So here’s what just happened at the meeting of Mayor Rob Ford’s Executive Committee, moments ago as I write this: a slim majority (6-4) voted to defer voting on recommending new transit funding tools until later. How much later? A day after Metrolinx’s meeting where they’ll decide which revenue tools to recommend. The recommendations that will go to the province days later in order to decide how the GTA will pay for transit for a generation.
Rob Ford, Frank Di Giorgio, Norm Kelly, David Shiner, Cesar Palacio, and Gary Crawford. Those are the six who voted to remain silent on what might be the biggest quality of life decision the province will make on our behalf this year, or in many, many years. What a sad sack bunch that is. Michael Thompson, among others, was absent.
They didn’t vote to recommend some other set of tools, of course (say, a bake-sales and talent shows plan—which could work because Gary Crawford has spent more time playing music in front of political crowds in the past year than he has saying anything of substance). They didn’t vote to reject the idea of funding transit altogether. At least if they had done one of those things, they’d have been making a decision—putting their ideas out there in front of council and the voters so they can be judged for them. I would have criticized them if they had done that, because they’d still have been wrong, but I could at least muster some bit of respect for their integrity. If they decided to stand for something.
Instead, they decided to stand for nothing. They just voted to do nothing until it will be too late. The mayor, getting handed the ball with a minute left on the clock, down by two points, decided to just kneel down with the ball. Pathetic.
Mayor Ford gave a speech, of course: he said the whole process was “ass-backwards.” He said a provincial election might be coming right up, and who knows what will happen then? He said hell would freeze over before he supported these tools. And then he took a knee. Because why make a tough decision when you don’t have to? Why try to steer the provincial discussion when you can wait to see what they do and then complain about it, and blame them for any fallout? Why lead?
It is pathetic. This is our mayor. And this is his team of pet jellyfish, all five who remain on his own executive.
Council can fix it, of course, and most likely will. They could, at the next council meeting, revive the item for debate with 30 council votes—votes those who want to have this talk about transit funding probably have. Or they could, with the signatures of just 23 councillors, call a special meeting on this. Which is what Adam Vaughan is talking about doing now.
And so for the second year in a row, the mayor will see council respond to his lack of leadership by calling a special meeting over his objections, at which they’ll do what needs doing for the city on public transit. They can do it, and probably will. But they shouldn’t have to.
Of course, the mayor wants them to do that. His Chief of Staff, Mark Towhey, was apparently telling reporters today how exciting he finds the prospect of the mayor’s opponents calling a special meeting to implement taxes. You can see why: in next year’s election campaign, Rob Ford can blame those guys for raising taxes!
Now, if you actually care about the city, about governing, about doing what you can to make the city a better place, then the prospect of your opponents repeatedly humiliating you is not exciting. What’s exciting if you care about those things is implementing your plans. But if you have essentially given up on doing the job the people of Toronto elected you to do, the job they pay you to do, then it’s all a fun game of seeing what might turn into a wedge issue in the next election campaign. Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto, thinks he gets to run again on the anti-government, these-guys-running-this-place-are-incompetent load of hooey he ran on before. Neat trick. Who knows, it could work. It worked for him last time. It’s the only political point he’s ever known how to make, and the only one he’s ever had to make.
But it’s not leadership. It is beneath his office, beneath this city, beneath the trust of the voters and taxpayers who elected him. Instead of doing his job, he’s playing a cynical, cowardly, political game. Let someone else make the difficult decisions so he can complain about them.
Does he wonder why almost all of the strong coalition of supporters he had on council to begin with has abandoned him? Does he wonder why even on his executive committee—his cabinet—forty per cent vote against him on a key issue? Maybe he doesn’t. He won the mayor’s office in the first place by being an ineffectual ranting loner who lost every vote 44-1. He’s on schedule to work himself back into that position in time to run that way again. That may be where Rob Ford is comfortable. That may what he does best. But it is not leadership.
PHOTO: STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR