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Rob Ford and Norm Kelly: Toronto's tale of two mayors

By Don Peat, City Hall Bureau Chief

Mayor Rob Ford and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. (Toronto Sun files)

Mayor Rob Ford and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. (Toronto Sun files)

TORONTO - 

It’s a tale of two mayors and there is no telling how the story will end.

Toronto City Hall survived its first week with a powerless mayor and a powerful deputy mayor.

After coming out swinging following Monday’s council meeting where he was stripped of his powers, Mayor Rob Ford spent the rest of the week refusing to speak to reporters, arriving at his City Hall office late in the day and only staying for a few hours.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, meanwhile, was spending long days meeting with city staff, preparing to launch the 2014 budget and even joking around with reporters during a media availability.

“The mayor has spent the majority of the week meeting with constituents, both on site and around the city, focusing on customer service and looking for ways to save the taxpayers’ money,” Dan Jacobs, Ford’s new chief of staff, said in an e-mail Friday.

Kelly and Ford have yet to meet since the council vote transferred most of the mayor’s powers to the deputy mayor.

Earlier in the week, Kelly described the arrangement -- uncharted territory for City Hall -- as “you have one mayor and a deputy mayor with more powers.”

But, while the powers are clearly defined, it doesn’t mean there won’t be a power struggle.

As the week ended, the two seemed on track to feud over the 2014 budget launching Monday.

Kelly, as the new chair of the city’s powerful executive committee, will have control over approval of the budget after it leaves the hands of the budget committee and before it heads to city council.

Ford will be able to rage against whatever is proposed, claiming things would have been different if he was still running the show. The mayor’s critics were quick to point out his push for the Scarborough subway guaranteed the need for an additional 0.5% tax, hike on top of the hike needed, just to keep up with the city’s usual cost pressures.

Ford made it clear during an event at Casa Loma that he’s going to fight the budget and look for a 1.75% tax hike.

“To be brutally honest, I think his feeling is -- the moment he was pushed aside, the gravy train got back in action,” budget chief Frank Di Giorgio said on Thursday.

Councillor Josh Colle denied spending would run out of control now that Ford’s powers have been curbed.

“It was a long time ago when council, regardless of what his powers were, would determine what the final budget was going to be regardless,” Colle said, shrugging off the idea Ford will be “more dangerous” or a “destructive force” on council now that he’s been rendered an outsider.

“You talk about him like he’s a super villain or something ... are we talking about Lex Luthor?” Colle asked reporters Friday. “I think he will try to disrupt but you could argue he was doing that even while he enjoyed all his powers as mayor.”

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Mayor Rob Ford wrapped up the week with three things — his chain of office, his fish tank and a 42% approval rating.

The poll from Forum Research that pegged Ford’s job approval rating at 42% came as a surprise to many, given the fact the mayor has spent weeks embroiled in a crack cocaine scandal that has made worldwide headlines.

The same poll shows signs the mayor is getting hit hard by the scandal -- 60% want him to resign, 60% agree with council’s decision to cut his power, 69% think he has a substance abuse problem and 62% said they won’t vote for Ford in 2014.

Ford’s continuing controversy hit a crescendo last Monday when council voted to strip him of his powers and cut his office budget and staff. The mayor capped off that meeting with a variety of bizarre outbursts including knocking over Councillor Pam McConnell, getting into a shouting match with members of the public, declaring war on councillors in the next election and comparing the vote to when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. After the vote to sideline Ford, the rest of the week featured the slow division of the mayor’s office with most of his senior staff jumping to go work for Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who now holds most of Ford’s powers.

Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff said this week’s poll shows Ford might survive politically.

“There is light at the end of the political tunnel,” Bozinoff said. “He always wanted to run against council, he doesn’t even have to manufacture that anymore. They’ve kind of drawn the line in the sand for him.

“It is possible that council has actually given him what he needs in order to fuel a re-election,” he added.

 

 


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