Welcome to Rob Ford's Toronto
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.