Rob Ford is no longer the Mayor of Toronto. Not in name, not in law, not in anything but perhaps the delusional recesses of his brother’s mind. A quiet ending is not one many city observers would have predicted as little as six months ago. Many likely saw Ford leaving his office in defeat, if not handcuffs, for the final act of his term. The sudden, somber news of his health concerns brought about a different end to his tenure as Mayor. I continue to wish Ford and his family well, and hope he makes a full recovery.
I hope Toronto recovers as well.
Long before the drug scandal which engulfed the remainder of his term, Ford’s mayoralty was damaging to our city . New infrastructure was removed, funded and engineered transit projects were cancelled, and much needed revenue eliminated. Progress strained, until the crack scandal broke and ground it to a halt entirely.
The business of City Hall may once again be city business now that John Tory has taken over. Questions about our city’s future will be asked, and when Tory gives answers it is unlikely all will agree with him. On his first day in fact, the choices he has made for various positions have raised both ire and eyebrows, and rightly so. To campaign as a great unifier only to appoint one of the more divisive voices your chief deputy, should lead to questions.
Those questions though, and hopefully the ones to come, will be focused on genuine issues of city governance. The days a City Hall scrum with the Mayor sounded like an audition for The Wire are likely behind us. Mundane questions about transit planning, municipal financing, and engineering studies will replace those on search warrants, drug dealers, and police surveillance. The banality of it all may be soothing.
It is important any new found calm at City Hall does not soothe the politically engaged among us to sleep. Ford may have been elected initially out of anger and apathy, but the disaster that followed drove many to action. People came to City Hall to ensure all voices would be heard, as others were silenced. They spoke out against service cuts, casinos, jets on the waterfront, and against Rob Ford himself. They stood up for Toronto, even the ones who sat down.
That spirit of public engagement may be the only good thing come from Rob Ford’s time in office. Citizens came to City Hall to defend the city they loved, and to fight for the one they wanted. Ford’s term is over, that fight is not. Issues like the Island Airport will be debated, planned LRT lines will be threatened, and budget pressures created by Rob Ford’s anti-tax agenda will require tough choices to fix. If people don’t continue to stand up for their vision of our city they will find themselves living in someone else’s.
Ford’s time as Mayor has come to an end, maybe not in the way some wanted, but ended just the same. We got our city back, we should be careful not to let it go.