Is Rob Ford finally learning to play nice and compromise with the rest of council?

Is Rob Ford finally learning to play nice and compromise with the rest of council?

(Image: Shaun Merritt) 

No doubt, the mayor is having a tough month. Today, city council begins debating the core services review that has had citizens up in arms and occasionally kept councillors up all night, and last week, the mayor was forced to cut his own brother down to size while backing away from their waterfront plans amid widespread opposition. But the good news, according to the Globe and Mail, is that Ford may finally be learning to “play well with others”—in other words, a series of public defeats and all-night filibusters might have actually been an immersion education in the need for consensus (although we have to admit we have our doubts).

From the Globe:

But out of the chaos comes opportunity: A chance for Mr. Ford to learn about the necessity of building consensus and cultivating allies. There are glimmers of a changing approach to teamwork. He extolled the new deal on the Port Lands, under which the city will work with Waterfront Toronto on speeding up development. “I don’t think it was a change of heart,” he said after the waterfront climb-down this week. “I think we are working on a compromise. We have listened to the people.”

Toronto Transit Commission chair Karen Stintz says the deal to make peace on the waterfront may be a model for the mayor, showing how differences can be bridged. “Who would have thought we would have got that kind of consensus out of Rob Ford?”

It’s been a harsh education for the mayor. But will he take those lessons with him for the remainder of his term at city hall?

There are more than a few reasons, however, to suggest that the answer to this question is no (for his part, the author of the story, Marcus Gee, has already expressed skepticism). For one, Ford spent a decade as a virtual pariah on city council—consensus doesn’t come naturally to him (“I don’t want to eat lunch with them anyway,” Councillor Ford once said of his co-workers at city hall). That brand of social ineptitude would be a liability in any political system, but it’s particularly detrimental without a party whip (or an official one, at least) to help keep allies in line. In the absence of political parties, every vote is won through consultation, which could prove exhausting for a mayor who doesn’t seem to like his colleagues.

Of course, a more optimistic prediction is that Ford will learn to compromise simply because his job now depends on it. The mayor enjoyed some easy victories with issues like the vehicle registration tax, but issues like the waterfront development are understandably more controversial. Still, it’s worth repeating that even if Ford has recently appeared willing to compromise (or simply bow to pressure), this comes after 10 years of bullheadedness on council—and some remarkable stubbornness as mayor. Even if he is learning to compromise, we’re guessing that he probably isn’t enjoying his new education.

Ford losing control at City Hall? [Toronto Sun]
The week Rob Ford learned to play well with others [Globe and Mail]