We suspect that “fact-checking the Fords” will be a growth industry for city hall watchers, especially after Ed Keenan’s piece in the The Grid giving a rundown of five examples in just one week. But this one, uncovered by the (library union–backed) advocates at OurPublicLibrary and picked up by the Toronto Star is kind of a howler: Doug Ford was quoted on the radio as saying “We have more libraries per person than any other city in the world. I’ve got more libraries in my area than I have Tim Hortons.” That statement is getting the drubbing it deserves on Twitter (look for the hashtag #booksnotdonutsforford), and the facts are pretty clear.
According to library union president Maureen O’Reilly, Etobicoke has 13 library branches and 39 Tim Hortons. Three library branches are in areas Ford represents, Ward 2, Etobicoke North, while the Tim Hortons website shows seven of their shops in the ward.
Ford didn’t respond to a request for comment…
Asked to comment, the library provided some comparisons. Toronto has one library for every 28,120 citizens, fewer than Hamilton (one branch per 21,629); Ottawa (27,527); and Vancouver (27,976). But Toronto does better than Mississauga (40,555); Montreal (36,833) and Calgary (61,346).
This is what’s kind of maddening about these kinds of statements. Civilization isn’t collapsing in Montreal or Calgary (though the latter’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has been pushing for more money for Calgary’s library) so there’s a reasonable argument to be made that yes, maybe Toronto could survive with fewer libraries. If there’s an over-served part of Toronto’s library system, let’s have that debate—and hell, let’s talk about stuff like evolving reading technology and whether fewer libraries could deliver the same services more effectively. But comparing libraries to the number of Tim Hortons franchises is meaningless, and making stuff up like “we have more libraries per person than any other city in the world” is just silly.