Friday, March 23, 2012

The Icredible Shrinking Mayor

A cautionary tale is unfolding in the city of Toronto.Yesterday, for the second time in recent memory, Toronto City Council told Mayor Rob Ford to take a walk down to the bottom of John Street and jump in the lake. Ford's story is about more than his obsession with subways. It's about a man who suffers from the delusion that, because he possesses what Teddy Roosevelt called a "bully pulpit," he also has the right to be a political bully.

That delusion is underscored by the fact that the man who vowed to cut taxes with a vengeance was willing to impose a tax increase to get his subways.The irony is as rich as the proclamation of the long dead despot in Shelley's poem: "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

Toronto's library workers have just gone on strike. The city's inside workers are now poised to walk out, too. But Ford is in no mood to compromise, either with council or the city's work force. Like Ozymandias, he expects all to bow before him.

Ford recently -- to great fanfare -- went on a crash diet. At last report his weight loss had stalled. Now,  everything else at city hall is beginning to crash. There are obvious lessons for other politicians here. One is that, when "we the people" get organized, all hell can break loose. It will be interesting to see who is paying attention.


Anonymous said...

"That delusion is underscored by the fact that the man who vowed to cut taxes with a vengeance was willing to impose a tax increase to get his subways."

Was he really willing to impose taxes though? I saw reports about the city council "killing" Ford's "plan". But... did he ever have a plan? Seriously, did he EVER have a plan? He got elected with a slogan (or two?), now with a plan. After election.... he still has only a slogan or two. His record at city hall before he was elected mayor is evidence of that.

The fact that city hall has repudiated him on a few occasions (the same city hall that earlier gave him what he wanted) is a sign of hope. It's democracy in action, as messy and imperfect as it is. I find it comforting that the one man (yes, man) who gains power with less than 50% of the popular vote doesn't have 100% of the power.


Owen Gray said...

It's true, Anon, that he never really had a plan. But he did have a track record -- which Marcus Gee (in the Globe and Mail) reviews in an open letter to the electors of Toronto.

I often don't agree with Gee. But, when he writes that Torontoians should not be surprised that it has come to this, I think he's right.

There is hope -- if Torontoians see the error of their ways.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is still hard to understand how a "progressive city" like Toronto could elect this "good old boy". Why did Calgary have to get the interesting mayor with progressive ideals and people skills.

You would thing a man who served on Council would know that Toronto government system is "council driven" no a mayor dominated one. A mayor has be to able to negotiate and compromise to shape the programs. Ford seems incapable of this.

Owen Gray said...

Worse still, Philip, he has begun a campaign to take out those councilors who will not vote his way.

Rather than deal with them, he proposes to take them out. It sounds like he's been talking strategy with Stephen Harper.