City Centre Mirror
Can Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apply lessons learned in his first term of mayor, to build a better economic future for the city and thereby build support for re-election?
Perhaps re-election is a motivation for Ford releasing a five-point economic development plan this week.
Economic development has been absurdly ignored during the first part of Ford's tenure, as municipal spending and transit visions dominated Ford's agenda.
It's not uncommon for a politician to put priority to their least popular and most combative plans early in a mandate. Voters' displeasure tends to be forgotten by the time the next election rolls around.
So now, as he promises to lower commercial tax rates, streamline the development process, improve marketing of the city, attract the right people to town and fix transit woes, he, in theory, can look forward to increased economic development and more jobs - if everything goes right.
A strong performance on the economic front by Ford would be welcome in this great yet, sometimes underperforming city - the economic engine of the province, if not the country.
Launching his economic plan at this point may very well signal he's unofficially in election mode. Business carries much weight in the city and has much money behind it.
The key is going to be to see the steps Ford takes to carry out his economic plan. Will he lone-wolf solutions, or will he very publicly involve the various group within this city who put heart and soul and all resources into determining strategy for economic growth and for selling this city?
We suspect to this point, Ford doesn't have the backing and relationship with the community's economic development groups he should have - he would do well to do a lot of listening, and cultivate those relationships before releasing specifics of his plan, promised for the fall.
There's cause for concern, given how his vision for the port lands was developed and promoted - in isolation from almost everyone who had an opinion on the file in the past. At that time we questioned how interested he is in accepting counsel from economic development leaders in the community.
Leadership is about being trusted to steer a ship in the right direction. But a good leader also surrounds themselves with credible and accomplished people who can help provide options and direction.
Rod Ford has a strong business community in Toronto that needs help with economic development. The community would only benefit a strong and clear catalyst to move the economy forward.
We'll see if Ford becomes that catalyst.