Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Some DO's and DON'Ts for Toronto's new deputy mayor, Norm Kelly

By: Metro Toronto Published on Mon Aug 19 2013

With newly elected MPP Doug Holyday having said goodbye to his role as Mayor Rob Ford’s deputy mayor late last week, change is in the air at city hall. Scarborough Coun. Norm Kelly is now set to step up as new deputy mayor to the embattled Ford.

We should all feel a little bit bad for Kelly. He’s taking on what could be the hardest job at city hall. Starting Monday, Aug. 19, he’s got to be a guy who speaks on behalf of what has become an incredibly weird and chaotic mayoral administration.

But at least Kelly’s got the benefit of learning from Holyday’s experience. Based on that, here’s the advice I’d give Kelly on his first day — a list of deputy mayor dos and don’ts.

DON’T go overboard when coming to Ford’s defence. One of Holyday’s biggest missteps was going to great and irrational lengths to try to come to Ford’s rescue and explain away various controversies.

Learn this phrase and use it often: “I can’t possibly comment on that.”

DO try to keep the focus on the issues. Holyday scored Ford one of his biggest political wins when he worked as point person on labour negotiations last year and negotiated favourable deals with a bunch of city unions.

Kelly should learn from that. He should find an area of the government that needs attention and make it his pet project. Then whenever a reporter asks about a Ford scandal or gaffe, Kelly can direct things back to actual city business.

DON’T add to the controversy. The mayor’s had enough headline grabbers to fill a dozen political careers. His administration doesn’t need any more bad press.

Specifically, this means Kelly shouldn’t talk about climate change. His views on the subject have been groan-inducing in the past, with suggestions both that global warming may not actually be happening or, if it is happening, that it might actually be a good thing because — I’m not making this up — it’ll make Toronto’s climate more like that of Tennessee.

DO keep the book recommendations coming. Kelly is known as a voracious reader. In a 2011 debate on city arts funding, he pushed people to read Elizabeth Currid’s The Warhol Economy. Council expense records reveal he recently picked up books on lean manufacturing and Toronto’s political history.

The apparent thirst for knowledge is a good thing, especially in the midst of a civic term where facts and evidence seem too often pushed to the side.

Plus, as a bonus, the deputy mayor can always call reporters together to talk about his latest book recommendations. Could make for a good distraction while his boss avoids the press by sneaking out the back door of the mayor’s office.

This post was originally published at on 2013-08-19T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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