Mayor Rob Ford has had a colourful first two years in office: starting from the moment he announced that Transit City was “dead,” then handed off the limelight in his swearing-in ceremony to a red-baiting Don Cherry.
As he reaches the second anniversary of his mayoralty on Dec. 7, Ford’s political career in municipal politics could well be over. Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland has ordered Ford removed from office on Monday over a conflict of interest he failed to declare, when he asked council to forgive him having to pay $3,150 of money donated to a football charity.
That matter was one of many black eyes Ford has inflicted on his own mayoralty.
There have been scandals and court cases, the snubs and failed weight-loss challenges, instances of bad behaviour behind the wheel and abscence from his duties as mayor — often in favour of his football team at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School.
But what about policy? After two years in the mayor’s chair, what has Rob Ford done to change the face of Toronto?
Initially, it seemed like he had accomplished quite a bit. He convinced Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Metrolinx to stop work on the Sheppard LRT and let the city attempt to build a subway there instead. He convinced Toronto Council to scrap the $60 vehicle registration fee, and using surpluses left by the previous administration, froze property taxes in 2011. Toronto councillors’ office budgets were slashed in half.
Following a damning auditor general’s report on Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s (TCHC) business practices, Ford mustered support for gutting the board and firing senior staff, and was poised to sell off a sizeable amount of the city’s housing stock.
He convinced council to contract out garbage collection in the area west of Yonge Street. He and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday were able to win major concessions from the city’s remaining unionized workers, with only a short public library strike.
In the service of his promise to cut the “gravy” at city hall, he implemented a core services review, which enabled council and the public to decide what services the city should or should not be providing, and embarked on an efficiency study to determine if the city was wasting inordinate amounts of cash.
These exercises found little to cut, and only small things to trim. The fallout from the process arguably led Toronto Council to take a firmer hand with the mayor in 2012, which saw many of his promises undone. Council resurrected Transit City, turned around the mayor’s 2012 budget to restore some key services, thwarted his plans to sell off 700 single family homes from the TCHC portfolio. When the mayor organized the ouster of Toronto Transit Commission Chief General Manager, council revolted and fired the commissioners who’d supported that move.
The mayor succeeded in his plans to have the five-cent plastic bag fee removed, but had to sit and watch as council then approved an outright ban of plastic bags in retail.
What’s to come? Well, if Ford is successful in appealing Hackland’s ruling, there are a couple of outstanding promises. Ford has promised to start cutting the land transfer tax on real estate transactions. And he has promised to make economic development a priority in the next two years. He is aiming at a 1.75 per cent property tax increase for 2013.
And he has made it clear since the spring, when council shut down his subway dream: Rob Ford is already campaigning for re-election in 2014.