him.

So what’s a populist mayor to do when the peoples’ will he is so steadfastly determined to carry out works at such cross-purposes? Hopefully all those people he spends so much time talking to can provide him with the answer. Otherwise, he just may have to make some difficult choices on his own, consequences be damned. The mayor might have to actually lead. And what kind of populist would he be if he had to do that.

curiously submitted by Cityslikr