Next week, members of Toronto City Council will debate and vote upon a handful of motions, including one of mine, that I hope will show leadership in resolving the rapidly deteriorating case of Mayor Rob Ford.
When Mr. Ford was elected in 2010, I was happy because we shared the same policy aims: frugal government, working to eliminate waste, contracting out work where it made sense, and respect for the tax dollars of Torontonians.
In the past few months, especially since the startling revelations in May, it has become increasingly clear to more and more Torontonians that something has gone very, very wrong.
Due to his own choices, a side of Mr. Ford that hitherto had been the focus of rumours at City Hall is now quite visible, both here in Toronto and worldwide. It intrudes regularly and fiercely into the daily mental and physical burden he carries as mayor.
As a direct consequence, no longer can he set an agenda for council or build a consensus among its members. No longer can he be the public face our city shows the world. No longer is there confidence in his judgment. Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Ford has lost the moral authority to lead.
It is his judgment that worries me most. This week alone:
– Mr. Ford has failed to disavow a politically motivated attack by his brother against an effective and honourable police chief. This imperils public safety, which is unconscionable. Some things are too important to be politicized.
– Mr. Ford’s personal choices have put into peril years of hard, expensive, taxpayer-funded work by agencies such as Invest Toronto in courting businesses to locate here. Despite our considerable advantages, Toronto’s top-of-mind awareness among the world’s corporate leaders is in danger of being conflated with the word “crack.”
– Mr. Ford’s continuing refusal to answer questions or co-operate with an ongoing police investigation, or to explain his contact with individuals identified by police as drug dealers, make it more difficult for parents to steer their children away from drugs and the destructive lifestyles that inevitably accompany them.
Through his own choices, the mayor has become the biggest obstacle to achieving the policy goals a plurality of Torontonians endorsed in the last election.
But that alone is no reason to ask a lawfully elected official to stand aside. What does make this request urgent and compelling are the consequences that arise when such an official places his interests above those of the people he serves.
That is exactly the situation today in Toronto’s city government. Unlike a corporation, with a board that can remove a chief executive whose conduct is unbecoming or harmful, the city presently lacks the ability to take the keys away from a mayor who no longer is fit to lead.
That’s why I will move a motion next week to obtain such help from the province. Extraordinary circumstances need extraordinary remedies.
I’ve thought about this long and hard for many months. For me, and I hope for my council colleagues, the most important obligation is to put Toronto’s interests first.
Next week, everyone will discover what each council member will or will not tolerate.
Denzil Minnan-Wong is councillor for the Don Valley East ward and chair of the City of Toronto’s public works committee.