Doug Ford is full of surprises. Or maybe not. Maybe we should have known a vengeful, right-wing populist elected with no plan would use his power to carry out vendettas against political opponents.
More surprising is how fast Toronto mayor John Tory surrendered.
In the general election only six weeks ago, Doug Ford said nothing – to the people, anyway – about disrupting municipal elections.
Then three weeks ago Mayor Tory met privately with Premier Ford. On the top of Tory’s agenda was to get more power for himself. This was also without the knowledge of the people. Conservatives. Go figure.
It took Tory two weeks – until the night before Ford was to go public – to ‘fess up. Then he revealed he’d talked with Ford about changing council’s constitution. And, it turned out later, the conversation wasn’t abstract. Monday, Tory confirmed Ford told him he was thinking of changing the electoral map for the election already in progress.
Tory’s response was to call it impractical. And, no doubt, to steer conversation back to his request for more power.
Impractical. Not wrong. Or illegitimate. Or undemocratic. An insult. Outrageous. Contrary to the Toronto-Ontario consultation agreement. An affront to the months of consultation his city had just completed on new ward boundaries. Tory didn’t say it he would fight it, tell everyone and rally opposition.
Impractical. Surely, to Doug Ford, Tory’s lack of concern – or perhaps his concern only for himself – was a green light.
The morning Ford was to announce his plan, Tory held a press conference. Not one councillor by his side. No plan to fight Ford’s sabotage – on the contrary, he offered a referendum to legitimize it.
On the contrary, Tory ran up the white flag, prematurely conceding that Ford has the legal authority to make these changes to the City of Toronto Act. Former Toronto Mayor David Miller has publicly stated that Ford’s actions may breech the Toronto-Ontario consultation agreement. Tory didn’t mention that. Or any legal opinion from the city solicitor. Or any effort to mobilize council or Torontonians against Ford’s interference.
There are many good arguments why council wards should be smaller than MP ridings. Councillors aren’t just legislators. They are involved in community consultation about everything from the location of stop signs and cross-walks to zoning and developments. In some wards, there are scores of development applications at any given time. It’s only developers who win when councillors can’t engage the community. Of course, remember Ford’s backroom greenbelt promise.
But the issue isn’t 25 or 47 or any other number. The issue is that in a democracy, consent comes from the people – especially in defining their own electoral process. And decrees that target political opponents are unacceptable.
Because keep in mind that Ford isn’t only trying to disrupt municipal elections in Toronto, where Andrea Horwath’s NDP is on the rise, having won the popular vote six weeks ago. Ford also stepped into the Peel and York elections, carrying out vendettas against two political adversaries.
Former PC leader Patrick Brown and former Liberal cabinet minister Stephen Del Duca were campaigning for the Peel and York region chair positions. Without a whiff of consultation with the people of Peel or York, Ford announced his plan to eliminate both as elected positions. This is arbitrary, personal rule. Despotic.
And it’s just the start. Ford’s tax cut for the highest income earners will hurt housing, transit, health care and schools – and those who depend on them. What this episode proves is Tory’s allegiance is to himself, not the city, and he can’t be trusted in private meetings with Doug Ford. Since that’s a key part of the mayor’s job it’s hard to see how he can continue in it.