Fighting with Facts: the Arrogant Legacy of Rob Ford

On November 26, 2012, in a judgment that is being
highly debated, Justice Hackland removed Ford as mayor for participating in a
vote in which he had a conflict of interest. Ford was aware he may have had a
conflict, but his personal arrogance spilled over into his professional life
and he voted anyway.[1]
Justice Hackland noted that Ford had a “stubborn sense of entitlement” and was
willfully blind to the conflict of interest rules. Apparently Ford didn’t
believe the rules should apply to him. While he blames “left-wing politics” for
his ouster, it was Ford’s arrogance that ended his mayoralty.[2]
Ford has often approached organized labour with the same arrogance that ended
his mayoralty. He may run again in a by-election, but for the moment Ford’s
removal gives unions some respite.

A Dark

Ford leaves in his wake a legacy only the
staunchest union-busters could admire. The focus of his mayoral campaign was to
save the City money by stopping the “gravy train.” Two promises dominated his
platform: eliminate the City’s fair-wage policy and privatize garbage
With this platform Ford established unions as a scapegoat for the City’s
financial woes from the start. He has approached organized labour with hostility
and arrogance ever since.

Ford has a history of distortion and intimidation
that would have made Richard Nixon blush[4].  He used opposition to unions as a way to
bolster support among constituents still reeling from the 2009 garbage strike.
In doing so, he politicized future negotiation processes with unions.

Last year, for instance, Ford brought his trademark
hostility to negotiations with unions who had collective agreements expiring on
December 31st, 2011. The Ford administration
went into the negotiations with little respect for the collective
agreement, with Deputy Mayor Holyday noting the agreement provided
“unbelievable job security.”[5]
Though union members disagreed with Holyday’s characterization of their job
security as “unbelievable”, Ford’s smears had already persuaded the public. He’d
stacked the deck in his favour. The unions knew this. Ford knew this too, and
he leveraged it to gain political capital.
On February 5th,
managed to get one of the largest Toronto unions to sign a new collective
agreement on the city’s terms.[6]

Unfortunately, this is not an outlier in Ford’s
legacy and his h
to the public service has often seeped into other aspects of his professional life.
Take the case of Gary Webster, formerly the chief General Manager of the TTC.
Two weeks after
voicing opposition to
proposed subway plan, Webster
was terminated. He
had been at the service for 35 years and was set to retire in a year.
Supporters of Gary Webster describe him as highly competent.[7] In
other municipal administrations Webster’s input might have been respected. In
Ford’s administration, however, a divergent opinion was apparently too much
handle. The administration’s disdain for labour representatives was once more
on display.

The bases for Ford’s disdain of organized labour have never held up well
against reality. He once said that 80% of Toronto’s budget goes to labour costs.
In a city that elected Ford largely on the basis of cutting costs, this comment
seems calculated to turn public perception against organized labour. This figure
is fiction. The real figure is 48%.[8]
Not exactly the “gravy” he claimed.

But Ford’s definition of “gravy” has rarely been accurate.
Early on in his mayoralty, he boasted of saving $70 million. Again, this was
Most of the $70 million came from
the cancellation of the vehicle registration tax, which amounted to $64-million.
 Ford’s “savings” actually represented a
$64 million reduction in revenues that could have gone to the treasury and the
provision of services.[9]

Though Ford tends to blame unions for the City’s
financial woes, the reality is workplace grievances have recently been down 13%
and workplace injury claims have been down by about 15%. In monetary terms this
means unions have saved the City around $800,000.[10]

When Ford views union workers, it’s clear he
doesn’t see hard-working men and women that help to make Toronto great. Just as
he was judged to be wilfully blind to his conflict of interest, so too has Ford
been blind to the good organized labour does for the City. In the face of Ford’s
unrelenting efforts to tarnish their image, unions have done what they do best:
they stood together. The result is that the unions are still standing. The same
can’t be said of Ford.



[1] Christie Blatchford, “Controversy Grows over why Judge took
‘Nuclear’ Option in Rob Ford Ruling” (Globe & Mail, November 28, 2012).
[2] Marcus Gee, “Rob Ford’s Self-Inflicted Downfall”
(Globe & Mail, November 26, 2012). Online:
[3] Jason Mraz, “Who is more Deluded: Rob Ford or the
Labour Unions?” (Toronto Life, December 22, 2010). Online:
[4] Royson James, “Mayor Rob Ford Allies Sink to a New
Low” (Toronto Star, October 5, 2012). Online:–mayor-rob-ford-s-allies-sink-to-a-new-low
[5] Supra 3.
[6] Patrick White, “The Peaks and Troughs of Rob Ford’s
Career” (Globe & Mail, November 26, 2012). Online:
[7] “TTC chief Gary Webster Fired” (CBC News, February 21,
2012). Online:
[8] Marcus Gee, “Ford’s Financial Numbers Don’t Add Up”
(Globe & Mail, July 15, 2011). Online:
[9] Supra 7.
[10] Enzo di Matteo, “Rob Ford’s High Stakes Union Gamble”
(Now – Toronto, January 12-19, 2012) Vol. 31 No 20. Online:

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