After Preston Manning urged that something closer to how we run our parliaments should be introduced at the city level, readers – print and digital – were quick to take sides, many focused on Toronto’s ‘bad boy’ mayor
Preston Manning’s recommendation to address a problem like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a cure far worse than the disease (How To Make City Mayors ‘Responsible’ – July 21).
While city councillors do not have the power to remove half-Mayor Ford from office, they have effectively removed him from any damage he can do, other than to continue to embarrass our city. City council still functions as an effective representative government, with each councillor representing their ward as they see fit and answerable only to those who elect them.
On the other hand, as is currently being aptly demonstrated federally in Ottawa, the seriously flawed electoral system has put in place a virtual dictatorship where one person has near-complete control. The federal members of Parliament, for all the contributions they can make under the Harper government, may as well stay at home.
Mr. Manning’s description is an effective democracy on paper only, and avoids one obvious truth. In order for the members to fire the Prime Minister, they must also fire themselves. For members sitting on the government side of the House to fire themselves in this manner would virtually eliminate any chance of re-election and is therefore a very unlikely event. Except in the most extreme circumstances, no majority government’s MPs will turn on their leader.
So, while I am desperate to see reform at all levels, I do not want to trade a functioning city government for the badly broken system at work at the other levels of government.
I shudder to think of Rob Ford elected with the power of the current PM.
Stuart McRae, Toronto
Alan Broadbent makes the valid point that Toronto City Council has actually demonstrated considerable ability to take action to ensure that we continue to have “responsible government” (Been There, Did That –letters, July 22). Still, it is not enough. We need to be able to impeach a mayor such as Rob Ford or to bring about a recall vote.
Incarceration is a bar too high to get rid of a mayor, and we shouldn’t have to endure Ford-like shenanigans until the next scheduled election. The laws pertaining to municipal government are provincial.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has a majority and, with that, the ability to change those laws. She will never have a more compelling reason to do so.
Nelson Smith, Toronto
Do I detect stars and stripes on that flag of reform that Preston Manning likes to drape himself in?
Why the eagerness to bring failed party politics into the municipal arena?
Helen Callaghan, St. John’s
It is hard to disagree with Preston Manning’s call for greater accountability in city politics but is “responsible government” really the way to go?
Do we really need to add the rigid party discipline of our federal and provincial parliamentary systems to the municipal level of government?
Or the threat of a new election every time a spending bylaw doesn’t pass?
As an alternative, why not consider the mechanism of recall? That way, instead of relying on councillors to depose an unpopular mayor, voters could launch a petition and vote to do so themselves. And if they opt not to turf said unpopular mayor, then, well, that too is their prerogative.
David Taub Bancroft, Vancouver
I commend Preston Manning for his excellent article describing the form of responsible government, inherited from the British, we enjoy at the federal and provincial levels, and showing how applying the concept at the municipal level would, to take one example, enable a city to rid itself of a crack-smoking embarrassment of a mayor.
Taken to its logical conclusion, Mr. Manning’s article also clearly shows that when, in 2008, the opposition parties in Ottawa agreed to bring an end to Stephen Harper’s minority government and put Stéphane Dion in to replace him as Prime Minister, they were doing exactly what our form of government authorizes them to do.
Peter Love, Toronto
There are two problems here.
One is that municipal governments only oversee powers devolved from their province – they have no constitutional standing or independent powers of taxation. This makes them more administrative and service-oriented than political. The other constraint in establishing responsibility is that the mayor is directly elected by the voters, not typically a problem.
In fact, it’s more a problem of provincial and federal governments, where the premier or prime minister isn’t responsible or even responsive because they aren’t directly elected into their job by the people. There we have to depend on caucuses to remove dictatorial or lunatic leaders – a truly imperfect mechanism.
If a caucus is cowed by an overbearing leader, nothing happens and democracy truly suffers. In cities, by contrast, where politicians aren’t nominally creatures controlled by parties, there’s a mechanism to deal with rogue mayors. It’s called an election, where the people get to sort it out. That will happen soon, but it will be a test of the maturity of Toronto’s electorate, and indicate the degree to which they are enamoured of politics-as-reality-TV.
David Cubberley, Victoria
Re Chow, Ford And Tory Tied For Lead In Toronto Mayoral Race, Poll Says (online, July 23): I’m past hope any reform envisioned by anyone can cure what ails Torontonians. After everything that’s happened there, what can anyone do but shake their head when they see this? Tied?
Rose Jamieson, Saskatoon
ON REFLECTION Letters to the editor
Re New Sanctions Target Oil Firms, Banks, Arms Makers (July 25): I notice that the Russian company Rostec, which is negotiating a joint venture with Canada’s troubled Bombardier Inc. worth nearly $3.5-billion, does not appear on the latest list of companies sanctioned by the Canadian government.
I guess Stephen Harper and John Baird can huff and puff all they want about the perfidious Russians, but when it comes to the interests of favoured companies, even they have their limits.
Brian Caines, Ottawa
When cops feel danger
Re Are Police Soldiers Or Social Workers (editorial, July 25): Any clear-minded police officer faced with a real threat to life or serious injury would react according to the old adage: Would I rather be judged by a jury of 12 or carried by six pallbearers?
Canada isn’t the United Kingdom – and our neighbour to the south has more guns per person than any other nation on the planet.
Gerry Davenport, Oakville, Ont.
Heed his warning
Re The Plight Of The Honey Bee (July 24): Thank you for this powerful article about neonic pesticides’ deadly effect on bees. Jean-Marc Bonmatin, lead author of a study you cite, concluded that, “Far from protecting food production, the use of neonics is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it.” His position is based on analysis of some 800 peer-reviewed scientific papers. When he tells us neonics endanger pollinators – and therefore our ability to grow food – we should listen.
Gideon Forman, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Real stimulus? No debt
Economics professor William Scarth seems to accept the conventional wisdom that governments can spend their way to growth and lower unemployment through “stimulus” programs, usually paid for by deficit financing (Deficit Slaying: It’s All About Timing – July 24). As an alternative, imagine the good that could be done if governments were free of the interest charges on huge accumulated debts. Their annual expenses would be dramatically reduced, providing opportunities for additional services or tax relief. That would be real stimulus.
Douglas Campbell, Vancouver