Councillor Wong-Tam slams Fords over Olympics "decision by fiat"
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam undeniably comes at many issues from the left. But the rookie has impressed many with her eagerness to work with colleagues of all stripes to get things done. When others were dismissing Mayor Rob Ford, she tried to keep the door open.
That openness closed somewhat when she tried to act as Ford's gateway to the gay community, offering him ways to mark the Pride festivities and remain in his comfort zone. When Ford made no effort, Wong-Tam's frustration was palpable.
Now, she is taking direct aim at Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, over their closed-door method of governing, asking the city manager for an "administrative inquiry" into their apparent joint decision on behalf of the city not to even entertain the idea of making a bid for the 2020 Olympics. It's part of a pattern, Wong-Tam writes in her open letter, that has her worried about the health of local democracy.
She also asks an uncomfortable question - what exactly is Councillor Ford's role at City Hall? Is it proper that he gets special access to the mayor and decision-making ability on something as important as an Olympic bid even though he is only one of 44?
Asked about the letter on Wednesday, Mayor Ford said he was unaware of it and couldn't comment.
Councillor Doug Ford suggested nothing improper is happening. “He’s my brother. Of course I have access to him, ” Ford said. “The left is playing politics.”
Below is Wong-Tam's letter in full:
August 31, 2011
Open Letter to Mayor Rob Ford
City of Toronto
100 Queen Street West
Dear Mayor Ford:
I will be submitting an administrative inquiry to the City Manager in an attempt to make public
whatever information is available about the decision that was made not to bid for the 2020 Olympic
Games without Council's participation.
I've learned, through the media, that Toronto is required to notify the International Olympic
Committee (IOC) to express our interest to host the 2020 Olympic Games by September 1, 2011. I
cannot hide my disappointment that on the day before the deadline to express interest to the IOC,
43 other Members of Council were not privy to any details of the proposal. In fact, I believe that
you and Councillor Doug Ford disrespected our roles as elected representatives when you made a
decision by fiat without Council consideration.
Some of my constituents have asked me why Toronto turned down the bid so quickly, what the bid
was comprised of and why Council wasn’t involved with this decision. This is why I am writing to
Although Toronto is currently facing budget pressures, we as Members of Council still have a
responsibility to our residents to review and consider proposals that have a major impact on the
city. That is why we have rights to information as duly elected representatives.
With sincere respect to Councillor Ford, he is one of 44 City Councillors, is not a committee Chair,
and is not entitled to special privileges that do not extend to all of us on behalf of the constituents
we represent. This transparency and equality is a fundamental principle of our civic democracy,
and you as Mayor have a duty to ensure it.
Informal discussions in your office between you and your brother are not to be mistaken for official
committee or Council meetings. I believe discussions involving an Olympic bid require serious
exploratory consideration, due diligence, and a broader and more robust debate that involves all
Members of Council and Torontonians from every neighbourhood.
I am concerned with the health of our local democracy. The decision about the Olympics is only the
latest in a worrying pattern. On your first day in office, you declared “Transit City is dead” despite
the fact that a Council decision declaring it our first priority has never been revisited, and have
since been operating on the premise that your unilateral decree overrides the democratic
processes of civic government.
Media reports also reveal that detail financial and technical plans are not required by the IOC until
February 2012. There was sufficient time to engage all Members of Council and even more
broadly the general public about the feasibility of hosting the 2020 Olympic Games.
Transparency in government would have required that an informative briefing on the bid and an
invitation to the Olympic working group be presented to Members of Council on behalf of our
constituents. Whether one supports or does not support an Olympic bid, what is of the gravest
concern to me is the lack of accountability and transparency in your decision.
An informative briefing would have allowed Council Members and our constituents an opportunity
to learn more about the obligations and benefits expected for Toronto if we were to host the most
high profile international sporting event in the world. During such a briefing I would have asked the
working group whether or not Toronto’s hosting of the Pan American Games in 2015 could have
enhanced our bidding position. I also wanted to know if were leveraging opportunities for us to
“build once and host twice.”
I wanted to ask the Olympic Working Group what kind of legacy hosting the 2020 Olympic Games
would have had on Toronto as it relates to affordable housing, infrastructure, cultural assets,
amateur sports and public transit. I needed to know if there would be tangible benefits to the
suburbs as surely they would inherit all the major new facilities by their birthright in vastness of
land. I wanted to know if Toronto’s aging subways, theatres, recreation centres, swimming pools,
parks would have seen new stimulus funding. I would also have wanted to know if other levels of
government and private sector partnerships were interested in this collaboration.
As a result of your decision, we will not get answers to these questions, or even have the
opportunity to ask them. I am sure that my Council colleagues and the general public would have
had questions of their own for the working group about their Olympic proposal, but again we were
not given that opportunity.
In year 2000, then Mayor Mel Lastman championed the 2008 Olympic bid where the merits of the
bid were explored openly and debated robustly before Council unanimously agreed to submit
Toronto’s proposal to the IOC for consideration. Perhaps Council would have made a different
decision in 2011, but we will never know, as no vote will be held.
Mayor, our democratic institutions are to be respected and I urge you to re-consider the
governance style in which you currently operate. Making a public announcement cannot replace
legislative process and policy.
I am ready to work with you to build a more prosperous, just and beautiful city. A little respect
would go a long way.
Councillor, Ward 27