Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

A tale of two mayors: Norm Kelly shows Rob Ford what strategy looks like

Published on Fri Dec 06 2013

Want to know the big difference between the two mayors at Toronto city hall these days?

It’s that Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly — who effectively has all the powers the elected mayor normally enjoys — knows something Mayor Rob Ford doesn’t. He knows that to be a leader with hopes of accomplishing anything, you need to be strategic.

We saw as much at Thursday’s meeting of the executive committee, the first one with Kelly at the helm instead of Ford. There, Kelly looked at the agenda item related to jet expansion at the island airport — with its giant pile of unknowns — and realized that the only smart play for those in favour of airport expansion was to delay the vote. The committee voted to defer the item until next year.

Ford, though, even as someone who supports the airport expansion as much as Kelly does, spoke and voted against the deferral. It was a nonsensical move, based on nothing resembling strategy. Had the committee not deferred, the whole notion of airport expansion would have been defeated at this month’s meeting of Toronto City Council. By voting against delay, Ford was effectively voting to kill any real chance of Porter CEO Robert Deluce getting his way.

But Ford didn’t seem to care. As always with him, being on the winning side of an important vote was a secondary consideration.

This is nothing new. When Ford was a councillor, his website proudly maintained a list of council decisions Ford had vigorously opposed and lost, often after votes that came down 44-1. And though there was a brief period after he became mayor, with Nick Kouvalis running his office, where Ford actually showed some capability for winning votes at council, he quickly returned to his old ways. As mayor, Ford’s winning percentage is absurdly low.

But losing has never really seemed to faze Ford. The idea that he’s out there fighting for the people has always seemed more important than actually achieving anything for those same people.

Kelly, though, takes a different approach. He talks of politics like a battlefield. He talks of strategy. He talks of compromise. And for the city’s left — and for people who oppose things like the island airport expansion — he could present a bigger political challenge than Ford ever did. Because now we've got a mayor who actually wants to get things done.

This post was originally published at on 2013-12-06T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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