Out on his Ashton; Heaps gets promoted

Mayor David Miller asked for and received Councillor Brian Ashton’s resignation from City Council’s Executive Committee on Tuesday, as reported in today’s Star and Post. The move came two weeks after Ashton cast the deciding vote that deferred Miller’s proposed tax measures until October.
Councillor Brian Ashton
Asserting the Westminster-style collective responsibility principle, Miller reinforced the role of the Executive Committee (EC) as a cabinet-like body through this decision.

Booting Ashton (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest) is sure to raise the ire of those in the Royson James school of thought, who believe that mavericks like Ashton should be at the heart of Miller’s inner circle to provide a sense of perspective. From people in that camp, you’re sure to hear terms like “intolerant,” “undemocratic” and “childish.”

But I see it differently.

The tax issue was as close to a matter of confidence as you’ll find in municipal government. This was the plan to get the City through its 2008 budget nightmare and on to the path toward financial independence. Knowing this, Ashton did the responsible, if unpopular, thing and supported the plan at EC.

Then at some point in the 21 days between EC and Council, Ashton was persuaded to change his mind.

Without a lobbyist registry, we can’t be sure who was in the back rooms trying to sway Ashton’s vote and he hasn’t volunteered that information. However, what we do know is that, according to documents filed by Ashton after the 2006 election, at least 14 of his 64 donors have an interest in home prices. Those donors provided Ashton with $7,150 or 28% of all donations (Search for Ashton in this database.) So that reality was in play, along with the Canadian Taxpayer Federation-organized e-mail blitz that, according to anti-tax Councillor Michael Walker (Ward 22, St. Paul’s), resulted in about 2,000 messages to his inbox alone.

But regardless of the reason for Ashton’s change of heart, his decision wasn’t known until minutes before the deferral vote when rumours began flying around the council chamber that Ashton might be flip-flopping. Up until that point, it was assumed that Ashton would continue to vote as he had at EC. Minutes later, Miller would watch the right-wingers high-five one another as the outcome of the vote was announced by the clerk.

So though any member of EC neglecting their collective responsibility on such a key issue may require their resignation, the way Ashton maneuvered on this issue is in itself cause for dismissal. At the very least, the wily veteran should have been upfront with Miller about his intention to support the deferral. Without even that courtesy, Miller had no choice but to sack Ashton.

Do the shuffle
Councillor Adrian Heaps

As Ashton was a member of EC by virtue of his appointment as chair of the Planning and Growth Management (PGM) Committee, he has also been stripped of that responsibility. In his place, Councillor Norm Kelly, already a member of EC, will take the reins of PGM and Councillor Adrian Heaps will take Kelly’s spot as an at-large member of EC.

The way the shuffle played out had little to do with the capability of Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt) or Heaps (Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest) and everything to do with where they’re geographically and politically positioned. To protect Scarborough’s spot at the table without taking an entrenched member of the official opposition on at EC, Miller had to promote Heaps (the only rookie to serve on that committee) and then choose one of them to chair PGM. Kelly was the logical choice between them given his years of experience in government and somewhat lighter workload.

The winner in all of this could be cyclists. Although some advocates have been unimpressed with the changes Heaps made to the Cycling Committee, having him on EC should enhance his ability to champion cycling issues at Council.

10 comments

  1. the way Ashton maneuvered on this issue is in itself cause for dismissal. At the very least, the wily veteran should have been upfront with Miller about his intention to support the deferral. Without even that courtesy, Miller had no choice but to sack Ashton.

    This.

  2. It’s no real surprise to me that Mr. Ashton reversed himself. He was quoted twice in late 2005 as being against the Front St. Extension project (T. Star and Tor Life Feb/050 but when the vote came, he was in favour of it.
    As for cyclists ‘winning’ – well, we’ll see. There are many many areas to put in costly bike lanes and paths but the logical places with both high demand and high crash rates could be ignored. Like, having $2.6M go in to the West Toronto railpath of maybe 2kms when 8kms of a Bloor St. bike lane could be had with $200,000 plus political will – hey, I vote for the one that could save a live along with a couple of million, even though having both is best, tis true.

  3. With all of the things happening in the city which normally would have been touched by an active cycling committee, I can’t see how increasing Heaps access could improve the lot for cyclists. Parks is in the process of making the Boulevard Club driveway a no cycling zone and my understanding is barriers will be erected by the Palais Royale as well.
    If the Boulevard Club is that concerned about their members inability to yield to cyclists/pedestrians using the trail they should offer up a strip on the south side of the property for a trail as the city had attempted to negotiate some ~35 years ago. We are getting a repeat of what happened where the entire west end of the Queens Quay bikelanes/trails were allowed to disintegrate when the Harbour Castle took exception to these crossing its driveway. How many more “NO CYCLING” signs will adorn our “bike network”? These routes were supposedly installed to improve cyclist safety and provide alternatives to more cyclist hostile routes. Are cyclists to be expected to detour around the Boulevard Club driveway via Lakeshore Blvd? In morning rush hour (when ironically most of the scofflaw non-yielding patrons bomb across the trail)?

  4. Although Gloria Lindsay-Luby may not have done a political flip-flop on her vote for deferral of a decision on new taxes, she still has no business remaining in the Executive Committee and chairing the Government Management Committee.

    If being on Exec is going to be a matter of confidence for votes on important issues such as this, she deserves to go almost as much as Ashton.

    Why is she still there? Is the problem that councillors from Etobicoke who would support the Mayor are hard to find?

  5. Good to see Miller finally flex some muscle.

  6. Let’s have more reported stories like this one, please. Adam may single-handedly cause Spacing Wire to grow up real fast.

  7. Maybe less waffle and more leadership from the Mayor would prevent embarrassments like this. Sitting around and hoping your razor thin majority will get you through the day is naive. The Mayor should have been working hard on the moderates on council.

  8. dictatorships have to start somewhere!David Miller and Joe Pantalone (the real mayor of this city!) have been dishonest with the taxpayers of this city.
    They actually told the voters that there would only be a 1.3% tax hike.It worked to get them elected now miller like a good defense lawyer is trying to prove he isn’t guilty of screwing up.It will be interesting to see the final verdict in a few years.

    Ordinary citizens came to city hall that day,old young all hard working people who came to show the councillors that they aren’t happy with this regime or taxes.Take note of that voice.

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