Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Council shows they don't need Wynne's help to deal with Ford crisis

By: Metro Published on Fri Nov 15 2013

Amidst the ongoing city hall chaos and the lame apologies and the surprising references to oral sex, Toronto City Council did something extraordinary this week: they had a really productive meeting.

One of their best of the last three years, really, taking place even as Mayor Rob Ford continued to descend to new depths. Council passed motions to save the BIXI bike share system. They approved a plan for affordable housing on Toronto’s waterfront. They even had a debate about bike lanes without descending into ridiculous over-the-top parody. And they capped it off by scheduling three special meetings with motions that limit Ford’s powers, two of which took place this morning.

With the kind of bipartisanship and leadership we saw over the last week, council demonstrated that there’s currently no need for Premier Kathleen Wynne to step in and remove Ford. Queen’s Park doesn’t need to worry. Council has got this.

Yes, the way council has dealt with Ford is messy. But it’s also a bunch of other things: it’s fair, honest and democratic. All council is doing is removing powers that they delegated to the position of mayor in the first place. No one is overruling the will of the voters and no one is threatening the sanctity of elections. It’s a far better strategy than the alternative, which would see an elected official removed by another elected official through arbitrary legislation.

I know it’s hard to feel optimistic about municipal governance in Toronto these days, but there’s reason to be. Councillors are working together like we haven’t seen in a while, and there’s a willingness to consider issues before jumping to conclusions that hasn’t been present much lately.

And, hey, that’s progress.

There are still a ton of questions to be answered. First among them is what lengths Ford will go to try to hold on to his power. If he follows through on his threat to turn this into a court battle, council may feel forced to ask Wynne and Queen’s Park to step in and prevent what would probably be a very long and useless legal slog.

But if that doesn’t happen, and assuming council does strip Ford of his office budget on Monday, Ford will spend the next year as a mayor in name only. That’s uncharted territory, and I’m curious to see how the new landscape will look. Will Ford still hold sway with the civil service, who often seem to defer to him as a matter of convention rather than any kind of codified policy? And will the media storm dissipate once Ford is less the guy actually in charge of the city and more just the Toronto equivalent of a Kardashian?

It’s probably wishful thinking to hope that it will.

Still, after a week of local politics that was most dominantly by sad, disturbing and bizarre stories about Ford, it’s important to recognize that we actually have something to be proud of at Toronto city hall. At a time when the elected leader of the city is spiralling out of control, we’ve got a council that’s shown they can step up and do the job.

This post was originally published at on 2013-11-15T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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