Seven thoughts for seven days

Toronto City Hall

This week in Toronto politics,
1.  Bring out the folding chairs and ladders.  We’ve got ourselves a Grudge Match.   The Coalition of the Professionally Enraged threw its support behind aggrieved Toronto city councillor Paul Ainslie, as he amped-up his campaign against Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug.  At a Tuesday morning press conference, Ainslie read a prepared statement slamming the mayor as a “thug” who had hurt his feelings in a way that “has never been witnessed before” or something broadly to that effect.  To prove how serious it was, he called the whole episode “American style assassin politics” which is Canadian for “really, really, quite bad, actually.”

Ainslie went on to rewrite a little bit of history, saying he wasn’t voting against subways, just against a tax increase to pay for subways.

“The subway and whether it is needed has never been an issue. How it will be funded is.

“I’ve always resisted new taxes for an overtaxed city – and that was the appeal of the agenda many people supported in electing Mayor Ford in the last election. Tossing that position aside is just cynical politics…”

— Paul Ainslie, Oct. 15, 2013

It’s a powerful statement that would be even more compelling, if Ainslie hadn’t voted for the same tax increase three months prior.  But, perhaps I’m just being cynical.

Why did Ainslie change his stance? Why has Ainslie suddenly turned on the Ford that fed him?  Well, there are likely two reasons.

First off, this antipathy isn’t new and hasn’t grown overnight.  Ainslie has been very angry at the mayor and his brother for some time.  And they’ve been very angry at him.  The Fords have treated Ainslie badly.  And, he’s done the same to them.  Neither side has the moral advantage on this one.  This is a personal, private grudge match that’s boiled over into prime time.

The second reason may very well be David Soknacki, a former city councillor for whom Ainslie used to work.  Guess who’s running for mayor against Rob Ford in 2014?  If you guessed former Miller budget chief, David Soknacki, then give yourself a cookie.  He confirmed he’s running last month.  Ainslie attended a pre-campaign BBQ for Soknacki a few weeks back and publicly endorsed him after last week’s council subway subterfuge.  Which was before the robocalls, by the way.  One can almost envision Soknacki’s fingers reaching through the back of Ainslie’s head to work his mouth during the press conference.  Almost.

2.  For whom the Integrity Belle toils?  While Councillors of middle and left wing persuasions encouraged Paul Ainslie to lodge a formal complaint about Mayor Rob Ford’s robocalls, absolutely none of them appears to have called for an investigation into media stories that some of their council peers may have accepted financial inducements from companies that have business before council.  Media stories over the past few months have raised serious questions that one might expect would prompt some form of inquiry.  But, one would be wrong.  For her part, the Integrity Commissioner continues to avert her eyes from allegations of real malfeasance, preferring to weigh in on trivial matters of etiquette.  How long will such wilful ignorance continue?   

3. Never sleep.  Ever.  Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti issued a press release with a photo of a city employee apparently sleeping at his desk.  Much hyperbole ensued.  The mayor hopped onto the bandwagon, taking his own message track even further away from what should have been a city-wide victory lap over the Scarborough subway success, to beat a drum that led predictably to pictures of him with his own eyes closed at an Executive Committee meeting and questions of his own on-job punctuality.  The more things change…

4.  Elephants can’t fly.  Toronto’s elephants finally began their journey to a California sanctuary amid continued squabbling between everybody and everyone else.  The whole mess is an elephant-sized metaphor for everything that is wrong with city governance.  From an ill-conceived motion presented at council by a passionate, animal-loving, rookie councillor; to a ridiculous decision enshrined as law in a midnight vote of exhausted politicians who just wanted to go home; to a full-on mutiny by zoo management and staff; to a PR battle royal between a wealthy TV host, zoo activists, animal rights groups, city staff and zookeepers;  to yet another late night council vote ordering the zoo, once again, seriously this time, to get on with it; to bungled planning; to malevolent subterfuge, to a late start of a long road trip; there has been nothing right about this effort at all.

From the very first debate on this issue, I’ve feared an ultimate WKRP in Cincinatti “I swear, I thought turkeys could fly” moment with the dead on arrival of our beloved pachyderms in California.  If (when?) these elephants die, I suggest they be stuffed and mounted in the Council Chamber as a reminder to all of “how not to govern a city.”

5. Damn Leafs can’t even win right.  OK, so this isn’t politics, but I find it amusing that, robbed of our beloved losing team, Leafs Nation has taken to complaining about how awkwardly our team is winning.  Personally, I’ll take the win.  But, I did laugh at one CP24 commentator who reported the Leafs 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild, saying “at no point were the Leafs in danger of losing.”  Oh, dear.  She doesn’t know our team, does she?  What makes watching the Leafs so exciting is knowing that, no matter what the score is, no matter how little time is left in the game, the Leafs are always in danger of losing.  No one ever leaves a Leafs game early.  Go! Leafs Go!

6.  Toronto has the 2nd best reputation of any city in the world.  It says so right here.  Thank you, Rob Ford.  ’nuff said.

7.  Toronto Police are lousy at solving crime.  In what may be the most under-reported story this week, the Toronto Sun revealed that Toronto Police are nowhere near as good as other police services at solving crimes.  The Sun reports results from the  Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative, that show taxpayers in Toronto pay far more for policing than taxpayers in other cities, even though Toronto police are far below-average at actually solving crimes.  Who will remember this come police budget time?