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Rob Ford's issues with women: Jaye Robinson quits executive

The Globe & Mail's Kelly Grant:

Jaye Robinson, a fiscally conservative freshman councillor, has decided to quit the mayor’s executive committee at the end of the year.Part of the reason is her desire to reassert her independence. Part of it is the mayor's bungling of the subway file. And part of it is Ms. Robinson's own weariness at trying to be a moderating force on an administration that does little in moderation.“What is our vision for the city? What is the strategy? What is the plan? That’s been missing in the Ford agenda,” she says. “Unless there’s a significant change in approach – and I haven’t seen any indication of that – then I would not participate on executive in the second part of the term.”

Robinson's move isn't really surprising – she's opposed the mayor enough times on the council floor that she can't even call herself an ally these days. If Ford ran his executive like his predecessor did, Robinson would have been punted off the committee shortly after she took up arms against Doug Ford's Port Lands plan.

But even still, this is troubling news for the mayor for a couple of reasons.

First, there's simple math. In the very best of cases, Ford only has 22 solid votes on council. And I can only get to that number if I include John Parker and Karen Stintz – both of whom the mayor has seemingly decided to alienate because they had the gall to oppose him on the transit file. Take them away, and he's got 20. Any way you look at it, Ford's in an uncomfortable position: he can't get the 23 votes he needs to pass agenda items unless he starts building bridges.

Councillors quitting executive committee because they don't understand your vision for the city is not an encouraging sign for bridge building.

The second thing is, as Kelly Grant calls it, the mayor's “female trouble.” Robinson's announcement comes on the heels of a similar announcement by fellow executive committee member Michelle Berardinetti. Berardinetti quit the budget committee – which reports to executive – on the same night council voted to dissolve the TTC commission. She's also said she's unsure about returning to the executive committee after this year.

With Stintz, Robinson and maybe Berardinetti on the outs, Ford doesn't have any women to turn to for political support. Frances Nunziata, the only female councillor with a voting record that supports the mayor more than 90% of the time, isn't eligible to serve on executive committee due to her role as speaker.

Female councillors are twice as likely to oppose Rob Ford on major votes

The optics of an all-male executive are obviously terrible, but Ford has backed himself into a testosterone-filled corner with no options – his bedrock support is almost completely male. On average, men on council have supported the mayor 66% of the time on major items. Female councillors have supported him only 33% of the time. The women are the difference-makers on this council: without them, the mayor would still control the agenda.

And it's not like all these women are card-carrying leftists. Even right-leaning women have, over time, found themselves at odds with the mayor's agenda. Gloria Lindsay Luby, who began this term thinking she'd work with the new mayor – they share a base ideology and a suburban outlook – ended up leading a charge against Ford's 2012 budget. Similarly, centrists like Ana Bailão and Mary-Margaret McMahon have seen themselves pushed – reluctantly – toward the opposition after the mayor refused to embrace compromise on key issues.

It's way too simplistic to claim that the issue is just that women on council tend to be more left-leaning. There's got to be something systemic about the way Rob Ford has driven away his female allies over the last year. It seems the mayor's priorities and style of governance clash with the vision a lot of women have for council and this city.

It's that clash – and the mayor's math problem – that threaten to set the tone for the rest of Rob Ford's term.

This post was originally published at on 2012-04-02T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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