Are Giorgio Mammoliti’s incendiary outbursts helping or hurting the Rob Ford regime?
Last week was a busy one for Giorgio Mammoliti. The right-wing councillor and prominent member of Rob Ford’s inner circle spent much of the week making a buffoon of himself, first barring communists from his Facebook page, then accusing sitting city hall politicians of seeking to seize all private property before finally arguing in favour of banning panhandling from Toronto’s streets and moving the practice exclusively onto Queen’s Park’s front lawns. All his bluster and bravado has quickly made him one of the faces of the Ford administration—basically, he’s a shiny thing Ford’s people can wave in front of the press and public to distract them from other things—but we have to wonder (apparently like some of his closest colleagues) if his outspoken opinions and extreme behavior are actually starting to work against the mayor.
“Sometimes he has the ability to draw attention to himself, and his own thoughts, rather than what you (reporters) would like to discuss,” says Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday.
Mammoliti’s controversial comments, Holyday says, do not hurt Ford. “George is different, no doubt about that,” he says, using the name Mammoliti went by in politics until 2003. “I think people are used to the way George expresses himself. So I’m not sure that it reflects on anyone but George.”
We’re not as sure as Holyday on this one. The problem is that between Rob and Doug Ford, there was already the impression that the city was being run by the, let’s say, thundering incurious. Adding Mammoliti to that already incendiary mix, and deliberately pushing him to the front of the stage, serves to confirm in a lot of people’s minds the mayor isn’t particularly interested in hearing dissenting opinions. There are tons of rock-ribbed conservatives who are more careful with their words than Mammoliti, including Deputy Mayor Holyday, which makes the Mammoliti-as-administration-spokesman phenomenon look more like a conscious choice than a political accident. Perhaps city hall should be a little more concerned about the messages they’re sending.