What is happening in Toronto, Ontario Canada? Toronto has been all over the news due to the mayor’s ‘crack-cocaine and excessive drinking’ scandal. Will this be the legacy of Toronto’s latest mayor instead of his policies? As a citizen of Toronto since 1973, I don’t ever remember there being a mayoral scandal that has had as much media attention as this. Here are the mayor’s that I remember and a brief review of some of their accomplishments/scandals:
Art Eggleton (Liberal) December 1980 – November 1991
- Produced record level of social housing projects for low-income people.
- 50 acres (200,00 m2) of new parks.
- moved forward on implementing its new official plan which resulted in several new significant buildings in the downtown west, or railway land areas, including: The Convention Centre, Skydome and The CBC Broadcast Centre.
- Instrumental in the establishment of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and other environmental programs that resulted in the City receiving a United Nations award.
***Did not support Toronto’s lesbian and gay community at their annual Gay Pride parade***
June Rowlands (Liberal) December 1991 – November 1994
- First female mayor of Toronto.
- Came under fire for hiring a relative for a municipal position without an advertised process.
- Best remembered and blamed for banning pop group ‘Barenaked Ladies’ from performing at a City Hall function, claiming that the name objectified women (Rowlands was out-of-town during this and it later became know that it was a mayoral staffer that thought the group’s name objectified women).
- Gained further notoriety when she seemed to be staggeringly uninformed about—and even completely unaware of—a large-scale youth riot that had shut down parts of Yonge Street, Toronto’s main street located just one block east of City Hall.
Barbara Hall (Liberal) December 1994 - December 1997
- 61st mayor of Toronto.
- Last mayor to run before Toronto’s amalgamation of municipalities.
- First Toronto mayor to participate and march in Toronto’s lesbian and gay Pride Parade.
Mel Lastman (Progressive Conservative) January 1998 - November 2003
- Prior to amalgamation – Mel Lastman was mayor of North York from 1972 to 1997 (Under the provincial leadership of Progressive Conservative, Mike Harris, Lastman’s position was abolished due to the city’s amalgamation.
- Supported by many in North York for operating the city effectively and efficiently and for keeping property taxes low.
- Gained national attention after multiple snowstorms, including the blizzard of 1999 and effectively closed the city.
- Re-elected in November of 2000 with 80% of the vote.
- Brought World Youth Day to Toronto in 2002.
- Succeeded in pushing the development of the TTC’s Sheppard Subway line (the first new subway in decades).
- Decided to officially recognize Gay and Lesbian Pride Week as opposed to Pride Day.
David Miller (New Democratic Party/Independent) December 2003 - November 2010
- Announced $70 million in waterfront investments over five years, dedicated toward new board walks, promenades, public places and related attractions (which resulted in Toronto having its first urban beach).
- Mayoral run was endorsed by American environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
- David Miller’s first term in office focused on issues such as waterfront renewal, public transit and municipal reform.
Rob Ford (Independent/Progressive Conservative) December 2010 - incumbent
- Cancelled $60 personal vehicle registration tax.
- Balanced frist budget with no tax increases and no significant changes – the budget used a surplus from 2010 and reserve funds to avoid raising taxes.
- 2012 budget consultation review of services provided indicated a $700 million shortfall with no new taxes or cuts made.
Rob Ford has constantly been surrounded by controversy and unfortunately, that is what he will most likely be remembered for. People don’t want to focus on the good that our politicians can initiate and accomplish when the scandals are much more interesting and what makes them like us. Here are some of Rob Ford’s much publicized controversies:
- Arrested for DUI (drinking under the influence) and marijuana possession in Miami (1999). Marijuana charge was withdrawn.
- Removed from a Maple Leafs hockey game for being visibly intoxicated and belligerent.
- In 2005 – Ford spoke out against donating $1.5 million to help prevent AIDS by saying, “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line…those are the facts.”
- In 2007 – Ford remarked about cyclists – “What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later you’re going to get bitten… Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks, not for people on bikes. My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”
- In 2008, he made a statement about Asians - “Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines. That’s why they’re successful in life. I went to Seoul, South Korea, I went to Taipei, Taiwan. I went to Tokyo, Japan. That’s why these people are so hard workers. I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.”
- Conflict of Interest Trial (2010) – the City of Toronto’s integrity commissioner ruled that then-Councillor Ford had not followed City Council’s Code of Conduct by using official letterhead and other council resources in fund-raising letters for his football foundation.
- On-going claims that Rob Ford is and alcoholic and smokes crack regularly.
- Hired known criminal as personal driver, paying him in access of $150,000/year.
- Asking municipal staff to complete personal tasks at his residence and often after hours.
Here is the most recent interview in which Rob Ford and his brother, councillor Doug Ford speak to CBC’s Peter Mansbridge:
In the first 3 minutes Rob Ford makes 3 comments that are not true:
1. “The people elected me with the largest mandate in Canada’s history.” FACT: Mel Lastman had approximately 100,000 more votes in 2000 than Ford did in the 2010 election.
2. “Having the lowest tax increase of any major city in North America.” FACT: Windsor, Ontario, Canada and San Antonio, Texas, USA, have tax freezes which have been in place for a lengthy period now.
3. “I’ve showed up every day to work for the last 13 years.” FACT: Rob Ford was declared absent from committee or council meetings 84 times out of 440 meetings. Which constitutes an absentee record of 19% – attendance records for all councillors can be found via the following link: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/getAdminReport.do
Mayor Rob Ford has been in worldwide media, but not for his policies or the positive changes he has implemented but for his personal life. He has given comedians around the world material that will last decades – he has been the topic of discussion on late night shows such as; Real Time With Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Jay Leno and David Letterman. We are all responsible for the ‘celebrity status’ of our politicians. This is wrong. They should be held accountable for engaging in behaviour that is against the law, disrespectful, homophobic, racist and irresponsible.
Clearly – Mayor Ford has to ensure that he gets his personal life in order prior to retaining his duties as mayor of Canada’s largest city. Mayor Ford (or any other mayor), should not be allowed to lie to the people who elected him. His behaviour is not mayoral. If a CEO of a major corporation displayed the same behaviour and incompetence that Mr. Ford has shown – shareholders would ensure the removal of that CEO. Toronto City Council was accurate in revoking the mayor’s powers until he is fit to resume those duties. The mayor is a representation of the city’s people and Mr. Ford has certainly been vocal on many social issues which are not respective and inclusive of Toronto’s very diverse community. This is why more people need to get involved in the democratic process to ensure we elect government representation that is reflective of all their constituents.
Mr. Ford’s behaviour is not conducive to creating positive change in the world – which is clearly evident in some of his quotes above. But, we must not allow this distraction to deter us from what needs to happen in our municipalities, towns, cities and countries. People are becoming increasingly agitated about our government officials self-serving needs. They need representation that will focus on the issues of our time – like the environment, social and financial inequality, health, unemployment, poverty and crime. Instead of focusing on these issues – they continue to neglect the environment, promote tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, forget about the health care system, and are responsible for committing crimes themselves.
I hope that Rob Ford manages to get his personal life in order, for his own sake. But, reality is – WE NEED A REVOLUTION of positive change and it isn’t going to happen when we keep elected these self-serving politicians.