Over at the Posted Panel, Goldsbie and Chris Selley discuss the nature of deputations and at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke Lucas Costello guest posts on how to make an effective deputation within the narrow constraints provided. I thought I'd pile on because I feel the deputation process is a telling site to understand the current administration and the engaged public's (mostly Ford critics) relationship to it.
During the budget committee meeting last week Doug Ford commented that this administration has 'conducted more public consultation than any administration in history.' Which may well be true for Toronto, but is a very different thing from listening to what the deputants have to say.
We know what to expect from these deputations now. Some are passionate and heartfelt, others informed and nuanced and there are some that are neither here nor there. Instead of the deputations being a place to understand where people are coming from, what their priorities are and how to make better policy decisions, it's about politicking.
But for Team Ford the politicking isn't just between them and the likes of Gord Perks, Shelley Carroll and Janet Davis. Instead this is extended to the general public that feels compelled to show up to share their views.
This was on full display on Thursday morning, when Team Ford sent in Frances Nunziata and Giorgio Mammoliti to aggressively question and undermine the deputants. This tactic was borne out of a sense that the Mayor's team lost the message of the day before (they did) and would assertively take it back.
It was a very Parliamentary dialogue in its worst sense, filled with ardent and weak attacks.
Nunziata asked whether deputants would be willing to voluntarily pay more taxes on an individual basis, thus betraying her lack of understanding for what taxes really are. Mammoliti asked where deputants were from so as to dismiss their opinions if they happen to live downtown. Doug Ford offered commentary that essentially none of the deputants offered solutions, although what he really meant was that few offered solutions he personally agrees with.
This approach is a real shame too. The deputation process is in principle an excellent idea, but the fact that the administration sees the people who use it as part of the official opposition (and thus fair game for attack) is another sign of the cyncicism and means-to-an-end approach that underlies Team Ford.
On the other hand, the fact that 350 people sign up multiple times in spite of the fact they know they won't be listened to (in fact, actively undermined) speaks to the public valuing the deputation process much more than some politicians do, and it's heartening that there's that energy to protect it.