It's decision time for Rob Ford

Will the newly elected mayor appoint only his allies to key council posts or will he share the wealth and reach out to the left?

Mayor-elect Rob Ford and his transition team have 44 councillors, including 14 newbies, to please.

The new mayor’s team must now decide who will head council committees and sit on boards and key commissions. Will he reach across the political aisle and pick councillors based on expertise, geographic representation (downtown versus suburbs), diversity, etc. or will he only pick his allies?

This will be one of the first indications of what type of council we will see. Ford and his team have said they want this new term to be about working collaboratively with all councillors based on expertise not merely ideology.

Many councillors I’ve spoken to, including newcomers Josh Matlow and Jaye Robinson and stalwarts Karen Stintz and Joe Mihevc, have repeatedly said that people want a council that works together for Toronto.

While it is an oft repeated message is that Mayor David Miller brought mainly like-minded councillors into the powerful executive committee and for key roles there were times he did stray from a partisan path such as appointing David Soknacki as his budget chief in his first term. Mel Lastman reached out to lefties for help like former councillors (and current NDP MPs) Olivia Chow (children’s advocate) and Jack Layton (homelessness).

So now that Ford is no longer in the political wilderness will he look beyond the left and right divide and reward people with important jobs based on their strengths and experience?

Ford often mentions his distain for the cost overruns of the St. Clair right-of-way streetcar line plus his transit platform speaks about trashing Transit City light rapid transit in favour of subways in Scarborough. So will TTC vice chair Joe Mihevc, a streetcar-advocate and Transit City cheerleader be back on the transit file or will his ticket to ride be revoked?

How about Shelley Carroll who served as budget chief under Mayor Miller and helped, in part, produce the latest announcement of a $275 million budget surplus for 2011. Will Ford chose her for any role on the budget committee to look at ways to cut waste and stop the “gravy train”? Would she want this role under a Ford administration?

It will also be interesting to see how many women have powerful roles in a Ford-lead council. Miller had Sandra Bussin as the city’s first speaker, Carroll as budget chief, Janet Davis and Paula Fletcher headed up key committees.

Will Ford appoint female councillors closer to his point of view like Stintz and Frances Nunziata to important roles?

One possible difference in style between Ford and Miller has become apparent as the Ford transition team gave the councillors only about 48 hours to fill out their preferences for all potential appointments, councillor Carroll told me on Nov. 5.

They were given a 57-page document on Monday Nov. 1 and by the afternoon of Wednesday Nov. 3, they had to hand in their preferences for a host of appointments from Toronto Police Services Board to arenas, the CNE and Executive Committee.

It’s not the mayor alone who hands out these key appointments but the he has a huge influence any way you slice it.

The mayor appoints the members of the Striking Committee, which then take the mayor’s choices of who should serve where and weighs it against councillors’ own preferences.

I’m eager to see how Ford reaches out to try and balance the competing desires, ideologies, expertise and diversity on council with who gets powerful posts.

This will set the tone for how fractured or cooperative council will be under Ford. If he reaches out, it could be possible at least in the honeymoon period for everyone to try and reach consensus, sometimes, on some issues.

If he doesn’t reach out to councillors on the left, my guess is an opposition will quickly form to try and defeat him at every turn.

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: Nov 5 2010 6:19 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto