On March 27, 1834, William Lyon Mackenzie was elected alderman in Toronto, and then selected by his colleagues to become the first mayor of newly incorporated City of Toronto. In 1837, voted out of office, eager for constitutional reform in Upper Canada, and chaffing against the Tories, the Reformer Mackenzie led a small, ineffectual rebellion which was quickly dispersed in a battle with Loyalist troops at Montgomery’s Tavern. Mackenzie fled south of the border and spent the next eleven years in the United States.
On November 11, 2009, Mackenzie returned to Toronto, eager to stake his claim once again to the city’s mayoralty.
@rebelmayor’s first tweets.
City Hall watchers need fun distractions just like anybody else, and for the past few weeks a Twitter account with the handle @rebelmayor has been it. The tweets appeared out of nowhere a few weeks ago and have been picking up steam, and followers, ever since. @rebelmayor thrills (as all good rebels do) in poking fun: at his competitors in the race for mayor, at city councillors, at political parties, at journalists—at just about anyone who crosses his path. And though you might think a man of his age would be out of touch with today’s modern world, @rebelmayor is well-versed both in the intricacies of municipal politics and in Twitter-speak. He frequently slips out his frock and into disguise so as to wander the hallways of City Hall unnoticed, and has been active on the holiday party circuit.
Guessing at the identity of @rebelmayor has become the favourite parlour game of those who take an interest in Toronto’s political landscape. It’s silly, but it’s also driving everyone nuts. Speculation has included everyone from sitting councillors to journalists to activists who frequent Council Chamber, and we’ve had to deny our own involvement on at least one occasion. We’ve witnessed forensic analyses of his language use, watched networks of people spring up to fact-check claims about who is wearing what at City Hall on a given day, and seen any number of people vigorously deny responsibility.
We are charmed by the enigma, and content to let @rebelmayor continue plotting his political comeback for the time being. And one day recently, when he chided us for not taking him as seriously as other mayoral contenders, we decided to rectify our lapse and give @rebelmayor the interview he deserved.
It was, of course, conducted over Twitter.
A rebel is never afraid to demand the attention he is owed.
Torontoist: First, a look back. How would you assess the mayoralty of David Miller? Could he have hacked it in 1834?
@rebelmayor: David has done a fine job (admit am loath to speak ill of the soon-departed) but he had to deal with some real stinkers on council…who came with 1834 ideas, like Case Ootes. So I get a feeling he’d have handled himself alright. I fear though he’s too nice and…might aim the musket at an opponents knee rather than the gut, where that hot ball belongs.
So does that mean you are endorsing Miller’s major policy planks? Will you keep up with Transit City, or revert back to horses and buggies?
@rebelmayor: Some of his planks. Rebels build subways tho, & [I] am prepared to march on Ottawa to get the funding. I’ve marched on things before. Horses…are fine for neighbourhood transit but Toronto is no 1834 dog and pony show. I do like my Prius hybrid tho esp at nite in Portlands. Zoom.
Do rebels ride bicycles? Maybe with sharp things sticking out of the spokes, to cut down enemy forces?
@rebelmayor: True rebels ride bikes in full frock. No Tory MEC gear. Rebels also don’t ride thru open streetcar doors, that’s riding BALDWIN SYTLE. Grrr!…I really, really still hate Baldwin. My first act will rename the Baldwin Steps the “Rebel’s Stairs” and going to completely redevelop Baldwin Street…into a new Upper Canada museum & condo tower called The Rebel Mews. Penthouses from $850+, 1-bed, from $243 + some affordable units.
@rebelmayor shows off his familiarity with the inner working of City Hall and its denizens.
Let’s talk about the competition. As a leader of the Reform movement, do you think @liberalrocco & @Smitherman2010 do the party proud?
@rebelmayor: I’m certain @liberalrocco was behind the defection of my Young Liberal interns and the theft of my BBerry last friday. Also, Rocco-who???…I can’t wait to debate Smither, his fury is all bluster. He’s no street fighter. Will meet him at Church + Wellesley and wrestle him down… And by wrestle I mean wrestle. Smithers is built, but slow.He can wear his Liberal red singlet & I’ll wear mine made out of the Toronto-flag.
Rocco wants to sell Toronto Hydro and Smithers is talking about living within our means. What’s your approach to our budget?
@rebelmayor: The budget dear Hamutal runs itself, they’re all the same. I’m more concerned with kicking ass. Kick ass, and the spreadsheet will follow.
Miller just accepted a Fossil award in Copenhagen on Canada’s behalf. Which councillors do you think deserve a Fossil award?
@rebelmayor: [A]bout that Fossil award, it should be in the shape of Case Ootes’s head. That man is straight out of…Mad Men (love it!) but he’s a character they keep cutting because it would be too unbelievable in fiction. But there he is…Stintz too. She’s got the string of pearls going and fingers her blackberry ball like nobody else, but there is a dinosaur underneath her…suitjacket and suit combos. She rocks that style though (my Torys are seriously in love with her). If only that moxie was…smart…Also fossils from the left (poor David) – these people view the world thru Jimmy Hoffa glasses. My platform is all about the new economy…and Change. We chant change-change-change in the office each morning. We got it from the internet, and also that Josh Matlow says it a lot… Mostly, dear Hamutal, we want to toughen up TO, put the muscle and musket back into it. “Grrrrrr” will be the new slogan at the city limits.
You haven’t mentioned @shelleycarroll or @Adam_Giambrone at all. Does the rebel spirit beat in either of their hearts?
@rebelmayor: [T]he person I fear most is Shelley Carroll—she’s a true rebel and FIERCE underneath her cute glasses. If she runs, she might pin me in the street…And Adam, a nice guy too, but no rebel. Too nice. Also, this is scuttlebutt, but my NDPers tell me the Chow-Layton goon-machine don’t…like him. If he marches on Ottawa, they’d stab him in the back et tu brute style.
[We] have long suspected Carroll to be a rebel of the 1st order. Think she can muster enough troops to challenge you…with Smithers and Rocco also making appeals to potential rebel supporters?
@rebelmayor: Carroll is a liberal and they’re slippery though. The slipperyest. So cute though. Giambrone will get the Jimmy Hoffa vote aka Fossil Vote… She’s got the whole of Don Valley East to muster her troops. You know we used the valley in ’37 too, she may be a student of history…Rocco is what we used to call a diversion, trying to get troops confused. There’s nothing behind that smile, just more liberals (creepy!)…Though Rocco’s attack via my Lib interns last week was very real. Toronto is a bee’s nest right now, worse than 1837…
You have much scuttlebutt—v. connected for a rebel. Some have speculated that u have someone on the “inside” at City Hall. Care to comment?
@rebelmayor: As a former mayor, I’m quite connected. Tho I enjoy my particular style, I know how to dress 2009, and can slip in/out of CityH easily.
Other than “Grrr” u haven’t really talked about your platform specifics. As a rebel, I know I can count on u to be direct, unlike wussy…modern candidates. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Toronto? How do we as a city kick more ass?
@rebelmayor: Grrr is my motto (to be honest, it started from our hilarious impressions of Smithers we’d do to each other). But it works…As I said, dear Hamutal, I’m a plain spoken Scotsman and say what I feel, handlers be damned. My platform specifics will be laid out…over time via Twitter. Come election time, people will know me and what I believe in. Transparency, as one annoying consultant keeps saying…Biggest challenge is putting the Grrr back in Toronto. Memories of 1837 should be in Queens Park and Ottawa’s heads, and worry them… I want this city not to be afraid to roll “balls out” (sorry, that’s how we talk…bit bawdy I know)—forget about the quiet diplomacy…David Miller had his Broom. It worked for a while. Now it’s time for the Musket. (PS it isn’t really loaded, but still, it’s impressive.)