Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks offered no apologies Thursday, Jan. 10, for his role in “hijacking” the city’s first public consultation on a possible casino in the city’s downtown Wednesday night.
“It came from conversations I had with people who said, ‘I came down here for a chance to talk. When do I get to do that?” said Perks.
“It was at the urging of Torontonians that we did this.”
Perks was one of several left-leaning councillors who attended the city’s consultation on a possible casino at city hall Wednesday night. The consultation is the first of several meetings the city is holdingprior to council deciding on whether to welcome a casino to a downtown location.
Perks said residents objected to the drop-in format of the consultation, which saw participants separated into groups to discuss various aspects of the casino decision.
Joe Pennachetti, Toronto’s city manager, said the consultation is intended to allow residents to have their say on the issue rather than special interest groups. The consultation is also taking place online and so far has garnered about 5,000 responses.
Perks said the format might serve the purposes of staff as they prepare their final report on casino gambling for debate in March, but he said it didn’t serve the purposes of the public.
“Whatever the goals of Toronto staff were, people who had taken an evening out of their busy lives were telling me that they wanted a chance to speak, so we gave them one,” he said.
Perks and Trinity-Spadina Councillor Adam Vaughan booked a committee room for a public discussion, and less than an hour into the meeting, Perks climbed onto a chair, apologized for the format of the staff meeting, and invited residents to join them in the other meeting.
Perks’ behaviour drew sharp rebukes from Mayor Rob Ford, who said future meetings will have to be organized in such a way as to prevent what he termed a “circus” and a “hijacking.”
“We’ll just have to make sure the next meeting doesn’t turn into a circus like the last one,” he said. “I’m very disappointed in how the councillors behaved.”
Etobicoke North Councillor Doug Ford, a supporter of a casino for Toronto, called Perks’ behaviour “appalling.”
“These are bully tactics,” he said.
“We have open public consultation. We want to reach out to people. And they jump on chairs and start pulling their intimidation tactics. Just imagine if Rob and I jumped on a chair... well first of all it wouldn’t hold us... but if we started screaming at people and dividing people and putting half the people in the back room. We aren’t going to have politicians jumping on chairs and yelling and shouting and intimidating people.”