Doug Ford as some major league democrat is more than a bit of a stretch

Nov 19th, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

Renata (Mrs. Rob) Ford, at her husband’s city hall press conference, November 15, 2013.

It is now about 3 AM on the morning of November 19, 2013. And what may or may not prove to be Toronto City Council’s successful attempt yesterday to deal with the Jones brothers’ strange new concept of democracy in northern North America lingers on.

(Oh and you should know, if you don’t already, that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his municipal councillor brother Doug call each other “Jones.” And for the other basic data here see these two items from the website of your tax-supported public broadcaster : “Rob Ford promises ‘outright war’ as powers further restricted … Council votes after long debate that saw chaos and a mid-chamber collision” ; and “Rob Ford says he’s quit drinking, has had ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment … CBC interview comes after council votes to restrict Toronto mayor’s budget.”)

We bleary-eyed counterweights editors do agree that we should pack it all in for the night. But having reviewed our own collection of essential documents one last time, we  feel almost morally bound to stay up just a little longer, and commit something to the marvellous new equivalent of paper that the wonderful world of websites puts at our command.

So … we think Peter Mansbridge and CBC TV made a mistake by giving the Rob and Doug show more attention than it deserves this past evening. We agree that a serious commitment to democracy demands some respect for the democratic enough weight and heft of the so-called Ford Nation. But what Doug Ford especially has been saying about the anti-democratic plots of Toronto City Council overlooks the plain truth that the Council members were also elected by the people of the city in the fall of 2010. A while back Doug Ford was urging that Toronto should have the kind of strong-mayor municipal political system that Chicago has. But, then as now, he seems to have forgotten that the system Toronto actually has is one  in which the mayor’s ability to implement policy depends on building council majorities in support of his or her plans.

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Councillor Doug Ford makes his way to council chamber as his fellow councillors look to pass motions to limit the powers of his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, November 18, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.

The man from an earlier era who some still call the dean of Toronto municipal law, George Rust D’Eye, has said “that council does not have the authority to take powers away from the mayor.” And challenges in the courts launched by Fords may show that this is correct. Meanwhile, to paraphrase Doug Ford himself, we’d just ask where is it written that George Rust D’Eye is God?

In a similar spirit, we are recommending a half dozen recent items in the news. The first is “Ford brothers lurch from low to low” – an account of yesterday’s Toronto City Council meeting by Christie Blatchford, a conservative journalist who no one in their right mind would accuse of the kind of pinko sympathies that incense some self-appointed Ford Nation apostles. The second is “Menace, a mayor, a mockery, manipulation and a message,” a similar admirable account by Andrew Coyne – a perhaps at least noble apostle of what was best in the old order.

We also recommend : “Ford Nation show sounds like a rerun throughout its Sun News Network debut” ; “Rob Ford on Fox News: ‘I want to run for prime minister’” (mmmmmmmm, of course!) ; “Ontario Tories willing to back Liberals and intervene in Ford situation” ; and “The Humiliation of Renata Ford:  It’s Time To Stop Using Wives and Children As Political Props” – by the lovely Susanna Kelley at Ontario News Watch.

Finally, we have just three more thoughts, and then we will at last go home to our wives and children, safely in bed, etc, etc, etc:

(1) “An Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of CTV and its affiliates” has “found that 48% of Toronto’s residents believe the city is on the right track, compared to 52%  who say it is ‘headed in the wrong direction.’” This does reflect, we think, the extent to which Toronto is changing. And it is important for all the old elites, right and left, to embrace this change more vigorously. At the same time, this same poll also asked Toronto residents “to rate the trustworthiness of their civic leaders.” And here are the results for this question: Police Chief Bill Blair: 73% ; Toronto MP Olivia Chow: 65% ; Radio personality John Tory: 61% ; Councillor Karen Stintz: 55% ; Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: 54% ; Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly: 47% ; Councillor Adam Vaughan: 43% ; Prime Minister Stephen Harper: 42% ; and Mayor Rob Ford: 34%.

(2) Canadians who are too impressed by the US media attention Rob Ford has been receiving lately might want to remember that even “Harvard students have no idea what the capital of Canada is” – etc, etc, etc!

(3) We have also spent too much time this evening (er morning) collating the preliminary results of our counterweights editors Toronto property tax survey for the years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. Remember here that Rob Ford was elected mayor in the fall of 2010. Based on the average change for all editors still present with their property tax data, during the first year of the Ford regime our property taxes increased by a little more than one half of one per cent (thanks, as we somewhat vaguely recall, to a tidy surplus left by the Miller regime????). During the second year our property taxes increased by somewhat more than 2%, and during the third year by somewhat more than 5%!

There are various things that might also be said here regarding changing property values. But as usual the ultimate proof of the pudding is in the eating. For we Toronto property taxpayers the idea that the Jones brothers have somehow ended the gravy train at city hall is just yet another of Doug Ford’s fantasies. And we will certainly be staying tuned to find out what happens from here!

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