Friday, September 16, 2011



And so the political muddles continue.
The America media are consumed by Republican presidential candidates to such an extent that I skim Time magazine and avoid CNN and the rabid dogs of CNN.
For politicians, especially Tories, it's once more into the breach. It is a muddled time, with the federal Tories riding higher with the disarray of the opposition, the provincial Tories contemplating how they blew the election, and  the Tories at City Hall hungering for something to muzzle the downtown lefties wanting to continue to live off the fat of Toronto.
Which brings us to Rob Ford. He's suffering from the curse of modern politics, that the media and taxpayers persist in wanting to view all politics as one-man rule. There may be 460 MPs, MPPs and councillors, but for Toronto consumers of the relentless news cycle,  politics is just Three Mouthketeers - Stephen Harper, Dalton McGuinty and Rob Ford.
If only that was true. We could embrace dictatorship and save a lot of money by firing all those pols.
Despite all the new powers that have been given Toronto mayors since the city and suburbs were merged, despite the cocoon of aides and uncivil servants who surround the mayor like a security blanket, Ford still has just one of the 45 votes on council.  (Or two if you remember his tag team with Big Brother.)
The public and reporters want Ford to walk across the harbour. And so what if the left wants to shoot holes in his rubber boots!
There is nothing Ford can do as mayor that hasn't been done before.  No matter how bombastic or fumbling this populist leader can be - or brilliant and determined - he's hardly unique. There have been tight-fisted conservatives before, thank heavens. The problem is there haven't been enough of them.
The story is still the same. Those who forget our political past are doomed to have it repeated.
I can tell you as someone who has watched politics from the Fifties on, often at point blank range, the 15 mayors, and the six chairmen who led the vanished regional council, were a rich stew of ego, brains and stupidity.
So where will Ford fit in?
Will he leave his name behind, as some did, on expressways, squares, stadiums, pools and complexes.  Or will he vanish into the mists, like so many of the 64 mayors since York became Toronto in 1834, trading muddy streets for potholes.
Some accomplishments were enormous.
 Allan Lamport, who was only mayor for 2 1/2 years starting in 1952, was the godfather of our two airports and took the stuffiness out of Sunday.
 Paul Godfrey eliminated the unfair two-fare system for suburban TTC riders and brought the Jays and, damnit, a costly stadium..
Fred Gardiner had one loyal secretary, but built the infrastructure foundation.
Nathan Phillips had two helpers, but built an iconic City Hall against enormous opposition.
Neither had the strong-mayor powers given Ford or his staff (which he has slashed by a third from what David Miller had in his bloated system.)
But the public and  media had not yet made government a one-man show and pinned anger and desires like a tail on one council donkey.
Ford's honeymoon, such as it was, is a distant memory. In the two years before campaigning suffocates all other activity, he must tame the downtown hatred that wants to blame him for everything and praise him for nothing.
Even a brisk stroll down memory lane can bring perspective. Mayor have screwed up basic facts before, and mangled metaphors, so let's wait before trying to dump Ford into an unused subway tunnel.  Remember when Lampy said "you can't lead a dead horse to water."  Or "when you're talking about me, keep your mouth shut."
Or when Bad Boy called in the army to handle a snow storm and screwed an Olympic bid by saying he didn't want to end up in "pot of hot water with all the natives dancing around me."
Mel Lastman knew all about getting into hot water. Ford has got to go some. But the Jane Jacobites and downtown activists wouldn't praise a mayor from suburbia if he gave them each a million dollars.
 Ford was an executive with the family printing business rather than a lawyer, a profession that has dominated. I've told him what a weird mix of jobs his most recent predecessors had - speech therapist, municipal clerk, movie theatre owner, roofer, accountant, probation officer, appliance huckster and educator.
 David Crombie would have been Ryerson University president if he hadn't become mayor (I know as a member of the search committee.) Don Summerville was a goalie with the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils when the team won the Allan Cup, had played with the Leafs in practise, and died in a charity game.  Leslie Saunders had been the head of the Orange Order for the world.  (Most mayors until the last few decades were lodge members and the city only got its first of two Catholic mayors in 1979.)
Phil Givens went on to be an MP, MPP, police commission chair and judge. And of course Crombie and Art Eggleton were federal ministers, and the Tiny Perfect Mayor chaired a staggering number of organizations. Alan Tonks, Dennison and Lampy also served as MP or MPP.
Is Ford just a one-term mayor? Will he go on to major posts like so many others? The jury should still  be out.   Remember that Ford won because of the hunger of the "silent" majority for less government.  That hasn't evaporated in the heat of the opposition.
His mantras of cutting taxes and staff still reverberate with most Torontonians. If he leads us into a municipal strike, it won't be the most unpopular of moves since most Torontonians hate their high taxes, and too many of them don't have a job.
So when you hear the screaming from union leaders, lefties and glib/lib councillors, remember that anyone who wants to strike while Toronto is trying not to sink into a depression is nuts and hasn't a hope in Hades of having most taxpayers on their side.

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