Monday, August 01, 2011

Welcome to Rob Ford's Toronto

Although there certainly wasn't a lot of merriment around the gravy fountain at my election night party last October, the one consolation I took from Rob Ford's victory was that the next four years would be entertaining. If you're the sort of person who cheers for the most interesting outcome politically, then a Ford victory was likely only second to a Sarah Palin presidency on your wish list.

Things started off well enough with Don Cherry attending Ford's inauguration and ripping the city's "left-wing pinkos", but Ford's term has been disappointingly mundane since then. Sure, there was his decision to skip the pride parade and the brouhaha over the NOW magazine cover, but this isn't exactly "natives dancing around a boiling pot" sort of stuff.

Luckily, the Ford Show was in its full glory last week.

First, there were the allegations that Ford flipped the bird to a mother and daughter after they chastised him for talking on his cell while driving (driving, I might add, in a minivan with "ROBFORD" vanity plates). Ford admitted to using his cell, but claims the middle finger incident was a "misunderstanding". Maybe he was just signalling "I'm number 1".

Either way, it's an amusing story, but it's hard to get too worked up about a drive-and-cell incident from someone who has DUI charges to his name. It's kind of like finding out Alfonso Gagliano has library fines.

Which brings us to the second, more interesting story of the week. As you'll recall, Ford was elected on a promise to cut taxes, which he'd pay for by getting rid of the gravy. Well, funny story. It turns out there wasn't $750 million dollars worth of gravy laying around to pay for Ford's tax cuts. So after using David Miller's left over surplus to balance the books in his first budget, Ford is now forced into the unenviable position of having to cut services or raise taxes. He commissioned a KPMG study to find the gravy, and the study told him to cut the grass less often. And to close some petting zoos. So, yeah, it's going to be tough to balance the books.

Another possibility KPMG recommended was closing library branches, something Doug Ford (Rob's brother) enthusiastically applauded:

"We have more libraries per person than any other city in the world. I've got more libraries in my area than I have Tim Hortons."

It's an interesting statistic, one that would be even more interesting if it were true. But what I really love about that quote is that Doug derisively decries "there are more libraries than Tim Hortons", the same way most of us would shake our head and say "this neighbourhood has more strip clubs than schools".

In response to this, Margaret Atwood asked her Twitter followers to sign an online petition to protect Toronto libraries, to which Ford retorted:

“Well good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is,” said the councillor and advisor to his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, after a committee meeting on proposed cuts.

“She’s not down here, she’s not dealing with the problem. Tell her to go run in the next election and get democratically elected. And we’d be more than happy to sit down and listen to Margaret Atwood.”

It baffles me how anyone could attend a Canadian High School without being forced to read at least 2 or 3 Margaret Atwood stories along the way. It's also a somewhat flippant comment from a guy who is only famous because of his brother.

The more troubling part of the quote is Doug's suggestion that you need to be "democratically elected" to be listened to. After all, his brother built his reputation on returning every phone call and listening to every constituent.

If you think libraries are less important to a city than having a lingerie football team, that's fine. The books need to be balanced, and it might very well be necessary to close a few library branches.

But if Margaret Atwood, or anyone else for that matter, wants to speak up on an issue or sign a petition, they deserve to be listened to. Just because the Fords aren't big on pride parades and libraries isn't reason enough to categorize them as gravy.

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  • Well, both Ford's have already pissed off my cousin. He wouldn't shut-up about how great Rob Ford would be for Toronto, but he's singing a different tune with the library brouhaha, (my cousins wife has worked in a library for over 25 years).

    And the flipping off the kid really pissed him off. He was fine with flipping off an adult, but when I mentioned a kid was present, my cousin went ballistic.

    By Anonymous Paul Raposo, at 12:09 PM  

  • It baffles me how anyone could attend a Canadian High School without being forced to read at least 2 or 3 Margaret Atwood stories along the way.

    I managed! Mercifully.

    By Blogger WJM, at 12:29 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger PlanetDB2, at 5:38 PM  

  • "Ford is now forced into the unenviable position of having to cut services or raise taxes"

    You are being polite. All evidence indicates that the only reason Ford ran for mayor is that he gets a perverse pleasure from cutting services. The only reason he intentionally lost the city $70 million dollars the moment he got into office is because it makes it all that much easier for him to cut services and flip the finger to do-gooders.

    Also, it sounds like he's trying to block a TTC fare increase for the nth year in a row while demanding that they cut their (inflation unadjusted!) budget by 10%. This is insane. The cost of providing TTC service is directly proportional to the price of petroleum, which went up by at least 7% last year. In effect, by being against both user fees and taxes, he's demanding a 17% or worse service cut at a time of record ridership.


    By Anonymous Leo, at 5:39 PM  

  • Hey man
    Interesting stuff. I know Rob Ford attended the Carnivale Caribbean. And I do know alot of people questioned him on doing so.

    It is up to him I suppose

    By OpenID, at 7:56 PM  

  • Strangely enough, I was never assigned any material from Atwood by my English teachers...I got a little Margaret Laurence, plenty of Shakespeare and a good dose of poetry throughout high school (though I read a lot of Poe and Kafka, with a bit of Nietzsche thrown in for good measure, on my own time).

    Still, it's becoming clearer how much Rob Ford reminds me of a notoriously cheap aunt of mine, but without the level of bitterness and resentment that he has.

    By Anonymous PY, at 8:25 PM  

  • Between the belligerent, petty, angry bully who wasted a billion dollars (oops!) and the belligerent, petty, angry bully who made a decade-long point of zero expenses, I of course went with Rob Ford. Smitherman wears a better suit but as far as character goes they are both identical (right down to basic physical description).

    Hopefully Ford will have a better challenger next time around, because he's obviously an ignorant dick (albeit a more responsible ignorant dick than his last opponent).


    When's this city going to get a real mayor?

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 9:46 PM  

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