Toronto’s selective democracy
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford get into arguments with spectators in the gallery in council chambers at City Hall Monday, November 18, 2013. (Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun)
Oh, of course we’re fans of democracy — just so long as the right guy is in office.
That’s the dominant view playing out at Toronto City Hall.
Yes, democracy is in crisis in Canada’s largest city. But not because of Mayor Rob Ford’s seemingly endless list of personal faults, but because of what’s being done to him.
Council removed the mayor’s emergency powers and appointment abilities on Friday and on Monday took away much of his budget and staff.
This doesn’t seem to violate the letter of the law. But it certainly violates the spirit of the law.
The vague argument to justify this is that Toronto is in crisis.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne — who might still intervene — said the situation is “extraordinary and unique” without elaborating.
The apolitical city manager Joe Pennachetti came out two weeks ago to pour water on this.
“The situation that is unfolding is unfortunate ... It has also resulted in some media reports that the City of Toronto is in crisis. This is not the case.”
Very few media outlets reported that the city’s top bureaucrat issued a correction on their activist reporting. This is because it didn’t fit the manic narrative unfolding at the time.
But some detractors have let their true intentions slip.
The main one is that — surprise, surprise — they just don’t like his politics.
Toronto Coun. Adam Vaughan on CTV News Sunday said after Ford loses his powers, “we will go on to deliver better and more mature and more stable government so that the services the city needs continue.”
“Better” government? Needed services? So he doesn’t like Ford’s policy priorities.
On a BBC radio debate, a blogger responded to me by saying Ford’s policies are hurting the city. Perhaps. So let the people vote him out in favour of other policies.
The other main reason is that people find Ford’s character intolerable.
John Doyle of the Globe and Mail went on Sun News Network to call Rob and Doug “hosers,” “boorish” and “lovable chumps.”
Vaughan condescendingly added on CTV that Toronto needs more government programs “so we don’t end up with more Mr. Fords in our city”.
Post Media’s Andrew Coyne argues Ford exemplifies a politics that is “aggressively dumb,” “harshly divisive,” has “contempt for learning” and “disdain for facts.”
What it seems many out there really want to say is that Ford is fat, dumb white trash.
And even if it’s true? Well, the people have the right to elect someone deemed an offensive unsavoury lummox by the rules of polite society.
The city solicitor was asked Monday if there was any precedent to these motions: “We’re aware of none.”
Ford is not charged with a crime, is not convicted of a crime, has not violated his fiduciary duties and Toronto is not “in crisis.”
Instead, Ford is facing many personal troubles, numerous disturbing allegations and is deeply opposed by some Torontonians.
The above provided zero justification to change the rules of council in a precedent-setting manner that could see every subsequent mayor abused in a similar fashion.
Right now the only options on hand seem to be for the mayor to take a leave of absence or to be voted out in the next election.
The fact that the mayor has not resigned when most politicians would have done so long ago is immaterial.
Barbarians are indeed at the gates. But not the supposed fat, dumb white trash barbarism of Ford Nation.
It’s the social media-paced mentality of Wynne, Vaughan, Coyne and the rest of the au courant mob.