The Toronto Transit Fiasco, Brought To You By Rob “The Edsel” Ford

The following article aptly describes the Toronto transit fiasco, which has been unfoldingAi??for the past sixAi??months. The fiasco was created, when a politician, who had absolutely no knowledge of urban transportation, forced legally and illegally, aAi??hugely expensive subway solution for regional transit needs.

Subways cost a lot of money to build and even more money to maintain and are only used on routes that have the ‘transit demand’ that justifies the expense. To force willy-nilly subways on the taxpayer because of one’s personal dislike for streetcars and light rail and streetcars is ignorant, but when ignorant people gain the control of cities, provinces and countries, the results are nearly always disastrous, as Toronto’s taxpayers will soon find out.

Rob “The Edsel” Ford may have political savvy (though I am beginning to doubt this) his gross ignorance of ‘transit’ and his deep disregard for the taxpayer has put back transit development in Toronto by over a decade.

In Metro Vancouver, this sort of ignorant arrogance has been happening for over thirty-two years and the Vancouver region has now one of the most expensive transit systems in North America, with TransLink unrepentant, planning more and more SkyTrain and RAV/Canada Line light-metro, with the motto; “The taxpayer has endless pockets“.

Published On Fri Feb 24 2012

James: Mayor Rob Ford,Ai??aAi??crippled general laid bare
By Royson James City Columnist

If the rules allowed it, Toronto city councillors would have an unassailable case to cite Mayor Rob Ford for contempt of council. For example:

The mayor killed Transit City without council approval. He then signed a private agreement with the province that exposes the city to as much as $100 million in liabilities and refused to let council vote on it ai??i?? even though the agreement says he must.

When council reinstated the elements of Transit City, Mayor Ford dismissed the vote as ai??? And to back up the stunning declaration, the mayor fired the head of the TTC for advocating for the council position.

In essence, the mayor fired the TTCai??i??s chief general manager, Gary Webster, for agreeing with city council.

If that isnai??i??t contempt of city council, what is?

The raging debate on subways versus light rail raises the question: Is city council the supreme authority? Or does the mayor, the only politician elected city-wide, have the right to trump councilai??i??s wishes?

Current traditions, conventions and rules lead to one conclusion: Council is supreme. The mayor is a first among equals, but he rules by consensus, not by fiat.

A skilful mayor carries councillors along with him as he challenges colleagues to adopt his policies. He convinces skeptics with the force of arguments, facts, public opinion, and with the moral authority derived from a city-wide mandate.

Politicians and citizens can argue the advisability of subways or LRT. In Toronto, council has spoken. Under mayor David Miller city council said LRT. And, on Feb. 8, the current Toronto council ruled, by a 25-18 vote, to go with light rail.

Mayor Ford fought that vote. He called in all his favours. And still, some of his political allies abandoned ship and voted against him.

City council said the provincial agency Metrolinx should go ahead with the Eglinton LRT as originally proposed ai??i?? 11 kilometres underground between Black Creek Dr. and Laird Dr., and on the surface the rest of the way.

Council also said the Finch Ave. W. LRT should proceed from Keele St. to Humber College at Highway 27. And an expert panel is to advise council by March 21 on the future of transit along Sheppard ai??i?? either the subway the mayor wants, or the LRT originally proposed.

Councilai??i??s vote was dramatic and unequivocal. It came when city councillors deliberately seized the transit agenda from the transit commission and gave explicit directions on the road ahead.

Council acted because, for a year after he signed a memorandum of understanding with the province, Mayor Ford refused to take it to council, despite a legal requirement to do so.

Understandably, some citizens think a mayor in Ontario has the kind of mayoral powers seen on U.S. television. That is not nearly so. Councillor Doug Ford, the mayorai??i??s brother, has spent so many years in Chicago he wants to bring Chicago-style politics here. In the Windy City, the mayor gets to bring his administration with him into office. He hires and fires them. He comes with a political party. And the enshrined opposition party provides the checks and balances.

Here, we have eschewed party politics at the local level. Rules prohibit the mayor from hiring and firing the bureaucracy. Except for the city manager, the mayorai??i??s influence is muted. If he wants a bureaucrat removed he must do it by stealth and with city councilai??i??s nod. The mayor has one vote. He governs only by securing the majority vote in council.

Once elected, the mayor has the mandate to forge consensus on his election platform. He has a mandate to pursue the goal. But he must use all the skills of compromise, diplomacy and consensus to move the majority of the 45-member council.

Toronto City Council, with its own bylaw, has given the Toronto mayor more power than the average Ontario mayor. For example, the Toronto mayor appoints a 13-member executive that he may dismiss at will ai??i?? thus giving him their loyalty and votes. He also is allowed to make other key appointments ai??i?? so much so that he has as many as 20 ai???loyalai??? votes on a 45-member council.

That should be enough to rule, unchallenged. All he has to do is keep them in his camp. So, when a mayor starts losing important votes, the clear message is that he no longer has the confidence of his allies, and therefore, the council.

Mayor Ford has the mandate to lead council and drive them towards his vision of the city. He does not have the mandate to fire the transit boss whose views are aligned with the majority of council; he does not have the mandate to be vindictive; he does not have the mandate to thwart the will of council; he does not have the mandate to be in contempt of city council.

City council canai??i??t remove the mayor from office; only the people can, and the next election is October 2014.

Already, the majority of city councillors oppose the general thrust of the Ford administration. Daily he creates antagonism and division and loses the respect of more allies. Councillor Peter Milczyn was the latest to break ranks, voting to keep Webster. Councillor Michael Thompson canai??i??t be far behind, having advised against firing Webster. If 30 councillors line up against Ford, the mayor becomes, in effect, a lame duck with more than two years left in his mandate.

To get 30 votes, a two-thirds majority that can overcome all the procedural manoeuvres the mayor can employ, six of the following seven councillors would have to defect: Paul Ainslie, Michele Berardinetti, Gary Crawford, John Parker, Jaye Robinson, Milczyn and Thompson. Four are leaning.

Failing the absolute overthrow of the Ford regime, the council majority will still have enough clout to hobble the administration and force compromise or create gridlock. Through obstinacy, bad advice or a lack of respect for local democracy, Mayor Ford has shattered his honeymoon with councillors and now is a crippled general, fighting for his political life.

If the unthinkable happens and council seizes the agenda, without the office of mayor to administer and guide the bureaucracy, who, then, runs Canadaai??i??s largest city?

Toronto is on the precipice of a crisis created by a contemptuous mayor who acts like a monarch. And everyone is discovering the emperor has no clothes.

Royson James usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Email:–james-mayor-rob-ford-a-crippled-general-laid-bare?bn=1


One Response to “The Toronto Transit Fiasco, Brought To You By Rob “The Edsel” Ford”
  1. Babyandrea says:

    Congratulations! wouldn’t it be nice if, for a cgahne, you took the pro-subway side and I took the pro-LRT side? you know, just to shake things up a bit.On a side note, in today’s Star they mentioned that even Smitherman isn’t too crazy about Transit City do you think the plan is in real danger of cancellation?Steve: I will be writing about Transit City later today, but my worst fear is that the whole election turns into a debate about the TTC. This will polarize opinion into a transit can’t do the job camp on the right and set us back years. Giambrone bears some of the blame in that problems with TTC projects and operations have been clear for years, but we never have a major public debate on the subject there is too much we are wonderful cheerleading right from the top. That filters all the way down to the street, but there can become into inactivity and cynicism. Why are we only now recognizing the need for cleaning up so many aspects of the TTC? Will this be true reform, or will the public review committee be yet another exercise in managed public participation?A related problem is that some issues are on the City side of the house, specifically with ham-fisted implementation of transit priority, roads that owe more to engineering functionality than urban design attractiveness, and a political culture that, when push comes to shove, caves in to local car-oriented demands.