Many people are asking me to work to remove Mayor Ford from office. To the core of my being I believe it should not be up to elected officials to remove each other from office.
It is axiomatic that in a democracy the community elects its government. It must also be up to the community to remove its government and replace it with another -- through elections. Anything that displaces the electorate's power to choose its government is anti-democratic. Further, our system wisely allows for a range of different points of view in government. If we allow elected officials to force each other out of office, we risk having elected officials who oppose the majority view being pushed out of office. History is replete with examples of how bad that is for a society.
Both before and during the previous election, it was clear that Rob Ford was racist, homophobic, and had problems with substance abuse and honesty. Nevertheless he won the election. We, all of us who care about justice and democracy, need to ask ourselves why this happened.
I have what I believe is part of the answer. It is increasingly common for people and institutions to succumb to anger, resentment, and an urge to punish government for real and perceived failings. Ironically, it was this very anger that helped elect Rob Ford mayor. Recall the relentless attacks he made as a Councillor and mayoralty candidate on factually small but symbolically large uses of Councillor's office budgets, and his mantra about ending the so called "Gravy Train."
This style of politics draws on the slogans of people like Ronald Regan who said "Government is the problem" and Margaret Thatcher who said "There is no alternative." Nonsense! Government is the tool we build together to solve problems. Its precise function is to find alternatives that bring us to a better future. Theirs is a politics of resentment and anger. Reject it.
When we succumb to that anger, important questions about how to build the City we want are lost and forgotten. For the record, I am not immune to this anger. Over three years of resisting the ugliest parts of the Mayor's assault on good governance I have on occasion lost my temper and have twice decided I had to apologize to Council. Frequently, I have to remind myself to step back and count to 10 and remember that I am here to build the City. I am not here to get into pointless conflict. It's hard to do, but essential that I do it.
I want to ask you to count to 10. When you are angry at your government, remember that quick, anger-fuelled solutions usually make problems worse. When a neighbour expresses anger over a real or perceived failure of the government or public servants, speak up and remind them that so much of what holds our society together depends on those same public servants. They work to make sure that we have the comforts and community we all enjoy. When government does not solve the social problems that bring suffering to neighbourhoods, resolve not to grumble but instead to learn, participate, and organize for a better government.
Most of all spend some portion of every month -- even just one hour -- doing political work to ensure that we don't elect angry anti-democratic leadership to govern this wonderful City that is our home.