What is that sound of peace and calm?

By Pat Watson Wednesday April 01 2015 in Opinion
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Protest demonstrations notwithstanding, it’s been strangely quiet in Toronto lately. That disorienting, edgy feeling we had grown uncomfortably accustomed to is no longer pervading our atmosphere.


The peace we had been craving is now with us. That peace has come with the changing of the guard at city hall.


The media masses now face a new era in municipal reporting with mundane policy and financial decisions to fill their pages. But they will find their passion for it because those hard slogging, plodding issues are what make this city function, if not like a well-oiled machine at least like a machine that needs oiling.


Not only that, but those intrepid reporters who are assigned to city hall can now expect to have regular working and sleeping hours, and far less on-the-job stress, jostling with colleagues for jaw dropping quotes.


The most heated debates now preoccupying us are focused on issues that now really matter, for example the so far $400 million overrun tagged on to the York University subway extension, which is also woefully behind schedule. Or, the true feasibility of the latest Scarborough subway iteration meant to appease residents in the outer reaches of the city. We can muse about the .5 per cent increase tagged unto residential taxes meant to pay for new subway construction.


We can talk about yet another chunk of concrete having fallen from the Gardiner Expressway recently. We can focus on how soon it will be before the crumbling thoroughfare actually takes a life before someone with a realistic vision and enough courage of convictions takes the lead on doing what we all know has to be done to address the Gardiner question: Replace it altogether or bury part or all of it.


We can organize to push for a solution to the massive burden of poorly maintained housing stock under the city’s care, meaning, of course, the housing stock in the Toronto Community Housing portfolio.


We can go back to focusing on what really matters to this city because we are now free of the Ford family sideshow that had residents howling in horror to “make it stop,” or conversely howling in irrational defence of the unhealthy behaviour that consumed the city’s 64th mayor.


The train wreck of Rob Ford’s life in public had that special quality about it where you want to look away because of the embarrassment and the disgrace, but you feel oddly compelled to keep staring.


There is now a kind of emptiness which, if we take a moment to notice, becomes apparent. The thrill and even the hangover are gone. Ford has been returned to his familiar corner as the misfit councillor representing Ward 2 Etobicoke North, having been reassigned there both by hubris and voter sentimentality after the revelation of his challenge with cancer. Ford won by a landslide in his old ward.


If there is one thing that can be said about this city’s episode with drug and alcohol abuse in the mayor’s office, it would be that together we have been witness, as a result of Ford’s public behaviour, to how damaging and intransigent the condition is when left untreated. Ford was far more ready to respond to a diagnosis of cancer than he was to the acute condition that everyone else on the planet who witnessed his behaviour understood.


Municipal politicians are an opinionated and contentious lot. We need that at city hall. That is, as long as they are focused on what is in the best interest of the city. Even Ford had that intent, despite his divisive and uncouth approach. But it was that antisocial skill set that served no one, least of all Ford himself.


We are now on into the next chapter, to just about everyone’s relief.


A note on “so free to express how I feel”…

Nova Scotia-born Amber Gero, who had until recently been a Newstalk 1010 reporter, had much to tweet about her 14-year experience within that work culture, which she described as being absent of any diversity on a huge scale. One tweet: “I have no patience for these organizations that try to pretend that they are inclusive and respectful of all races when they aren’t.”


Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.

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