Marcus Gee

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Reaction Roundup: council’s petty and ultimately useless transit debate

(Image: Christopher Drost)

As soon as Karen Stintz opened the Pandora’s Box of taxes to fund transit—a discussion Ford had fought to put off—last week’s council meeting turned sideways. Ford waltzed in and out of the chamber, councillors began proposing new subway routes, Giorgio Mammoliti accused 80 per cent of Finch Avenue riders of not paying their fares and Scarborough councillor Chin Lee told recalcitrant colleagues to “shut up and go home.” After more than two hours of voting, council didn’t endorse any specific taxes or fees, rejecting roughly a dozen options, and left a sales tax, development charges and a corporate tax cut rollback on the table. Ford and Stintz each tried to claim victory, while several other councillors deemed the outcome a total disaster. Below, the city’s columnists try to make sense of it all.

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Five reactions to Rob Ford’s football scandal: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance

The explosive allegations that Rob Ford has been using city resources and staff for the youth football team he coaches have kept Toronto’s columnists busy over the past week. While perusing the rants, accusations and commiserations, we couldn’t help but notice that they nearly all fell into one of five familiar categories: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In other words, the five stages of grief (we’ll leave it to you to decide what they’re grieving: Rob Ford’s persecution, his alleged misdeeds, or the fact that he’s mayor in the first place).


1. Denial: Rob and Doug Ford

As promised, the Ford brothers used their first radio show after a hiatus to launch a verbal attack on the city’s media in general, and the Globe and Mail in particular. Near the end of the show, a caller asked Ford to justify his use of city resources; Doug interrupted him, saying, “No, we haven’t—that’s a lie.” Rob tried to calm his brother down, and responded to the caller: “Okay, but it’s just not true, sir,” he said. “It’s not true. With all due respect, I haven’t been using my office resources. That’s where the misnomer comes in.”

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Reaction Roundup: how Rob Ford fared on his day in court

(Image: Christopher Drost)

It’s rare (thankfully) that the mayor of a major city faces cross-examination in open court, never mind a mayor like Rob Ford, with his sometimes sharp temper and hatred of being questioned. No wonder, then, that Ford’s testimony yesterday in the conflict of interest case against him was prime fodder for the city’s columnists. We’ve rounded up the threads of the debate:

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Reaction Roundup: The OneCity proposal sparked lots of chatter and crowned an alternate mayor

With cloak-and-dagger plans, alliance building and power shifts, Toronto politics has veered into epic poem territory of late—and Karen Stintz’s new OneCity transit plan is one of the biggest shockers to date. It’s ambitious. It’s detailed. It looks way out into the future. And it leaves Rob Ford grumbling from the sidelines once again. If there’s one message to be had from the $30-billion kick in Ford’s face, it can be summarized thusly: council’s been futzing around with transit issues long enough and there needs to be a far-reaching plan, with a real funding model, immediately. Now that the covert plan has dropped, here’s the lowdown on what the papers, politicos and pundits are saying about it:

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Reaction Roundup: what the revival of Transit City could mean for Toronto (and Rob Ford)

The whole “war on cars” talking point feels so 2009 (and 2010… and 2011), but now that Metrolinx and city council have pushed through an LRT-based transit plan against Rob Ford’s wishes, it’s back in a big way. Some members of council (well, mostly Doug Ford) are already gnashing their teeth over what the plan means for drivers—especially since tolls could be on the table if Josh Matlow gets his way. Others are looking ahead to the 2014 election and how shifts in power could change the whole project once more.

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Reaction Roundup: the fallout over Rob Ford’s decision not to march in the Pride Parade—again

(Image: Ryan)

It feels like déjà vu: despite getting tons of flak for not attending any Pride Toronto events last year, Rob Ford has once again decided to spend July 1 at his Muskoka cottage rather than marching in the annual parade. Asked whether he’ll attend any other Pride events, like the raising of the rainbow flag at city hall, the mayor gave an unhelpful “We’ll see.” Ford’s decision not to march, though not a shocker, has unleashed plenty of passionate discussion around the city. Here’s a roundup of what councillors, columnists and Ford himself had to say about it all.

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Casinos are exactly like state-subsidized “smoking palaces,” according to Marcus Gee

(Image: Ian McKellar)

We thought Richard Florida’s disdain for casinos was intense, but the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee may have him beat. Today, the columnist reproaches Ontario for wanting to open a casino—excuse us, “entertainment destination”—in Toronto, writing that a casino on the waterfront makes as much sense as building a state-funded “smoking palace.” In Gee’s eyes, gambling is a vice, just like smoking, and governments shouldn’t be looking to make money off the weaknesses of the vulnerable (in this case, the approximately 340,000 problem gamblers in Ontario). With both Adam Vaughan and Mike Layton bringing motions before council today to oppose a waterfront casino, Gee makes his case in pretty extreme terms, writing that “hospitals will have to deal with the wrecked health of desperate gamblers” and kids “will never finish their education because they become hooked on gambling.” Bleak? Yes. Toronto’s future? We’ll have to wait and see. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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QUOTED: U of T president David Naylor explains why Toronto is just like Woody Allen

(Image: Blaise Alleyne)

—University of Toronto president David Naylor, telling residents to give the self-deprecation a rest and start talking loudly about how awesome Toronto is (just ignore the fact that the rest of Canada loves to hate on it). Naylor, who was amply quoted in Marcus Gee’s column in the Globe and Mail this weekend, provides some numbers to prove that Toronto is kicking butt: globally, the city ranks third for livability, fourth as an innovation hub and sixth for business competitiveness, and—despite an insane real estate market—Toronto is only the world’s 59th most expensive metropolis. Naylor even offers up a new city slogan: “It’s all here” (which, though brash, is a whole lot better than “Detroit Junior”). [Globe and Mail]

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Regent Park condo purchases were probably legit (but they’ll be reviewed nonetheless)

Councillor Pam McConnell (Image: Christopher Drost)

The potentially shady condo purchases over at Regent Park have now grown from “Toronto Sun scandal” to “possibly legitimate scandal.” Following columnist Sue-Ann Levy’s articles over the weekend accusing councillor Pam McConnell, project developers and TCHC execs of wrongdoing by buying plum condos in the revitalization project, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation has asked former Ontario chief justice Patrick J. LeSage to review the situation. Still, whether he’ll find any misconduct remains to be seen, since Toronto’s former integrity commissioner okayed the purchases as long as no special discounts or treatment was given.

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Does Rob Ford have secret plans to fire half of Toronto’s librarians? Probably not 

Librarians may be bad at chanting, but they’re pretty good with alarmist rhetoric, according to the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee. He’s dubious about library union leader Maureen O’Reilly’s claims that Rob Ford has an “ulterior motive” in his fight to change the union contract—namely, to close libraries and lay off more than half of Toronto’s librarians. Following a line of argumentation that would make Ford proud, Gee argues that the job security enjoyed by library workers is uncommon, even in the public sector, and makes the city unable to adapt to the shifting role of libraries. And while Ford probably thinks we could do with fewer libraries—actually, fewer public workers altogether—last winter’s library budget battle shows he’d have a tough time closing any down. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Is lawyer Clayton Ruby wrong to go after Rob Ford for a “technicality”?

(Image: West Annex News)

Frustrated citizens who want Rob Ford out of office shouldn’t rely on “technicalities,” writes the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee, because they already have a perfectly good way to get rid of him: it’s called an election. Mega-lawyer Clayton Ruby’s push to oust Ford over a technical issue simply won’t work, says Gee, even though Ford “has shown a consistent contempt for the rules that govern ordinary mortals.” For evidence of that contempt, we turn to the Toronto Star’s Royson James, who lists off the mayor’s infractions, which include: advertising for his family business on an invitation printed on city stationary; using the office letterhead to solicit donations for his football charity; and fibbing about whether the lobbyists donating to said charity actually lobbied him. We take Gee’s point, but wonder just how many technicalities Torontonians are willing to forgive. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Meet Andy Byford, the TTC’s new French-speaking, trash-collecting, mediocrity-busting CEO

(Image: Twitpic, Jonathan Goldsbie)

The TTC has decided to skip the headhunt and just hire interim leader Andy Byford to remain on as CEO (at least until he starts praising LRTs). To mark the occasion, the Globe and Mails Marcus Gee explained why Byford will make a capable transit boss: he was quick to respond after a ticket collector was shot at Dupont station; he speaks fluent French; he carries around a plastic bag to pick up litter; and he doesn’t tolerate “mediocrity.” What’s more, Byford is so keen on tracking service disruptions that he carries a pager, because his BlackBerry doesn’t work below ground. Goodness, maybe Rob Ford wasn’t so far off when he suggested Byford was a superhero who turned the TTC around in a day. [Globe and Mail]

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Karen Stintz triumphs over Rob Ford (again)—though it may not be the coup it seems

Yesterday, council voted 29-15—a solid majority—in favour of Karen Stintz’s plan to blow up the nine-councillor transit commission and replace it with a board consisting of seven councillors and four citizens. The result is yet another rebuke of Rob Ford, who wanted a board made up entirely of citizens, and yet another victory for Stintz (one more win and we may just have to anoint her the unofficial mayor).

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Apparently the 2014 mayoral campaign is already underway

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Having learned that governing a city can get a little messy, Rob Ford and his team have shifted their attention to getting re-elected. At least, that’s what Marcus Gee argues in this weekend’s Globe and Mail. Yes, the next election is in 2014, but it looks like Ford has decided that subways—and, oddly enough, his failure to build them—are perfect campaign fodder (see also: his new radio show). Indeed, that failure lets the pro-Ford folk paint council as a group of ineffectual spoilsports. And while it may seem like the Fords are jumping the gun—presumably they’d like to get a motion or two passed before 2014—Gee points out that Ford’s opponents underestimated his campaigning ability last time around. And just remember how that turned out. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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With Gary Webster’s sacking, Ford’s allies somehow made a hero out of a civil servant

(Image: Cameron MacMaster from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

As expected, five transit commissioners voted yesterday to oust TTC chief general manager Gary Webster, whose penchant for “reasonable arguments” had become an unwelcome distraction from Rob Ford’s delightful transit fantasies subway expansion schemes. Every daily paper and television station in the city has covered the story from all angles, but the condensed version is as follows: Webster, a long-serving civil servant, was a known opponent of Ford’s proposed Sheppard subway extension—something that did not endear him to the mayor. After Webster spoke in favour of light rail transit at the special council meeting earlier this month—the one where Ford’s opponents won and the mayor was publicly embarrassed—Ford’s allies on the TTC board called a special meeting to fire him.

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