My Wish for the New Year: Consensus in Toronto

One thing I seem to have a reputation for: I am known to”visit” work even when I’m not scheduled to be in. The day before New Year’s Eve, although I was not supposed to be in the office, I had lunch with a coworker and took some pictures downtown. And while I was zipping down on the subway, I read the Metro newspaper. I have to admit, reading Matt Elliott’s column made the trip worthwhile (Matt Elliott, MetroNews, 2013).

I’ve appreciated Mr. Elliott’s articles a number of times over the last few months: the time I’ve been working downtown and had opportunity to read them. This piece was no exception. I won’t repeat it here: the link is above and you can read it if you’re interested. But will identify that he made an excellent point about Toronto needs in leadership: what makes a Toronto mayor stand above the rest. It’s not a particular perspective or a strong business savvy. It’s not a hard-line to save money or to maximize efficiency. It’s the ability to work with others and to get things done.

This is our current mayor’s biggest failing. It’s not his crack-smoking, not his drunken speeches and not his determination to hold on to his title when all else has been stripped. As Mr. Elliott stated: “…it was his inability to build that consensus and compromise that troubled Mayor Rob Ford’s mayoralty and limited his list of accomplishments mostly to things he passed in his first couple of months in office… His legendary refusal to compromise led to a chronic inability to do much of anything. He lost about half the votes on major items he brought to council.” Stated as simply as possible, he doesn’t play well with others: especially others who don’t agree right off with the “big guy”.

I agree with Mr. Elliott in one sense. I didn’t trust Rob Ford from the beginning; specifically since the story about him lying about his DUI in Florida (Globe & Mail, 2010). For me, character is important: and what some people think is “funny” or “cute” about his character flaws I see as only… well, flaws. I even liked the agenda he claimed was his; I very much support the ideas of efficiency and reducing waste in government. I just didn’t agree with his ways of achieving those ends. I disagreed with even thinking about cutting spending for libraries or schools or other essential social services. But at least if he’d tried those things, we would have had seen the direct fall-out of such a policy and been able to move forward. As it is, all we have is months of arguing and media circuses and heckling and time-wasting. Once the alleged sheriff who would reduce the gravy train, he has instead become a train wreck himself: with plenty of that gravy oozing out the sides.

This year we’ll vote for another mayor: and as the queue starts to form, we can only pray that the city will be smart enough not to vote for Mr. Ford again. In spite of his apparent popularity in polls (Toronto Sun, 2013). Popularity does not make a good legislator, popularity does not make a consensus builder. Popularity makes a person arrogant and allows for stupid mistakes: as is exactly what happened the last time. We need someone as mayor who can work with the other counsellors, not in spite of them.

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