Rob Ford is losing a key aide (no, Doug Ford is not making the leap to provincial politics—yet). Amir Remtulla, the mayor’s chief of staff, will leave city hall in less than two weeks to become vice-president of external partnerships for the Pan Am Games. Remtulla took over the job from Nick Kouvalis (also known as the mastermind behind Ford’s mayoral win) 18 months ago, and earned a rep for being a conciliatory professional who helped the mayor engineer his major labour victories. Naturally, city hall watchers are deep in speculation about why Remtulla is jumping ship and who might replace him. Here’s what they’re asking:
• Is working for Ford really awful?
CBC was all diplomacy in its reporting of Remtulla’s big move, suggesting that the chief of staff job—under any mayor—is always a tough gig with plenty of pressure. However, the article did note that this is the second high-profile departure from the mayor’s office (Adrienne Batra left her post as the mayor’s press secretary to work for the Toronto Sun in November). CBC’s objective tone still doesn’t disguise the insinuation that Ford can’t keep key staff.
• Is it all Doug Ford’s fault?
The Toronto Star reported plenty of juicy tidbits from unnamed sources, suggesting that Doug Ford consistently undermined Remtulla. Shadowy MPPs told the paper that Remtulla was managing to rein in the chaos surrounding Rob Ford (er…really?), but couldn’t handle Doug’s constant interference. A Liberal close to the premier said, “Sometimes, we’d leave at night thinking we had an agreement with (Rob) Ford and Amir only to learn the next day things had changed because Doug had gotten to him.”
• Will this mean the end of any cooperation at city hall?
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong told the Toronto Sun that Remtulla served as a good bridge between the mayor and councillors (he did meet with Ford rival Karen Stinz about OneCity last week, after all). Similarly, centrist and budget-killer Josh Colle said he dealt with Remtulla often and called him “very professional and well-respected.” When Remtulla is gone, left-winger Shelley Carroll said any hope of good council relations will likely go with him: “My only way to deal with that office was someone like Amir.”
• Who will take the high-profile post?
Though the mayor said he hasn’t yet started the search for a replacement, a couple of names are already circulating: Mark Towhey, Ford’s “policy czar” (and self-confessed evil guy) and Andrew Pask, the mayor’s former council liaison. Pask left Ford’s team in 2011 after a dust up with Kouvalis—who, incidentally, says he’s not interested in getting his old job back.