Toronto Councillor Mike Del Grande, once a loyal lieutenant of the Ford administration, is calling it quits, saying he is tired of the antics involving the mayor and the lack of decorum at city hall.
“You have to have joy in what you do, and I’ve lost the joy,” Mr. Del Grande said in an interview on Monday.
After 11 years at city hall, and crafting three budgets aimed at delivering on Mayor Rob Ford’s 2010 campaign promise to rein in spending, Mr. Del Grande said this weekend that he will not run in the October municipal election.
He is the second councillor to announce that he is not seeking re-election – Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, is also not running again. To date, 20 of the 44 Toronto councillors have declared that they are seeking another term, according to the city’s election website.
Mr. Del Grande said the time has come for him to make a change. But he also said he is “disillusioned” with everybody on council. While the mayor is the focal point of his frustration, he said, with the controversy swirling around him making it difficult for councillors to focus on city business, the lack of decorum in the chamber has prompted him to walk out a number of times.
For him personally, he said, the revelation that Mr. Ford has smoked crack cocaine while in office was a “great disappointment.”
“I had no clue of the demons that he had, no clue whatsoever,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said, he thinks Mr. Ford has a good chance of winning a second term because the pocketbook issues he is campaigning on resonate with many voters.
“It’s not so much Rob Ford, the crack guy,” he said. “It’s Rob Ford who cares about government spending their money.”
Mr. Del Grande said too few political leaders at every level of government are doing enough to address pressing social concerns, such as unemployment for young people and insufficient retirement nest eggs for the elderly. Into this void, he said, Mr. Ford is delivering the message that people want to hear.
It was Mr. Del Grande who helped Mr. Ford deliver on his campaign promise to stop the gravy train: As Mr. Ford’s first budget chief, he crafted three budgets in 18 months. He resigned from the post in 2012 after Mr. Ford voted against him.
His fellow councillors praised his tenure as budget chief on Monday.
Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, a good friend of Mr. Del Grande’s, said he and Mr. Ford saw “eye to eye” on the need to curb spending and balance the books.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong joked that it was difficult to listen to Mr. Del Grande sometimes, but said he was an excellent budget chief. “He was unrelenting [about] harping on councillors not to spend money we didn’t have,” he said.
Even Councillor Ford sang the praises of his brother’s former ally. “I thought he was a great budget chief,” he said.