Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Friday Wrap: Weight Loss sideshow continues, Jack Layton honoured & transit squabbles

Friday Wrap is your brief look at some of the other stories making news in and around Toronto City Hall.

I have to apologize to Mayor Rob Ford. On Monday, I wrote that the mayor had “abruptly called an end” to his weight-loss challenge, closing the book on a brief, absurd spectacle that saw the mayor of Canada's largest city stand on an industrial scale at City Hall every Monday. I also reported that Ford was no longer dieting.

But soon after my column was published, the mayor clarified his remarks, indicating that he was still dieting and would weigh-in one final time later this month. The media, he said, had taken his remarks out of context when they reported an end to his diet

So, yes, I'll apologize. It was wrong of me to assume that the mayor wasn't dieting anymore after he said he “wasn't even dieting anymore.”

Still, I'm sad to see that this spectacle will continue, even if it is for only for one final time. The reality is that losing weight is really hard. It's even harder if you're trying to do while also serving as the Mayor of Toronto, especially if you're the kind of mayor who often finds himself dealing with personal scandals and political fights. Add the pressure of a weekly public weigh-in with a dozen reporters and photographers present and you have a recipe for disaster.

If the mayor really wants to get healthier, then we should absolutely encourage that. But he should do it for himself – not as part of some scheme his brother cooked up to win PR points.

It's not exactly surprising that Ford opted not to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference, held this week in Saskatoon. He's always regarded business travel as frivolous waste. As he told reporters: “I don’t go to FCM. Since when do I go to FCM?’’

Still, this snub continues an unfortunate trend where the mayor often opts not to go to bat for Toronto with other levels of government. FCM is an opportunity to bend the ear of several high-level politicians and bureaucrats at both the provincial and federal levels. But, just as he did last year when he told reporters he wanted nothing for Toronto out of the federal budget, the mayor passed on an opportunity to tell other levels of government what Toronto needs.

He did, however, send Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti in his place. You can write your own joke about that.

Big props to Ford for recommending that the Toronto Island Ferry Terminal be renamed in honour of Jack Layton. It's a fitting tribute for the late NDP leader who once sat next to the mayor in council.

Still, while they're talking about putting up new signage, could council maybe work with Waterfront Toronto to make waiting for the ferry a less soul-sucking experience? As it stands, getting to the island means being marshalled into a cage-like structure and then waiting too long for overcrowded boats.

Maybe it's time to start thinking about a pedestrian/cycling bridge connecting Toronto Island to Cherry Beach. We could name that after Layton too.

There's not a lot to say about the bureaucratic slap fight going on between the TTC and Metrolinx as both sides try to figure out how they'll partner on Toronto's planned light rail lines in North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke. Everyone seems to understand that Metrolinx needs to prove itself as an agency, so it makes sense for them to lead construction. But, if that's going to be the case, then it also makes sense for the TTC to point out that they're not going to wear responsibility should plans go awry.

Really, let's just get shovels in the ground. With construction inflation alone, the delays forced by Ford when he cancelled Transit City have already cost the taxpayer millions of dollars. We can't afford any further delays.

The important thing now is to minimize costs and ensure that this transit plan doesn't face any further political interference.

Good to know that being mayor doesn't entitle you to buy up public green space near your house. Sometimes the system works.

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This post was originally published at on 2012-06-01T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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