In case anyone had any doubt – now that all the evidence is in – Mayor Rob Ford is as good as invulnerable.
On Monday, the mayor, his brother and his lawyer went to the city’s compliance audit committee and asked that they not be made to face prosecution, over a compliance audit report that showed he’d overspent his campaign allowance by $40,000. When the committee agreed, the mayor escaped the second of two legal problems that could have seen him barred from office.
Add to that his victory in the libel lawsuit levelled against him by the owner of the Boardwalk Cafe, and the mayor is three for three.
It’s a remarkable feat – although it’s one that has been entirely consistent with Ford’s ability to deal with issues that would wipe out most politicians.
Then again, most politicians, having escaped such formidable problems as these, would find themselves automatically rejuvinated – their mandate and influence effectively renewed. I wouldn’t bet on that in the case of Mayor Ford and the council that has long ago ceased to recognize his leadership.
Council in particular seems to have descended into a lame-duck morass, not so very different from the final year of Mayor David Miller’s mandate, when he made it clear he wouldn’t run again: a forum that too easily descends into posturing, positioning and vendetta-voting.
The February council meeting illustrated this all too well.
Council spent its first day debating whether to debate a walk-on item about the shelter system, and archly attempting to put one of Mayor Ford’s harshest critics onto the mayor’s executive. They went on to browbeat two of the city’s long-suffering accountability officers, debate whether or not to let newcomers here illegally use services that the city offers regardless of citizenship (and then claim victory on that basis) and put off deciding what to do with an Etobicoke hockey arena.
Finally, after extending the meeting to a punishingly long evening session, they made a token sensible decision, and voted to shut down a plan by Etobicoke-Lakeshore Councillor Mark Grimes to offer developers incentives to build condominiums on the waterfront. That, added to a quick motion by Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher to formalize grace periods for parking-permit holders in the downtown neighbourhoods, represented the bulk of the collective wisdom of council this month.
But generally, the leaderless crew ran the meeting with all the grace of a sugared-up daycare full of three-year-olds trying to drive a minivan.
There is no obvious mechanism for this to change.
The mayor returns a formidable survivor, but no more a bridge-builder than he ever was. Council remains an unorganized agglomeration of ambition, ideology and parochialism. The city government as a whole continues to be unworthy of the fine city that it’s charged with.
To put it another way: Mayor Ford may be strong as he’s ever been. But the real frailties of Toronto’s municipal government have never been more apparent.
David Nickle is the Mirror’s City Hall reporter. His column appears every Thursday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org