Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and less than a dozen city councillors helped welcome the New Year with their constituents at city hall. The festivities came to a brief halt when protesters arrived speaking out against the mayor's cuts.
It was, indeed, a tough and controversial year for city hall. After Toronto Mayor Rob Ford introduced a number of measures and cuts, residents of the city have showed their frustrations. However, that wasn’t evident Monday during the annual New Year’s Levee, until the protests started.
As part of the annual tradition for public officials and members of government, a New Year’s Levee is held where constituents meet their elected representatives. A handshake, photo opportunity and brief conversations usually take place.
Nearly 800 people lined up in January for the annual New Year's Levee to meet with Mayor Rob Ford and city councillors.
Monday’s levee was held a day later at the request of the mayor. It is unknown why it was delayed.
This year, when the mayor walked down the stairs, the large number of people, estimated to be about 200, who waited patiently in line to meet Ford, applauded his arrival. Things remained relatively quiet until a group of protesters arrived.
Members of Toronto Stop the Cuts held a long banner with balloons that were released at Monday’s event. According to the group’s website, one person is still being detained and held for questioning.
Digital Journal spoke with one of the protesters, who was holding a sign that stated, “The Ford Gang, Vandals of ‘Our’ City.” The gentleman, standing in front of city hall, said he wants Ford to just go and resign.
“Rather than staying at home being angry and seething at what’s going on at city hall, especially with what Rob Ford’s doing, I just felt I needed to do something,” said Lawrence Pushee, who noted that he plans to be at the major rally at city hall scheduled for Jan. 17. “I don’t want to shake his hands, I don’t wish him ill, but I wish he’d leave. I don’t think he should be mayor.”
Pushee explained that Ford is one of the most uncivil mayors he has ever witnessed during his more than 30-year experience in this city. He added that Ford “was a nasty piece of business as a councillor” and now as a mayor he has continued that behaviour and by “doing the stupidest things.”
Since Ford entered office more than a year ago, he has followed through on many of his campaign promises, such as repealing the vehicle registration tax, decrease staff budgets, contract out garbage, cut spending and end Transit City.
“The Ford Gang said it was the gravy train, it was we were spending like crazy, but the irony is that the [Mayor David] Miller administration had a bonus, they had extra money at the end of their so-called spending spree,” said Pushee.
“He’s trying to please the taxpayers because he’s playing that trick, that’s why I call him the deceiver, that will keep your taxes down as if everything else is going to remain the same, and it won’t. We’ll get fooled all the time, people are really dumb about voting people who say that; in Ottawa, in Queen’s Park and right here in the city.
In the end, Pushee feels there is a “great wisening up” transpiring in the city, including by members of council. “I think there will be a day of judgment and I think they are smartening up and are not letting him do the things he wants to do.”
When asked if he had one message to Ford, Pushee stated: “Get out.”
What does 2012 hold for the City?
In many of his year-end interviews with local media outlets, Ford has stated that he wants to lower the land transfer tax by a quarter each year. The mayor said he also wants to look into eliminating the five-cent plastic bag fee, which is something he did not campaign on but has noted that many people have cited their frustration with the tax.
In an interview with Inside Toronto, Ford explained that he wants to get a shovel in the ground for the Sheppard subway by this year – if not in 2012, then next year.