With the new year looming, Rob Ford’s reprieve is about to take a turn, one way or another.
When first ousted from his role as mayor of Toronto on Nov. 26 on charges of conflict of interest, Torontonians were unsure if a byelection was about to be called, and if a new mayor would either be elected or appointed to take Ford’s place. However, on Dec. 5, Justice Gladys Pardu granted Ford a stay to the ruling, allowing him to remain in his seat as mayor until the appeal process plays out. Without the stay, Ford would have had to leave his position as mayor on Dec. 10.
Ford was ruled in a conflict of interest by Justice Charles T. Hackland after he participated and voted in a council vote concerning whether or not he should reimburse the $3,150 that he secured from lobbyists to support the football team he coaches.
Whether or not Ford should remain as mayor, or whether he should even be allowed to run in a byelection has been the subject of heated debate among politicians, media commentators, and the people of Toronto.
“I think that’s the right thing to do, to give him the opportunity to run if he so chooses to run,” Matthew Kellway, MP for Beaches-East York said. “I think that is a democratic thing to do. If people choose not to re-elect him because of the conflict of interest ruling, so be it, but I don’t think that warrants his exclusion from the opportunity to run again for office.”
That aside, there is concern among East York residents whether or not Ford embodies what the city of Toronto currently needs in a mayor.
“I don’t know if I would necessarily say that he was a bad mayor,” said Kristen Kane, a homeowner in East York, “but I do not feel he fully represents what I and a lot of other Torontonians think Toronto needs. I feel that he proposed cuts to organizations that our city, especially the youth, need, such as libraries and recreational centres.”
According to Kellway, issues in East York and Toronto that need to be addressed include urban sustainability, transit and unemployment.
“We have one of Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods in the Taylor-Massey area,” Kellway said. “That’s just a part of our city where there is structural poverty, where we have a community that is largely made up of immigrants who can’t find work in this city. Skills are left unexploited in a country that could really use more skills. There are infrastructure issues in East York as well, whether it’s transit or social services or access to doctors. We need a mayor and a council who will turn their minds to those issues.”
Ford’s appeal of the removal order will be heard by Hackland on Jan. 7. If the situation culminates in a special election, and Ford is a candidate, what will the outcome be?
“I think [the mayor should be] somebody who’s going to listen to all the citizens of Toronto. I think it’s someone who is going to appreciate the complexity of this city and all of its issues, and someone who will try and find some balance that meets various concerns of communities in this great big city. It requires responsible decision making and someone who will look at issues thoughtfully, and I haven’t seen this out of this current mayor at all,” Kellway said.
Like Kellway, some rank-and-file voters, including Kane, have raised concern over Ford’s conduct as mayor so far.
“I feel that Toronto needs a mayor who will accurately reflect the needs of the city. I would like to see a large focus on the youth in our city. They are our future and cutting needed learning opportunities and support can only cause further harm,” Kane said.
Kathleen Wynne, Don Valley West MPP and provincial Liberal leader hopeful, has also weighed in on the issue.
“The situation is unfortunate. I’m hopeful the city can get back to addressing Toronto’s pressing needs as quickly as possible,” she said.