TORONTO - It has been two years since Toronto got hit by a Ford.
Mayor Rob Ford marks the second anniversary of his victory at the polls on Thursday.
And the civic leader, who then declared Toronto “open for business,” insisted this week that “things are going great” despite a term marred by controversy.
“We’ve contracted out garbage, we’ve got a four-year contract (with the unions), we’ve saved the taxpayers money,” said Ford.
“We’re doing what taxpayers elected me to do: We’re straightening out the city, we’re finding jobs. It is a cleaner, safer, more vibrant city than it was two years ago,” he added. “And it will be even better in the (next) two years.”
The mayor won’t be at City Hall for at least part of his anniversary. Ford will spend the afternoon on the football field coaching his undefeated Don Bosco Eagles against the Senator O’Connor Blues.
Campaigning relentlessly that he would “Stop the Gravy Train” at City Hall, Ford was elected Oct. 25, 2010 with around 47% of the vote.
When all the ballots were tallied, Ford had 383,501 votes, his nearest rival George Smitherman garnered the support of 289,832 Toronto residents and former deputy mayor Joe Pantalone placed third with 95,482 votes.
It isn’t necessarily the happiest anniversary for Ford.
He is still waiting for a judge’s decision in the conflict-of-interest case against him that could end his tenure in the mayor’s office.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, one of Ford’s most vocal critics, said the city has “drifted” under his leadership.
“He has accomplished some of his campaign promises. The campaign promises were pretty minor and vague to begin with,” Vaughan said. “On the big issues — how to build transit, how to deal with the housing crisis and the housing problems we have in this city — I think the city has been, unfortunately from the mayor’s office, rather leaderless.
“The good news is when it comes to council, when the mayor has failed to lead, council has provided the leadership ... council has found a way to, as predicted, work around the behaviour of the mayor and the mayor’s office and get work done.”
Vaughan predicted Ford will spend the next two years as “the mayor of No-ville” — saying “no” to everything and slamming council.
“I think you’re going to see the mayor just rail against council,” Vaughan said. “The only campaign platform he is going to annunciate is, effectively, ‘Council is the problem not me.’”
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said the first two years of the Ford administration had its “ups and downs or highs and lows.”
“I think the achievements have been phenomenal and, as you know, a lot of things that we’ve done should have been done a long time ago,” Holyday said. “To get the labour contract that we were able to get and get the labour peace that were able to achieve and to get on with the contracting out of the garbage for half the city and to be looking at other things in order to cut costs and save taxpayers’ dollars.”
Holyday blamed “some setbacks” on council.
“It has been tough getting a majority of council to stay on side at all times because we simply don’t have enough councillors elected that are, I guess, right of centre,” he said.
Asked how he think Ford has done, Holyday sighed.
“The mayor is different,” he said. “I guess he is certainly different than any other mayor that has gone before him and as a result of that, that has caused him difficulty at times. Hopefully, the next two years will be better.”
Councillor Josh Matlow — a member of council’s political middle — described City Hall as a pretty weird place in the last two years.
“When I go to City Hall some days, it feels like I have been thrown into some bizarre, reality show,” Matlow said.
“City Hall and certainly having such a colourful mayor is a bit of a circus sometimes but aside from many of the headlines and the noise that we hear, it is the real work that I’ve found incredibly fulfilling.”