Shooting The Messengers

What the fuck is up with city council?

Just days away from yet another sanctioned apology from Rob Ford by the Integrity Commissioner for yet another ethical lapse on his part while serving as mayor wtf– What for this time? The use of ethnic/racial slurs – and a lobbyist registrar’s report of improper lobbying of then Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, then conuncillor, Doug, by one of their family business’ clients, a couple freshman councillors are bringing a motion to next week’s council meeting that would diminish the oversight of all four accountability offices through amalgamation.

It’s as if, seeing the slime trail left behind by the Fords (and a few other councillors) from last term, the response is to lessen the ooze by checking the investigative process instead of changing the greasy behaviour.

What exactly these new councillors, motion mover, Stephen Holyday, and seconder, Justin Di Ciano have against the accountability officers is difficult to fathom. They’ve been in office for less than four months. Some sort of pre-emptive axe grinding? Who knows. metooBut it is another full frontal attack on the accountability offices that began at the last budget committee meeting with a Councillor Michelle Berardinetti walk on motion to reject all increased funding requests by the Ombudsman and Integrity Commissioner. A motion supported by Councillor Di Ciano and another rookie Etobicoke councillor, John Campbell (not to mention the budget chief himself, Gary Crawford).

Mayor John Tory managed to walk that one back ever so slightly, pushing a motion at the following council meeting to partially restore the funding request a slight fraction. A gesture which amounted to little more than seeing the Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, announce she would not be seeking reappointment, fearing the `divisiveness’ would do long term harm to the office itself. Good job, Creanie, is essentially how the mayor greeted that news, and then his Executive Committee passed a motion to keep future Ombudsman’s gigs to just one, 7 year term, replacing the current 2 term, 5 years each, the 2nd, renewable at council’s pleasure, thereby reducing the politicking of the appointment process to just a one-time thing. Probably pragmatic politics but for the absolute wrong reasons.

I mean, what reason is there to resist strengthening oversight of the operations at City Hall, both the public service and elected officials? There’s been no credible criticism of the job any of the accountability officers have done. Report after report from them has been accepted by city council and city staff, many recommendations implemented. pokeintheeyeThis has never been a question of competence or performance.

So, what then?

There is no good or satisfying answer to that. Various councillors, including one currently under criminal investigation for accepting $80,000 from a fundraiser back in 2013, have seen the accountability investigations as some sort of witch hunt. During the hyper-partisan years of the Ford Administration, the work done by the Ombudsman, Integrity Commissioner, Lobbyist Registrar became characterized as some sort of left-right issue, non-elected bodies trying to undermine the democratic will of the voters of Toronto. These weren’t misdeeds or missteps being committed, but acts running contrary to the sore losers on the left.

Such were dynamics of the day.

Yet these motions seem intent on dragging this past fractiousness forward, keeping the matter alive. The mayor, councillors Campbell, Di Ciano, Holyday had nothing to do with any of it. Now they seem to want to join the fray. (Matt Elliott has his usual excellent insight into the seemingly passive-aggressive role Mayor Tory’s playing in this sad melodrama.) suffocateIt’s not even clear whether the motion will be in order, if it contravenes the City of Toronto Act, which had established the accountability offices or would require changing that act.

With so much else that needs tending to in Toronto, we all know the list: infrastructure, affordable housing, transit, why are councillors wasting their time, as well as ours, and, undoubtedly, threatening to further dig a partisan divide, by attacking and diminishing the accountability offices?

We need to listen very carefully to each and every councillor who rises to speak in favour of this motion next week at city council. They must spell out clearly and concisely why they think folding 4 offices into 2, 4 offices which overlap only in the function of providing oversight, will help to increase transparency and public scrutiny of the job City Hall is doing. Because, right now, I can’t think of one compelling reason to do what councillors Holyday and Di Ciano are proposing to do. Not one.

Moreover, Mayor Tory needs to step up to the plate and lead the charge killing this thing. He is too back-roomed up, too chock full of potential conflicts of interest through his continued affiliation with the likes of Rogers, brooma senior staffer of his and former lobbyist already tsked tsked by the Registrar for a lobbying transgression back in 2012 and raising eyebrows in his current capacity for talking up a Toronto Library Board candidate for the chair, to be seen as anything other than unequivocal in his opposition to any potential weakening of the accountability offices. The mayor cannot shy away from this this time around. Otherwise, he will establish the tone at City Hall that oversight is negotiable.

dubiously submitted by Cityslikr

The Ghosts of John Tory Haunt Us Still

Call me naïve. Call me simple-minded. Call me Pollyanna Pureheart with Starz in Her Eyez but I got to tell you when I see a headline like this:

Tory bigwig Capobianco joins Rossi camp

my blood runs cold, cold, cold.

Officially, no political party colours hang over our municipal politics but the truth of the matter is that the backrooms are awash in them. So far in the early days of campaign 2K10™®© the walls are running Tory blue. And yes, I do mean that as a political double entendre.

Since John Tory’s announcement that he would take a pass on vying for Toronto’s top job, the money chasers (or bagmen, in the common parlance) and strategists have been scrambling to find a candidate to get their hooks into. Self-proclaimed political neophyte and red Tory Liberal #2, Rocco Rossi, has been the beneficiary of much of this backroom booty. Aside from the above mentioned John Capobianco, Rossi has landed the nods of approval from other cloak-and-dagger, Tory-leaners like John Matheson, Vic Gupta, Rod Phillips and Andy Pringle.

For his part, January frontrunner and red Tory Liberal #1, George Smitherman, has bagged the big buck, Bay Street lawyer and all-round mucky muck, Ralph Lean. Lean is a major league kingmaker and it was his very public break with Mayor David Miller in mid-September last year that appears to have struck the fatal blow to any thought Miller may have had about running for a third term. Reading the National Post article in which Lean ticks off the ways in which Mayor Miller had failed him is a little spooky in the paper’s deference to such a shadowy, unelected figure. The fact that Miller announced that he was not running for re-election a mere 10 days after the article was published has to be seen as something more than a mere coincidence and suggests that Lean swings some mighty big pipe.

What Lean, Capobianco and all these other guys (and yes, the majority of these high placed operatives are indeed men) have in common is that they bleed deep Conservative blue and/or were well connected into the insanely dysfunctional Mel Lastman regime. Some also pulled the strings behind the scenes of the Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves. All of which should make Torontonians more than a little nervous as these administrations contributed mightily to bringing the city to its knees.

So when the likes of George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi start waxing on about fiscal housekeeping, selling off Toronto’s assets, privatizing public services and all the other neo-liberal drivel that’s been passed off as “common sense”, know that the words they speak are not their own. It is the voice of the men behind the curtain. Men who, as recent history has shown us, do not have the best interests of the people of Toronto at heart.

admonitorily submitted by Cityslikr