Archive for May 2011
Edward Keenan at The Grid–successor to eye weekly—nails squarely the import of the privatization of garbage collection in Toronto, as an issue onto itself, as cause for the massive swing towards Ford (the 2009 garbage strike was unpleasant), and as representative of growing discord between ideological factions on city council.
CUPE Local 416, the union that represents the city’s waste disposal staff, is still suffering from damage caused by its summer 2009 strike. There is little point in going back to re-argue the merits of the union’s bargaining position. What appears relevant in retrospect is how self-destructive the event was, taken as a whole. The debate turned on a perk that allowed garbage collectors to bank unused sick days and then take them as cash—a quirky bit of largesse that offended the general public. So the union behaved as if it were at war with the city’s government and residents.
When the strike was settled, the union had all but ended the political career of David Miller, likely the most union-friendly mayor this city will have in my lifetime. When he announced he wouldn’t run again, most analysts attributed his decision to either the personal or political injuries he incurred during the garbage strike—at the very least, it appeared, to many of us, to have broken his spirit.
Moreover, the strike left a big segment of the general public viscerally angry at the public service and hungry for revenge. Which is where Rob Ford came in. His campaign for mayor tapped into the residual sense of rage that many people had with government employees. There was a gut feeling that getting paid for staying healthy, and $12,000 retirement parties on the public dime, were symptoms of a City Hall that had profoundly lost touch with reality, a government that left senior citizens rotting in a pile of their own garbage while it debated how best to spend tax money on perks. It’s too simple to say the strike made Rob Ford mayor, but it would also be simple-minded to deny it helped create the conditions for his victory. Notably, Ford’s campaign promised to contract out garbage collection.
Last week at City Hall, Ford moved a little closer to delivering on that promise. Still, if he’s capitalized on the union’s lack of diplomatic acumen, he doesn’t seem to have learned from it. Ever since he was elected, Ford has controlled council using a with-us-or-against-us mentality, bullying moderate councillors and aggressively trying to screw those who won’t defer to his will. The air between council’s left and right is toxic, but more importantly for Ford, the centrist councillors are showing signs of poisoning as well.
Go read the whole thing.