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Mapping how Mayor Rob Ford lost control of city council

Reader and all-around good guy Sean Marshall spent the time this week to generate some maps from my council scorecard data. The result is a fascinating visual overview of just how Mayor Rob Ford lost his grip on Toronto City Council and ended up on the losing side of most significant votes.

It’s an important story to tell because a Toronto mayor just can’t be effective if they’re not able to build consensus on council. When Doug Ford was challenged on his ability to work with his council colleagues at the mayoral debate this week, he claimed he wouldn’t have a problem winning council votes next term, and in fact he and his brother had never really had a problem getting their agenda through council.

The data tells us otherwise.

In these maps, the blue wards represent councillors who voted with Ford more than 70 per cent of the time on major items over the course of the year. The orange wards are fence-sitters who voted with the mayor between 30 and 70 per cent of the time. The pink wards are — per Don Cherry’s speech at the first council meeting of the term — the “pinkos” who voted with the mayor less than 30 per cent of the time.

By the end of 2011, Ford was indeed riding pretty high. He was on the winning end of 70.6 per cent of council votes, and had a sold core coalition of 22 councillors. The year ended with a 26-16 vote awarding a contract for west-side garbage collection to Green for Life.

But the cracks were starting to show. In the latter part of the year, councillors rejected several potential service cuts put on the table as part of a city hall core service review and scuttled an attempt to build a Ferris wheel and mall in Toronto’s port lands.

Ford’s success percentage on major votes at council fell about 40 points in 2012, a year when he won just 31.8 per cent of votes.

Much of that was due to some very bad moves on the transit file. Ford rejected a compromise with his appointed TTC chair Karen Stintz, and instead attempted to push forward with his underground and underfunded transit plans. Councillors forced a special meeting to restate their support for the light rail plans.

Ford then moved to have his allies on the TTC board fire Chief General Manager Gary Webster — putting taxpayers on the hook for huge severance costs. That, in turn, resulted in council voting to dissolve the TTC board and appoint new members.

Ford also watched as 23 councillors united to add $15 million to the city’s operating budget. Council also unexpectedly banned plastic bags. It was a big year.

2013 was actually a slightly better year for Ford than 2012, with the mayor winning 36.8 per cent of all significant votes, though that may have been because he had largely stopped trying to set the agenda at council. He was largely distracted by other things.

The budget process was much less eventful than the previous year, with Ford only coming out on the losing end of some amendments — he opposed investing $1.163 million in student nutrition programs, wanted to discontinue spending $104,000 on AIDS programs and voted against directing $3.8 million in provincial money toward 264 new childcare spaces.

Aside from that, there was a prolonged debate about whether Nathan Phillips Square should get a Hero Burger — it did — and a debate about using revenue tools to fund transit that ultimately proved pretty meaningless. Also proving meaningless — and wasteful — was the year-long debate about a Toronto casino. Councillors even rejected the possibility of a a casino at Woodbine Racetrack.

Ford did get some wins when council totally reversed course and decided to build a Scarborough subway. But then council stripped the mayor of most non-statutory powers.

You win some, you lose some.

With many of his powers gone, Ford was mostly just hanging out and voting against things in 2014. Only two councillors voted with him more than 70 per cent of the time on major items this year — his brother and Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti.

Ford started the year by voting against the city budget, which is not something mayors normally do. Ford was on the winning side on votes about the island airport, electronic advertising and whether the new plaza at Union Station should be named after Sir John A. Macdonald, but lost most of the others. He went 0 for three at the last meeting of council, losing votes relating to MLSE’s new Toronto Raptors facility, a new TTC bus garage in Scarborough and a mid-town homeless shelter.

Here’s an animated look at how things shifted over the years. It’s notable that the map started out looking similar to the 2010 election results map. But time sure changed things over the course of Ford's term.

Thanks again to Sean Marshall for producing the maps. If you want to learn more about my council scorecard, I’ve got lots of information here.

This post was originally published at on 2014-09-26T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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