Every Sunday, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Doug, host The City, a two-hour talk show on Newstalk 1010. We listen so you don't have to.
Hey, there, Raccoon Nation: it’s time for another instalment of our favourite radio show. It would be great to hear details about the mayor’s friend Sandro Lisi, or about the police surveillance plane that has reportedly followed Ford and members of his inner circle around town. Will we get to those things today? Let’s find out!
1:07: It’s a Doug-only show today, because the mayor is in Dallas watching a football game. Can you believe he missed Nuit Blanche for a Cowboys game? I’m flabbergasted. Doug does say that his younger brother will call in later, though.
1:12: Doug says we need to bring a music festival like Lollapalooza to Toronto. 13-year-old me would be so excited.
1:15: Still no word on Sandro Lisi or surveillance planes.
1:20: Doug jokes that during the mayor’s recent trade mission to Austin, Texas, he (that is, Doug) sneaked up behind Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale and hovered there for a few minutes. “I pulled a Daniel Dale on a Daniel Dale,” Doug says. This would all be fun and games if it were a one-off, but this is part of a continual effort to discredit hardworking journalists. Just because Doug doesn’t have much credibility doesn’t mean he has to malign the credibility of those who deserve it, and who do their work with a lot of integrity.
1:27: A guy named Rob—not the mayor—calls in, and he says streetcars are a thing of the past. Doug agrees, and says that when he was in Austin, he was asked what he thought of its LRT (which isn’t technically LRT, but whatever, close enough). He says that Austin is one-third the size of Toronto, so obviously LRTs aren’t for Toronto. Doug goes on to say that no big cities in the world have LRTs, which is likely news to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Boston, Los Angeles, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Paris, Madrid, and London. Clearly, these are not World-Class Cities.
1:32: Sean calls in, and he’s angry about the Pan Am Games budget. Doug says the games were dropped in the City’s lap, and we have to do the best we can with them.
1:36: Doug says they’re still trying to get Rob on the line, but haven’t been able to reach him. Somewhere, former press secretary Adrienne Batra sympathizes.
1:37: Doug reiterates his support for an NFL team in Toronto. We should really stop basing our city’s major policy decisions on the mayor’s hobbies.
1:43: Still no word on Sandro Lisi or surveillance planes.
1:46: Nancy calls in, and she asks why the City doesn’t repair all its roads before spending money on new subway stops. Doug replies that the City performs ongoing maintenance on and invests in road infrastructure, which is true. What Doug doesn’t say is that if you wait to achieve perfection in a different area before building rapid transit, then public transit will never happen.
1:55: “I Get Around,” plays the show in, and Doug says that he and Rob certainly get around. As a certain Cessna airplane can attest.
1:55: Doug stresses that he and Rob paid for their own trip to Austin, which is fine when you’re born into incredible wealth. He also says he and Rob are great salesmen, always pumping up the city. It calls to mind an image of the Ford brothers as Death of a Salesman‘s Biff and Happy Loman.
1:56: Walter calls in and says he has a way to pay for subways—putting a tax on bottled water. Doug says it’s an idea. The Ward 2 councillor goes on to say that he would pay for subways by selling air rights over stations that get built. But wait a second, didn’t Doug Ford have over a year to develop a funding model for the Sheppard subway? And didn’t his proposal ultimately amount to crossing his fingers and hoping the private sector would pay? Why, yes.
1:58: Doug says we should increase density at every single subway stop. He’s…right. The only way to justify higher orders of transit is by increasing density, and Doug is spot on. However, many of council’s most stalwart subway supporters don’t support new development in their neighbourhoods. Local resistance is part of the anxiety associated with Toronto’s growth, but councillors shouldn’t play to those NIMBY sensibilities while simultaneously promising subways, subways, subways.
2:05: Tony tells Doug that Rob is doing a great job, and that he, Tony, trusts the mayor with the political purse strings, and that’s what matters. Tony goes on to criticize the St. Clair Avenue streetcar right of way, which he refers to as light-rail transit. It’s not, but Doug doesn’t correct him. Tony wonders whether there’s any way to force councillors to cover the cost overruns on St. Clair out of their own pockets. Doug says he’s upset too, and that all public transit should be underground. Tony says he completely agrees, and adds that we should build subways out to the 905 and then collect the money at the farebox. The show has turned into Waiting for Godot: Transit Planning Edition.
2:15: John calls in, and he likes subways too. He says, “Streetcars work in Amsterdam or Germany, where they don’t have our tough winters,” but not here. He adds that the Canada Pension Plan should invest in Toronto infrastructure. This ignores the fact that the CPP has a fiduciary responsibility to invest in projects based on their underlying merits, and not their location or politics. But John is an optimist, and believes we can build a subway in six months, although the City manager’s report says it would take 10 years for the proposed three-stop Scarborough subway extension. John goes on to say that once we build a subway, other levels of government will want to invest. Doug agrees. John has been sold a world of fanciful make-believe subway rhetoric and math, where we can have things for free and ignore all consequences. It’s sad.
2:17: Michael Hollett, editor and publisher of NOW Magazine and co-owner of the NXNE music festival, is now on the show. Hollett travelled with the mayor and a few city councillors, including Doug, on last week’s Austin trip. The mission was meant to help the mayor and friends learn how Austin leverages its music economy, but Hollett’s presence was particularly notable. His publication has compared Rob Ford to Hitler. But, hey, business is business, right? And Toronto could use another really good music festival.
Except doing business with City Hall comes with a set of rules, and one of them is that if you’re going to speak with the mayor or councillors about, say, a music festival you own, then you have to sign up as a lobbyist. At the time this post was written, Hollett hadn’t done so. It’s the kind of action that NOW would rightly criticize in its pages, but here Hollett is, playing nice with Doug Ford and not following rules he should be familiar with.
It makes sense for NXNE to have a person lobbying the mayor, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be Hollett. Regardless, he should be following the rules.
2:26: It turns out Doug didn’t realize Hollett was with NOW Magazine, but they’re getting along just dandy. “We’re going to work hand-in-hand, Michael, with you and the rest of the group,” says Doug.
2:28: Ken lives in Etobicoke by the 401, and he’s tired of people making U-turns by his house. He wants streetlights installed there, and Doug says he’ll drop by and pay him a visit. Democracy!
2:34: Our next caller, Michael, is calling from a pay phone, because apparently those still exist. Michael is concerned that cyclists aren’t following the rules of the road, and that this hurts cycling generally. What follows is a fairly reasonable discussion about how education and co-operation with cycling advocates would be beneficial for everyone. I check my radio to make sure it hadn’t accidentally gotten knocked to CBC.
2:41: Former Ford chief of staff and full-time cartoon villain Nick Kouvalis is now on the show. It’s the first time he’s been on the show since Josh Matlow was host, and he’s talking transit. He says that the TTC under Gary Webster continually tried to thwart the mayor’s subway plans, and in the background Doug says, “That’s right.” This is not the way to speak about city staff, but there are never any consequences, so whatever.
Before Kouvalis leaves, he gives Doug a piece of advice: “Don’t beat up on council too much—you need their votes.” Kouvalis is absolutely right, and Doug will absolutely not heed this wisdom.
2:50: Still no word on Sandro Lisi or surveillance planes.
3:00: God bless Ford Nation!
Somehow, Raccoon Nation, we went the whole show without talking about Sandro Lisi or the spy plane that has followed the mayor. Fancy that. Also, Rob didn’t call in—but he could have been stuck in transit at the Dallas airport, so that’s reasonable. We also got the rare combination of Michael Hollett and Nick Kouvalis, which has to be some kind of special combo breaker.
4 out of 5 Cessnas.