Thursday 8 September 2011

What My Executive Committee Deputation Would Have Been

I took a day off work on Tuesday so I could attend the Executive Committee (and I'm not even in a union or a communist!) and depute on the Waterfront issue, which I did a fair amount of research on to write my latest post. There were some really passionate, knowledgeable and insightful speakers there-- I was feeling a bit intimidated to be honest. At one point, my ex-gf sent a text asking what was up so I stepped out of the room and gave her a call to see how her recent vacation was. In this time a rush of speakers weren't there to make their deputations and my name was called. (Cityslickr later asked me if my ex is a secret Ford operative, but we get along, she's an awesome person and is not exactly a Ford voter, so I'm going to go with no). 

But I did miss my chance to depute, as I asked the City Clerk if I could go at the end but the Mayor declined that opportunity. C'est la vie. For posterity's sake, I thought I would post my deputation- I had a rough outline of my arguments, but wanted to speak extemporaneously. 

Before I begin, I’d like to thank both Executive and Visiting councillors for their effort and attention and particularly city staff for enabling these deputations to take place. I say this because I think we can all agree that hearing from citizens is an important function of government to craft better plans and policies.

It’s something I know Mayor Ford agrees with too. As a councillor he made it a priority in listening to the needs and concerns of constituents and excelled in doing so. He encapsulated this ethic in the mayoral campaign too, promising to ‘respect taxpayers’. This wasn’t just a vague notion either. The tenth point of his mayoral platform, ‘Real Community Consultation’, eloquently stated these principles:

“[The consultation process] will not just ‘inform communities of decisions already made- it will engage stakeholders early enough so plans can reflect their interests and ideas. This process will include proactive notification of all impacted residents, businesses and other stakeholder groups and require sufficient lead-time to receive informed input.”

I didn’t vote for Mayor Ford, but I support these values. They’re the values that build the foundation of a strong city and democracy, that enable the strength and diversity of voices to come together and enrich us all. They also help to avoid, as Councillor Paul Ainslie mentioned this morning in relation to his windmill motion to ‘avoid government foisting projects onto citizens’. It’s a conservative principle- let’s ensure that we have both grassroots dialogue and expert opinions before implementing principles- and it’s one that I’m sure all the councillors here can agree is the bedrock of prudent, intelligent and meaningful city building.

But that’s not what we have here today.

What we have here today is a Mayor- and his brother, Councillor Ford, brazenly flouting the principles and values they campaigned on. They didn’t campaign on the waterfront, but they did campaign on the values of transparent, respectful and prudent governance.

I believe that these are the values you subscribed to when you chose to accept a seat on the Executive Committee and I remind each one of the councillors here today that they are beholden to those values- the commitment to their constituents and Toronto, not beholden to the Mayor.

The Mayor isn’t representing your values when he derides ‘backroom decision-making’ during his campaign and then his brother crows about his ‘backroom vision’ of which we know nothing.

The Mayor isn’t representing your values when he derides Waterfront Toronto as moving too slowly yet since he’s been on their board as of December 8 has not attended any of their five board meetings, three conference calls or one strategy session.

The Mayor isn’t representing your values when he promises to have a close and thoughtful examination of each budget item but isn’t willing to defer this decision until after Waterfront Toronto votes on their Don River business plan- long in the works- tomorrow.

The Mayor isn’t representing your values when he promises openness and transparency yet gives the public four business days to understand the vague generalities of a vision and an Epcot Centre style video for their Ferris Wheel-Mega Mall-Monorail attraction.

Your principles, and by extension the principles of your constituents, are better than that.

Councillor Milczyn, your expertise as an architect and planner would fly in the face of these rushed development  visions that violate process.

Councillor Parker, who is absent, I know has been a long supporter of the Don, which does not receive any attention in the ‘vision-making exercise’ we see here today.

Councillor Kelly, at the July 22 opening for Sherbourne Common, you called Waterfront Toronto’s work and cooperation with the three levels of government ‘magical’ and ‘one of the reason’s why Toronto is one of the world’s emerging cities’.

Councillors Thompson, Del Grande, Minnan-Wong and Holyday, you routinely criticized the previous administration for seeking one-time cash to solve problems, yet that’s the solution sought here today.

Councillor Robinson, you campaigned on shifting power back to residents on community development and planning issues and promoted civic engagement as part of the ‘My Life, My City’ series.

Councillor Berardinetti, you believe in creating jobs through protecting the natural environment, a central tenet of the Waterfront Toronto plan.

There’s an opportunity today, and it’s not the ‘vision making’ brainstorming, although some of that may complement existing plans. The opportunity belongs to the councillors on the Executive, and it’s this:

You have the opportunity today to show leadership. You have the opportunity to be what you were elected to be- strong community representatives in touch with your own principles and those of your constituents. You have the opportunity to hold this mayoralty to account to the values they espouse, to make sure that their actions align with their promises. You're being asked to give the Mayor a blank slate by sending this to Council. Instead, the community and council, as people have pointed out today, needs to ask more questions

Like politics, the end product for the Port Lands is a result of the process. As empty as the Port Lands are, as frustrating as the building process can be, they will not be built on murky PowerPoint promises or toxic and shallow accusations. They’re built with the values and integrity of our process generated through consultation and transparency. They’re built with an active and engaged citizenry that demands better, that wants Toronto to be prudent, thoughtful and great. 

Today, you have a chance to affirm those values and your principles by voting No on Motion 9.6. 

I hope you do so today, and I thank you for listening. 


  1. wish you could have spoken!! Oh well there is always the 19th! and this time turn off your phone! ;)

  2. Please, Please, Please, SEND your deputation to every member of council by sending it to
    This was a brilliant deputation! They need to hear it. They need to see it.
    And everyone who thinks similarly, Write a brief note and do the same!
    Please, we can reverse this ! BUT only with everyone getting behind the move to SAVE OUR WATERFRONT. Save the People's Plan

  3. That was a great piece of writing. You'll have to take another day off work.

    I also thought it was a good idea to call out specific Councillors; I chose Shiner & Thompson.

    You could add Councillor Shiner to the your list: he was asking Councillor Kelly some pointed questions on the School Lands Motion (9.2) earlier that day. He asked why we should sell land to the YMCA, rather than just lease it to them for 99 years. His main point: "Land has long-term value."