Doug Ford omnipresent at city hall no longer

Just as Rob Ford's outrageous actions defined the last few years of city hall in Toronto, so too have Doug Ford's words. Always unpredictable, rarely on message.

The more vocal Ford will likely exit city hall hastily

Mayoral candidate Doug Ford waves to supporters after losing to fellow candidate John Tory at Ford's election night headquarters closing in Toronto on Monday, October 27, 2014. (The Canadian Press)

You always knew when Doug Ford was at city hall.

That's because Ford's SUV didn't fit into city hall's underground parking lot, so he had to park it behind the press gallery. His comings and goings were always visible to reporters in the press gallery, and he was always worth staking out because you knew he would say something.

Just as Rob Ford's outrageous actions defined the last few years of city hall in Toronto, so too have Doug Ford's words. Always unpredictable, rarely on message.

The mayor's office could have a well-crafted plan on, say, fixing the Gardiner Expressway, only to have Doug swoop in with off-the-cuff talk about adding a tolled deck.

For all of Mayor Ford's shortcomings — and the list is long — it was Doug Ford who was the architect of many of the administration's difficulties.

Remember the disastrous weight-loss challenge? That was Doug Ford's idea.

It turned into a weekly embarrassment for the mayor. 

Recall that waterfront vision, complete with ferris wheel and mega-mall? Also Doug Ford's idea. 

The mayor didn't even know about it until he was asked.

A lot has been made about Doug Ford's absence from various council votes. But it would be wrong to say he hasn't been present at city hall for the past four years.

It was just the opposite. 

Outgoing mayor Rob Ford withdrew his name from the mayoral race to battle cancer. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

It was his omnipresence at city hall that in the end was detrimental. By simply being accessible to reporters, he was left to fill in the blanks of where the mayor was and what he was up to.

And you never knew what to believe when Doug spoke about his brother. 

Was he the naive brother? The enabler-in-chief? The wizard behind the curtains trying to keep everything afloat? It's hard to believe he didn't know exactly what was going on — sometimes even before it happened.

With this campaign over, don't expect Doug Ford to linger. He doesn't like to lose, and I would expect him to disappear from the municipal landscape as quickly as he appeared.

He'll likely head back to Chicago putting this chapter of his life behind him. He will no doubt leave wondering what might have been: an administration that many in the city wanted to succeed, but which burned through a historic amount of political capital. And in the end was unable to overcome personal demons.

So what now? Everything goes back to normal and city hall becomes sleepy again? Partially. But don't expect city hall to instantly transform into a functional place where nuanced policy is perfectly in step with Toronto's needs.

John Tory may be shrewd and experienced, but so too are many members of council. They, too, have agendas, and they may not always be in sync with Tory's. 

Every vote and every issue is a battle with individual councillors, each calculating how it will play in their particular wards. Even though the mayor of Toronto is the most directly elected position in Canada, he still has to appease the North York councillor who got 1,800 votes. 

That is the difficult dance at Toronto city hall — no matter who the mayor is.


Jamie Strashin is a native Torontonian whose latest stop is the CBC Sports department. Before, he spent 15 years covering everything from city hall to courts and breaking news as a reporter for CBC News. He has also worked in Brandon, Man., and Calgary. Follow him on Twitter @StrashinCBC