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2011 Villain: Ford’s Council Friends

Nominated for: running interference for a politically unhinged agenda.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past twelve months. From December 12–23, the candidates for Mightiest and Meanest—and new this year, a reader’s write-in option! From December 26–29 you’ll be able to vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year, and we’ll reveal the results December 30.

In the months leading up to the 2010 municipal election, City Hall watchers didn’t think it likely that Rob Ford would accomplish much, even if he were somehow to get himself elected mayor. He would still only have one vote out of 45 on council, after all, and what politicians in their right minds would go along with an agenda so patently unhinged?

In the year since Ford’s decisive win, a majority of council has, in fact, demonstrated its willingness to go along with that political agenda. As a result, Toronto is now in a position where it may be forced to eliminate or decrease services for its most disadvantaged citizens in order to subsidize Ford’s impulsive tax cuts, which council also approved.

On the floor of council, no Ford-friend has been as helpful to the anti-gravy cause as Speaker Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston), whose rulings sometimes run to the Kafkaesque (during 2011’s budget process, she forbade councillors from referring to the 2012 budget) and whose commitment to enforcing Ford’s preference for recorded votes on even the most mundane procedural matters—like speaking-time extensions—is impressive, even if it has a tendency to slow meetings to a frustrating crawl. Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) and his famous thumb probably play a more symbolic role.

Rob Ford’s allies don’t only support him on the floor of council—they also run interference for him. When the press-shy mayor decides he’d rather not defend a controversial policy to reporters, it’s inevitably a right-leaning veteran councillor like Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre), Mike Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt), or Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) who ends up behind a podium, taking heat from journalists. Sometimes big bro Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) gets to act as the de-facto mayoral mouthpiece, despite the fact that he’s only been a councillor for a year and has yet to prove he knows the difference between the Port Lands and Canada’s Wonderland. Some other councillors in the Ford camp are rookies, evidently drawn to the wide coattails of an apparently popular new mayor.

If Ford’s popularity permanently wanes—which, considering the number of constituencies his policies are bound to alienate, seems likely to happen before long—some of his allies will abandon him to save face. (In fact, some of them are already doing so.)

Voters will ultimately decide whether or not those councillors were right to go along with Ford’s program.


  • Anonymous

    Doug Holyday and Mike Del Grande are behaving exactly as both have always done, and God bless ‘em. They are not the real problem.

    A bigger disappointment is Michelle Berardinetti. A purported Liberal, she has nonetheless enabled some of the most retrograde Tea Party policies of the mayor — the classic example being the rejection of free public health nurses from the province. Mayor Ford claimed that the Liberal government could not be trusted to maintain funding, an argument Berardinetti evidently agreed with, despite the fact that her husband Lorenzo is a Liberal MPP. Do Scarborough-Southwest voters know that their “Liberal” councillor is voting with the mayor almost 90% of the time?

    Jaye Robinson, Frank DiGiorgio, Cesar Palacio, Michael Thompson, Mark Grimes, Ron Moeser, Karen Stintz, John Parker, Norm Kelly, Peter Milczyn, David Shiner, Paul Ainslie and Gary Crawford are other Ford enablers who figure they can curry favour with the Fords without ever being held accountable for their support of this terrible administration.

    A few years ago, they would be right: in 2006, who even knew who their councillor was, or how they voted? Why not just go along with whatever the mayor wants? But today, people are finally paying attention, and these councillors had better wake up.

  • Anonymous

    Frances Nunziata is a disgrace. If you asked a 12-year-old to watch a Council meeting and asked which councillors the speaker appears to “like” and “dislike”, he or she would produce a perfect list of Ford’s allies and foes.

    Nunziata is an utter failure as Speaker, which is why she’s so incapable of maintaining the respect of the chamber. I’m not a fan of John Parker’s politics, but he fills the speaker’s chair much more competently. It’s disappointing, but unsurprising, that Nunziata was ever picked for the role.

    I didn’t know anything about Nunziata back in June when she was booed at the Pride flag raising, so I felt bad for her. Now I wish I could have been there booing, too. I would have brought a sign that said “Worst Speaker Ever!” just so she’d know my boos were directed at her, not the mayor’s absence.

    • CC

      I agree completely. The speaker’s role is one that is supposed to represent Parliamentary virtues of patience, fairness and bipartisanship and Speaker Nunziata receives a failing grade from me on all of them.

      I think that a good idea would be for those who are sick and tired of the Speaker’s unprofessional conduct to contact their local Councillors and perhaps even start a petition to demand a more respectful approach to the Speaker’s role in council.

      Watch this video taken from council proceedings during the Jarvis Bike Lane debate – – at about 1:45 is an example of Speaker Nunziata’s hypocrisy. It’s absolutely maddening.

  • Scottd

    Frances Nunziata is a case for term limits.