Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says the mayor and his brother were out of line to reject a bid for the 2020 Olympics without consulting city council, arguing such “fiats” are overriding democracy in Canada’s largest city.
The rookie councillor, who is generally on the other side of issues from Rob Ford, issued a strongly worded open letter to the mayor on Wednesday, urging him to change his ways. She also is asking the city manager to begin an administrative inquiry into what she described as “closed door” discussions about a possible bid, in which the only elected official the mayor invited to attend was his brother Doug, who is his closest adviser and an Etobicoke councillor.
“I believe that you and Councillor Doug Ford disrespected our roles as elected representatives when you made a decision by fiat without council consideration,” the letter says.
Such important decisions should be made in the open, Ms. Wong-Tam said in an interview. “The members of council have been shut out and Torontonians have been shut out. Whether or not you support an Olympic bid, wouldn’t it be nice to have an intelligent conversation?” she said.
The mayor’s office confirmed last month that it had nixed a nascent bid for the summer Olympics that had backing from the Ontario government and the Canadian Olympic Committee after a meeting with bid proponents.
An official bid would need the support of the city, but Councillor Ford said it was not feasible at a time when Toronto is struggling to balance its budget.
The Olympic bid, Ms. Wong-Tam argues, is the latest example of how the mayor and his brother are running the city without the input of council. “We are all duly elected,” she said in an interview. “We all have one vote on council. No one person can decide the state of the city.”
The mayor said on Wednesday he had not read the letter and would not comment. Councillor Ford, stopped by reporters as he left his brother’s office, dismissed it as political manoeuvring. “He’s my brother, of course I have access to him, ” he said. “The left is playing politics.”
In her letter, Ms. Wong-Tam notes that one of Rob Ford’s first acts as mayor was to cancel the previous administration’s Transit City plan. “Your unilateral decree overrides the democratic process of civic government,” she wrote, adding that the mayor should “reconsider the governance style in which you currently operate.”
Former mayor Mel Lastman, who championed the city’s 2008 Olympic bid, said in an interview the decision to go after those games was made by council. “I don’t think it’s the mayor’s decision to make,” he said. “I think the councillors have to have a say. Maybe somebody could shed some bright light on why you should have it.”
John Tory, who supported Toronto exploring an Olympic bid, said he understands the mayor has big issues to tackle at city hall, but thinks public consultation could have been helpful.
“I don’t know that he would have decided any differently,” said the former leader of the provincial Conservative Party, who chairs the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance. “Having said that, he might have had a chance to speak with some more people.”
Who is being consulted at city hall is a political decision, two politics professors said.
“The executive, the mayor and whomever, they can determine what to consult on,” said Bryan Evans at Ryerson University.
Mr. Evans said unilateral decision-making seems to be becoming a pattern within a small group at city hall. But a decision about the Olympics is on another scale. “You would think for something of that stature, that there would be a little bit more consultation.”
University of Ottawa professor Martin Papillon agreed, adding “The optics are really bad when the mayor of a city decides to make a major policy decision without consulting the representatives of the population that are on council.”
A response to Ms. Wong-Tam’s request for an inquiry will be part of the regular council meeting in September, a city hall spokesman said.