The quandary facing Rob Ford’s budget chief

Friday, February 18, 2011 – Globe and Mail

Mike Del Grande is having a rough day.

It’s been madness since he got in at 7:30 a.m., he says: Meetings with the mayor, chasing down councillors and staff, dealing with endless phone calls and supplications. It’s barely noon, and the city’s budget chief looks world-weary against a backdrop of budgetary binders and Knights of Columbus certificates.

But he likes the gig, right? Head of the budget he spent the David Miller years picking through and railing against?

“Do I like the job?” He grimaces. “That’s a relative word. I have a hard job. And I have a job that is not enviable. But I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves.”

Continue reading

Eyes wide shut: Toronto Mayor David Miller’s exit interview

Saturday, October 9, 2010 – Globe and Mail

Seven years after he swept into office on a broom, Mayor David Miller still knows the value of a good prop.

He flips through a mini photo album with images of himself opening the city’s public pay toilet earlier this year (after 2,000 visits it has become, he notes with a degree of pride, a tourist attraction).

He pulls open the book of policy promises he ran on in 2006 – “I’ve done everything that’s in it.”

A book of elementary-school drawings of things students love about Toronto sits on the coffee table in his office, which overlooks a construction-ridden Nathan Phillips Square. Neighbourhoods, knights and “the ocean” figure prominently.

It’s kinder feedback than the outgoing mayor has gotten in a while. After months of an election in which candidates railed against a non-existent incumbent and a dysfunctional municipal government, all eyes are on an Etobicoke councillor leading the pack on promises he’ll clean up City Hall by doing the polar opposite of his left-leaning predecessor. And the electorate, if you believe every poll since June, loves the idea.

But barely 90 minutes before he formally endorses Joe Pantalone, the faithful deputy mayor polling in a distant third place – and on the same day the Canadian Club canned a speaking engagement featuring the departing mayor that had managed to lure only 19 attendees – David Miller insists we’ve got it all wrong.

Torontonians love the city, he says, and they love what he’s done with it. He wouldn’t change a thing. And although he refuses to summarize his legacy, he’s convinced that everyone – the premier he has slagged, the unions whose garbage strike cost him his popularity, the voters and his replacement – will figure out he was right all along.

Continue reading

Cities taking the lead on climate change

Saturday, December 5, 2009 – Globe and Mail

They can talk about the environment at a United Nations summit, but the action is at your local recycling depot and bus stop, and in your water taps, light bulbs and street-side bike stands. That’s why the real show during the Copenhagen talks might be on the sidelines – at a parallel summit of cities. And there, Canadians are at the forefront.

Cities argue that in an urbanizing world where at least half of emissions are created in municipalities, they are best suited to fight climate change. Just give them the resources and clout.

“We want to show the international community that cities are acting,” says Martha Delgado Peralta, environment minister for Mexico City, once the most polluted municipality in the world.

Continue reading