Rob Ford vs Filion

Rob Ford vs Filion

Rob Ford vs Filion

Rob Ford vs Filion (Source: Toronto Life, Oct. 2011)

Late Monday, after the kerfuffle at City Hall over the Rob Ford scandal, I wrote to members of council a thank you note which received a number of positive responses, including those from members, staff and high-profile members in the #topoli twittersphere. While I am still new to posting on this site and through Twitter — and my active participation in municipal politics — I must say I am very impressed with the responses thus far. This includes this very well-written response to my letter from Councillor John Filion of Ward 23 Willowdale.

Councillor Filion is no fan Mayor Rob Ford. His Ford Nation Voting Score is a mere 11.32% according to Matt Elliott and once wanted to limit  the Mayor’s powers during the contract-outsourcing of residential garbage pick-up worried about the mayor might be planning to do something impulsive” – but he writes back in the following letter, which picks up on a number of my points quite well as well as introducing some interesting new ones I’ve always suspected, but never confirmed. His summary of the acts and actions required was so well summarized that I felt impelled to share it with the rest of Toronto — and the world (I’ve highlighted some of the more impressive parts)


Hi Christopher,


Thanks for your e-mail.  The past few weeks have been without precedent in many ways: the amount of international, national and local attention focussed on City Hall; ongoing appalling behaviour by the Mayor of this city; new revelations, allegations and admissions regarding Mayor Ford’s conduct, with no end in sight; and finally the overwhelming vote to strip the Mayor of most of his powers.


My office has been flooded with phone calls and emails, partly due to the high level of awareness and concern but also due to my role in the calling of three Special Meetings of Council to deal with my motions to remove much of Mayor Ford’s powers.


Some calls were from angry Ford supporters, from as far away as Saskatchewan. But by far the majority of calls and emails from constituents indicated strong support for my position that the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that something had to be done.


The actions I took in writing the motions, and in initiating the Special meetings to deal with them, were taken after much careful thought, many conversations with my colleagues on Council, and a considerable amount of personal sadness that the Mayor had, by his choices, left us with no viable alternative than to separate and protect the decision-making process from his highly destabilizing influence.


I will not attempt to chronicle Mayor Ford’s misdeeds, some of which he has admitted to, and others which remain as allegations at this point.


Council’s Actions:


On Wednesday of last week, 30 Councillors signed a letter asking the Mayor to please step aside, for a period of time, to deal with his problems. I was one of the Councillors who initiated that letter. Before this, virtually all of the Mayor’s allies on Council, with the likely exception of his brother, had attempted to give this advice to Mayor Ford privately. When the informal approach was unsuccessful, Council, also on Wednesday, overwhelmingly supported a motion formally asking him to step aside and seek help. Again, the Mayor adamantly denied he had any serious problems and refused to take a break from his duties.


At this point, I asked Councillors to sign a petition for a Special Meeting on Friday to deal with my motion to remove the Mayor’s ability to hire and fire the Chairs of Committees and the Deputy Mayor. For more on the reasons for that motion, you can read the opinion piece I wrote for the Toronto Star.




On Thursday, the Mayor began the day with a public statement so grossly inappropriate that it cannot even be paraphrased. This was rapidly followed by the release of police documents including police interviews with several former members of his staff. If these statements are to be believed – the Mayor admitted to excessive drinking, and drinking and driving, but denied the rest – the  pattern of misconduct, was not only on his personal time but crossed over into his role as Mayor.


By Friday, Council was so shocked, alarmed and fed up that it approved (by votes of 41-3 and 42-2) my motions to remove his power over appointments, and to transfer, to the Deputy Mayor, his authority to deal with emergencies.


Still, the Mayor rejected many personal pleas from friends and allies to step aside to seek help. Members of Council became so concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation that they supported my petition for a third Special Meeting, on Monday, to remove any other powers Council had conferred on the Mayor.


On Monday, all of my motions received the required two thirds vote of Council. Among other measures, many of the Mayor’s duties, including chairing the Executive Committee, are transferred to the Deputy Mayor.


Was the decision democratic?


All Councillors – and me in particular as the author of the motion – agonized over this point. Mayor Ford was duly elected and there are 11 months left until the next election.


To begin with, it is extremely important to note that all of my motions kept in place all of the councillors Mayor Ford had appointed to positions of authority. All of these councillors have supported his approach to government spending, in accordance with the mandate received by the Mayor in the 2010 election.  By ensuring that the Mayor’s team remained in place, Council made it clear that the decision to reduce the Mayor’s powers was not politically-motivated; we were driven to it solely by his terribly bad behaviour and the need to protect the functioning of city government from a Mayor who was clearly spiralling out of control.


Secondly, the motions were overwhelmingly supported by the Mayor’s ideological allies on Council, as well as by Councillors from all parts of the City. In response to the Mayor’s suggestion that it was “a coup d’etat,” one commentator replied: “I’ve never seen a coup d’etat with so much voting.”


The Mayor noted the 383,501 votes he received in the 2010 election. But, at the same time, voters in the same area collectively gave the members of Council 415,546 votes. Individual councillors have limited authority, but Council as a whole has tremendous power, including deciding what powers it wishes to bestow upon the Mayor in addition to those granted him by provincial statute. What Council has the legal authority to give, it also has the legal and moral authority to take away if it believes that such action is in the best in interests of the City and its residents.


What next?


A positive by-product of the drama at City Hall is that it has brought together councillors who have, unfortunately in recent years, grown accustomed to working in ideological and geographical pockets. I am very hopeful that Council will actually function better over the next year than it has in the past three.


I believe that Deputy Mayor Kelly, with his greatly increased powers, will encourage this.


Will the Rob Ford sideshow continue? Only he can decide that. Based on his behaviour during Monday’s Council debate – mimicking drunk driving, bowling over a female councillor, leaving his seat to incite the audience in the Council chamber, and vowing to wage war on members of Council, like George Bush did on Saddam Hussein – it’s not going to be pretty.


But – please – feel confident that, no matter how dysfunctional it may look at times – Council is made up members who are, for the  most part, rational, calm, intelligent, capable, hard working, and extremely mindful of the responsibility we have towards our constituents.


Best wishes,




The most shocking information was that of angry calls to his office regarding the decision coming from parts of the country nowhere close to our fine city. This should be a reminder to all of us that Ford Nation should not be dismissed as a subset of voters within our populous that are disenfranchised Toronto Sun readers living within the inner-suburbs. Ford Nation is more than just a grassroots municipal political movement — but that of a political ideology, one akin to that of the American Tea Party movement. While they state they are for democracy, transparency and fighting for the common-man — this couldn’t be further from the truth.  They are well-organised, well-funded, indifferent, irrational, disillusioned and ill-informed simultaneously — which is downright dangerous.

This should also be a reminder, to all of us, that we must be more involved in our local politics. While recent demonstrations and talk in bars and coffee shops (over lattes, perhaps, no less)  has been refreshing — the fact remains that political involvement during elections and voter turnout remain at all-time lows. Many I have talked to about the situation have either indicated that they never did vote in the previous election — or more worrisome — voted for Ford but did not understand how bad he would be. Sadly, I’d rather have inaction over ignorance — but ultimately, I’d rather have neither.

So visit, mail, call or tweet your councillor. Get involved!


*** On a side note. Doesn’t John Filion look a lot like Boris Johnson??? ***

Boris Johnson - Mayor of London

Boris Johnson – Mayor of London


Sidelining Rob Ford

Sidelining Rob Ford

Rob Ford bowling over fellow council member in chambers.

Rob Ford bowling over fellow council member in chambers. November 18th, 2013. Source: The National Post

On Friday November 15th and Monday November 18th 2013, two special meetings of Toronto City Council were held in order to strip the powers conferred by the chamber to the sitting mayor. These are powers that are not statutory as laid out by the Municipal Act of Ontario or the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and their removal would not contravene any law or negate the responsibilities laid out in the Acts — regardless of what Mayor Rob Ford, his brother Councillor Doug Ford and their lawyer George Rust D’eye may say.

But, under the threat of lawsuits both to the City, Council and perhaps individual councillors by Rob Ford and his newly obtained municipal lawyer, debate along with speeches throughout the day were wrought with worry over litigation, legality and the unknown and unfortunate precedent that the proposed motions would enact or establish. The decisions made by individual councillors were tough, formed under immense pressure and fear of retaliation.

Thankfully, the Mayor and his brother continued their rambunctious acts, insolent attitudes and thinly-veiled threats to their fellow colleagues, former-allies and friends — including an attack of intimidation of the members of the public that packed the chambers to express their interest in municipal politics and observe one of the most important and contentious political meetings held in Toronto since the Upper Canada Rebellion.

While these actions may have influenced those remaining on the fence, the ability to respond and act in defiance of those who manipulate and bully without concept of recourse — and to those who possess not only a boisterous and stubborn constituent but perhaps ties to dangerous drug and gun running gangs or organised crime — took amazing courage. It is these actions in voting for the motions, whether in-part or in-parcel, that our elected officials and our fellow citizens should be commended, appreciated and thanked.

Often correspondence to our elected officials is only in anger — venomous letters or response to single acts or votes that have upset us or continued protest to their political leanings or association. I, myself, have gone against leaders, representatives and legislative member — even when fundamentally I believe them to be excellent leaders and upstanding citizens — because of a stance or alignment that irked myself personally or professionally. But whether you are left or right aligned, light or heavy rail, socially or fiscally responsible — there comes a time when all political strips must align.

Council demonstrated this at both of these special meetings.

United against Mayor Rob Ford, his actions and his past — including his inability to show any legitimate remorse — the mass majority of Toronto Council voted to strip the powers they were legally allowed. In response, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug Ford declared ‘war’ — equating himself to Kuwait and the remainder of council to Saddam Hussein — threatening to unleash the rabid Ford Nation on each and every one of them.

So, for a change, I took it upon myself to respond in kind — by writing a thank you letter to each member who voted, regardless of my previous experience with them or their political leanings. Each member who voted for the motions limiting Mayor Rob Ford deserves our support and kudos — because it was this that separates the real politicians from those hailing from Ford Nation.


And I encourage everyone else to do the same.


Here is the boiler plate for the letter I written. Please feel free to work off of it.


Subject: Thank you for your votes regarding Mr. Ford


Dear Councillor,


I would like to take this time to thank you – both personally and on behalf of all citizens of this great city – for voting to limit the powers of our absent, abrasive and often abhorrent mayor.


While I understand it was very difficult for some members to vote on all motions or specific line-items, the act of council as a whole demonstrated a common front that shows the public – and the world – that his recent activities, associations and abuses will not be tolerated by the good people of Toronto. This not only cements our faith in the operation of City Hall, but our faith in the political system as a whole.


I would also like to reassure you given the thinly-veiled threats – prior, during and after through the media by the Ford family, their supporters and their colleagues – that myself, my acquaintances and the people of Toronto stand by your decision now and that during upcoming election and campaign you will have our full support to denounce any opportunist or illicit acts that they may commit in the name of their so-called ‘war’. To paraphrase: You have a solid ally in the coming battle.


I truly believe in our political system when the fight is fair and those participating are forthright. What the City has observed and has been subjected to was beyond the extraordinary – and required the extraordinary measures that you have taken in the past few council meetings in order to restore belief, balance – and sanity.


Again, thank you. And keep up your excellent work and passion for our city.




Christopher Evan Jones, B.U.R.Pl




No more than 24 hours after sending the e-mails, I have had positive and heart-felt responses from quite a number of council members! I wish to thank the following members for their replies and proving that civil, community-oriented politics is not dead in Toronto:


Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St.Paul’s)

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest)

Councillor Raymond Cho (Ward 42 Scarborough-Rouge River)

Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence)

Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park)

Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32 Beaches-East York)

Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore)

Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina)

Councillor Sarah Doucette (Ward 13 Parkdale-High Park)

Councillor John Filion (Ward 23 Willowdale) – See his full response here!

Councillor Jaye Robinson  (Ward 25 Don Valley West)

Councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31 Beaches-East York)


*** And I should note that none of these councillors have a staff of 20 apparently required to respond so promptly  :) ***


Winning Hearts and Minds: How New Media has changed the Face of Democracy

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011


I.         Existential Democracy

Technology has the intrinsic ability to alter and transform society – from the advent of the written word, public discourse, en masse publications, industrialisation and digitisation; each has demanded dramatic shifts in how we both commune and develop (Burns, 2010). Control of knowledge has become a valued and intangible commodity and has the ability to educate, influence and sequester public sentiment (Pink, 2005). New Media through the Internet has removed the temporal and spatial limitations on knowledge that once allowed for direction, control and sober aforethought once privileged to the leaders of state and industry – and has become a formidable weapon in the hands of proponents for change (Negroponte, 1995). Ignoring or discounting the power of the collective individual’s capacity for change has recently toppled long-standing regimes and stifled engrained organizations and reshaped the public eye in manners and speeds never seen before. It is up for governments to no longer attempt mitigation but adapt policies and function to meet the heavy demands of the common while preparing for an ever-dynamic public opinion. The failure to do so can lead to the dramatic collapse within the global social fabric and allow for societal shifts and abnormalities spawned from once fringe groups that have entered under the spectre of libertarianism to hide their true agenda or leave dangerous power vacuums in its wake (Howlett, Ramesh & Perl, 2009).


II.        Redefining Socialisation

Previous to the digital revolution, social development was moulded by four major proponents of society: Family, Peers, School and Media (Brym & Lie, 2009). While Arnett (1995) once argued the value of Self-Socialisation through self-reflection of media selection, the concept fell short as under conventional media since the self-selection was based between controlled information sources that upheld common morals and mores and designed to generate a solid audience in the hopes to maintain consensus or a return on investment (Crust, 2010). The Internet has changed the capital expenditure for knowledge and information dissemination by removing the requirements for physical real-estate, academic prowess and governmental regulations that are demanded from other forms of media – such as print, radio or television (Weinberger, 2002). Also, without direct appeal from advertisers to maintain a well-grounded and holistic audience in which to portray a given message, more individuals are able to provide their own specific brand of opinion without social warrant or monetary backlash (Robinson & Martin, 2010). Web search engines are used to source material-based knowledge not on relevance, but relation – how many people link to the information regardless whether in an a negative or positive light (Wakeford, 2004) – and because opinion is now relational and not rational, once rare or limited voices can have as much weight on the Internet then that of well-established institutions (Weinberger, 2002). This, however, also leads to questions of the quality, if not validity of said information. Without the requirement to maintain respect or authority, more biased or manipulative information is readily available and anonymity allows for competing views or usurpation of knowledge that can hoodwink the observer for personal gain or malicious mean (Weinberger, 2002).


More than ever, the Internet has become our sole source for sharing knowledge, far outweighing other social actors. This is attributed to its ability to be bi-directional, non-exclusive and global with utmost immediacy (DiMaggio, et al., 1996). Many young adults today have only known a world where information was conveyed in a manner not construed by states or corporations and were rarely exposed to well-rounded, unbiased mass media that sought to encourage public discourse through balanced reporting and considered all points-of-view (Machi and George, 2009). There are less restrictions to participation and inclusion in the development of dialog from a broad-base cohort of society; that changes the direction and quantity of ideas – but quality may indiscriminately alter the direction of policy through fallacy or mob-mentality (Calhoun, 1998); As well, the sheer amount of information, both personal, collective and available with such immediacy has led many to focus limited attention to sources that are more akin to our like-mindedness, stifling the ability to seek out alternate opinion and thus harming personal objectivity; and finally the speed in which ideas and discourse develops and may be shared undermines our ability to absorb and relate information in a meaningful, self-constructed manner – a privilege once obtained through written word and thoughtful well-structured education. The speed and range of information to envelop the world has led to a modern, digital agora that has allowed individual voice and opinion and redefined social attitudes (Robinson & Martin, 2010).


III.      The Global Village

Increased globalisation along with adapted technology has rendered the physical borders between nations inconsequential – or fuzzy at best – with the economy being the driving force behind the success of states and their governments integrated by trans-national corporations and ostensive trade (Howlett, Ramesh & Perl, 2009). First, with the riots that started in the Middle East against longstanding authorities began not only over oppression and limited civic liberties but driven by the disillusionment of highly-educated and underemployed generation marginalised by increasing costs of commodities controlled by global consumption and financial speculation (Homer-Dixon, 2011). Food, a basic necessity for life and economically private good is tied to the overall capacity of the world to produce, deliver and provide effectively – making it extremely elastic to changes in the price of oil or the effects of climate change in other nations (Tenenbaum, 2008) – even if on the other side of the world. Without stability and capacity to excel fiscally, many are felt to feel socially trapped and looking for somewhere to place the blame. Second, as the world became more connected, knowledge and information have become powerful commodities – propelling demand for hackers and terrorists to use information garnered on the Internet to corrupt, defraud or instil fear. Governments are not immune to the effects of open access to information, as seen in the example of the recent Wikileaks scandals and discourse over transparency verses national security.


Finally, one of the major issues of globalisation and the potential of new technology is the Digital Divide (Guillén & Suárez, 2005). While as such technologies as film and radio leveraged social engagement during the World Wars and television was the backbone for anti-war sentiment during the Vietnam conflict, they remained property of a well-established estate. The Internet is no exception for the capacity it possesses for change, but more potently so as the message becomes more independent, expedient and holistic (Weinberger, 2002).  It has allowed for once geographically-divided groups and individuals to coalesce and alter social policy and has greatly increased exposure and communication. At first, however, the outlay for Internet connection to was limited to available physical and fiscal capital (Norris, 2001, Couldry, 2004) and while governments are usually elected by the whole; digitally, a divided opinion may appear with only the elite holding the ability to purchase and maintain access. Through leapfrogging technology, once marginalised citizens in countries can now afford access and are not only connecting with new or similar voices within a the nation that conventional media may not have the ability (Falk, 1999) – or was disallowed to – and it has opened new windows to expatriates in other nations who may have more exposure to quality and accurate information. The immediacy of exposure to information has been transformative and traditional media has attempted to catch-up and compete with the growing popularity of new media. Unfortunately, they are also working with less capital from more spread advertisers – cutting analytical research and eroding their objectivity in exchange for an increased and more captive audiences (Weinberger, 2002).


IV.      Mitigation or Adaptation

So where do agents of the state turn for resolution? Egypt, with the removal of access to the specific uses of the Internet site only propelled sentiment against the ruling party and by example of technological capacity, innovation quickly adapted to the lack of communication by usurping older and more established media – through the telephone – to reconnect the people. Libya’s staunch control over media focused more attention on activities there because of such secrecy, but also resulted in misreporting that elevated world concern and might have turned initial reaction erratically negative in the first weeks of protest. Both nations, however, through there actions lost key and burgeoning Western diplomatic ties to the Americas and Europe almost immediately, flip-flopping international policies in many states within a staggering short period of time (Klapper & Lee, 2011). Blocking other forms of media and specifically arresting those who attempt to report on the situation only encouraged further world interest and disdain (Weinberger, 2002). Long utilized methods of controlling and limiting democratic discourse to maintain the power of the state worked on in the opposite, eroding power further, faster and harder as hard powers are now competing with more versatile and encompassing soft powers (Schiller, 1996).


Conventional media outlets, such as television and newsprint have evolved to include tools of social media, from reliance on individual citizens or freelance reporters and blog postings to twitter feeds to provide breaking news from locations with expedience and without spatial limitations (Machi and George, 2009). With advertisement revenues dropping, choice and attention spans rapidly inversing, and viewer- and readership coming a rare commodity; media outlets look towards convergence as a method to balance travel and human resource budgets and still keep an edge over growing competition (Miller, 2004). But the cost of expedience is experience and reflective aforethought on what and who to report on – and why. Politicians rely on the media to provide the social breadth of opinion in order to drive policy. If the resources at their disposal are unsubstantiated, weak in objectivity or wrought with bias, can leaders of nations accurately reflect what the common sentiment may be or make decisions that understand the minority position or reflect the greater good of society? (Sens & Stoett, 2002)



VI.      Neo-Liberalism and Hyper-Pluralism

Recently, movements in both North America and Europe have captured the new individualism people have obtained from the Internet along with disaffection due to economic wasting through the recent recession to leverage growing idealism or toward far-right policies. From Obama to the Tea Party movements in the United States, Neo-Conservatism in the United Kingdom and Harper Government and Ford Nation movements here in Canada, once fringe political movements have captured sentiment to curry their own favour, capitalising on the perception of self-control and using the very tool that provided that capacity to communicate their message (Rohlinger & Brown, 2009). Latching on new found freedoms of expression, these movements have placated individual concerns through directional messaging via new media, garnering support from fringe groups and convey a mushy-middle of policy development that feels inclusive but is rather, in fact, deceptive in design. The notions and draw of power have not changed – but capturing and maintaining it have – diminishing concrete action and transformative measure in lieu of populous ideals and voter manipulation (Sens & Stoett, 2002).


New Media has opened a window of opportunity for marginalised groups and the ability to wield its power effectively can make-or-break a campaign.  Focusing on individuals or groups of individual concerns directly to the media sources they more commonly connect can create a custom policy platform which plays on a self-centred narcissism and draws more support. This has removed the traditional method of election where representatives of a localised area are elevated by those citizens to champion for their specific needs and values. This does not only draw on national ideologue, but globalisation has also allowed for supranational paradigms to develop and influence local campaigns regardless or originating state (Unger & Waarden, 1995). The danger of this is the creation of an epistemic culture that can greatly erode the ability of people to respond to dramatic social, economic and environmental issues with creative or innovative ways (Hearn & Rooney, 2002).


VII.     The Faceless Voice

In the new eDemocracy, special interest groups and even individual voices have a level playing field to provide discourse once awarded to the social, political and academic elite (Machi and George, 2009). New forms of socialisation which has allowed for true self-socialisation and option to select and voice personal opinion have designed a society with an inwardly-facing mentality that demands satisfaction at a micro-scale and the power to achieve it. Policy makers and statesmen will have to adapt and integrate new technologies (Robinson, 2011) into longstanding institutions in order to maintain the liberal-democracy that has propelled economic and social development and cope with the adverse effects of globalisation. Public opinion and perception has become exceptionally fluid and occurs almost immediately while disseminated over a more broad and vast audience than ever before. The Internet has allowed new voices to crowd out the prior agents that drove social policy and, in effect, socialisation – with little indication to state agents to fully understand or comprehend the direction of will or intent. Nations, politicians, corporations and institutions now are at the very whim of a connective, but not necessarily collective, social conscious changing forever how local, national and international politics is conducted and won (Falk, 1999). While this may lead to a more democratic world in the truest sense of the word, it will leave government ineffective and unable to function within a politically-, socially-, economically- and environmentally-changing world (Sens & Stoett, 2002).



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