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Friday Wrap: Rob Ford's war on credibility, Medical Officer threatened & Toronto's elephants on the move

To end the week, a look at some of the other big stories floating around Toronto City Hall.

Reporter confrontation looks worse for Ford

Rob Ford has a rocky relationship with facts. They've got a nasty habit of not supporting his claims.

The Daniel Dale story is unfolding like a lot of other Ford scandals, with the mayor's initial version of events falling apart as more details are uncovered. We know that nobody was ever in his backyard. We know that it was still light outside. We know that Dale had reason to be concerned the mayor might hit him because, um, the mayor said he thought about hitting him. We know that Dale had a legitimate reason to be where he was.

And, most damningly, we now know that someone made a call from Dale's discarded cellphone roughly 45 minutes after the altercation took place. Dale says his phone's battery was dead at the time he threw it to the ground and fled the scene.

As Ed Keenan and Chris Tindal pointed out yesterday, Ford's credibility gap isn't a new phenomenon. It dates way back to the beginning of his political career, spanning through a series of fun incidents. Like that time the mayor lied about attending a Leafs game where he got drunk and yelled at people. Or that other time, when the mayor lied about a drug charge.

Being the mayor hasn't changed him, and I guess we'd be wrong to expect it to. But still: it's never wrong to expect better from a person elected to represent the people of Toronto.

On their radio show last week, both Rob Ford and his brother expressed their disdain for a report authored by Chief Medical Officer David McKeown that made several recommendations designed to improve street safety for pedestrians and cyclists. One of those recommendations? Lower speed limits.

The speed limit piece was a small part of a large report, but that didn't stop Rob and Doug from hinting that maybe McKeown is paid too much money. “Why does he still have a job?” Doug Ford asked.

Those comments caused a mini-uprooar this week. Chair of the Board of Health, Councillor John Filion, has said he'll take the issue to the Integrity Commissioner.

Look, this isn't about speed limits, nor is it about whether McKeown is necessarily good at his job. All of that should be set aside. The issue – and it's a really important issue – is whether this mayor (and his brother) have created a work environment in which city staff have legitimate reason to worry that they might be fired if they prepare a report the mayor and his team disagree with.

In a functional government, staff need to be able to feel like they can provide honest information and perspective without fear of reprisal from elected officials.

Toronto's elephant saga drags on. After a council decision last fall, the zoo's three elephants were supposed to be on their way to an animal sanctuary in California. Ex-Price is Right host Bob Barker even said he'd pay for the move, offering a free trip even though elephants are notoriously lousy at Plinko. But recent problems with zoo accreditation and what appears to be a full-on zookeeper revolt have put the move into question.

Given the laundry list of problems, it looks like council was hasty when they passed their motion, but it's still worth revisiting the reason council made the decision to move the elephants in the first place. As Nicholas Hune-Brown recounted in Toronto Life, we're doing this because four elephants at the Toronto Zoo died in a four year period.

Despite the hand-wringing, we still have good reason to send our elephants packing.

This week's spoiler alert: major transit projects mean major construction. I'm not sure why this is surprising, but I guess some people were hoping the underground stations on the Eglinton LRT would teleport into place.

This post was originally published at on 2012-05-04T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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