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Don Cherry’s commentary overshadows Ford’s first meeting

In Canada on December 8, 2010 at 14:04

Don Cherry’s commentary overshadows Ford’s first meeting

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Don Cherry and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford pose for a picture during the swearing in of Rob Ford, Tuesday December 7, 2010 in Toronto.

  December 7, 2010 – 4:36 pm

Wearing a neon pink suit jacket — to irk his critics and “all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles” — Don Cherry used his trademark bombast to introduce Toronto’s new mayor and at the same time lambaste “left-wing pinko newspapers” for attacking his invitation to the inaugural city council meeting.

His speech stole a show that began with bag pipes, included Rob Ford’s first official address, and ended with opponents balking at the “negative tone” set by the outspoken hockey personality.

“Rob is honest, he is truthful. He is like Julian Fantino [the former OPP Commissioner turned Conservative MP]. What you see is what you get. He’s no phoney,” said Mr. Cherry, 76, who had never met Mr. Ford before Tuesday and came because he was invited by the Mayor.

Mr. Cherry, who lives in neighbouring Mississauga, recounted a story he read in the Toronto Sun about an elderly woman who wrangled with City Hall over cutting down a tree, and then had to pay for it.

“Rob’s been the Mayor for one day, apology comes and a $5,000 cheque, and that’s why I say he’s going to be the greatest Mayor this city has ever seen as far as I’m concerned and put that in your pipe, you left wing kooks.”

Mayor Ford, himself no stranger to controversial outbursts during his 10 years as city councillor, appeared amused by remarks he did not screen, and said he admired Mr. Cherry’s honesty.

“To each his own. Don is well known, he is well-respected throughout Canada and what you see is what you get,” said Mr. Ford, who presided over an otherwise collegial event that had councillors giving him high fives, a fist bump and one a kiss on the cheek. He later spent about half an hour posing for photos and signing autographs in the rotunda of City Hall.

Mr. Cherry was unapologetic. “If you invite a pit bull, you get a pit bull.”

Other members of council, however, were offended by Mr. Cherry’s remarks. The Ford administration has shut out left-wingers and downtown councillors from powerful positions.

“This is a sad way to start a four-year term,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc, a member of the left who represents the midtown ward of St. Paul’s. “To have someone just dismiss a whole wing of council and to be, frankly, that belligerent, I think sets a very negative tone for the beginning of council.”

Councillor Adam Vaughan (Trinity-Spadina) was so insulted by comments that “castigated” the media, he turned his back to Mr. Cherry throughout his speech.

Even those on the Mayor’s cabinet-like executive were trying to distance themselves from the rant.

“Don Cherry is not the tone for city council and I hope it’s not perceived as that. We’re here to work and make sure the job gets done,” said Giorgio Mammoliti, chair of the community development committee. “Those aren’t the words I would have chosen,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson, a new member of council representing Don Valley West.

“He’s an entertainer, he’s salacious, he’s controversial, and he didn’t disappoint us today,” said Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee.

“Those were his own words and those weren’t the words of any member of council,” said Mr. Minnan-Wong.

He believes Mr. Cherry reflected “in a rather aggressive selection of his words, the direction of the last council, which was very left wing. And we know that, and that’s one of the reasons that in the election, [voters] want change. They want a different direction, they don’t want a left-wing socialist government. They want a government that’s going to look after the taxpayers.”

Mayor Ford showcased the previously announced chairs of the seven standing policy committees and his deputy mayor, Etobicoke Centre Councillor Doug Holyday. He reiterated his four priorities: customer service, transparency, reducing the size and cost of government, and a transportation plan that is “not just transit.” Earlier in the day he sat down with Premier Dalton McGuinty for the first time to talk about, among other things, his desire to scrap a light-rail transit plan in favour of subway expansion.

“It’s an ambitious agenda that will depend on this council for leadership,” Mr. Ford told the audience. “We will reduce our spending at council and across all city departments. It’s only fair and just.” He went on to compare himself to Toronto’s first “rebel” Mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie, who “fought against privilege and for the little guy. My plan is to be more successful than he was.”

National Post

Posted in: City Hall, Posted Toronto  Tags: ,


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