I’m reading a Twitter thread observing that Premier Doug Ford’s gripe with municipal government (and based on his recent statements, this more than applies to Mayor John Tory as well) is that it’s a forum where consensus must be built. It’s not adversarial.
That’s a useful insight. Ford is a thug who has always got his way through intimidation. You can do that in an adversarial system like the Ontario Legislature, because you have wingmen in the form of political parties. His performance in the Ledge has shown that he doesn’t even respect the quaint niceties of parliamentary procedure, like speaking through the Speaker.
(You’re supposed to say, “Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Member I have heard that the Honourable Member is an ignorant poo-poo head, but I don’t believe the reports. Even if true, would she only remove her head from her arse, she would see that the sun is shining, the grass is green, and all is right from the world, and will only be better once beer sells for a dollar.” Instead, Ford says, “You socialist poo-poo head. You and Wynne made this province a mess and I’m the only one who can clean it up. That’s why I’m tabling this bill to contract out the clean-up to a mob-owned waste-management company.”)
Tory doesn’t get it, either, because everybody‘s on the same side in the dressing room at the racquet club. The only serious debates he‘s ever taken part in involved whether the riesling or the sauvignon blanc pairs better with foie gras. (He’s so unaccustomed to fighting, he has to bring in someone to do his dirty work for him. I understand his campaign fixer, Nick Kouvalis, just came back early from a vacation.)
Rob Ford’s mayoralty began with an impressive run of legislative success. He eliminated a vehicle registration tax that brought in $64 million a year. Privatized garbage collection west of Yonge Street. Took the right to strike away from transit workers. Cancelled an existing transit plan in favour of an ill-considered subway extension.
That went pear-shaped remarkably quickly. Doug Ford, who had taken over Rob’s council seat, started talking up the “plan” he and his brother had cooked up (I always enclose the word plan in scare quotes where Doug Ford is concerned, because it’s so rarely apparent there actually is one) for the waterfront. A mega-mall, with a giant Ferris wheel and — we kid you not — a monorail.
Mayor Ford’s approval rating plunged, a spate of rookie councillors realized they no longer had to fear the threats of political and electoral retribution being issued by the mayor’s handlers, and he lost control of council. Ultimately, he was stripped of many of his powers as mayor.
It was possible because city councillors in Toronto don’t run as members of a political party; they’re independent. Under our system, a mayor has to advance their agenda by building coalitions of councillors, each and every time they have a motion on the table. If they fail repeatedly to build consensus, there’s nothing left for them to do but cut ribbons at openings of car dealerships.
Doug Ford watched that happen. And it galled him. He’ll be much happier as premier, in a forum where he’s got 75 supporters, guaranteed, no matter how misguided or counterproductive his government’s legislation and policies may be.
And I think, beyond the supposed money-saving aspects of reducing the number of councillors in Toronto (and, one assumes he thinks, the number of potential dissenting voices), he’ll lift the ban on political parties at City Hall. And I think Mayor Tory would endorse the idea, because although he’s been largely successful at larding down the city with dubious megaprojects like SmartTrack and the Gardiner Expressway rebuild, and has been able to starve the city of the revenue it needs to pay for the raft of unfunded programs council has approved, well, he’s just had to work so damned hard to get there. Whipped votes would make his job so much easier.
They may be coming at it from different angles, but both of these men are going to be responsible for making Toronto city government less effective, less efficient, less accountable and less approachable. All the while, insisting that the opposite is the case. And when it becomes undeniable that they’re wrong, they’ll find villains to blame — “obstructionist Liberals,” maybe, or ”the looney Left.” Or it’ll be “the bureaucracy” that’s bogging everything down. Because I’ve yet to hear Doug Ford or John Tory take responsibility for any failure that has occurred on their respective watches.