Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Chaos reigns at Toronto City Hall – and there’s no good way forward

By: Metro Toronto Published on Mon Dec 03 2012

As skaters glide across the ice rink in front of city hall for the first time this season, chaos reigns inside.

Mayor Rob Ford is fighting to retain his office following a ruling that he violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Toronto City Council is in disarray, as all leadership from the mayor’s office has completely evaporated. Councillors and assorted hangers-on have already switched into election mode, sniping and name-calling turned up to max volume.

And nobody is sure what’s going to happen next.

With Ford facing ouster, Toronto faces three possible futures: A successful appeal from Ford’s legal team, a council-appointed mayor, or a byelection in which Ford would stand against a few challengers. I can’t find much to like about any of these options.

Ford getting a legal stay that allows him to remain in office and then winning his appeal would quickly revert things back to status quo, which is kind of appealing. Before the initial decision, I was hoping the judge would find a way to find

Ford not guilty, figuring that that’d be the best long-term outcome. But Pandora’s box is wide open now: The judge presented a well-reasoned ruling and I don’t see good arguments for appeal given the plain facts of the case.

Should Ford lose his appeal, council could simply appoint a new mayor and stave off an election until the next scheduled campaign in 2014. This would at least lower the temperature. But that option started looking way less appealing after the judge ruled Ford would be eligible to participate in a byelection. Voting to appoint someone — other than Ford, who I’m not sure a majority of councillors would back — would look very much like an attempt to lock the man Toronto elected mayor in 2010 out of his office.

That leaves us, by default, staring down the barrel of a byelection. The compressed time frame and legion of interested candidates means it’ll be a hectic one. The price tag is about $7 million, erasing in one stroke many of the nickel-and-dime “efficiencies” Ford likes to say he’s found at city hall. And it’ll only provide at best six months of political stability before Toronto is pushed into yet another year-long election campaign in 2014.

It’s not ideal, but at least a byelection will provide a definitive, democratic answer on whether Toronto still wants Mayor Rob Ford.

Meanwhile, while politicians struggle to untie these legal, procedural and electoral knots, the business of the city — all that talk of transit expansion, affordable housing, economic development and waterfront renewal — sits and waits.

Maybe one day city hall will actually get back to work. For now, mired in chaos, Toronto’s future is on hold.

This post was originally published at on 2012-12-03T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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