Why the Ontario Premier won't meet with Mayor Rob Ford

A tale of a city with two mayors

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has flatly denied Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s request for an “urgent meeting” to talk about provincial compensation for clean up costs after the city’s December ice storm.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, Wynne reiterated a message from her press secretary the day before, telling reporters she would meet with Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, and not Ford. “I really don’t have time to meet with everyone,” the premier said. “So I need to be strategic about the meetings that I take.”

Wynne went on to say that it’s her responsibility to meet with the person who has the leadership authority on council. That person, she said, is Kelly.

Wynne’s response will certainly add fuel to the fire as the 2014 civic election looms and Ford attempts to establish his place as the legitimate Toronto leader, despite the crack-cocaine scandal and city council’s subsequent decision to strip the mayor of many of his powers during a chaotic meeting in November.

Ford’s initial request to meet one-on-one with the premier came Tuesday afternoon, after a two-day council meeting to decide whether to ask the provincial and federal governments for storm cleanup money. In the end, council voted unanimously to ask for $144 million, but not before a two-day debate over who was really in charge during the December ice storm.

“As the elected head of council and the official representative of the City of Toronto, I have reached out to the premier this afternoon for an urgent meeting,” Ford told reporters Tuesday. “The ball now, is in the province’s court. I am very confident now that they will support the people of Toronto, and the GTA, during this challenging time.”

The city estimates it will cost approximately $106 million to clean up from the ice storm and another $65.2 million to clean up from a heavy rains in July, which caused severe flooding in parts of the city.

Ford’s office responded to the premier’s decision not to meet with the mayor by circulating a portion of the City of Toronto Act that says “the Mayor is the head of Council” and it is the mayor’s role to “uphold and promote the purposes of the city…Council cannot take it away.”

This isn’t the first time Wynne has met with Kelly and shunned Ford. In early December, the premier met with Kelly to talk transit and housing strategies. After that meeting, Wynne used similar messaging, telling reporters that Kelly, not Ford, is now the head of council, so she will meet with him.

Ford, not Kelly, is representing Toronto at a meeting with all GTA mayors in Mississauga on Friday to discuss a unified request for funding after the ice storm. In short: this won’t be the end of the issue.