Will city council be stalled under Rob Ford? I doubt it
The night of Toronto's municipal election was surreal. The quick result and decisive numbers weren't what I expected. George Smitherman made a titanic effort in the last days and his list of high profile endorsements, together with the claim that he was the only one who could stop Rob Ford, were supposed to put him over the top, but it all collapsed so quickly.
For me, the weirdest thing about election night, however, was how quickly my perspective of Ford shifted. I made no secret throughout the election that I couldn't stand him or his policies. And as I've suggested before, I was seriously considering casting a strategic vote to stop him. But by 8:20 on Monday night I became cautiously optimistic about the next four years.
As much as I wanted to, in the end I couldn't bring myself to vote. I felt I had two equally bad choices. Either I support Smitherman, the typical politician and professional bureaucrat, or Ford, who never struck me as very competent but would at least be able to deliver a major change and a fresh start for Toronto.
So there I was on Election Day, feeling a very strong curiosity about a Ford administration and a lukewarm enthusiasm (at best) for voting for the best of the worst. These two feelings effectively cancelled each other out, so not voting was my only choice.
I didn't feel good about it, especially since I followed the election closely from day one. But within minutes of turning on CP24 on election night I knew I made the only decision I could've.
It immediately hit me that a Smitherman victory would've been anticlimactic. It would have been a disappointment in so many ways, a settling on second best with little genuine enthusiasm--he wasn't capturing the spirit of the city and it just wasn't his time to win.
I didn't become a Ford supporter overnight but I quickly saw some hope for his mayoralty. Ford's impressive victory by more than a 100,000 votes gives him a stronger mandate than expected, meaning lots of political capital that will help him get his policies through.
The election returned a strong right-wing caucus to city council. Doug Holyday, Karen Stintz, Frances Nunziata,David Shiner, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Mike Del Grande, Michael Thomson, Giorgio Mammoliti, Peter Milczyn (by a hair), target=_blankCeasar Palacio, John Parker, Norm Kelly, Gloria Lindsay Luby, and the newly elected Doug Ford and Vincent Crisanti are all poised to support at least parts of Ford's platform.
Also in Ford's favour is his victory in five wards that elected left-wingers: Ward 8 (represented by Anthony Peruzza), Ward 9 (Maria Augimeri), Ward 25 (Jaye Robinson), Ward 31 (Janet Davis), and Ward 38 (Glen De Baeremaeker). These councillors will have to think twice before opposing Ford, lest they care to risk upsetting those who voted for him.
This leaves only a few councillors to form the hardcore opposition, meaning council might actually be productive, and not deadlocked as many of us feared. Much will depend on how Ford manages his rivals, but as has been commented in the major papers recently, his decision to bring in veteran councilor Case Ootes (deputy mayor under Mel Lastman) to head his transition team bodes well for cooperation on city council.
Finally, Toronto will be a very interesting place to watch from now on. And though the policy might not always mesh with me, I can be pretty certain I'll be regularly stimulated by city news sections.
How bad can it be? It's only four years before we choose again...
Photo by bigdaddyhame in the blogTO Flickr pool.