Toronto newspapers can’t help but quote councillor Adam Vaughan with startling regularity, and a Toronto Star article last weekend looked at why. The (somewhat obvious) answer? He’s a bon mot machine, with a sharp wit and a sharper tongue. This takes work: Vaughan, a former CityTV reporter, reads books of famous quotes and sometimes works on a one-liner all day before saying it aloud to reporters. Naturally, they take the bait, resulting in plenty of media attention for the would-be 2014 mayoral candidate. (Though we’re sure the fact that Vaughan frequently targets the eminently newsworthy Rob Ford doesn’t hurt, either.) Given the extent to which Vaughan prides himself on his wit, we decided to rate some of his most memorable quips.
The schoolyard jibe
• The context: After deputy mayor Doug Holyday expressed his befuddlement that anyone would want to raise children downtown, Vaughan leapt to the defence of downtown parents, igniting a heated exchange.
• The quote: Holyday: “Sometimes I wonder if your head’s on backwards.” Vaughan: “At least I have a head on my shoulders!”
• Effectiveness: 3 out of 5. Timing is crucial for a one-liner, and Vaughan was quick. But the childish tone of the debate doesn’t embody the dignity we like to see from elected officials. Both he and Holyday came out looking bad.
The anti-Ford punch
• The context: Since the start of 2012, Rob Ford has been criticized for cutting the number of meetings he schedules, for being absent from city hall and for failing to be a strong leader. Vaughan brought all those complaints together in one bald statement.
• The quote: “He’s not doing anything here; in fact, he’s doing very little. He barely even shows up for work.”
• Effectiveness: 4 out of 5. After the comments, Ford supporters like Holyday and Mark Towhey, Ford’s then director of policy and current chief of staff, rushed to defend the mayor (Towhey even tweeted a picture of Ford “hard at work for the taxpayers”). Clearly, Vaughan hit a nerve.
The “everyone likes animals” argument
• The context: Vaughan tried to garner support for a proposed bylaw restricting the storage, sale and use of ammunition in Toronto by joking about the city’s absence of dangerous critters.
• The quote: “There’s no rational reason to own a gun in the city. Gophers aren’t chewing up our fields, we have no black bears going through our garbage bins and the raccoons aren’t dangerous enough.”
• Effectiveness: 2 out of 5. Points for humour, but Vaughan’s proposed legislation foundered at council, so the line obviously didn’t win much support.
• The Google reference
• The context: Fervently anti-casino, Vaughan spoke out strongly against the notion that a revitalized Exhibition Place could include a gambling establishment.
• The quote: “It is about extending the city down to the water’s edge… Can we have some real city-building here instead of Googling ‘fun cities’ and taking a look at Ferris wheels and silly stuff that sort of makes a headline but doesn’t make a city?”
• Effectiveness: 4.5 out of 5. The line is funny, and the Google part rings true—sometimes it feels like that’s exactly where some of the administration’s city-building ideas come from.
• The satirical cartoon
• The context: Apparently, Vaughan sometimes passes the time in council meetings drawing cartoons of Ford and his allies. This one, tweeted by Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale, mocked Giorgio Mammoliti for his plan to erect a giant flagpole at Finch Avenue and Arrow Road.
• The quote: See right. (Okay, it’s not quite a quote, but it comes from the same spirit.)
• Effectiveness: 5 out of 5. Vaughan’s got an artist’s eye—that’s an uncanny likeness of Mammo.