Author Margaret Atwood says people who want to save the Toronto's libraries need to turn their attention to their local councillor and warns that the city’s reputation as a cultural centre is being damaged by comments made by the mayor’s brother.
“This jumping up and down and saying ‘bad Fords’ isn’t going to do it,” the celebrated writer told The Globe and Mail Tuesday, referring to the mayor and his brother Doug, a Toronto councillor. “If they don’t want their library to be closed, they should tell their councillor – big time.”
Ms. Atwood has become a central figure in the fight to save the city’s 98 branches after she passed on a link to an online petition protesting the cuts and posted several twitter comments about the mayor and his brother on council, referring to them as the “twin Fordmayor(s).” Doug Ford recently told a radio host that there were more libraries than Tim Horton’s outlets in his ward, which is not the case.
When asked about Ms. Atwood’s comments, Doug Ford, a close advisor to his brother Rob, fired back last week, saying, “She could walk right by me. I wouldn’t have a clue who she is.”
“Tell her to go run in the next election and get democratically elected and we’d be more than happy to sit down and listen to Margaret Atwood,” he added.
The following day Mr. Ford tried to distance himself from the comments, suggesting the real issue was the city’s estimated $774-million funding gap in next year’s budget.
This week, it is Ms. Atwood’s turn.
Back from some writing time in the woods, she has caught up on the events of the past week – including the all-night committee meeting at city hall to discuss budget cuts where several speakers made impassioned pleas not to close libraries.
A grassroots Margaret Atwood for Mayor campaign also has blossomed including a Facebook page.
“I am not running for mayor yet. But if it comes to be true that people cannot voice an opinion unless they have been elected, then we are no longer in a democracy,” Ms Atwood said.
Ms. Atwood said she is contemplating drawing a cartoon of the twin mayors, or knitting a likeness of Rob Ford – although on a less-than- life-size scale.
Ms. Atwood also warned in a later email to The Globe that Councillor Ford’s comments are damaging the city’s reputation.
“The message sent by Doug Ford – and that has now gone worldwide – is that creative people are not welcome in Toronto. Not artists, not musicians, not writers. Not them, not their conventions, not their festivals, not their concerts, not the innovation they bring to the city.”
She ended the note by saying, “When the Pied Piper found that his musical talents and his style of dress were not appreciated, he left town. But all the kids went with him.
”Real estate prices went down.”