2011 Villain: Ford's Council Friends
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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.