In the months since Rob Ford took office, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti has become the mayor’s de facto party whip, wielding his all-powerful thumb—up signals a yay, down a nay—to rally Ford supporters on any given vote in the council chamber. Combine that with his unyielding and very public hatred of “communists” and it’s easy to forget that he was once an active union member, an NDP MPP and one of Rob Ford’s fiercest critics (these days we like to think of him as a “reformed commie”). In his profile of Mammoliti in The Grid, Edward Keenan reminds us of all this, and adds some other juicy details he’s dug up. Five things we learned about Hot Wheels, after the jump.
1. His antagonistic relationship with Toronto’s queer community is years in the making
Mammoliti’s reputation as a social conservative—or just a total prude—is well earned: he opposed the nude beach at Hanlan’s Point; he’s called for taxing sex workers; and he’s threatened to withhold Pride’s funding. But Keenan also takes us all the way back to 1994, citing a speech Mammoliti gave in opposition to extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples. Mammoliti rattled off a list of sordid acts he believed were common in the queer community—water sports (we don’t mean kayaking), scat and fisting. It only gets more shocking from there (you can read the entire speech here).
2. He’s a party-crasher—but his colleagues aren’t surprised
Before he was one of the city’s staunchest conservatives, Mammoliti was not only a NDP MPP; he was also a card-carrying Liberal (gasp!). Mammoliti’s career path is wonkier than most, but his former colleagues say that’s just George. Keenan quotes NDP MPP Rosario Marchese: “George has moved with considerable passion from one party to another and felt no misgivings along the way.”
3. He’s the fall guy, but he doesn’t see it that way
Keenan outlines a theory that Mammoliti’s theatrics serve as bait for public scorn that would otherwise be focused on Ford. Councillor Shelley Carroll supports the idea, suggesting that Mammoliti “can stay on message while he takes out unpopular, difficult messages.” But Mammoliti disagrees. “My style of politics is about telling the truth. I’m one that speaks his mind and I’m one that tells people the way it is.”
4. When he’s not busy red-baiting his opponents, he’s a pretty nice guy
Mammoliti considers himself an agreeable person—he’s gotten along with the city’s last three mayors, you know—and there’s actually some anecdotal evidence to suggest he’s not so bad after all. Apparently, when lefty Councillor Joe Mihevc and Mammoliti aren’t bickering on the council floor, you might find them sharing fond memories of travelling to Italy. And Carroll says Mammoliti is an excellent dinner date.
5. He’s a strong proponent of job security
Mammoliti billing Ontario citizens for his transportation costs earned him the nickname Hot Wheels. This we already knew. But here’s something you might have forgotten: while he was a North York city councillor, Mammoliti was also a public-housing property manager. Amalgamation in 1998 forced him to quit the property management gig, so he tried to negotiate a guarantee that he’d get his job back if he ever left politics.