Who lost the week? Rob Ford (again). And who won? Mayoral candidates who aren’t Rob Ford.
Gene Jones resigned as the CEO of Toronto Community Housing on Friday, days after a report from ombudsman Fiona Crean found an “abject failure of leadership” at the housing agency.
Crean discovered that Jones and other TCHC staff had disregarded human-resources regulations, handed out large raises and promotions without due process, and generally ran the housing agency “as though it were their own personal fiefdom.” (If you’re not up to speed on Crean’s findings, read our own Edward Keenan on the scandal.)
Rob Ford responded to the report by calling for Crean’s job to be eliminated (the position is required under the City of Toronto Act), and suggesting that there was some sort of political conspiracy against Jones. If there was, the CEO had a funny way of showing it: Jones and TCHC chair Bud Purves wrote to Crean before she released her report, and said they would “address [the] deficiencies” she had uncovered.
Ford’s opponents, meanwhile, made use of the easy political ammunition in a series of statements:
Olivia Chow: “There were serious problems in the way TCHC was run. As such, the opportunity for new leadership is welcome…. Similarly, I also hope our city changes its leadership.”
Karen Stintz: “Today, the board of directors acted responsibly. This is clearly an organization that is not functioning as it should be, and the mayor’s lack of leadership is to blame.”
John Tory: “This is just another example of Ford chaos…. Mr. Jones broke many rules, many times and suffered the same fate most other people would suffer if they did that where they work.”
David Soknacki had the most comprehensive response of the major mayoral candidates, and suggested the city create a central pool of staff to aid with investigations by the ombudsperson, the auditor general, and the integrity commissioner. Soknacki said the city already has staff with the expertise to aid investigations like Crean’s, but he wouldn’t hesitate to make new hires when necessary.
“At the end of the day, it would be fair value for the money spent,” Soknacki said in an interview.
If Ford’s crack-smoking didn’t alienate his followers, his support for Jones won’t either. But empathically endorsing someone who handed out taxpayer dollars like goldfish at a carnival isn’t a winning strategy. For that, Ford lost last week, and his opponents won. If they’re smart, they could turn Crean’s findings into this campaign’s $12,000 retirement party.
Candidate to watch: Keegan Henry-Mathieu, Ward 7
After he registered to run for councillor in Ward 7 (York West), Keegan Henry-Mathieu couldn’t sleep for two weeks. At just 26, he knew he was a long-shot, especially since he had none of the experience and financial muscle of most politicians. Since then, though, he’s found support from other candidates, like Saeed Selvam and Lekan Olawoye, who are making similarly ambitious runs for wards held by well-established politicians. And he’s campaigning hard.
“We’re all candidates coming out of nowhere,” Henry-Mathieu said, “facing off against individuals that are well-known in the neighbourhood, but haven’t really been challenged by individuals that are from the next generation of politics.”
After about 10 years of political advocacy work at City Hall and several weeks of canvassing, Henry-Mathieu has identified the problems that will await him if he’s elected: absentee landlords and aging buildings, crowded public transportation, and gridlocked streets.
Henry-Mathieu wants to rigorously target negligent landlords by hiking fines for standards violations, so that large, commercial property owners can’t afford to let their buildings fall into disrepair. To improve TCHC, Henry-Mathieu suggests elevating tenants to senior positions in the agency, rather than “flying in people from the US to do something that we can do ourselves.”
On transit, he supports Chow’s proposal to expand bus service, particularly if it means more vehicles on Weston, Islington, and Jane. As a former chair of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, created by Chow, Henry-Mathieu lists the former MP as one of his mentors. He’s also been receiving campaign advice from Maria Augimeri and Shelley Carroll.
If he wins on Oct. 27, Henry-Mathieu will represent a ward in which he says distrust of the police is common—and justified. The police services board recently voted to tighten the force’s carding policies, but Henry-Mathieu believes the practice should be eliminated completely.
“When I see the Ontario Human Rights Commission outright ask the police board to end the practice, I find it very difficult to accept anything other than a complete stop—a complete end to the practice altogether.”
What does John Tory think about LRTs?
Tory, who has repeatedly said the city must stop re-opening old transit debates, will not endorse the Finch and Sheppard LRT lines—at least not yet. In an email, Tory spokesperson Amanda Galbraith wrote, “With respect to the Finch and Sheppard lines, we’ll be coming out with our full transit plan in the coming weeks following the provincial budget.” This appears to be a stock campaign message for reporters.
What you might have missed
OK, so it wasn’t all good news for Ford’s opponents last week. Maria Augimeri is aiming to undo Stintz’s cuts at the TTC. And Warren Kinsella of the Chow campaign was named in a Globe investigation about public money paid to “friends and allies of political operatives in Ontario.”
Denzil Minnan-Wong is running for re-election in Ward 34, ending speculation that he’d run for mayor.
Sandra Bussin may run for her old seat in Ward 32. A race between Bussin and Mary-Margaret McMahon could be one of many rematches happening in council races across the city.
Not to be outdone by Tory’s proposal to double the city’s tree-planting budget, Chow and about 20 supporters biked to the Green Living Show on Friday, where the candidate announced her plan to plant one million trees over the next 10 years.
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