Is Rob Ford a self-loathing, Tea Party–parroting mayor?
Seriously, we’re not even kidding here. After reading a thought-provoking piece by Toronto Star urban affairs bureau chief David Rider arguing that Rob Ford’s painful budget exercise is more about shrinking government than slaying the deficit, we can’t help but wonder if the mayor thinks that the City of Toronto’s civic government (you know, that thing he’s the head of) is actually worth having at all.
Ford’s actions and words, to the public and those around him, are not those of a bean counter trying to solve a financial puzzle. While real, the hefty “structural deficit” is his ammunition, not his target.
The colourful gut-led ideologue is on a mission to radically reduce the size and cost of city government — amputating services, grants and agencies. In doing so, he wants to erase most or all the 5,000 mostly unionized jobs added under his predecessor, David Miller.
In carefully chosen words before the start of Thursday’s epic executive meeting, Ford decreed that “must have” services stay and the “nice to haves” go. In his mind-the-shop view, cities don’t hand out arts grants, bolster poor student’s meals, spur environmental research or own a zoo.
Of course, that what Ford thinks the size of the Toronto government ought to be is significantly smaller than what the size of the Toronto government is isn’t exactly news. But just how small Ford believes government should be is worth noting. In an interview on CP24 with Stephen Ledrew, he summed up his model city with three bullet points (cops, roads and garbage pickup). There was nothing there about transit, arts grants or, really, anything else.
During last year’s election campaign, Ford’s handlers tried very hard to avoid comparisons to the Tea Party south of the border, but their efforts returned mixed results (the often-quoted likeness to Sarah Palin wasn’t exactly ideal in this regard). But given Ford’s small-government mindset and his willingness to use a fiscal mess to reshape government to achieve his own ends, it’s hard not to recognize the similarities.