Watching swearing-in of Rob Ford’s successor on TV most democratic way of welcoming Mayor Tory

Dec 5th, 2014 | By | Category: In Brief

Mayor John Tory ahead of the first council meeting of the term at Toronto City Hall on Tuesday December 2, 2014. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun).

Like others on this site, I have been an agnostic on John Tory – who was sworn in as the new Mayor of Toronto, Canada’s current largest metropolis, this past Tuesday.

(Mr. Tory succeeds the better internationally known Rob Ford, now battling a rare form of cancer. While he recovers, Rob is sitting as one of 44 mere members of City Council, representing his old pre-mayoral stomping ground of Ward 2, Etobicoke North.)

I was nonetheless drawn to the local TV coverage of the swearing-in ceremonies for Mayor Tory and his fellow City Councillors, on the remarkable Torontoist channel, cp24.

This was, in fact, the only way I could have seen the ceremonies  – and taken in all the “pomp and circumstance,” as the diverse but uniformly cute female cp24 reporters aptly called it.

To see the swearing-in ceremonies live, down at city hall, you needed a ticket. There is only so much space for visitors in the council chamber. We ordinary voters cannot aspire to such things.

Besides, just like sports, it’s actually better on TV. I saw, eg, Louise Russo place the chain of office on the shoulders  of the kneeling John Tory much better than someone in many if not most parts of the visitors’ gallery.

Mayor (Sir?) John Tory receives chain of office from Louise Russo.

Mayor Tory was kneeling because Louise Russo was in a wheel chair. And William “Bland Works” Davis from Brampton, the 85-year-old former Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier in the last golden age (1971—1985), had no doubt wisely handed the chain of office to Ms Russo. After blessing it with some kind of joke enjoyed by Mr Tory but inaudible to the TV audience.

At the same time, the image of the kneeling Mayor Tory having the chain of office placed on his shoulders by a dignified lady in a wheelchair evoked quasi-aristocratic themes from days long, long ago. (Even if the lady was also the tragic accidental victim of a drive-by shooting.) In this as in other respects, the 2014 swearing-in ceremonies looked like some old Toronto establishment (in several senses) repossessing its city, after the wild adventures of the crack-smoking right-wing populist demagogue, Rob Ford.

Not called John Tory for nothing

New Councillor Ford receives certificate from new Mayor Tory.

Louise Russo made a few remarks, about John Tory and her own Working Against Violence Everyday (W.A.V.E.) organization. Mayor Tory gave a longer talk.

Most impressively (I thought), Mayor Tory prefaced his talk with class-act words of thanks to former Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who did so much to pick up Rob Ford’s pieces, and to former Mayor Ford himself.

The lion’s share of the ceremonies was taken up by presentations of certificates of some sort to each of the 44 freshly elected 2014—2018 Council members (37 of whom were incumbents, also on the 2010—2014 Council) .

The framed certificates were presented by Mayor Tory. At each presentation the Councillor in question posed for a photo with the mayor.

Former City Councillor Karen Stintz – easily the cutest of all the candidates, and someone who stood up to Mayor Rob Ford early on – finally dropped out of the 2014 Toronto mayoral race. Sadly, for her supporters.

Some of the left-wing councillors were at least jocularly careful to pose for photos to the left of the mayor. And the running cp24 colour commentaries from Stephanie Smyth and former councillor Karen Stintz touched on the complaints raised in some quarters, about Mayor Tory’s failure to draw the serious left on council into his executive and committee appointments.

In the mainstream media Royson James and Edward Keenan at the Toronto Star have been especially aggressive in criticizing the new mayor for leaving the left (aka or especially the NDP as opposed to the Liberal left?) out of the “One Toronto” administration he claims to be trying to cobble together.

I think my own view on all this is finally that John Tory is just showing he still really or fundamentally is a conservative, as he has been all his life. He is not called John Tory for nothing, like his father and grandfather before him, etc. Those who voted for him strategically, fearing that only he could beat Rob (and then Doug) Ford, but also hope he has somehow become more progressive than usual, are (probably?) bound to be disappointed.

At the same time, perhaps because criticism from the likes of Royson James and Edward Keenan had already surfaced before the swearing-in took place, especially the later parts of new Mayor Tory’s own remarks at this past Tuesday’s ceremonies seemed to have more than usual to do with the plight of the least advantaged in all parts of Toronto today.

Where will the money come from?

The biggest trouble still is, as far as I can figure out at any rate, that John Tory’s rhetoric on several fronts implies public projects which would cost much more money than he seems at all prepared to raise.

(From the smart track subway to the “poverty reduction strategy” he has apparently assigned to token left-wing councillor Pam McConnell.)

To me the executive and committee appointments he has made – and even the business coach act in his talk at the swearing-in ceremonies –  do in fact suggest that Mayor Tory will for the most part be trying to give we the people of Toronto Mayor Ford’s kind of  low-tax policies and programs, without his … (mmm … how best to describe it?) public (and private?) personality …

As in the legendary Ray Faranzi’s fake campaign slogan : “The current mayor threatens to kill people and gets publicly drunk … If elected, I promise I will just get publicly drunk.”  (Well, no, that’s not quite it, of course : no one is expecting that Mayor John Tory will ever get publicly drunk. Still less that there will be photos of him smoking crack with drug dealers, etc … )

If I had to leave things on some kind of positive note, I think I would say that John Tory does seem to believe in what he calls public service.

(Though I’m not sure that what he means by the term is all that much like what I’d mean myself, if I were to use it.)

Mayor of Toronto, Canada at last does seem to be the kind of job Mr. Tory has been wanting all his life. Now he has it. There is no doubt he’s enthusiastic. And there seems no doubt he’ll try to do some things as well.

Mississauga Mayor’s Gala, November 2011. Charles Sousa, then Ontario Minister of Labour and his wife Zenny are joined by Barbara Hackett and husband and then radio host, John Tory.

I nonetheless remain an agnostic. I’m not at all sure that Mayor Tory understands where to guide the city, and/or how to get there. (Not that I do myself either, of course, but then I haven’t been running for mayor.)

My guess is that, for the more vital democratic city of our economic development dreams that Toronto should become, Mayor Tory will wind up leaving the really big tasks ahead to his successors.

But I could be wrong, like everyone else. And I might even be a bit happy if I am, and four years from now people are saying look at all the good John Tory has somehow managed to have some part in bringing about.

The Ford nation legacy, for the time being at least

Olivia Chow with Patrick Bailey at Jamaican Canadian Association, late August 2014. Where is she now?

My final thoughts here flow from a comment by former councillor Karen Stintz, in the midst of her cp24 colour commentary on TV. As best I can recall a few days later, it went something like “Rob Ford was sent to shake things up … and he did.”

This struck me as quite on the mark – and a good positive note on which to end for former Mayor Ford. As I watched all 44 councillors receive their certificates from new Mayor Tory, it also struck me that I am personally paying much more attention to Toronto city politics now than I have for a great many years.

I don’t know if that is a good thing. But if it is I probably owe at least part of it to Rob Ford!

Meanwhile, I am waiting to see just what John Tory will do, now that the city has been suitably shaken up!

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