Sunday, December 9, 2012 | Categories: Michael's Essays
(CP / Chris Young)
Well, that tears it.
When the most important magazine in the English-speaking world cracks you across the forehead, your goose is not only cooked; it is boned, sliced, carved and served up nicely.
When The Economist, in a few elegantly poisonous columns, reminds you and the world that you and your neighbours live in Idiotville by the Lake, there is little hope of commutation of sentence by the court of public opinion.
Emblazoned over two pages in this week's issue, the article showed how the government of Canada's largest city had become Canada's latest national joke.
The headline: Model T Ford Breaks Down.
The article goes on to describe in painful detail the shambolic clown car that is Toronto City Council.
From horrific money problems to a collapsing transit network to a political system in gridlock and confusion, the magazine traces the chaotic two-year administration under Mayor Robert Ford.
Compounding the train wreck is a decision by one judge to throw Mayor Ford out of office for a conflict of interest, and the decision by another to stay the expulsion.
A city is a complicated political organism, noisy, combustible, in constant tension with and among a myriad of factions.
A city council is not supposed to be a model of orderly self-government. It is by its very nature a raucous arena of contention and argument.
The hope is that when the smoke clears, decisions will have been made and things will get done.
That's not the way it works at Toronto City Hall.
For example, a previous council voted to spend about $80,000 to install a measly little bicycle lane on a downtown street.
Then the current council came in. Egged on by Mayor Ford, the council decided to remove said bike lane.
At a cost of between $280,000 and $300,000.
A tiny, almost perfect former mayor once told me that Toronto has usually been chaotically governed but efficiently run.
Sadly now it is both badly governed and badly run.
Years ago on As It Happens, we used to run a weekly feature from Newfoundland on the fights in St. John's city council between then-Councilor Andy Wells and the then mayor, the late John Murphy.
The feature became a national sensation. People tuned in just to hear the shouting matches between Wells and Murphy.
Everybody talked about that crazy St. John's Council.
It was great fun.
These days in Newfoundland, they're telling Toronto jokes.