Sunday 10 March 2013

Rob Ford: Where there's smoke

Let me start off by being straight up front: I don't like Rob Ford and I have never liked him. I don't know the man personally and I have never met him but right from the beginning there was something about what he said that struck me as unrealistic and ill-informed. Of course politics is like that. A politician stands up and makes all sorts of outlandish promises and we the gullible public believe him. And even if said politician has made an enormous mistake and has to renege on a promise, we the gullible public quickly forget about it because we have the attention span of a mayfly.

Ford took office on December 1, 2010 after having been elected with 47% of the votes, an 11% margin of victory over the 2nd place candidate George Smitherman. This apparently was double the win of Mel Lastman in 1997 and David Miller in 2003. Obviously Ford had tapped into something with Joe Public. In a Toronto Star article of March 29, 2010, journalist Royson James mentions Ford's "rock star welcome" during his launch party for his campaign to become mayor. Ford called city councillors "spendaholics". Ford promised to deliver better service from less spending. Ford said improved service "doesn’t have to cost us a dime. All it takes is leadership and accountability." Rah, rah. Let's do it! Stop the gravy train! (Ford's catchy election slogan)

But do the numbers add up? Did the numbers ever add up?

I would remind everyone that during Ford's election, he said he could find $2 billion in Toronto's $9 billion budget. Yes, 22% or over one fifth of the city's budget was waste and could be saved for the benefit of us all. Rah, rah! Stop the gravy train.

Less than a year later, Ford announces that the city is $750 million in the red. His hands are tied. What to do? Cut services. But in a series of consultation meetings, we the public were to get to decide which services would be cut.

Do the numbers add up? How did we get from $2 billion of black to $750 million of red? Stop the gravy train! Wait. Where's the gravy?

Based on the complaints of some of his constituents, Ford eliminates the land transfer tax and the vehicle licence tax, collectively worth $300 million dollars. So instead of being $400 million in the red, we are $750 million in the red. Why cut your income if you know you don't have the money to pay the bills? Oops. You didn't know. Stop the gravy train? How about Stop The Insanity? (catchphrase of the Susan Powter's 1990's diet craze)

Running what is now the fourth largest city in North America can't be easy. Ford swept into power with a fanciful Joe Public impression that things were out of control. Nothing is perfect. But right from the beginning, Ford's numbers didn't add up. Yes, rah, rah, stop the gravy train but it turns out that this so called gravy was far more miniscule than Ford and the public knew. As I like to say, "If it was that easy, it would be done by now."

On April 15, 2010, the city passed a budget of $9.2 billion. (Wikipedia). On January 16, 2013, it passed a budget of $9.4 billion. (Toronto Star)

In the Toronto Star, journalist Royson James quotes Rob Ford as saying, "I’m looking after your money at city hall. The city’s fiscal house is in order. I’m cutting costs and the size of government as you elected me to do. Council’s lefties will suck you dry, but I’m there to hold them off. Call your councillors and tell them to support my budget."

That's an additional $200 million. Where's the gravy?

Rob Ford and the smell of smoke
Sarah Thomson accuses Rob Ford of inappropriate behaviour. (MacLean's) I have to do a facepalm. How many Get-Out-Of-Jail cards are there in a Monopoly game? Is there no end in sight for these shenanigans? He almost gets ousted from office for violating campaign finance laws but even that issue has yet to be fully resolved. He has now ticked off parents and teachers by suggesting the Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School is an unsafe and gang-infested place whose only redeeming feature is football. (Toronto Star) Anybody remember when somebody posted a picture of Ford behind the wheel of his car reading? Yes, he was driving and reading!

These types of stories are distracting from the real matter at hand, being the mayor of Toronto. However while supporters look upon each and every one of these "incidents" as a plot to besmirch our beloved leader, collectively they underline that when it comes to Rob Ford the numbers don't add up. "Council's lefties will suck you dry"? Lines like that can be appealing to some voters. Rah, rah! Stop the gravy train! But at the end of the day, you have to deliver and is Rob Ford delivering? Rob Ford, you are no Art Eggleton.

Final Word
Everybody piles on the guy sitting at the head of the table. I'm sure his supporters will find me biased and unfair. Nevertheless throughout Rob Ford's foray into politics, he has almost consistently presented a message which at first glance, captures the hearts and minds of all those who think government is corrupt and out of control. Unfortunately, reality seems to be a long way from this rah rah sis boom bah of the catchy campaign slogans. In politics, everybody has an opinion. But we always seem to be dealing with a dearth of facts and it isn't until we're somewhere down the road, well down the road, that we truly see if the campaign promises were reflective of a man who had a firm grasp of reality. If it was that easy, it would be done by now. It's your show now, Rob. Good luck with that.


Wikipedia: Rob Ford
Robert Bruce "Rob" Ford (born May 28, 1969) is a Canadian politician and businessman. He is the 64th and current Mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ford was elected mayor in the 2010 mayoral election, and took office on December 1 of that year.

Toronto Star - Mar 8/2013
Rob Ford: Still misbehaving? A look at past controversies
The latest controversy over whether Toronto Mayor Rob Ford inappropriately touched formal mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson is not the first time his behaviour has been called into question.

Wikipedia: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy
"Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" was a remark made during the 1988 United States vice-presidential debate by Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Lloyd Bentsen to Republican vice-presidential candidate Senator Dan Quayle.

The Grid - Jul 18/2011
From $350 million surplus to $774 million deficit in one Ford year? by Edward Keenan
This is an excellent explanation about the city budget process. While it sheds a great deal of light on the truth as opposed to the political rhetoric, it once again tells me that Rob Ford doesn't really know what he's talking about. This is a must read for every voter.

my blog: What the @#$%^* do I know about Rob Ford?
As I said previously, Rob Ford throughout his campaign made some pretty wild promises and some pretty strange claims. I remain perplexed at how the public bought into his spiel as though a man who had no experience remotely similar to the job at hand would know what he was talking about. I will repeat this until I'm blue in the face: If it was as easy as a politician portrays it to be, it would be done by now. That means that since it isn't done, doing it has got to be a heck of lot harder than the politician is leading us to believe.

I will end with this quote from the Toronto Star reporter Royson James (Toronto Star - July 30/2011): "Mayor Rob Ford’s credibility is shot, shredded, blown to bits — victim of his excessive rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims." But what the @#$%^* do I know?


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