Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Does Rob Ford even have an agenda outside of continuing to be mayor?

By: Metro Published on Tue Nov 12 2013

In addition to getting to be a bobblehead, one of the perks of being Mayor of Toronto is that you get to designate “key items” on city council’s agenda. These are the items that are debated first — generally introduced with a big, powerful mayoral speech — so they tend to align with the mayor’s agenda.

So it’s kind of interesting that, when Toronto City Council meets this week, Mayor Rob Ford’s key item will be… Rob Ford.

He’s moved to put Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong’s motion about the mayor’s drug scandal at the top of the agenda. It could be a canny political move, demonstrating that the mayor is not hiding from his problems. Or it could be a total disaster, as is often the case when the mayor has to speak at council meetings.

Either way, it has me wondering something. In a hypothetical world where the crack scandal hadn’t broken as wide as it did, what would Ford have designated as his key item at this meeting?

In other words, if the mayor wasn’t currently wrapped in multiple layers of scandal, what would he be trying to accomplish?

It’s an important question because we’ve heard lots over the past few weeks about the “Rob Ford agenda.” The agenda, we’re told, is still solid, even if the man behind the agenda isn’t. But the specifics of the apparently popular Ford agenda aren’t being clearly articulated.

Supporters tell me the agenda is keeping taxes low or eliminating government waste, but those are less an agenda and more just non-specific priorities. An agenda has to come with some kind of detailed and plausible plan for following through on those priorities. Ford doesn't really have one.

That wasn't always the case. The Ford agenda was an actual thing at one point. When Ford first took office, his team clearly came in with a plan to immediately get to work on some campaign promises. They actually took care to build support with councillors for key issues. And so the vehicle registration tax was eliminated. And so the TTC became an essential service. And so councillor expense budgets were reduced.

But then the wheels fell off. Losing vote after vote at council, Ford proved to be an ineffective mayor long before he was consumed by personal scandal.

With the crack story sending more allies scurrying away, it’s hard now to find any hint of a coherent and implementable Ford agenda. He says he wants to reduce the land transfer tax by at least 10 per cent, but he’s got no idea how to do it. Instead, he seems determined to just have it come up at council for a doomed-to-fail vote. And don’t blame councillors for not playing ball. It’d be pretty unconscionable for any of them to approve a major revenue cut without a full and sensible plan.

Ford also says he wants to improve the situation for those living in or seeking affordable housing, but just recently spoke negatively about an innovative and cost-effective plan to integrate affordable rental units with market units in a waterfront development. Meanwhile, the number of people waiting for affordable housing is still growing.

The mayor hasn’t even been able to put together a coherent stance on his 2014 budget. He keeps saying he’s going to keep the total property tax revenue increase to 1.75 per cent, even though he and council just voted to increase taxes to fund the Scarborough subway. The approved plan for financing the subway should make a total increase of just 1.75 per cent virtually impossible. But that hasn’t stopped Ford from continuing to use that number.

With his major fiscal priorities either unworkable, incoherent or non-existent, it’s not really clear what Ford hopes to accomplish with the remaining year of his term. Instead, it looks like the only real Ford agenda is simply continuing to be mayor — no matter what.

But that’s not enough, is it? If Ford won’t let go of the office, it’s time to start asking him what — if anything — he plans to do with it.

Matt Elliott will be participating in a Reddit Ask Me Anything at r/toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 13, starting at 1 p.m EST. So swing by with your questions about covering city hall. Or toiling in the trenches of an internationally renowned media circus. Or the hard work and rich rewards associated with maintaining a magnificent head of hair. We hope to see you there!

This post was originally published at on 2013-11-12T00:00:00.000Z

About the author

Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
Website / Twitter / Email Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott


Follow Me on Twitter

Recent Posts

Recent Comments