Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

How Rob Ford drags down the public debate and wastes everyone's time

By: Matt Elliott Metro, Metro Published on Thu Jul 03 2014

One of the more overlooked aspects of Ford’s mayoralty — lost under all the other stuff that comes with Ford being on the job — is that he drags down the quality of the public debate. He makes things worse just by being at city hall.

Take, for example, the issues surrounding Waterfront Toronto’s Sugar Beach park. In the week before Ford’s return, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong spent some time railing against what he saw as overspending on aesthetic elements at the park. I thought Minnan-Wong was totally off-base with his claims, but it was at least a debate rooted in something resembling reality. Minnan-Wong was quoting real numbers — hell, you can even gave him credit for making some halfway decent points about transparency at Waterfront Toronto.

But then Rob Ford came back from rehab. At Wednesday’s meeting of city council’s executive committee, Ford picked up the torch from Minnan-Wong and did what he always does: twisted the facts beyond all recognition.

Ford claimed that Waterfront Toronto had simply squandered billions and billions of dollars. He said the waterfront will “never develop with these people in charge.” He demanded to know why Sugar Beach had umbrellas that remained in place in winter given that, in his view, Toronto winters lasted six months and snow made the space unusable. He called Waterfront Toronto “a cancer that we must cut out.”

Of course, his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, also jumped in. He raged against the 24 Waterfront Toronto employees on the Sunshine List. He demanded that CEO John Campbell resign. He suggested he could have personally procured rocks just like the ones at Sugar Beach. “Come to my cottage,” he suggested. “I’ll do it for $1,000 and bring up 10 rocks for you.”

Very little of this was based on evidence. There are no reports suggesting Waterfront Toronto has squandered money. Their spending is public. Their results are evident — you can go hang out at Sugar Beach, Sherbourne Common or Corktown Common any time you want. You can check out their economic impact analysis. At yesterday’s meeting, Deputy City Manager John Livey said he thought the agency was doing a good job achieving their mandate.

If you feel like Waterfront Toronto should have done more with the money they’ve been given, that’s fair game. We can debate that. But the Fords were suggesting something much more odious.

And in the end, I just don’t get what purpose any of it serves. As a result of the mayor and his brother’s total disregard for the facts, Waterfront Toronto’s reputation is tarnished — at least in the eyes of the remaining people who care about what the Fords think. But despite calling the organization a cancer, Ford didn’t bring forward any motions to fix it. He didn’t talk about an alternative way to develop the city’s waterfront. He offered no new ideas. He offered nothing.

Minnan-Wong, to his credit, at least proposed a series of motions designed to address the issues he has with Waterfront Toronto. Ford didn’t. The mayor’s only substantive contribution to the debate — aside from twisted facts and bluster — was a request that he be recorded as voting against going forward with a strategic review of waterfront development and Waterfront Toronto’s proposed next phase of work. The item passed anyway.

The incident goes to the heart of why Ford is unqualified for his job. Even if you can set aside the drug use, the police investigation, and the sexist/homophobic/racist stuff, he’s never demonstrated an ability to get anything done. He refuses to argue issues based on the facts. In the end, all he seems to care about is making it known that he’s opposed to things.

After almost four years, the results of that kind of leadership are clear. It doesn't result in savings or efficiencies. It doesn't make Toronto a better place to live. It just wastes everyone’s time.

This post was originally published at on 2014-07-03T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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