City Hall: Lord of the Flies

Friday, July 11, 2014

This week, someone brought a conch shell into City Hall and blew it. Now this might not seem so unusual, since this great civic hall has also seen meowing, temper tantrums from the Ford brothers, blatant displays of hatred, negativism and petulance (again from the Ford brothers), spontaneous dance parties to reggae music, senior councillors being bowled over football style (again, Ford), and the famous and world-broadcast admission of drug use (again, surprise, surprise, from a Ford). And this is our seat of city government.

The significance of the conch shell might be apparent to anyone who had to read Lord of the Flies in high school. Written by William Golding, this fictional story follows a group of “civilized” British schoolboys who find themselves marooned on a tropical island with no adult supervision. Their breeding and good manners slowly fade away as the law of the jungle takes over, and eventually a hierarchy is established exactly in par with the teachers they hated so much back in school.

I cannot help but notice a painful similarity between this book and what is happening at City Hall, where two self-appointed thugs have dained to take over the place, sitting wherever they want, speaking or shouting whenever they want, routinely rejecting every single piece of proactive public legislation that is put before them, cutting down opposition and contrary facts, all the while grinning like fiends.

This is not government. City Hall has become a toxic island of cowardice and bullying. Facts are dismissed out of hand and the place is ruled by who has the loudest voice and the most stubborn character.

It is not unusual for a large city to require larger than life characters, but City Hall has turned into a dysfunctional mess, in which the speaker and the integrity commissioner are challenged whenever they attempt to do their jobs in a way that displeases the Fords, whose transgressions, deflections and misbehaviour pile up so quickly that no-one can keep up.

I cannot stand this.

This city needs better leadership. The Ford brothers may be entitled to their opinions about gay people, transit riders, people who actually enjoy things other than football and big expensive cars, but their behaviour disrupts governance. City Hall has been consumed by the act of handling these two petulant children, when it should be focused on keeping Toronto running and moving it to the forefront of proactive 21st Century cities that are passing us by on so many levels.

People question my qualifications as a mayoral candidate. They suggest I run for council first. And I reply that running for council will not solve the problem. We get to see daily that being on council does not in any way prepare a person to become mayor. In fact it can do the opposite, establishing an unwelcome mindset of entitlement and invincibility. The city needs a fresh, outside perspective from someone who prefers to lead, rather than enforce. Inheriting a successful business from your father does not make you a successful businessman. Nor does using municipal influence to help build business for your company. It turns you into someone who expects absolute control and who tolerates no dissent or democracy. The last time I checked, Canada still was a democracy.

This city needs more than just a new mayor. It needs someone who can lead City Council back to a place where 100% of its time is actually spent on city issues, not Ford issues. Someone who is organized, who cares about the entire city and its people – not just a select few – and someone who actually understands that laws and rules exist for a reason.

The Fords do not own this city. They may have been born into idle privilege, and have had the good fortune to play politics as their personal pastime, but for the millions of residents of this town as well as its visitors, it’s a place that needs mature adult supervision. And it needs it now.

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