Ford pits down­town against the sub­urbs

New premier doesn’t seem in­ter­ested in find­ing com­mon ground

Bayview Post - - News - JOHN SEWELL

Not­with­stand­ing last month’s chaos over the struc­ture of this month’s elec­tion on Oct. 22, we have learned some im­por­tant lessons in the last few weeks.

First, Premier Doug Ford is de­lighted to play the cul­ture card as a ma­jor tool to di­vide peo­ple. Ford said the op­po­si­tion to him came from “those left-wingers from down­town” and from ac­tivist groups, mak­ing it clear they had no le­git­i­macy com­pared to his sup­port­ers.

Yes, there are two cul­tures in the Toronto ur­ban area. The dense, mixed city with a grid road sys­tem built be­fore the Sec­ond World War with a cul­ture re­lated to com­mu­nity and car­ing, which ex­pects govern­ment to help solve so­cial prob­lems, con­trasted with the low-den­sity, car-cen­tric sub­urbs built after the Sec­ond World War with a cul­ture more in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic and less in­ter­ested in govern­ment pro­vid­ing so­lu­tions to so­cial is­sues.

Ford is not try­ing to find com­mon ground be­tween these dif­fer­ent parts of the ur­ban area; in­stead, he wants di­vi­sion.

I was re­minded of Don Cherry at Mayor Rob Ford’s in­au­gu­ra­tion den­i­grat­ing down­town­ers as “pinkos out there that ride bi­cy­cles and ev­ery­thing.” It’s the same cul­ture war, and as we know from what he is do­ing, Premier Ford will struc­ture govern­ment poli­cies to hurt the down­town if he thinks it will help him.

The sec­ond thing we have learned is that Ford’s pol­icy is de­vel­oped on the fly, with­out ref­er­ence to data or in­for­ma­tion.

Ford had lit­er­ally no in­for­ma­tion to back up his claim that a smaller coun­cil would make coun­cil more ef­fi­cient or that it would end grid­lock of any kind. In re­ject­ing the province’s ar­gu­ments and declar­ing that Bill 5 in­fringed the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms, Judge Belob­aba said that no ev­i­dence was pre­sented to the court to jus­tify what the govern­ment was do­ing.

A third les­son, and one that is most discouraging, is that the premier is sur­rounded by cab­i­net mem­bers with­out moral fi­bre. All cab­i­net mem­bers have sup­ported Ford’s ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tions, even those whose men­tors are in vir­u­lent op­po­si­tion such as former premier Bill Davis, former prime min­is­ters Brian Mul­roney and Jean Chré­tien, former at­tor­ney gen­eral and court of ap­peal judge Roy McMurtry. As McMurtry and Chre­tien said about those cab­i­net min­is­ters, his­tory will judge them by their si­lence.

Fourth, the premier takes ex­tra­or­di­nary steps to get what he wants. He in­sulted Judge Belob­aba, claim­ing that his be­ing ap­pointed meant that the judge’s opin­ion was of no value to him, the premier, who had been elected.

The new Bill 31 was ex­actly the same as the old Bill 5 save for the sec­tion of the not­with­stand­ing clause. The rules of the leg­is­la­ture don’t per­mit the same bill to be in­tro­duced twice in a year, but Ford got the Speaker to say that he would not rule on it im­me­di­ately, but “in due course,” that is, too late.

There was a spe­cial ses­sion of the leg­is­la­ture on Satur­day, then a spe­cial ses­sion at 12:01 a.m. on the fol­low­ing Mon­day when the de­bate went un­til 6:31 in the morn­ing. The bill was not re­ferred to com­mit­tee even though al­most 100 peo­ple had re­quested to speak, so there has been no chance for MPPs to hear ra­tio­nal pre­sen­ta­tions from the pub­lic.

Even tak­ing one of these steps would be un­usual. Ford took them all, and his cab­i­net all agreed.

The fifth thing we have learned is that there’s no rea­son for Toronto City Coun­cil to trust Ford in the fu­ture.

A good re­la­tion­ship be­tween the city and the province is crit­i­cal for the city’s suc­cess, given the city’s lim­ited pow­ers and lack of funds for ba­sic ser­vices such as tran­sit, hous­ing, child care and so forth. But the trust is bro­ken, and it is dif­fi­cult to see how it will be healed as long as Ford is in power.

Toronto City Coun­cil has been given a very se­ri­ous body blow by Doug Ford.

The govern­ment at Queen’s Park is do­ing its best to de­stroy the gov­ern­ing struc­ture of this city. I fear for the fu­ture. 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.

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