Why Doug Ford Hates Toronto, According To Some City Councillors

Emma Paling
Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to reporters in Toronto on Sept. 10, 2018.

When Toronto city council voted 36-6 to strip its mayor Rob Ford of his powers in 2013, he promised war.

"If you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait," the late politician said at the time. "This is going to be outright war in the next election."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was a city councilor at the time and his brother's closest political ally. He voted with him more than 90 per cent of the time and ran for mayor in Rob's place after he was diagnosed with cancer.

City councillors, along with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, have said that the premier's plan to slash the number of seats on Toronto city council in the middle of an ongoing election is a revenge plot.

Premier Doug Ford speaks with his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, in 2014.

"He just has this disdain, not just for Toronto City Council, but I would go one step further and say for a good deal of the citizens of Toronto," Coun. Mike Layton told HuffPost Canada.

He said the first straw was council cutting the premier's brother's powers; the second straw was the mayoral election of 2014, which the premier lost to John Tory.

"We suspended the powers of his brother because his brother was unfit for office," Layton said. "It wasn't the left wing stealing it from him, it was us recognizing that his brother was simply unfit for office at that time. Something needed to be done for the good of the city."

Councillors were reacting to the mayor's admission that he smoked crack cocaine while in office.

The leader of the NDP is here to protect her crony buddies: Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, Gord Perks. Premier Doug Ford

Layton is one of three city councillors that the premier called out during question period at Queen's Park last week.

"My friends, we're going to make sure that we take care of the housing crisis and make sure that we take care of the crumbling infrastructure underneath our feet and make sure that transit gets moving, unlike the leader of the NDP," Ford said. "The leader of the NDP is here to protect her crony buddies: Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, Gord Perks."

He was cut off by the Speaker of the House because Members of Provincial Parliament are forbidden from speculating about the motives of their colleagues.

Toronto Coun. Mike Layton hugs Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at a labour day parade in 2011.

While Horwath said that she does know the named councillors, she told HuffPost Canada that the premier's actions have more to do with his relationship to them than hers.

"I don't have a real deep relationship with any of them, but that's not the point," Horwath said. "The point is, this is all about Mr. Ford's petty vendetta against these particular councillors and maybe some others."

Coun. Cressy agreed.

"I think it exposes the complete fallacy that Doug Ford's legislation has anything to do with substance as opposed to a personal vendetta," Cressy told HuffPost Canada. "To think that a premier of Canada's largest province would interfere in the election of Canada's largest city, because he doesn't like three city councillors, seems pretty petty and vindictive to me."

Cressy has only been on council for four years. He wasn't there when the Ford brothers served.

"He's singling out city councillors ... because he doesn't like our politics in downtown. Doug Ford has never liked the City of Toronto."

During the campaign, the premier regularly referred to NDP candidates and people in downtown Toronto as "radicals."

Doug Ford has never liked the City of Toronto. Coun. Joe Cressy

When he sat on council, Ford's relationship with his colleagues was combative. At one point, he restrained his brother from charging at another councillor. He described city politics in terms usually reserved for violent extremists.

"It is a full out jihad against us right now," the premier said after a local father filed an integrity complaint about his behaviour.

Ford's office denies that the legislation has anything to do with the premier's feelings about Toronto or specific city councillors.

"Premier Ford and the Government for the People are committed to reducing the number of politicians on Toronto City Council for one reason: delivering more efficient local government to the people of Toronto," spokesman Simon Jefferies said in an email.

The GTA has been "paralyzed by the gridlock and dysfunction of City Hall," he said.

"Nearly 20" councillors support Ford's plan, Jefferies added.

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Stephen Holyday is one of those councillors. He told HuffPost Canada that changes to council need to be made now, not after the fall election.

If the province waits and implements changes after 47 councillors are elected, they'll be too distracted by the threat of losing their jobs in the next election to focus on their work, Coun. Holyday said.

"Think about a shrinking water hole with all the animals around the watering hole trying to get their spot."

Councillors have overstated the impact of Ontario's legislation on their campaigns, Holyday said.

"Being a candidate in an election is a very dynamic process. With any election, changes come about ... issues come up or news comes up and the world changes," he said. "You either rise to the occasion or you don't."

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Ontario's law was struck down by a judge in part because it will increase the populations of wards from an average of 61,000 to 111,000. But Holyday points out that some councillors already represent well over 90,000 constituents.

"I haven't heard complaints about their ability to handle the workload," Holyday said.

Coun. Perks, on the other hand, said in a dramatic speech at city hall that the fight against Ford's legislation is about much more than just increased workload.

"Why? Why would they do this?" Perks asked. "He's coming for the things that make Toronto liveable. He wants us distracted. He wants us back on our heels. He wants us fighting with each other. He wants us to not notice that he wants to gut the things that make Toronto great. That's why."