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Philip Preville: A sober assessment of Rob Ford’s shining achievements

Ignore, for a moment, all the sideshow antics that have hijacked his mayoralty. Rob Ford has made some big changes at city hall that we’ll all feel, in a good way, long after he’s gone

Philip Preville: the flip side of Ford

You could be forgiven for believing that Rob Ford’s first two years as mayor amounted to nothing more than a riveting insignificance. He’s provided quite a spectacle. Talking on his cell while driving. Reading while driving. The Cut the Waist Challenge (and its dismal failure). The altercation with a Star reporter near his property. Allegedly flipping the bird to a kid and her mom. Calling 911 (three times!) to save himself from a Marg Delahunty bit. Yet none of these incidents tells us anything about his record as the city’s chief magistrate.

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Philip Preville: Shark fins, pet store puppies, plastic bags—why Toronto city councillors like to ban things

Philip Preville: Big Ban TheoryRob Ford’s victories rarely last. In fact they only become more stunted as his mayoralty lurches along. For his opening salvo in office he killed Transit City; less than two years later it was reborn. Now his wins can be measured
in minutes.

On June 6, council approved Ford’s proposal to end the five-cent fee on plastic shopping bags. Before he had time to gloat, council members promptly voted to make Toronto the first major Canadian city to prohibit plastic grocery bags altogether. Starting next year, Toronto retailers will provide customers with paper bags.

Ford’s objection to the bag ban is quite simple: he’s a conformist. He wants Toronto to quit messing with the rules all the time and act normal like everyone else. It’s this aspect of his personality that chafes so gratingly against the city he ostensibly rules. Toronto likes to be an early adopter of righteous urbanist innovation, a forward-thinking, environmentally and socially progressive bastion of creative-classist policy-making. Our avant-gardisme has become part of
our identity.

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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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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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The 2014 election (or Doug Ford’s election to Queen’s Park) could kill Transit City again

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Rob Ford has been silent since Metrolinx resurrected the LRT-based transit plan he cancelled on his first day in office, but the mayor’s brother Doug (as usual) was less shy. Yesterday, Doug vowed to continue fighting for subways into the 2014 election—even though construction on the Sheppard LRT line is scheduled to start in the summer of 2014. “We are going to run on subways,” he told the Globe and Mail, saying that councillors who voted in favour of the LRT-based plan “are going to be held accountable in the next election” (we can just picture the construction-site press conferences). Moreover, if Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal minority topples before 2014, Doug said he would leave his brother’s side, run as an MPP and try to help direct the transit debate from Queen’s Park. Though that’s several steps off, Doug’s comments do serve as a reminder that this plan is only secure as long as the Liberals maintain their hold on Queen’s Park—the Progressive Conservatives’ Tim Hudak has already shown how much he supports subways. [Globe and Mail]

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Metrolinx’s proposed timeline for building LRTs is inconvenient for Rob Ford 

In a hotly anticipated report that will go to the Metrolinx board tomorrow, Metrolinx staff gives a thumbs-up to city council’s LRT-heavy transit plan. The agency’s staff is recommending that the provincial agency build a whole lot of transit by 2020, beginning with the Sheppard Avenue East LRT in 2014 (to be finished in 2018) and the Finch LRT in 2015 (to be finished by 2019). The report also gives timelines for construction of the Scarborough RT line replacement (finished by 2019) and the continuing work on the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT, which will now run above ground east of Laird Avenue (finished by 2020). Given that Metrolinx had endorsed a virtually identical plan back in 2010, it’s not too surprising that council’s plan got the stamp of approval (though kind of annoying that Toronto took an extra two years to arrive at the same conclusion). Still, the timeline may come as a shock to Rob Ford. After city council reinstated a large chunk and then nearly all of David Miller’s Transit City plan (which Ford had killed during his first hours in office), the mayor vowed to make the fight for subways a central issue in the 2014 election. That might be more difficult, though, if construction has already started by then. [Globe and Mail]

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Rob Ford’s re-election campaign seems to be off to a good start, continuing the imaginary fight for subways

The Globe and Mail says the conflicting messages from Dalton McGuinty and Rob Ford on the transit file are enough to make the two politicians “sound like players in a game of broken telephone.” The premier maintains that the province intends to follow the lead of city council, while the mayor, who claimed council’s decision to revert to a light rail–based, Transit City–esque plan earlier this month was “irrelevant,” suggests it’s “political suicide” for McGuinty to side with council (i.e., Toronto’s elected body of political representatives). However, we suspect that the disconnect is less about miscommunication than it is about misinformation. Ford seems hell-bent on running a re-election campaign—yes, already—on the idea that he’s fighting the naysayers at city council to give the people the subways they so dearly desire. And if he can take that fight to Queen’s Park’s doorstep too, we figure by his own (likely flawed) logic that can only help his chances. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

(Image: Rob Ford, West Annex News; Dalton McGuinty, Communitech Photos; tin cans, Fairy Heart ♥)

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Sue-Ann Levy scores an early BINGO on her Transit City scorecard

(Image: Matt Elliott)

Too bad Matt Elliott’s Transit City bingo card doesn’t include a cash prize—because Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy would’ve claimed it before the game even really started. In the pages of the paper this morning, Levy’s recycling of Rob Ford’s tried-and-true talking points scored her an easy B-I-N-G-O along the top row, and council’s special session on the city’s transit plan hadn’t even yet begun. Of course, given the rancorous debate on the issue so far, we’re sure Levy won’t be the only winner today. Read the entire story [Toronto Sun] »

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B-I-N-G-O! Seriously, check out this awesome Transit City bingo card

(Image: Matt Elliott)

In their hasty attempts to defend Rob Ford’s transit plan despite mounting opposition, the mayor and his supporters have (rather dogmatically) relied on a trusty set of talking points to do their heavy lifting for them. In a bid to show just how tired Ford and Co.’s anti–Transit City arguments really are—that light rail will be a repeat of the St. Clair streetcar screw-up, that Ford was elected with a mandate to build subways and that Scarborough is getting shafted—city hall blogger Matt Elliott created “Transit City Opposition Bingo” (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like). Tune in to tomorrow’s special council meeting—or just grab the nearest copy of the Toronto Sun—and see how long it takes to win! Read the entire story [Ford for Toronto] »

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Will some councillors vote for Rob Ford’s transit plan at their own ward’s expense?

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Rob Ford will likely endure another public defeat at a special council meeting tomorrow, this time over his beloved Sheppard subway, the Eglinton LRT and the potential return to a transit plan much like supposedly dead-in-the-water Transit City. Of course, it’s not the least bit surprising that Ford is unwilling to make nice with TTC chair Karen Stintz, who’s leading the campaign against Ford’s own transit plan, on this. We know the mayor doesn’t like compromising, even if the alternative is losing a vote at council. What is rather surprising, though, is some councillors appear willing to support Ford’s plan at the expense of the wellbeing of their own wards. As municipal blogger Matt Elliott writes, Vincent Crisanti and Giorgio Mammoliti are poised to stand with the mayor even though that would be tantamount to robbing their constituents of expanded transit. Crisanti sides with Ford on almost every issue, while Mammoliti is big on subways and wants one for Finch Avenue. That means either he’s willing to sacrifice his own ward just to oppose Stintz, he’s uninformed of the financial and logistical considerations involved in building a subway, or Ford has made him a ridiculous offer to maintain his allegiance. Given that we’re talking about Hot Wheels here, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s all three. Read the entire story [Ford for Toronto] »

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Karen Stintz calls for a special council meeting to kibosh Rob Ford’s transit plan

With the support of 23 fellow councillors, Karen Stintz boldly called for a special council meeting to confirm the city’s memorandum of agreement for light-rail transit on Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch. We’d say this sounds a lot like the resurrection of Transit City—but that name died with the David Miller administration, so we’d better not. Instead, we’ll just say this: Stintz’s petition will likely serve as the nail in the coffin for Rob Ford’s grand plan to bury the Eglinton Crosstown. And really, the mayor has nobody to blame but himself on this one. First, Stintz offered him a compromise, but he declined. Then, Gordon Chong, the man Ford asked to make his subway dreams come true, suggested the city fund the Sheppard extension by instituting road tolls, among other revenue-generating measures, but Doug Ford called those a “tax grab.” Yes, the mayor says he has a mandate to build subways, so building subways is what he’s going to do. But it appears council believes it has a mandate to build light rail, so building light rail is what it—and, more importantly, the city—is going to do. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

(Images: Rob Ford, Christopher Drost; Karen Stintz, Mike Beltzner)

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Rob Ford didn’t have the authority to cancel Transit City (lawyers say so)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Apparently, it takes more than a mayoral “because I said so” for the city to kill an extensive public transit plan. Rob Ford may have unilaterally declared former Mayor David Miller’s Transit City dead on his first day in office, but Joe Mihevc recently obtained a legal opinion—which was released this morning (Torontoist has the full text)—that contends the mayor had no legal authority to cancel the project in favour of his own plan.

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Karen Stintz’s new transit proposal: buses for Finch, a single subway stop for the mayor

Karen Stintz riding the rocket (Image: Mike Beltzner)

Having attracted heaps of attention for saying what everyone is already thinking, Karen Stintz has moved onto phase two of her plan to improve public transit: proposing actual ideas. Under the TTC chair’s new proposal, the Eglinton LRT would run partially above ground, and the money saved would go toward bus transit on Finch and an additional Sheppard subway stop. Under Rob Ford’s rapidly eroding plan, Eglinton, along with billions of dollars, would be completely buried, the private sector would finance a lengthy Sheppard extension and Finch would get, well, nothing.

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Rob Ford inspires local citizens—to try to bring Transit City back 

The push to resurrect Transit City is picking up a modest amount of steam, courtesy of activist Joe Drew and the website SaveTransitCity.com. Speaking on the CBC’s Metro Morning last week, Drew made a case for reviving the plan Rob Ford killed on his first day in office. He argued that much of the legwork on Transit City is already done; he invoked the suburbs and their need for rapid transit (bonus Ford point) and said there’s room for compromise between Transit City and the mayor’s plan. Meanwhile, another website, CodeRedTO, is also pushing local citizens into the fight for what it calls “a rational, affordable and achievable rapid transit strategy.” As Torontoist notes, it seems Ford has managed to spark a wave of activism and community engagement the city hasn’t seen in years—though we suspect he doesn’t consider it one of his greatest accomplishments. Listen to the entire segment [Metro Morning] »

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The latest in wholly unsurprising news: the Eglinton Crosstown is going to be insanely expensive

(Image: Christopher Drost)

The Eglinton Crosstown light rail line—the public transit project that’s proving Rob Ford can’t just bury things he doesn’t like—is Canada’s most expensive infrastructure project, according to the good folks at ReNew Canada (an infrastructure renewal magazine that, don’t worry, we’d never heard of either). The project climbed to the top spot this year thanks to Ford’s ideologically driven demand polite request that the line go completely underground. It’s no secret that the rising cost of the Eglinton project, coupled with Ford’s delusional Sheppard dreams, should give the mayor’s political opponents ample ammunition to use against him—and to try to revive Transit City (yeah right!). Take this choice talking point for example: “The cost for the Eglinton line represents about one third of the $25.4 billion spent on transit projects across the country.” Yikes. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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