Replacing public policy with patronage

TheStar.com – opinion/letters – Re: On the menu: Free cookies, pizza, Dec. 17
Published On Thu Dec 23 2010.   Anthony Schein

Mayor Rob Ford, Councillor Doug Ford and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday showed their respect for taxpayers and their largesse at the council meeting on Dec. 17 by catering baked goods and pizza for all 45 councillors and senior city officials out of their own pockets. While their volunteerism and hospitality are admirable traits, both are underwritten by the Ford brothers’ enormous personal wealth, and both are troubling signs of the administration’s ideological tilt.

The Fords see themselves as patrons, whether of council, of the arts, or the poor. Indeed, when Rob Ford was a councillor, his website routinely listed his thousands of dollars in personal donations to charitable (as well as political) causes.

Who needs sound public policy when we can depend on the generosity and largesse of the elite? Who needs a social welfare system, when we have charitable giving from the wealthy? This attitude permeates virtually all elements of the Fords’ policy approach — whether then mayoral-candidate Ford’s offer to personally help buy street drugs for a sick constituent, his belief that an arts and culture plan can be replaced by selling tickets to galas, or the belief (articulated at a Latino-organized mayoral debate) that youth-oriented social programs could be replaced by football teams and cheerleading squads.

Clearly, under the Fords’ approach, the only ones fit to hold office are the independently wealthy: those rich enough to volunteer their time, buy pizza for everyone and replace public policy with personal patronage. Hardly the common man image Ford proclaims for himself — or the democratic system of government Torontonians believe in.

Anthony Schein, Toronto

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