Saturday, October 15, 2011



Of course Rob Ford shouldn't have been driving around holding a cell phone to his ample face. But there's a nice side to this story.
Mayors of Toronto, like all major politicians and captains of industry, can have cars and drivers provided to them. It certainly increases their productivity and the number of visits they can make each day instead of sitting fuming in traffic.
So Mayor Ford likes to drive his own minivan and not use a city car and driver. Good for him. It certainly fits with his genuine man-of-the-people attitude. Now if only someone will show him how easy it is for hands-free operation of a phone in a car.
Not only does that reduce accidents, it reduce the number of  idiots driving slowly and wandering between the lanes while infuriating all the drivers around them.
Once upon a time, when Toronto had a four-person board of control elected across the entire city, the mayor and the four controllers all got limousines with licences running from 5000 to 5004. And to reduce the jealousy, they were quick to offer lifts.
Nathan Phillips used to have his car stop at the TTC stop at  St. Clair and Avenue Rd. and offer lifts downtown to startled commuters. The council chamber for the regional government was a few blocks from City Hall, so reporters packed into Fred Gardiner's Cadillac for the trips back and forth. (That car was once used to take a prostitute to hospital after she overdosed in the council washroom during a break in a hearing before Gardiner.)
There were no armies of aides or spacious offices in the old city hall. The board of control had  offices which were large closets, and one secretary each. Aldermen would come in and coax the secretaries to write letters for them.
The controllers had a lot of extra work and not much extra pay but they certainly gloried in those limousines with the special licences that all the cops knew.
They got special perks too, like two tickets to every Leaf game. Since Don Summerville, 10 months the Toronto mayor before he died playing goal in a charity game, had a wife Alice, who hated hockey, he took me to those special free seats just behind the Leaf bench.
Summerville was popular in the sporting world. He had been a goalie on the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils when the team won the Allan Cup and had played in Leaf practices. So everyone knew Don in the Gardens, but I was anonymous..
We sat near one of the Leaf owners, Big John Bassett, who also happened to be my publisher. One day he was walking through the city room of the old Toronto Telegram when he spotted me typing at a battered desk. "You work for me," he demanded? "How can you afford to sit in those seats behind the bench?" I  explained, but didn't tell him I paid Summerville back by writing some of his speeches.
Now Summerville is just a name on an east-end pool. He is so forgotten, his name is often misspelled in the media. And the limousine fleet and the free tickets have dwindled with time too. But let's not expect with all these changes that we want the mayor to be driving himself, although it's good he gets a bitter taste of traffic. It's safer if he just concentrates on cutting taxes.


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