Jun 11

Does vote on public health nurses reveal the real Rob Ford?

The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale has more on Monday’s totally baffling Executive Committee decision to defer indefinitely a recommendation that the city accept, at no cost, two additional public health nurses, courtesy of the provincial government:

Council’s budget committee had recommended that the city accommodate the nurses by increasing the health budget by $170,000, all of which would come from the province. At Monday’s executive committee meeting, Ford asked, “How are we going to pay for these two public health nurses on an ongoing basis?”

Told by a health official that the provincial funding would continue on an ongoing basis, Ford said only, “I just want to defer this indefinitely, then.”

via Health minister criticizes Ford’s rejection of nurses – thestar.com.

Ontario Minister of Health Deb Matthews criticized the decision, noting that Toronto is the only municipality thus far to reject the province’s offer for more public health funding.

Despite sticking to a promise to record every vote made at City Council — including routine motions to provide extensions on speaking time — votes at Executive Committee are not recorded. So far, and to their credit, it’s been reported that Councillors Denzil Minnan-Wong, Mike Del Grande, Norm Kelly and Peter Milczyn voted against the mayor’s deferral motion.

Since Ford’s taken office, there’s been an effort to soften his image, portraying him less as a curmudgeon with extreme libertarian tendencies and more as a curmudgeon who, sure, is conservative but who also loves this city and if council would just join hands and work with the mayor maybe we’d all be better off.

But what if this vote — and his similar negative vote on a motion that saw the city accept $100,000 of provincial money for STI screening — reveals the real Rob Ford? Did voters really elect this mayor in the hopes that he would reject needed funds for things like public health, all in the name of ideology?

Jun 11

Public Health Nurses? No fun

The Toronto Star kicked off the week with a bizarre article by Robyn Doolittle, grouping together a collection of existing city bylaws that Ford is seeking to repeal and positing that the ultimate outcome might be a city that’s more fun:

Toronto: The Town of No Fun. The City of Rules.

Well, that might be changing thanks to Rob Ford, “Mayor of Fun,” as Councillor Michael Thompson jokingly dubbed him during a recent interview.

Before Ford came to office in December, this was the city that sent you a bill for $60 on your birthday.

Since repealing that vehicle registration fee, the mayor has talked about scrapping numerous regulations, which critics of the previous city hall regime would claim represent a nanny-state mentality.

via Will Mayor Ford put some fun into rule-obsessed Toronto? – thestar.com.

Among other things, Doolittle lists the following as things that might get in the way of fun:

  • Vehicle Registration Fee
  • Rules against cutting down trees
  • Obstructing sidewalks
  • Ban on bottled water sales in city buildings
  • The five cent plastic bag fee

The city certainly has some bylaws in place that are too restrictive — the requirement to have a paid duty police officer at a neighbourhood barbecue, for example — but it seems quite the reach to equate Rob Ford’s lazy libertarian approach to government with any kind of policy that might lead to fun.

Rob Ford dismantles government because he dislikes government. Most of the restrictions Doolittle lists were put in place as environmental safeguards. If a more fun city is the end result of their elimination, it’s not by design. It’s just collateral.

Case in point: Soon after this article was published, Rob Ford’s Executive Committee voted to defer indefinitely item BU12.7. The small item would have made an net-zero adjustment to the 2011 Approved Operating Budget of Toronto Public Health to account for the addition of two permanent public health nurses, paid for entirely by the provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Free nurses working in the city! No cost to the Toronto taxpayer! Not happening, says the Mayor. Because nurses and public health are, I guess, not fun.

Apr 11

The upside to libertarian leadership: better food carts

The Toronto Star’s David Rider:

Toronto’s “a la cart” street food pilot project is a failure that should be shut down immediately, say senior city staff who also urge council to consider expanding menu options for all food vendors.

The report to the executive committee, made public Wednesday, recommends that “the A La Cart Street Food Pilot project be discontinued immediately, prior to season three of the planned pilot project.”

via Shut down ethnic street food project, city staff urge – thestar.com.

When this program was proposed in 2008, then-councillor Rob Ford opposed it, saying “I would just open it up and let them sell anything…whatever they want to make money on.” While I guess you could spin that as a moment of prescient wisdom, the reality is that Ford consistently used the same high school libertarian rationale for his opposition to damn near everything council did over the last decade.

It just happened that, on this matter, he ended up being mostly right.

One of the weaknesses of the David Miller council was their tendency to over-engineer solutions to problems. The street food vending program that became A La Cart is one of the best examples of this — overly bureaucratic, inordinately complicated and generally just too innovative in a space where innovation wasn’t really necessary.

In this case, the simplified “let businesses do what they want” strategy is the correct one. For all his faults, Ford does understand that. It’s the broader application of the libertarian ideology (to, for example, the waterfront) that we have to worry about.

For the record, council gave broad support to the new program in 2008. Here’s how that vote went down, from the City Council minutes for December 1, 2 and 3 in 2008: