Mayor-elect has to decide what type of leader he’ll be, experts say

Mayor-elect Rob Ford has less than a week to decide what kind of mayor he’s going to be.

Ford will be sworn in as Toronto’s 64th mayor Dec. 1. Since his election win last month, Ford and his transition team — led by retiring councillor Case Ootes — have been crunching numbers to finalize a clear agenda to present to council on Dec. 7.

Elly Alboim, who served on former prime minister Paul Martin’s transition team in 2003, said convincing Torontonians that cuts need to be made will be a tough sell.

“It depends on the degree to which he sees himself as the mayor of everybody, or he sees himself as a mayor of change who is going to reject much of what came before,” Alboim said.

Ford’s campaign rhetoric suggested he was committed to changing city hall. He promised to “stop the gravy train” of wasteful spending, cut the number of councillors in half — from 44 to 22 — and favour subways and buses over streetcars. His focused platform resonated with Torontonians, but the city’s new council ultimately decides whether those measures are passed.

“He’s certainly going to have a great deal of difficulty maintaining the promises that he had,” said Patrick Gossage, a Toronto-based political analyst.

Gossage said Ford’s transition team has likely strategized to keep him tight-lipped throughout the interim period.

“He turned into a bubble at the end (of the campaign), and he’s in a bubble now,” Gossage said. “I think his people are very worried about showing any kind of hand at all in terms of what’s going to happen on Dec. 6.”

Transition teams function to translate campaign promises into reality, Alboim said. In the days following the election, Ford’s campaign manager and brother Doug Ford backtracked on the mayor-elect’s promise to substitute buses for streetcars. It also became clear that the size of council couldn’t be decreased until 2014. Alboim said making cuts is never easy.

“If (Ford’s preparation) is mostly rhetoric, and then when the reality comes of trying to figure out where to cut, he’s probably going to find it a lot harder to do than he imagined,” Alboim said. “He obviously has to bring council along, which is not easy.”

Ford was not available for comment.

Ward 22 (St. Paul’s) councillor-elect Josh Matlow is one of 15 newly elected city reps. He has met with Ford’s transition team, but hasn’t been given their full agenda.

“They were certainly interested in how I might vote on certain items,” Matlow said. “I think they’re trying to get a sense of what kind of support they’re going to have from councillors.”

Matlow said he’s eager for the first council meeting. He syas Ford should represent the whole city so that council functions properly.

“I think it would be both in the residents of Toronto’s best interest, and also mayor-elect Ford’s, that he represent…the priorities of both downtown and the suburban areas of Toronto together.”