Care­ful what you wish for Mr. Ford

New coun­cil has more pro­gres­sives and that’s a good thing

Bayview Post - - News - JOHN SEWELL

There’s noth­ing more sat­is­fy­ing than to see a bully shoot him­self in the foot. That’s the story of the 2018 Toronto city elec­tion.

Pre­mier Doug Ford in­ter­vened in the city elec­tion as nom­i­na­tions were clos­ing to ar­bi­trar­ily slice the num­ber of wards from 47 to 25, with the in­ten­tion of get­ting rid of pesky down­town left-wing coun­cil­lors. But that’s not ex­actly the way things turned out. As I count the results, 13 can­di­dates who are ei­ther pro­gres­sive or lean­ing pro­gres­sive have been elected, and only 12 are likely to sup­port Doug Ford’s agenda.

That puts Mayor John Tory in the po­si­tion of hav­ing to pay close at­ten­tion to, per­haps even court, the pro­gres­sive side of coun­cil.

It might be a case, as Yogi Berra said, of déjà vu all over again.

In 1834, the Fam­ily Com­pact was in­fu­ri­ated that the re­form­ers were such a strong voice in the pol­i­tics of Up­per Canada and in the town of York. As the Fam­ily Com­pact brought in leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate the City of Toronto, it also re­struc­tured coun­cil to en­sure the re­form­ers would be stymied. The elec­tion was held, and the re­form­ers swept into power, elect­ing the lead re­former, Wil­liam Lyon Macken­zie, as mayor. Just as in 2018, those in power at Queen’s Park found their best-laid plans had gone awry.

There was a se­quel to that 1834 elec­tion. The Fam­ily Com­pact gov­erned the prov­ince so badly and so in­censed re­form­ers that a re­bel­lion ex­ploded in 1837. An over­ween­ing use of power can some­times back­fire and bring about the very thing that was try­ing to be pre­vented.

Since Pre­mier Ford’s style of gov­ern­ing is to act like a tyrant, it is un­clear ex­actly what his re­sponse to this turn of events will be. Most likely he will bar­rel ahead with plans to dis­mem­ber the TTC by seiz­ing con­trol of the sub­way sys­tem. He will prob­a­bly try to pro­ceed with plans to put a casino in On­tario Place. He might try to re­strict funds needed by the city for more pub­lic transit, for day­care, for so­cial ser­vices. He might even try restor­ing the old OMB to give devel­op­ers a freer hand.

But the chal­lenge will come from a strong coun­cil that is un­likely to bend to his wishes. We may not be able to move the city much ahead dur­ing the term of Ford, but we should be able to hold our own.

One can­not be en­tirely happy with the look of this city coun­cil. Only eight of the 26 mem­bers on coun­cil are women. Only four are peo­ple of colour. Only three are first-term mem­bers. Some of the rest have been here for eons. All of this means the coun­cil is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the peo­ple who live here. Coun­cil will have to be very cre­ative and es­tab­lish com­mit­tees of var­i­ous kinds with se­ri­ous pow­ers to en­sure that more women, more peo­ple of colour and more young peo­ple are in­volved in de­ci­sion mak­ing. It is only by in­volv­ing a more di­verse range of peo­ple that coun­cil can be­come truly in­no­va­tive.

John Tory cap­tured two thirds of the vote for mayor, a de­ci­sive win for him. In his first term, he was ten­ta­tive about in­clud­ing pro­gres­sives in de­ci­sion mak­ing, but he learned that work­ing with peo­ple such as Joe Cressy was use­ful in ad­dress­ing dif­fi­cult and com­pli­cated city is­sues like safe drug in­jec­tion sites, which the prov­ince has now agreed should con­tinue. That ex­pe­ri­ence should em­bolden him to be much more forth­com­ing in en­gag­ing peo­ple such as Gord Perks and Josh Mat­low in this term.

With­out their sup­port he will be un­able to get the votes needed to gain coun­cil ap­proval for ini­tia­tives.

I sus­pect Tory has learned it is worth giv­ing pro­gres­sives real power, par­tic­u­larly since they are gen­er­ally smart and in­no­va­tive com­pared to some of the old guard he re­lied on in the past.

This elec­tion has opened pos­si­bil­i­ties for the city to de­fine where it should be go­ing and how it can get there.

“An over­ween­ing use of power can some­times back­fire.”

Post City Mag­a­zines’ colum­nist John Sewell is a for­mer mayor of Toronto and the au­thor of a num­ber of ur­ban plan­ning books, in­clud­ing The Shape of the Sub­urbs.

Mayor John Tory will have to work with pro­gres­sive coun­cil­lors such as Josh Mat­low to get things done

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