Marcus Gee, The Globe and Mail:
Mayor Rob Ford came to office promising a new era of transparency and accountability in city government. Instead, we have seen a pattern of secrecy, evasion and backroom dealing.
It started right off the bat when, without consulting city council, Mr. Ford announced he was killing Transit City, the multibillion-dollar light-rail project that was already approved, funded and under way. The mayor proceeded to negotiate a deal with the provincial government that left the city solely in charge of his own dubious transit plan: the Sheppard subway extension. He revived a long-dormant consulting group, Toronto Transit Infrastructure Ltd., to figure out how to get the project done, and appointed a trusted associate, Gordon Chong, to head it.
The same behind-the-scenes manoeuvring has marked Mr. Ford’s handling of the waterfront file. Although he and his brother, Doug, have made it clear for months that they are unhappy with Waterfront Toronto and the pace of development by the harbour, it was not until this month that the public learned that they had hired international consultants to draw up a lavish plan for the Port Lands or that an Australian developer had been talking to the city about building there. City councillors who had approved an entirely different plan only a year ago were left wondering how their democratic vote had been bulldozed so easily. They were hardly reassured when Doug Ford insisted that “We are going to do consultations out our yingyang.”
A mayor is not a monarch. He is not even a prime minister. In a system with no political parties, he can’t just wield his majority to get his way. He has to persuade. That is a skill the mayor has yet to learn. Faced with opposition, he and his allies will often simply say that his election win gave him the mandate to act – or denounce his opponents as communists.
It’s not enough. He has to bring forward his proposals openly, not spring them on the city. Then he has to hear out his opponents, not dismiss them.
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