Man goes viral with impassioned speech about Toronto's messed up priorities
More than 715,000 people have now viewed a compelling video that was shot and shared earlier this week on Twitter by Toronto author Desmond Cole, who attended what turned out to be a long, chaotic, tumultuous yet eventually productive city council budget meeting Wednesday.
Outgoing Toronto Mayor John Tory, who will officially step down from his post of more than eight years today at 5 p.m., was able to get his budget pushed through as intended at City Hall on Wednesday.
While the Mayor first announced that he would resign last Friday after the Toronto Star revealed that he'd had an affair with one of his former staffers, Tory expressed his intentions to keep serving as mayor until the city's 2023 budget (which he played a major role in shaping) was finalized.
The budget in question passed late Wednesday, faster than many had been expecting, paving the way for Tory's exit despite the urging of political allies who would rather he stay in office.
But, while relatively quick (Tory could have remained mayor for months trying to shepherd his budget through the system had he chosen to appeal council's decision,) it wasn't exactly a smooth process.
Police now carrying people out of city hall by force. pic.twitter.com/agV45Elgth— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) February 15, 2023
Things got quite disorderly, at times, in council chambers on Wednesday as local leaders debated budget items.
Speaker Frances Nunziata was forced to halt proceedings multiple times throughout the day as protestors became disruptive, chanting, and booing Tory over his affair, as well as over controversial budget items (like a nearly $50 million increase in funding for police and a lack of funding for those experiencing homelessness.)
Some protesters were physically removed from council chambers by security, while others stuck around to observe what happened in an orderly fashion.
One such attendee spoke to reporters Wednesday morning after City Hall was cleared of demonstrators for the second time.
This person was the subject of Cole's aforementioned viral video, which in addition to getting more than 700,000 views, has also inspired hundreds of comments, thousands of retweets and thousands more likes.
This man is the hero we need!!! Who is he? I want to send him a personal thankyou note for standing up for all the people without a voice across Canada because this is happening in EVERY major city. Homeless people are dying while housing sits empty.— Jennifer Fox ⛸ (@harlickjen) February 16, 2023
"Somebody froze to death, cold, dark and alone on Christmas night. On Christmas night, while apartments sit empty," says the individual in the video when speaking to Toronto's homelessness crisis, panning the city for failing to protect those without shelter from extreme cold.
"Somebody needs to make the point that this city, on an annual basis, publicly executing poor people by slow torture... that is what that is what happens when you force somebody onto the streets of this city, in the winter, and don't allow them to go inside. They die. They die slowly. They die alone, in the dark, waiting for somebody to come and help them — and nobody does."
More reporters begin to approach with microphones as the man delivers an explosive, almost two-minute-long rant.
"The idea that we are just going to pass a budget that provides nothing for people who are dying, people who are going hungry, people who are becoming sick, becoming disabled, dying years before their time," the advocate continues, noting that "the life expectancy of a homeless person in this city is 30 years lower than that of a housed person."
"How can we countenance this? How can we allow this to happen, year after year after year? And this is going to be presided over by a man who is supposed to have resigned already? This is a farce. This is a farce, and worse than that it's a farce covering up murder."
He’s right. It’s inexcusable, incomprehensible, preventable, cruel & inhumane. I felt his passion in my soul 😔 https://t.co/Lb4MvtwbSm— Jaded (@LurkLurkyLurk) February 17, 2023
The speaker, who is being hailed by many online for his eloquence and enthusiasm, goes on to suggest that the issue cannot be ignored anymore.
"This can't be the sort of thing that we gloss over with polite language and decorum, and all these rules of polite society that let us look away from people showed shivering and shuddering under sleeping bags, on heating vents, in a city full of empty luxury apartments."
The clip ends there, at a powerful point that's resonating widely online.
"That man is telling us what we all need to hear, especially our elected politicians," replied one Twitter user to Cole's video.
"Well said. We must advocate for the homeless," wrote another. "Why did the city, John Tory, ignore the complete devastation of the homeless in Toronto? This man is frustrated, upset, and has every reason to feel this way. "
February 15, 2023
It would appear, based on an image shared by The Globe and Mail's Oliver Moore just ten minutes after Cole published his video, that the man was kicked out of council chambers along with other protesters.
One is issued trespass notice and is escorted out. I think that means he faces arrest. He shouts about people freezing to death on the streets. “Is there no decency left?” pic.twitter.com/dpuAWEYBmB— Oliver Moore (@moore_oliver) February 15, 2023
His message continues to resonate all over North America, however, as more and more people see the video.
"This is in Canada, but the same could be said for so many American cities," wrote one Twitter user.
"Not from Ontario, but I'm giving a standing ovation to that guy from my living room," said another. "He's speaking truth to power and this needs to be amplified."
Denver has the same issues. Listen to this man. https://t.co/UFjt93ufTA— 🌛🌹Theresa Martínez Flannery 🌹🌜 (@yekdeli) February 15, 2023
Many are also commenting on the man's mask, comparing him to the DC Comics character Bane (if Bane were a good guy.)
February 15, 2023
In the end, the unnamed hero's message did align with the priorities of at least a few city councillors who floated some budget amendments aimed at reallocating resources to people experiencing homelessness.
A motion by Councillor Alejandra Bravo to reallocate $900,000 from the city's nearly $50 million police budget toward helping people access 24/7 indoor respite spaces failed, but Councillor Shelley Carroll succeeded in getting through an amendment to allocate $7 million toward several programs aimed at helping the underhoused, including the opening of one additional 24/7 warming centre.
Soon-to-be-former Mayor Tory confirmed following the budget meeting that he wouldn't be using his provincially-bestowed special "strong mayor" veto powers to appeal any of the amendments.
The 68-year-old politician formally tendered his letter of resignation late Wednesday night, citing his extra-marital indiscretion as reason for moving on.
Some, like the man in Cole's viral video, continue to argue Tory's affair was among the least of his sins as mayor.
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