Toronto City Council Chambers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As soon as I heard that a judge had ruled that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was found guilty of violating the Municipal Conflict Of Interest Act and ordered to be removed from office in 14 days, I knew that lefties in Toronto and on Toronto Council were in celebration mode. I also knew that my Facebook page and blog were going to be quite popular with the “I told you so” comments.
I was correct. Not only were there plenty of comments about the situation and questions about what happens next, but thrown in were the regular attacks on Ford for being; fat, boorish, dumb, uncultured, uneducated, balding and ignorant. Whew. Such attacks for a man who was voted in as Mayor or Toronto and was removed over $3100 which he never received but which went to an organization which helps children. I guarantee no-one in Toronto would have ever done this to previous Mayor David Miller. Never.
Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, the man who brought Paul Magder and Clayton Ruby together to bring down Ford in this conflict-of-interest court battle is a labour relations specialist for the association representing Ontario civil servants claims. On his Twitter feed he states that he is a “non-profit exec” and “an advocate for strong communities and accountable government”.
Chaleff-Freudenthaler was a regular fixture around City Hall when David Miller was in power and he was a part of Olivia Chow’s Toronto Youth Cabinet. As a union-employee and given Ford’s anti-union attitudes in Toronto (TTC, garbage collection, employees, etc) it’s no surprise that this played out the way it did.
You can read the entirety of the judge’s decision here.
The decision created an uncertain situation at Toronto City Hall. Next steps will depend on the success of the Ford’s appeal and, if successful, the length of the ensuing court process. If his appeal is not granted or is unsuccessful, Toronto City Council will either call a by-election or name someone as the interim Mayor for the duration of the term. Already posturing for this interim role is the left-wing hope, Adam Vaughan, who speaks very well, rarely raises his voice, asks great questions and is slowly selling out the downtown core that is his ward to developers.
Even my left-leaning City Councillor, Joe Mihevc couldn’t hold back the giggles as he stated “Justice was done. There is not a law for people with power and those who don’t have power–it’s the same law. If you are the mayor of this city you have to respect conflict of interest legislation.” Bad for Toronto, but great for the left-wing block in a non-partisan municipal government.
As Mayor, Ford provided the city with much less leadership than many had expected from him, instead finding him caught up in left vs. right politics and picking fights with anyone who dared to question or delay his clear vision on how Toronto should be run. Granted, there were many on council like my own councillor Joe Mihevc who were ready for fighting from the day Ford was named Mayor. With a council stacked with left-wing councillors, and the Toronto Star peeking in his backyard, Ford could do not right and the lefties attacked like never before. Ford is too fat, he didn’t lose enough weight, he was not smart enough, he spent too much time on football, he was too tight with his brother… The list is seemingly endless and the public attacks on Ford were justified again and again by folks in downtown Toronto who Ford called “Commie Pinkos” and they felt that Ford discredited the city by being mayor, something I never understood.
Look at the alternative in the past election, George Smitherman. Fresh off blowing $1 billion dollars of taxpayers money as deputy premier and former Minister of Health, the eHealth fiasco was the tip of the iceberg for the Ontario Liberal Party, yet somehow those in downtown Toronto felt Smitherman would be a better choice that Ford. Maybe they could look past the horrid fiscal mismanagement and lack of apparent leadership but most Torontonians could not. Smitherman as Mayor would mean tax, upon tax, upon tax. Toronto would be bankrupt, but Smitherman would look good, eh?
Personally, I never found Ford to be the Mayor-type. I recall his drunken outburst at a Leafs game quite a while back and I know he’s had some issues both personally and professionally, but Toronto was facing a major cash-crunch, property tax increases of 3% a year were the easy solution for the previous Mayor David Miller and a fiscal conservative was needed to get the books in order. With no other choices, Toronto selected the one who pledged to “respect taxpayers” and Ford was brought to power.
Rough, crude, abrasive and brutish, Ford fought with everyone not because his views were unpopular, but because every decision he made was so heavily scrutinized in the left-leaning media that he was forced to defend each issue which he did a poor job of. It got so out of control that even author Margaret Atwood was brought into the fray when Ford said that he was looking for “gravy” – or areas where he could reduce expenses by closing or selling off assets that the City owned or operated that he felt the City should not be responsible for.
Was it wrong to look at parts of the City where there were libraries very close to each other and suggest that one be closed and the other used instead? Absolutely not, unless you’re a right-wing politician, then you are deemed to be anti-literature and next thing you know there are polls showing that Ms. Atwood would be a better choice for mayor. That public outcry on this issue was embarrassing to the City. The thought that a professional author could run a city was as asinine as suggesting that a councillor could write best-selling novels, yet the downtown Toronto folks lapped it up.
Was it wrong for Ford to contract out garbage pick-up in order to save money? Not at all, and because this has also turned into a major service upgrade, no one complains. How about contracting out the cleaning of TTC buses? Another Ford suggestion which was faced with fire from unions only because they know that if taxpayers knew the TTC paid their unionized workers upwards of $80.00 and hour to clean only 2-buses on their shift, there would be an outcry. Contracting this out may go against the unions but the cost-savings would be huge.
And was Ford wrong to suggest that Toronto needs subways, not LRT’s? Again, no. Toronto wants to be a world-class city but at the current pace and costs we’ll never see coverage of this expanding city in our lifetime. Unionized workers are too expensive and take too long and Toronto cannot afford it, and Ontario blew all their money on stupid decisions not called eHealth but might be related to powerplants and buying elections so they cannot contribute. Things were moving forward until Karen Stintz stepped in the way, drawing the ire of the Ford brothers and forcing on Toronto what they do not want.
It’s been a challenge for Ford, that’s no lie, and he’s played right into the hands of those who don’t want him there. Instead of hiring people to act as buffers he preferred to lead as he always had as a long-serving councillor and that meant some bumps in the road, gaffs, and lots of photo-ops of him with a double chin and naked in a Toronto magazine that I will not mention here.
At the end of the day, no matter who the mayor of Toronto is, the left vs. right conflict has to come to an end. Councillors are supposed to be non-partisan and should be serving their constituents and finding ways to expand transit, reduce gridlock, keep neighbourhoods safe, while preserving the history of the city and not wasting the taxpayers hard-earned money. Our city should not be divided for political purposes between left-wing and right-wing or by downtown vs the suburbs. We are all residents of Toronto and no matter where you live you should be able to receive answers to your questions and see progress in making this city more accessible and not wasting your tax dollars.
As an aside, see what punishment other Canadian Mayors in conflicts of interest situations received, here;