By Alicia Kay Markson with files from Naomi Parness for CTV News Toronto
7 Dec 2010
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford signed his declaration of office to kick off the first meeting of the city’s new council Tuesday afternoon, but was upstaged by hockey personality Don Cherry.
Ford, dressed conservatively in a black suit and striped tie, received the chain of office from Cherry, who had donned a pink floral-print jacket for the occasion.
Cherry not only dressed more flashily than Ford, he trumped the new mayor in rhetoric.
“I’m wearing pink for all the pinkos out there who ride bicycles and everything,” Cherry said to muted applause.
“I’ve been ripped to shreds by all the left-wing newspapers out there,” he said about commentary on Ford’s decision to ask him to speak at the first meeting.
Cherry, who lives in Mississauga, likened Ford to new Vaughan Conservative MP and former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino: “He’s no phony. What you see is what you get.”
The former NHL coach praised Ford’s handling of a woman who had been billed $5,000 by the city after a tree was ordered cut down on her property.
The case was the subject of a report released Dec. 2 by Toronto’s ombudsman.
“Rob’s in the (mayor’s office) one day. An apology comes and a $5,000 cheque,” Cherry said. “And that’s why I say he’s going to be the greatest mayor this city’s ever seen … now put that in your pipe, you left-wing kooks.”
Afterwards, a grinning Ford told reporters he had no idea what Cherry would say.
“Don’s well-known. He’s well-respected throughout Canada — and what you see is what you get,” the new mayor said.
Progressive-leaning Coun. Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) later joked that “for the record, I think Don Cherry has showered with more naked left-wingers than I ever have,” alluding to Cherry’s long career as a hockey coach.
More seriously, Vaughan said in reference to the ‘tree’ incident: “If Rob Ford is going to set a new standard for customer service, then the councillor who failed to protect one of his constituents should be brought on the carpet and should be given a good lecture by the new mayor.”
The ombudsman’s report doesn’t say in which ward the woman resided. It did say the city manager had agreed to pay the woman restitution and plant a replacement tree.
Leading by example
In his speech, Ford told the packed chamber that the taxpayers’ interests will reign supreme for the next four years.
“There is no bottomless pit of money. Every time we charge a tax, a resident must give up something they need or want in order to pay our taxes,” he said.
Council needs to lead by example and give up some of its “perks, privileges and nice-to-haves,” he said.
Ford has promised to move quickly on cutting the office budgets of councillors to $30,000 from more than $50,000. However, the average spent by councillors in 2009 was about $38,000.
Coun. Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) said the mayor’s remarks showed that Ford considered residents to be more taxpayers than citizens.
One of the spectators, 12-year-old Sally O’Keffe, said Ford had respect for taxpayers and didn’t want to take a lot of money away from people.
Resident Jill Penny, watching the proceedings by video, said Tuesday marked a new era in municipal governance, adding, “I am thrilled to have Rob as our new mayor.”
Ford posed for a photograph with each councillor as their names were read out.
Of the 44 councillors elected, 14 are serving their first term.
“It is such an honour and privilege to play a role in my community,” said Coun. Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s)
“I’m kind of excited to take the training wheels off and get running,” said Coun. Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence).
NDP Leader Jack Layton came to watch the swearing-in. While he is a one-time city councillor and mayoral candidate, Layton came to see his son Mike get sworn in as city councillor for Trinity-Spadina’s Ward 19.
To view the entire story and to view the video link, click here