When the Levee Breaks




When the Levee Breaks

The mayor met with the public in an annual tradition, but minds were elsewhere.

Mayor Ford at the annual New Year’s levee, January 1, 2014. Photo by HiMY SYeD, from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

On Wednesday afternoon, over 400 people lined up for hours in the City Hall rotunda to meet Mayor Rob Ford and several city councillors as part of the City’s annual New Year’s levee. The tradition is ostensibly apolitical, but as it took place the day before a 10-month election campaign was set to begin, politics were not far from anyone’s mind. The mayor told the gathered press he was eager to start the campaign—and not even the honour guard or bagpipes that accompanied the event could distract from electoral considerations.

Even people in line, the first of whom arrived more than five hours before the event was scheduled to start, were largely focused on what might be the most anticipated municipal election in Toronto’s history. People whispered to one another about prospective candidates—like Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow, past leader of the provincial PC party and former mayoral candidate John Tory, and city councillor Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence)—and talked about how a crowded field might help Ford.

Some people were even planning to run for office. Troy Young, 43, intends to run for mayor, although he says Ford has been doing a good job. He aims to highlight housing and homelessness issues, which he believes have been neglected by council, and adds that he feels market-rate tenants are discriminated against.

Some critics of the mayor were also in attendance.

Mary Hynes, the 70-year-old Don Valley East resident known as “Yelly Granny “ because of an impassioned 2011 deputation in opposition to proposed budget cuts, lined up to give the mayor a piece of her mind. “I wanted to wish the mayor well in his personal life, and tell him he has done a terrible job,” she told Torontoist while waiting in the queue. “He’s been deceiving us, that he has been saving money and that it’s a choice between subways and streetcars. He’s made us a laughingstock around the world.” Hynes plans to run for public school trustee in her local ward.

Karen Stintz has announced her intention to run for mayor, and she was also in attendance. Despite the cordiality of the levee, she was critical of the mayor she wants to replace: “I don’t believe the mayor represents our city. I don’t believe he’s tackled the issues people care about on an everyday basis…I don’t think the mayor is doing a good enough job.”

Down the hall to the left from where the mayor shook hands and smiled for the cameras is the City’s election services office. Registration for candidates opened at 8:30 a.m. on January 2.