Tuesday 26 October 2010

Rob Ford: Let the show begin!

As Toronto wakes up to the realization there's a new sheriff in town, I, for one am cogitating on just what the future holds for us collectively. You may say I'm a pessimist but I like to think I'm a realist. In the political arena, what one says and what one does can be very different however this is not for lack of trying. Getting things done is very much dependent on factors than are sometimes outside of one's control and not fully understood. That's not pessimism; that's just a fact of life.

At face value, Mr. Ford's buzz words and slogans hit all the right buttons. "Stop the gravy train." For any of us who have viewed and continue the view City Hall as being an out of control monster of fat cats who want nothing more than to steal from the poor to give to themselves, those are comforting words. However, now in the cold light of day, just who has taken the reins of power? Can he put his money where his mouth is?

Jonathan Jenkins of the Sun Group writes, "Ford's win caps an unlikely march from being council's resident loose cannon to running a massive city government with $9.2 billion operating budget." That's a lot of money, folks. In fact, that budget and the ability to count that high completely dwarfs my powers of mathematical conception. While normally I temper my expectations of any politician once they are in office - they find out things they either didn't know or didn't fully understand - I am wondering if our new man is up to the task at hand. Is he going to shake the image of being a "loose cannon" and come through with the goods?

The Toronto Star put together on their web site something they called the "Smell Test" in which they looked at specific campaign statements made by the candidates and examined whether or not these statements were true. The Toronto Star endorsed Smitherman on Sunday, October 17 so you might say their analysis was slanted but in going through the various points; they did discover some negatives about Smitherman so I'm not finding this one sided. It is balanced and fair.

Ford's mantra through this campaign has been "Stop the gravy train". From what I understand, the Ford camp even produced a T-shirt with this slogan. At face value, this seems like an idea anybody could get behind. In a YouTube video, Ford rattles off a list of perks given to city council members he thinks are unjust to Toronto taxpayers. Seems pretty compelling.

In the Star's analysis (Ford's problem with free perks) of Ford's promise to remove these "free perks" and in so doing save Toronto $20 million a year, I see numbers which add up to a different picture. The total given by the Star is less than a half a million dollars, far short of this $20 million quoted by Ford. This is a perfect example of how Ford's statements sound good but do not hold up to mathematical scrutiny. Even if the Star is completely correct in their numbers, I see nothing from Ford's camp which would substantiate his $20 million claim. This just doesn't add up.

Ford has promised to scrap the fair wage policy. The Star (Ford's vow to scrap fair wage policy) points out the numbers do not match up with Ford's promises and Ford has failed to show hard numbers to back up his claim. On top of it, getting rid of this policy would involve convincing the province to rescind provincial legislation and apparently a report produced by the city itself has stated that this would entail a long and protracted litigation with little likelihood of success. If this is true, Ford cannot hold his promise. If the Star is wrong, Ford once again has failed to provide a detailed plan on how he would make this work. This just doesn't add up.

Ford claims he can save $1.1 billion over four years by only replacing half the employees who leave the city employ each year. The Star's analysis (Ford's attrition savings plan) does show this to be feasible mathematically but raises questions about how service would be affected. Shedding 3 per cent of the workforce a year would see the city with 5,700 fewer employees by 2014, a loss of more than 10%. It would seem logical than service would have to affected in some way. I'll give Ford a point here but I'm still thinking there's something that doesn't add up.

However, let me give credit where credit is due. Ford has claimed that he has saved Toronto taxpayers $1.5 million over the past 10 years as a city councillor by not using his annual office budget and sparingly using his staff budget. According to the fact checking of the Star, this statement is true (Ford's thrifty budget). Their calculation ends up at $1.3 million but close enough.

Final Word
At the end of the day, Ford's in; I have to wait, we all have to wait to see what he can accomplish. Let me be clear that I don't hate Rob. I'm sure that somewhere, despite the news reports of him being a "loose cannon", there beats the heart of a nice guy. Maybe I'm a tad naive or I just like to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, but I don't often really "hate" somebody. You constantly saying to me , "Wha da ya think, buddy?" may irritate me; you punching me in the arm to emphasize your jokes with, "Pretty funny, eh?" may make me roll my eyes but I don't hate you per se.

The problem I worry about is when the person in question tells me that 2 plus 2 equals 4 but I find out that in reality, the equation is 2 plus 3. In other words, the person has gotten something wrong and what they said ends up not being what happens because they have made a mistake. Another big problem of being in the public eye is that politicians or maybe all of us do not like to look stupid and instead of admitting our mistake right up front, have a tendency of hiding our mistake by rationalizing, justifying or just plain lying. Now doesn't that compound the problem!

Captain! We just hit an iceberg!

No, it was merely a large wave.

Captain! We're taking on water!

No, we're just adjusting our ballast.

Captain! We're listing to port!

Poppycock. Just have some of the passengers move to starboard.

Below, you will find a link to a Toronto Sun article listing Rob Ford's various election promises. It will be good to print a copy and keep it on hand so we can check off those items covered off over the coming days, weeks and months. I have also included some other older articles written by various people who have looked into various issues and done some fact checking on Ford's announcements. It is interesting reading.

Well, Rob's been in power now for [I glance at my watch] coming up to 24 hours and [I look around me] the lights are still on. [chuckles] And they said the sky was falling. I wanted a Chevy but I'll try to make do with a Ford. [I sweep my hand towards the window to point to the downtown core of the city] Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the mayor of Toronto...


Toronto Sun: A list of Rob Ford's promises - Oct 26/2010

Some of the scary stuff I've read. The fact checkers have a problem, a big problem with Ford's numbers.

blog: An Open Letter to Rob Ford Supporters

blog: Rob Ford should show some respect to taxpayers

blog: Profiles in Profanity: Councillor Rob Ford


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