Rob, I’d like to give you one piece of advice

With your first year nearly under your belt, the time is now to get creative


We’re now near the end of the first year of Rob Ford’s mayoralty, and I have been trying to think of helpful things to say to our city leaders. Yes, we’ve been given far too many reasons to be critical in recent months, but I know that some days it’s not so easy to be a leader. On some days, good advice is what you want to hear.

So this is an attempt at good advice.

One useful thing Mayor Rob Ford could do to make life easier for himself — and us — would be to include some of the more progressive voices in his inner circle.

He should engage with experienced councillors who have a track record of getting things done, like Adam Vaughan, Pam McConnell, John Filion, Joe Mihevc, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Janet Davis or Shelley Carroll.

At the moment, the mayor has filled his executive committee with councillors set to do his will.

They are not individuals who seem ready to bring forward new and different ideas about addressing city problems; instead, they echo that tired mantra of the unlikelihood of governments helping to create a better city.

The mayor’s ability to surround himself with only his friends was a change made by Queen’s Park just a decade ago, over the opposition of both David Crombie and myself.

We didn’t like the so-called “strong-mayor” system but favoured the process where city council — not the mayor — chose those who chaired committees and who occupied other positions of power at City Hall.

Under that old system, there was a rich diversity of opinion among the leadership at City Hall, and the mayor had to seek consensus to keep on his or her feet.

Councillors had to work together in spite of their differences, and the result was interesting and creative local governance.

People looked for common ground rather than mean political advantage.

One remembers that even in this new era Mayor Mel Lastman worked closely with the late Jack Layton to address city problems, to their mutual advantage as well as for the good of the city.

But the new system, where the mayor gets the power to pick and choose, means the mayor can exclude those whose opinions he distains.

It is the same unhelpful way they do things at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill where the process limits the talents brought to bear on problems.

Rob Ford could surely find ways of working with those whom he has excluded and forced to be opponents.

He could ask them to join committees and task forces, ask them privately to assist him in creating strategies and approaches to problems.

Councillors would have less reason to yell at each other knowing they have opportunities to sit down together and be constructive.

I think we’d find that would create quite a bit of civility at City Hall.

That’s my piece of positive advice for Mayor Ford after his first year in office: bring some of the opposition members into your inner circle and get them working with you.

You’ll benefit and so will the city. You’ll get better decisions and you will enhance your position as a leader.

Continuing to isolate different opinions does not serve the public interest.

Watching City Hall during this last year has not been an encouraging experience.

Too often I’ve found myself lodged deep in that Leonard Cohen song “Everybody Knows.” Two lines keep going through my head: “Everybody knows the boat is leaking, everybody knows the captain lies.”

I want to change that.

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