Queen’s Park has moved firmly into the post-Ford era.
Ignoring warnings from Toronto’s scandal-plagued mayor, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne sat down with Norm Kelly on Tuesday in one of the deputy mayor’s first major meetings since assuming most of Rob Ford’s powers.
And after the 40-minute tête-à-tête, Ms. Wynne made it clear Mr. Kelly will be the province’s point man at the city from now on.
“He is the representative of Toronto city council, and the relationship between the province and the city has to be with the city council,” Ms. Wynne said, standing next to Mr. Kelly outside her office. “The ongoing relationship, the ongoing discussion will be with the representative of city council, who is the deputy mayor.”
The pair struck a chummy tone, with Mr. Kelly going out of his way to thank the Premier for meeting with him. Ms. Wynne, meanwhile, described the deputy mayor as “a very nice man, very reasonable.”
Asked repeatedly whether she would ever sit down with Mr. Ford again, Ms. Wynne refused to answer directly.
Toronto councillors censured Mr. Ford last month after he admitted smoking crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs, being “hammered” in public and driving after drinking. They transferred most of his authority, including the right to chair the city’s executive committee, to Mr. Kelly.
The mayor wrote the Premier a letter on Monday exhorting her to meet with him instead of Mr. Kelly; Ms. Wynne’s office said the Premier would deal with whomever she pleases.
At City Hall on Tuesday, Mr. Ford said he tried recently to arrange a sit-down with the Premier, but never got a response.
“I called the Premier last month and asked for a meeting; for whatever reason, they didn’t want to meet with me,” he said.
Ms. Wynne said she had been trying to schedule a session with the mayor before the crack allegations exploded, but they could not find a time. After Mr. Ford was stripped of his powers, she said, she decided to meet with Mr. Kelly.
They discussed transit – the province is building three light rail lines and a subway extension in Toronto – and affordable housing. The city is protesting against Queen’s Park’s decision to claw back transfer payments to the municipality, which it says it needs to pay for social housing. Government sources indicated the province will not change its position, and will move forward on phasing out the payments.
The effect of the meeting, however, was largely to marginalize Mr. Ford and try – at least symbolically – to signal that the tumultuous days at city hall are over.
“I was looking forward [to talking] with the Premier to let her know she has a stable, reliable partner going forward,” Mr. Kelly said. “At city hall, we now have a stable, calm and reasonable government that is looking forward to working with each other.”
Later, Mr. Kelly told reporters at city hall his relationship with the increasingly sidelined Mr. Ford is strained, but that he would talk to him whenever the mayor is ready.
“Regrettably, the battle noises still seem to emanate from the mayor’s office and I would hope that when he shows evidence of a more conciliatory tone that we would have a platform on which we could meet in a mutually agreeably environment,” he said.
Ms. Wynne and Mr. Ford have had just one formal sit-down since the Premier came to power earlier this year, in late March at Ms. Wynne’s invitation. At that meeting, Mr. Ford listed spending requests and pitched a downtown casino.
With a report from Elizabeth Church