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How Rob Ford Could Lead Again

07/01/2013 05:15 EDT | Updated 08/31/2013 05:12 EDT
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"I want the fifty million dollars." Rob Ford in answer to a question: what will you say to Sousa? (Paul Moloney, Rob Ferguson, The Toronto Star, 21 June 2013)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford didn't get his $50 million, but Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne may have given him the next election instead. Politics is a game. The ones who know how to play it rise to the top and usually don't underestimate their opponent. I think Premier Wynne was blinded by all the bad news that's hounded Mayor Ford for the last few months and thought she could cut $150 million in transfer payments to Toronto and make Mayor Ford look bad.

The city is hurting. Everyone agrees on this; the way to fund decades of neglect is what is dividing people. Sales and property taxes are regressive; income taxes are progressive. Mayor Ford knows his base, and he knows that people with little cash cannot afford property tax or sales tax increases. Yet since amalgamation, the city has been paying for provincial and federal programs -- welfare and disability -- with regressive taxation and on the backs of many who are on fixed incomes.

Ontario Minister of Finance Charles Sousa wrote in a letter that the province will take back these costs by 2018. 2018? This funding cut will force the city to fund more years of social programs through regressive taxation. In addition, the city is the only government left paying for social housing. Given that Toronto is a magnet for Ontarians and other Canadians in trouble, the province and Feds should be paying for all social costs. Now.

The province saying that the city has choices and can use the land transfer tax and car registration tax makes me wonder if they were deaf and blind during the last election. Although there is a vocal contingent for these taxes, obviously they are in the minority because Mayor Ford was voted in due to the anger over these taxes being imposed on them by former Mayor David Miller.

In his presser last week, Mayor Ford showed why Ford Nation loves him. And why others are likely to vote for him again.

"The province says we are partners, they want to work with us. Unfortunately folks, I don't see that." (CBC video)

His use of the word "folks" is what lends him his endearing charm and makes him sound reasonable and the Premier petty and bullying.

"This funding represents approximately one-quarter of the shelter support and housing spending on social housing programs. A twenty-five percent cut to the shelter support and housing budget would have a devastating, devastating impact." (CBC video)

Councillors like John Parker are siding with the Mayor in his outrage (not necessarily in his solution). This helps Mayor Ford.

The non-partisan Toronto City manager Joseph Pennachetti further enhanced Mayor Ford's credibility by saying, "It exacerbates an already difficult problem."

Premier Wynne has shifted the focus from the Mayor's personal woes and mishandling of his office back to the issue that got him elected in the first place, and suddenly Mayor Ford has his old conservative buddies back with him in his standing up for Toronto. And as of last Friday, he could add the TTC Chair and Scarborough councillors to his list of allies.

Metrolinx entered the fray by saying that they will "stop work on the $1.8 billion replacement of the creaking Scarborough RT if Toronto doesn't re-affirm its commitment to the project" by August 2. This is just the opportunity that Mayor Ford as well as TTC Chair Karen Stintz and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker have been waiting for after the latters' belated recognition that Scarborough needs a subway.

The problem is that the Mayor wanted the Sheppard subway to be the Scarborough subway, and he tends to be rigid in his views. If he wants to best the Premier and Metrolinx, he can't afford to be stupidly stubborn; he needs to stop the vitriolic slagging of councillors on his radio show and in the media; and he needs to sweet talk TTC Chair Stintz back to his side, on this issue anyway.

Stintz supports extending the Danforth subway because it would eliminate the need to transfer to LRT at Kennedy Station and would also connect with the Sheppard LRT.

"I think this is the right subway for Scarborough, so I'm glad we have the opportunity to resolve this," she said.

Scarborough councillors will need to meet with Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray to make sure they are clear on what kind of wording the province requires and to clarify the cost estimates outlined in the Metrolinx letter. (Tess Kalinowski, The Toronto Star, 28 June 2013)

Mayor Ford can join those councillors and instantly make us forget how he failed us on the first go round to get a Scarborough subway, how he keeps talking about an election instead of solving the TTC crisis, and how in a government that requires co-operating he has still failed to learn the art of negotiation.

I'm pretty sure that if he knew how to negotiate and still had credibility in the eyes of other politicians -- which is what matters when we want things done beyond filling potholes -- then he may've been able to get Finance Minister Charles Sousa to move and not stand fast to his ridiculous stance. But in Mayor Ford's defence, it has been an awful long time since we've seen any mayor competent enough to move the province and Feds. That's why Toronto is falling apart.

If Mayor Ford fumbles this opportunity, then the province could annihilate his chances at the next election by funding TTC capital expansion properly ($8.4 billion is piddling compared to 30 years of neglect) and by instituting the rank ballot reform for the next election, not the one after that. Only then will Toronto have a reasonable chance of electing a mayor who appeals to Torontonians but has the competence to get the job done, not just talk a good talk.

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