Mayor Ford's victories are becoming a lot less interesting than his defeats.
“At the beginning of negotiations, people said, ‘This can’t be done. It won’t be done,’” Mayor Ford said to reporters at a press conference following this morning’s ratification of a new collective agreement between the City and CUPE Local 416, the outdoor workers’ union. “Well, folks, we did it.”
In contrast to the throngs of media that attended the humiliating defeat of Ford’s Sheppard-subway proposal last week, the crowd of reporters in the members’ lounge today was small. The press gallery regulars were there, but the TV cameras were in noticeably short supply. Ford answered about two minutes’ worth of questions during a group interview carefully stage-managed by his new press secretary, George Christopoulos. The mayor made his retreat as soon as a Star reporter asked him about a leaked TTC memo that indicates Ford has known for about a year that the City’s transit planners think his designs on Sheppard are, essentially, total bunk.
It’s not surprising that Ford’s victory drew so much less attention than his defeat. In comparison to the all-day drama of last week’s special transit meeting—where a packed gallery cheered on their favourite councillors in an atmosphere that one Twitter user described as being like “game seven of municipal politics”—the ratification took just three hours, two of them spent in a private session to prevent the confidential details of the negotiations from leaving the room.
The vote, in the end, was unanimous: 35 in favour, ten absent. Those who voted in favour of the new collective agreement included some of Ford’s harshest critics on council, like Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s). The meeting was, in other words, at best a fait accompli—at worst, a bore.
Imagine you were Mayor Ford in this situation. Due in some part to your well-known obstinacy on spending issues, the City’s negotiating team (which you weren’t directly involved with, but still) has just delivered significant benefits to the public by making changes that really don’t adversely affect anyone who isn’t either a paramedic or a permanent outdoor employee of the City with fewer than 15 years of seniority. After a year on a fruitless search for “gravy,” you’ve finally located some—maybe as much as $100 million worth, if what your staffers are telling you is true. On this, a key campaign promise, you manage to attract broad support from your worst enemies—and yet the whole thing plays to an empty house. In a way, the relative ease of the negotiations around this collective agreement (no strike, no lockout!) is a net loss for Ford, because he comes out looking like an ordinary, maybe-competent administrator who knew when to call it quits, rather than some kind of super-impressive juggernaut who fought to the hilt. He’ll get, like, one Sun cover out of this, and it won’t even be a particularly flattering one.
After most of the journalists in attendance had left the chamber, a lone TV reporter cornered Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) in search of some kind of scandal to sweeten the day’s broadcast. This reporter’s main interest was in finding out what Mammoliti thought of the revelation that CUPE Local 416 President Mark Ferguson had, in a private email to a union member, referred to Rob Ford’s administration, collectively, as “motherfuckers.”
“That word clearly degrades not only women, but mothers,” said Mammoliti.
It was kind of a pathetic display.
Let’s take this story for what it is.