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Voters deserve recourse for bad leadership

Toronto has, at least for the moment, the most famous mayor in the world. But it isn’t the kind of fame Rob Ford — or the city — would like to have.
Toronto has, at least for the moment, the most famous mayor in the world. But it isn’t the kind of fame Rob Ford — or the city — would like to have.

It’s the kind of fame that embarrasses the community, yes, but more importantly, it’s the kind of fame that has a slight, but measurable, effect on the city’s economy, if only briefly.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city (and North America’s fourth largest).

Economically, it has a gravitational pull on par with the Sun. When Toronto’s economy takes a hit, the ripples created travel far and wide.

This is not the U.S. In Ontario, a municipal politician can only be removed from office by council if he or she is convicted of a crime, is incarcerated or is under sentence. The situation is a little different in the upper levels of government where the legislature or caucus can vote to remove a bad leader.

Down in the municipal trenches though, voters are left with little recourse when their community is saddled with an ineffective head of council.

When Mayor Marianne Matichuk says taxpayers deserve some sort of mechanism to oust or replace a bad politician, she’s right. Whether that mechanism should be recall legislation is a matter for debate, but the fact remains voters should have some options.

This issue stretches beyond Rob Ford’s — or any other mayor’s, for that matter — ability to table a meeting. Around the council table, mayors really aren’t all that powerful. They are, after all, just one vote of many.

A truly savvy mayor often doesn’t even need to use that vote. He or she does the political legwork ahead of time, making the vote unnecessary.

Sudbury’s Jim Gordon is a good example. He was a man who knew how to get his ducks in a row.

No, the real power and importance of a head of council lies outside the council chambers.

It lies in the relationships he or she forges with council. It lies in his or her ability to create a vision for where the city should go, and in his or her ability to get councillors to buy into that vision.

A mayor who cannot get councillors to back an agenda is, in effect, a lame duck — council progresses as a whole or not at all (something with which Sudburians are all too familiar).

The mayor is the face of the city. If that face has egg on it, the city has egg on it.

A mayor’s power lies in his or her ability to attract investment; to identify, categorize and overcome issues. It lies in the ability to leap hurdles and jump through hoops, and do it smiling.

This is governing. This is leadership.

If the mayor is impaired by mental health or addiction issues (which seems to be the case with Mr. Ford), that mayor cannot govern effectively.

A mayor must be in a position to give all of his or her attention to the job of leading — anything less is unacceptable.

Never mind the embarrassment Ford’s behaviour has caused Toronto. It’s his impaired ability to govern that’s the problem, just as it would be a problem in any community, large or small.

Some form of recourse like recall legislation would certainly provide a community with a way out. A mayor might be able to wipe egg off his or her face, but it’s the ratepayer who’s left holding the bag.


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