03/31/2013 11:35 EDT | Updated 06/01/2013 05:12 EDT

How Rob Ford Turned Toronto into the Biggest Loser

Flickr: Shaun Merritt

When Toronto's history is written, the chapter on the present era should be titled "The Lost Years."

The world is changing rapidly. Around the globe cities are being built, reinvented and redefined. New identities are being forged and pride is growing as cities challenge themselves and their inhabitants to be better. Urban living has taken on a new meaning.

Except in Toronto. Here, we have other things on our mind, a result of the city's current ailment: Rob Ford syndrome.

Was Mayor Ford too drunk at the February gala? Did he really grope Sarah Thompson at the March gala? Did he threaten to punch a reporter on public property? Has he spent too much time coaching his high-school football team? Is he reading and driving, double-downing at KFC, and still refusing to send press releases to the Toronto Star? Let's not even get into his legal woes.

It's distraction after distraction, and Toronto is the biggest loser.

You can be the mayor's biggest supporter or his biggest critic. You can think the Toronto Star is using its resources properly or improperly. And you can favour light rail or subways. But one thing on which there can be no disagreement, as time goes on this city accomplishes less and less. We can't even figure out how to permit food trucks. It's ok though, we have hot dogs.

The saga over transit and temper tantrums about the St. Clair streetcars, whose ramps and platforms are stupidly at different heights, highlighted that those steering this city forward are completely incapable at achieving any semblance of cooperation for the greater good. If it couldn't happen over transit -- perhaps the greatest challenge this city faces, no sense of common purpose, of civic unity, can bind our leaders.

Time will not be kind to Toronto. Our streets will continue to be flooded with cars and until our knight in shining armour, Metrolinx, saves the day, solutions to deal with gridlock will evade our partisan councillors and mayor. The only achievement from these lost years will be that we repaved over the bike lanes on Jarvis.

A casino might go up on the waterfront, or it might not -- again, we have to see how the squabbling goes. But one thing will remain the same, Toronto's waterfront will continue to underperform. Was a Ferris wheel that dumb of an idea, or was it that it was shepherded by the mayor's brother? Have you seen the lines for the London Eye?

He won't, but if Rob Ford really cared for Toronto he would see that so long as he remains mayor, the city will remain ungovernable and, by virtue of the progress happening in cities around the world, regress compared to its peers. Yes, he won an election and he is not the only person misbehaving. But with victory came responsibility and he has proven completely incapable of living up to that responsibility. All ideas, good and bad, are being lost in the shuffle as time keeps ticking away.

The majority of headlines generated by Mayor Ford are not of his achievements, but are products of his own shortcomings, shortcomings that if he cared enough, if he was a little less stubborn, he could address and overcome. But the mayor doesn't care because nothing is ever his fault. It's all some conspiracy and he is the perennial victim. The Integrity Commissioner is wrong; the Toronto Star lies.

What will be next week's story? Or will next week be the week when he admits that oh yes, he was drunk at the gala, he just forgot - much like when he was drunk at a Maple Leafs game or was caught in Florida with a joint and forgot about those incidents, until he remembered.

With Rob Ford you can never know what distraction tomorrow will bring. All you do know is that it will be a distraction -- a distraction that further polarizes an already polarized city council and undermines whatever civic fabric binds this city together as it retreats deeper and deeper into pro-Rob Ford camps and anti-Rob Ford camps, losing sight of the challenges we must all confront together.

It is time to put things into further perspective, in the hopes that it creates a sense of urgency, and common understanding that regardless of where you come down politically, the status quo in Toronto is unacceptable; this joke isn't funny anymore. As these lost years continue, and some see Mayor Ford as victim and others see him as villain, he will continue to suck out more and more energy from this city. There should be no mistaking the fact that it is not he who will emerge the biggest loser from this, but all of us.

And why write this piece now, you ask, when nothing is really new? Because at some point the exhaustion just sets in and you have to say enough is enough, we deserve better.

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