Everyone at City Hall agrees disaster management is an important and serious issue. Naturally, debate quickly centred on Rob Ford.
On Monday, city council unanimously requested that the federal and provincial governments contribute $57 million each toward financial assistance for December’s ice storm, making Toronto the seventh Ontario municipality to do so. Total storm-related costs for the city are estimated to be $171 million.
While requesting that other orders of government contribute to cleanup costs was straightforward, the debate quickly turned into a barrage of insults. It’s possible the meeting could only have been more farcical if Giorgio Mammoliti hadn’t been busy meeting with strip club owners in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Rightly or wrongly, the mayor’s performance at the meeting occupied a lot of attention. Many councillors criticized him as irresponsible for not having declared an emergency in the wake of the storm—a move that would have consolidated power in the hands of Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt).
Appealing to irony, Ford in turn accused councillors of grandstanding. He called Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto Danforth) “Councillor West”—a reference to Liz West, who is running against Fletcher in the municipal election. He said that councillors David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale) and Raymond Cho (Ward 42, Scarborough-Rouge River) were, unlike him, nowhere to be seen during the storm. When Deputy Speaker John Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West) took time to thank City staff for their hard work, Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) responded: “You’re pathetic. You’re a joke.” He sounded a lot like Donald Trump.
The Ward 2 councillor and noted third-wave feminist also referred to likely mayoral candidate Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) as “unglued” after she criticized the decisions the mayor made during the ice storm. For his part, the mayor claimed councillors were “attacking me for doing a good job,” presumably because they want to see Toronto frozen, Disney villains that they are.
But after all the name-calling and shouting, council passed over 20 motions for City staff to consider as they review disaster management, including ones that involve looking at increased contributions toward reserve funds to pay for these incidents, how to communicate with people who do not have power during an outage, and addressing the power failure at the City’s emergency response centre.