City Centre Mirror
A week ago today in this space, some may recall reading something about Mayor Rob Ford having found his game again.
That observation of mine appeared in print just a day after the mayor's good-hearted attempt to remove the bag tax at council turned into nothing less than the complete annihilation of plastic bags from 416 grocery stores by the end of the year.
Blame it on newspaper deadlines. Up until that Wednesday afternoon vote on council, the mayor seemed to have been doing rather well. He was engaging with the public, making speeches, acting like a leader.
The only trouble was that in all of this, he hadn't bothered to do one of the basics of leadership: look behind and see if anyone was in fact following him. It turns out, they weren't. Particularly David Shiner, the Willowdale councillor who sits on Ford's executive committee. Shiner was the one who moved the motion to ban all single-use plastic bags starting Jan. 1, 2013, just over six months from now.
The mayor tried to claim victory - the bag ban does effectively remove the mandatory fee, and council did support immediately rescinding the old David Miller bag fee bylaw. But he didn't fool anyone. In attempting to lead on a small, populist plan, the mayor opened the door for a major and humiliating defeat.
And not a lot of people seem to mind. A Forum Research poll conducted shortly after the vote showed that while many Torontonians don't agree with banning plastic bags, few are terribly concerned about it and many others think it's a good idea.
And as I'm writing this, no one has come forward with a legal challenge and the province seems to think Toronto Council has the authority to make the call.
The matter may yet be overturned, of course. Thinking back to the 1990s, when municipalities tried to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, resolve was thin. In the old North York, Giorgio Mammoliti, then a councillor there, managed to get council to reverse its smoking ban after complaints from restaurants, and the old City of Toronto waffled on its bylaw, too.
Still. Today, no one smokes in bars, province-wide, and no one seems to mind. It's not hard to imagine that five or 10 years from now, no one in Ontario will be carrying groceries home in plastic bags - which, let's be honest, do no favours for the environment and our oceans and our wildlife.
And that, so far, could well be one of the most lasting legacies of the Ford administration.
David Nickle is The Mirror's city hall reporter. His column appears every Thursday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org