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Mayor elect Rob Ford takes part in practice as coach of Don Bosco high school football team in Etobicoke, Ont. Oct. 26/2010. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Mayor elect Rob Ford takes part in practice as coach of Don Bosco high school football team in Etobicoke, Ont. Oct. 26/2010. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Onus on Ford to make good on promises Add to ...

On an Etobicoke field the morning after sweeping to electoral victory, mayor-elect Rob Ford was giving a familiar speech.

"Gentlemen … we have to get our act together."

It was a football pep talk, not a post-election call to arms. But it may as well have been: In the hours since he was voted in as Toronto's next mayor, Mr. Ford had already been working the phones, tackling the first challenge of his mayoralty - reaching out and winning allies.

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The Etobicoke councillor's election boasted historic voter turnout and a huge margin of victory. As mandates go, it doesn't get much better. But now Mr. Ford has to deliver on a seven-month anti-waste mantra. And the councillor not known for making allies can't do that on his own.

With a crop of fresh faces on council, and even his most critical political opponents saying they're willing to work with him, the onus is on Mr. Ford to follow through on the promises he's repeated for seven months. And they're nothing if not ambitious: deep cuts to spending with no effect on service delivery; cancelling a multibillion-dollar, provincially funded transit project; slicing city council in half.

In different circumstances, with a different, incumbent-heavy council, Mr. Ford might have been able to fall short of his platform, citing truculent opposition. But with the numbers of councillors who are either like-minded or professing themselves to be open-minded, it would be harder for him to get away with that.

"If, in two years, it's, 'Well, I haven't been able to get anything done because they stopped me,' that kind of takes the bloom off the rose," said John Tory, the radio host and Toronto City Summit Alliance chair whose non-candidacy captivated the city.

"I place a premium on him working on these relationships."

Mr. Ford knows that: He said on election night that job No. 1 - even before scrapping the vehicle registration tax - was to congratulate the new council. By late Tuesday afternoon, he said, he'd made it through about a dozen.

"I've gotta get back on the phones tonight. I just want to wish everyone the best," he said from the side of the field post-practice at the Etobicoke high school where he coaches football.

"Most important is that the taxpayers are taken care of."

And the message from him and Doug Ford, who handily won his younger brother's Etobicoke council seat, was one of reconciliation.

"We're going to focus on the transition team and on reaching out to all the councillors," Doug Ford said. "I do not believe in this left-right scenario down there, I believe every councillor has great ideas and we're going to keep our ears and eyes open."

The Ford team is keeping mum so far on who will lead the transition team, liaising with the city manager's office to ease the mayor-elect into office before he names his executive committee and accepts his new title on Dec. 1. Mr. Tory said on Tuesday that the campaign team has called asking for a chat, but he isn't sure what kind of help they need.

Adam Vaughan, a downtown councillor who has been a vocal opponent of Mr. Ford and was re-elected in Trinity-Spadina on Monday night, said he can work with Mr. Ford on some of his proposals. And he suspects new members of what he called a council of "mixed messages" - both conservative and progressive incumbents turfed - will feel the same way.

"People can take a look at council and do the math: He's got the votes to do what he needs to do. Now he has no excuse. He has to deliver. And if he's talking about a cleaner, more beautiful, better-served city, I'm there. If he's shutting down growth, I've got a problem with that."

Premier Dalton McGuinty took a similarly conciliatory tone. He was one of the first to congratulate Mr. Ford on his victory, and took the high road speaking with reporters on Tuesday morning.

"I don't think that the public has a heck of a lot of patience for somehow any of us allowing political stripes to get in the way of making progress," he said.

Mr. Ford, for his part, plans to "sit down with Mr. McGuinty" and "look at all the contracts" to get going on his plans to scrap Transit City and streetcar lines in favour of subways. He doesn't like to divide councillors by political affiliation, but is quick to tally: "Three lefts went down and two rights went down. So, overall, it doesn't change the landscape all that much.

"But," he says, pausing, "oh, yeah, just doing a rough calculation, we've got enough votes. I don't see there being a problem.

"We're going to be just fine."

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