Ana Bailão

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The weirdest mayoralty ever—the inside story of Rob Ford’s city hall

Loyal councillors have defied him. His approval ratings have plummeted. And his powerful Conservative backers are nervous. How did it all go so wrong? The strange story of Rob Ford’s city hall

The Incredible Shrinking Mayor

On Newstalk 1010, the sly strains of the Hollies hit “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” offered the first clue. Then morning host Jerry Agar burst on the air with a surprise announcement: Rob Ford and his councillor sibling Doug were taking over the station’s Sunday afternoon talk-fest, The City. For the once-staid CFRB, landing the boisterous brother act that Margaret Atwood had puckishly dubbed the “twin Ford mayors” was clearly a coup, but that didn’t answer the more obvious question: why on earth would the Fords want to spend two more hours a week in front of an open microphone when they were hardly suffering from a lack of media exposure?

Rob Ford, after all, ranks as one of the most compelling and exhaustively chronicled figures in Canadian politics, adored and despised with equal gusto. His every pronouncement seems to turn into front-page fodder, his every grimace and belly scratch catalogued by rapt photographers. And who could forget the YouTube footage of comedian Mary Walsh arriving in his driveway, decked out with a velvet breastplate and a plastic sword?

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The Mighty Middle needs a few more meetings to figure things out

Josh Colle said the alliance needs more time before setting out priorities (Image: Christopher Drost)

The “mighty middle” alliance garnered rather a lot of media attention before their meeting even happened, so we were anxious to hear what the nine councillors came up with at a two-hour chinwag at a Bay Street office yesterday. Thus far, the message has been: ideas—we’re working on them. Josh Colle, the so-called “dean” of the group (made up of Colle, Chin Lee, Gloria Lindsay Luby, James Pasternak, Ana Bailão, Mary-Margaret McMahon, Karen Stintz, Josh Matlow and John Parker) told the Globe and Mail it’s still too early to have whittled down a set of priorities they plan to bring to council: “I’m not trying to be coy with you,” he told the paper. “We had a two-hour meeting. We’re not all of a sudden going to have a platform document.” While we always love covering drama at city hall, it sounds like the alliance is taking a measured approach, even shelving any contentious transit talk for later meetings—could this be a start to the kind of consensus-building that Toronto has been missing? [Globe and Mail]

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Reaction Roundup: councillors on the surprisingly dramatic vote on cleaning contracts

The formerly “mushy middle” and the left-leaners on city council teamed up against another of Rob Ford’s campaign promises yesterday, seizing oversight of future contracting out of city cleaning jobs. Instead of going to an internal committee, cleaning contracts will now be voted on by council—which will make it much harder for Ford to cut costs by privatizing more city contracts (unionized cleaners earn as much as $26 an hour, plus benefits, while the market rate is about $17 an hour, according to the National Post). The vote also stirred up plenty of resentment, tears and gravy references at city hall (who knew cleaning contracts were so contentious?).

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Rob Ford and Ana Bailão set to work together to save nearly 600 TCHC homes

Following nasty council debates on the budget and transit, it looks like Rob Ford has been wrestled into submission on another big issue: public housing. We already noted that Ford might be willing to pull back from his original plan to sell off hundreds of TCHC properties, and it looks like he’ll make it official today, opting instead to pursue a compromise proposal with Councillor Ana Bailão. Ford is expected to announce that the city will sell 56 vacant TCHC homes rather than the 600 that were originally slated for a fire sale (the Toronto Star calls this a “major concession by members of council’s left wing”), and that Bailão will chair a working group tasked with exploring other options for the public homes, as well as how to address the housing corporation’s repair backlog and its financial structure. Apparently, as recently as yesterday Ford had said the deal was off—but we suspect that when confronted with the political reality of another embarrassing defeat at council the mayor finally decided to acquiesce. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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Is Rob Ford willing to, gulp, compromise on the TCHC fire sale proposal?

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Rob Ford usually regards compromise with the same sense of scorn he reserves for cyclists, public sector unions and above-grade public transit. But following last week’s defeat at council, the mayor looks like he may be singing a new tune. Or at least, he appears to be contemplating a compromise position on the issue of public housing. While Ford previously pushed a plan to sell nearly 700 Toronto Community Housing single-family homes, centrist councillor Ana Bailão says the mayor—along with a majority of councillors—now supports her proposal to create a task force to look for alternatives to selling off the public properties. Perhaps Ford has realized the housing problem is a complex one, and thinking things through might actually be a good idea. Or perhaps he’s trying to appease centrists like Bailão given that they now hold the balance of power at council. Regardless, this should be an interesting story to follow: as OpenFile already pointed out, the last person who thought she could reach a compromise with the mayor was Karen Stintz. We all know how that ended. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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Councillors say there’s hope for patios at Campagnolo, Woodlot and more

(Image: Jon Sufrin)

Last week, we pointed out that city staff had recommended that patio permit applications for Campagnolo and Woodlot (among others) be denied at the February 14 meeting of the Toronto and East York Community Council, which prompted a helpful commenter to suggest things might not be as grim as they’d initially seemed. We called up a pair of councillors—Trinity-Spadina’s Mike Layton and Davenport’s Ana Bailão—who confirmed that, yes, staff must follow the letter of the bylaw in their reports. In other words, they must recommend that an application be denied for a patio within 25 metres of a residential zone—but that doesn’t stop councillors from approving patios that don’t meet every nitpicky requirement.

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Ford places hold on traffic light votes, proving again that yes, there really are political parties at city hall

(Image: detsang)

The latest example of the increasingly partisan nature of city hall—literally, the division of city council into separate organized factions we could shorthand as “parties”—comes from the Toronto Star. Apparently Mayor Rob Ford has been using his power to hold items on the council’s agenda (a power any councillor can wield) to discipline some of the councillors caught between left and right.

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Cars likely to win yet another battle as Adam Giambrone’s parking legacy on Dundas West comes almost completely undone

One of the last things Adam Giambrone did before events transpired to take him out of the race for mayor was remove parking spaces from a stretch of Dundas West in order to accommodate better streetcar flow. (Technically, Giambrone was voting to end a pilot project that had allowed cars to park on the streetside since 2006.) The Dundas West BIA fought against the end of the pilot project, and after she won Giambrone’s old ward, councillor Ana Bailão moved quickly to bring back the old parking regulations. Last night, Toronto–East York community council approved the changes—something that should make many of the businesses along the burgeoning strip (including the owner of Lula in the video above) pretty happy.

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Toronto’s five best and worst political moments of 2010

As 2010 winds down, we can’t help but think of what a crazy year it’s been in Toronto politics. The city has had the kind of election that will, quite frankly, be hard to describe to later generations. (“Well, Timmy, the mayor had forgotten about his drug possession charge because he was scared the reporters knew about his DUI.”) Even if we mostly strip out provincial and federal politics—no “Province of Toronto” talk or long-form census debacles—2010 was the year Hogtown’s politics went cuckoo for crazy puffs. So in the spirit of the holiday listicle, here are our choices for 2010’s five best and worst moments.

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Swing to the right: it’s a whole new Toronto as Rob Ford and many right-wingers win offices at city hall

Mayor-Elect Rob Ford (Image: Derek Shapton)

The election spanned 11 months, but counting the ballots took only a few minutes. At 8:08 p.m.—480 seconds after polls closed—CP24 declared that Rob Ford was the newly elected mayor of Toronto. Many pundits and polls predicted a late night and a tight race, but they were all proven wrong: Ford won handily with about 47 per cent of the vote, and Toronto’s rightward tilt was emphasized as a handful of prominent left-wing councillors or challengers went down in defeat. The results for Ford’s challengers more than prove it: George Smitherman nabbed 35.5 per cent; Joe Pantalone, just 12.

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