Rob Ford and the Toronto Consensus

Discussion in 'Toronto Issues' started by allabootmatt, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. allabootmatt

    allabootmatt Senior Member

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    For lack of a better metaphor, Toronto's political immune system seems to be rejecting Rob Ford's governance. For all the talk of his problems of style (failing utterly to seek compromise on Council, muster fact-based arguments for his preferences, reach out in even the most basic way to constituencies with whom he disagrees etc), Ford's failure really is one of substance. Subways aside, most of his political preferences are simply outside the mainstream of Toronto politics, and councillors with their ears to the ground in their wards know they don't fly with voters.

    This got me thinking about the true scope of ideological disagreement in megacity municipal politics. Despite what we're told is a huge gulf between the core and the outer 416, councillors on both sides of that divide seem to agree on a great deal. We saw this during the budget process when, apart from Ford's true hard core, there was just no appetite at all for serious service cuts.

    When you zoom out a bit, I think it's possible to argue that there really is a Toronto Consensus in politics: broadly fiscally conservative, socially liberal, yet supportive of a wide range of social programs funded through the tax base, pro-development. Sort of a modernized, urban Red Toryism. You could subsequently argue that Mel Lastman tested the rightward bounds of this consensus, followed by Miller who tacked to its leftward edge.

    Ford, meanwhile, has tried to wrench the consensus to the right (after campaigning on something very different, it must be noted), and been comprehensively blocked by Council. I strongly suspect that once all's said and done, if some political scientist were to crunch the numbers he or she would find the decisions of the 2010-2014 Council smack in the middle of ideological patterns that have prevailed since the creation of the Megacity.

    Just putting this out there--something I've been thinking about. Curious for the opinions of others on the board. Are we really all just one big, happy family?
     
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  2. TonyV

    TonyV Senior Member

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    First off, nicely done, Matt. Here's hoping that this thread gains some steam.

    I keyed in on the last sentence because I never encounter any real "big happy families". There's always more Springer in a big family than meets the eye, thank you, perhaps in equal proportion to, or perhaps outweighing the Leave it to Beaver faction. No one needs to be told that we've got our fair share of dysfunctional family stuff in our own backyard. And frankly, at the end of the day that is politics anywhere you go.

    Whether or not there is a post-amalgamation Toronto Consensus at this point in time, I don't know for sure, but I "sort of" think that we are just at the start of such a thing, as the post-amalgamation city cements itself. The actions of council back this up, if you are to ask my opinion. Sometimes I think Ontario just sucks (i.e. in a referendum, Metro Toronto rejected amalgamation but it was forced upon us regardless) while at other times I see democracy in action (i.e. Ford getting his smack-down in council!) and I think the world is okay again. To be sure, politics ain't for the faint of heart.
     
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  3. k10ery

    k10ery Senior Member

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    As much as I dislike Ford the personality, I think you could argue that he more truly represents voters' wishes, not Council.

    The push back against service cuts seems like a classic case of local politicians wishing to protect services in their wards, and knowing that they can "pay" for these services through taxes on people in the other 43 wards. It is the more broadly elected official - whether mayor, prime minister, or president - who has to worry about the overall budget. This is what political scientists call the "Law of 1/n". You can see this tendency in small things like protecting Environment Days - which are basically election campaign events - and large things like the battle over Scarborough subways.

    This divide wasn't a problem for Miller, because he wanted to build things (good for him) and I suppose he was content to let the little bits of pork continue in order to build a broad coalition of support on Council and in the bureaucracy. Ford's agenda is different, and so of course he would have more trouble with Council, even if he wasn't so damn bad at managing things. But that doesn't mean that his aspirations are farther from what Toronto Really Wants.

    (This isn't supposed to be an argument for budget cuts. I am personally in favour of higher taxes to pay for stuff. But I think most people are not.)
     
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  4. jn_12

    jn_12 Senior Member

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    I would disagree. I think people are fine with higher taxes to maintain services (the budget consultations from last year displayed that and there have been many polls showing the same), but the problem is people bought Ford's campaign promise that he could cut taxes while maintaining current service levels. Of course people would want to pay less for the same services as before, and why people thought that this was possible I'll never know, but if they were given the choice at election time between tax cuts or maintaining services they'll always take services.
     
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  5. neubilder

    neubilder Banned

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    I don't think there is a better way of saying it.
     
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  6. k10ery

    k10ery Senior Member

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    No doubt politicians who promise "Pay less! Get more!" are part of the problem. But even McGuinty - who actually has a serious budget problem unlike Ford - can't talk about tax increases any longer. Rightly or wrongly I think attitudes are changing.
     
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  7. unimaginative2

    unimaginative2 Senior Member

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    I think (fear?) that Ford's recent problems have more to do with competence than with ideology. People elected him with the expectation of significant cuts and attacks on the unions. What they got is a confusing battle over transit in which Ford seemingly wants to spend more money than the left and successful but quiet settlements with most unions that don't give off the aura of a great victory for the Mayor. I think the buyers remorse has much more to do with being embarrassed at having elected someone that is obviously unqualified rather than at having elected someone right-wing. It's not out of the question that the city could elect a different, more polished right-winger next time.

    I'd love to think that you're right, but tell that to the people that gave Mike Harris a second majority.
     
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  8. jn_12

    jn_12 Senior Member

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    That was also 10 years ago. A lot changes in ten years, and I don't think it'd be a stretch to suggest that we're a more progressive place today than we were a decade ago. I'd even suggest that that brief foray into right-wing politics has scared off a lot of people from that type of ideology, and you just have to look at how politicians have (at least in my opinion) shied away from using the phrase "common sense" due to its linkage with the Harris years.
     
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  9. unimaginative2

    unimaginative2 Senior Member

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    Again, I'd love to think that you're right but Stephen Harper just got a majority (thanks to the 416). His cabinet includes many of Harris' most right-wing ministers to boot.
     
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  10. typezed

    typezed Active Member

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    I'd consider it a stretch. Toronto is a more polarized place, with everyone bitching under their breath about other people. There's the progressive oasis of areas radiating out from the core that may have become more progressive, and then there's the greater burbs, full of folks who are defensive about maintaining their lifestyles and new immigrants from extremely conservative, relative to Canada, countries. The war on the car nonsense that has gone on for years now here is a battle between people with totally divergent views of the reality of living in this city. And I don't see anyone moving much. Even on here, the people who want to defend Ford and pick at the majority view on the forum haven't moved much off their position, pathetic as this administration has proved to be. And the Sun will keep on pumping, and City and CP24and CTV will obliviously flame division with their dopey superficial take on city issues. And I don't really know who the left (or better, in my opinion, the centre) can put forward in a election who can represent some consensus on what is the best path for the greater swath of people in Toronto.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
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  11. lead82

    lead82 Active Member

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    I think John Tory would be a good mayor, but sadly he doesnt seem interested in running. :(.

    Unless there is a strong centre candidate I fear that Ford may win again in 2014 and the damage will be much worse as he will likely have a larger mandate with a more right wing councillor team.

    I hope that doesn't happen. Its a wait and see game until the candidates make their intentions known.
     
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  12. adma

    adma Superstar

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    But then again, Hudak's provincial PCs got shut out of the 416 again.

    And when it comes to Harper's 416 success, it may be more a matter of projecting "solid, proven governmental competence" as opposed to doomed Iggy and wild-card Jack. (Not unlike Harris vs "not up to the job" Dalton McBates in 1999).
     
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  13. k10ery

    k10ery Senior Member

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    Wishful thinking. As a nation, we are much more conservative, and the polls show a big change in attitudes to taxes. Federally, we had major tax increases in 1987, 1991, and 1997, but since then it's been steady cuts, and overall tax levels are about the same today as in the early 1980s. As to the City, sure a lot of Ford voters today have buyers' remorse, but I think the basic attitudes that got him elected are still out there.
     
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  14. RC8

    RC8 Senior Member

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    How much of that was due to vote-splitting between NDP and Liberals, though? Where in the GTA do conservatives get majorities?

    The most positive development in Toronto has been the exodus towards downtown from young professionals. These people will become the most influential people in the future, and they won't be against density and public transit to the same extent that their parents are - even if they still have a long way to go before they can think of abandoning the hyper-materialist lifestyle that suburbs impose on their inhabitants.
     
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  15. Palma

    Palma Senior Member

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    But even if Ford is re-elected, council can do the same thing as they have been doing. Voting the way they see fit, issue per issue and can therefore rein Ford in. The transit projects along Eglinton and Sheppard and hopefully Finch will have begun so i doubt he can try to run on a platform of subways (meaning subways for Shepard) and think he can get elected. Plus the people that are located in the east end of Scarborough where the LRT will start will be happy about getting it so I doubt they will fall for Fords dream of a subway along Sheppard that will never reach them and the same for Finch
     
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