International headlines over the last two months revolved around Toronto, and in particular Toronto’s scandal-plagued and crack smoking mayor, Rob Ford. With so much controversy swirling around the city’s chief magistrate, the fact that plans for the future of the city were even discussed, let alone put to votes throughout the year is remarkable.
One of the most important pieces of legislation in 2013 for the city of Toronto was the debate involving the proposed OLG casino along the city’s waterfront. The casino was expected to include a hotel, entertainment centre, and revitalize a segment of the downtown community.
The initial proposal was to develop the casino near the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This proposal faced significant criticism, including from casino supporters who argued that parking in the area would be unable to manage the inflow of traffic to a casino entertainment centre. As a result, the primary location in the proposal switched to the Exhibition Centre south of the Queensway, along the lake waterfront.
Mayor Ford was one of the most vocal supporters of the OLG casino in Toronto, repeatedly stressing that the casino would “provide 10,000 good-paying jobs” for people in the community. Ford defined his position, and refused to budge from the pro-casino side of the debate. However, the mayor was one of only four councilors to vote in favour of the casino on May 21, effectively ending the Toronto casino proposal.
Though many councilors were already drawing the lines and becoming ideologically opposed to Rob Ford, the mayor’s controversial personality had little to do with the vote. Many councilors, particularly in the downtown regions, were swarmed by anti-casino residents who wanted the proposal defeated before any talk began of shovels entering the ground.
Over the next several months, the mayor’s image, and by extension the image of Toronto was dragged through a series of scandalous controversies, which cost Ford the majority of his powers as mayor. Nevertheless, he and his brother Councilor Doug Ford, insist they will remain in office, and that everything is business as usual in Toronto.
Councilor Ford held a press conference in November at the height of the controversy surrounding his brother. During the conference, he attempted to revitalize the casino debate for the Woodbine Racetrack on the western periphery of the city.
The Woodbine debate was included in the downtown casino proposal, and though it was rejected, the vote was significantly more divided at 24-20. Ford believes the Woodbine debate deserves the chance to stand on its own, and be put to a second vote in 2014.
A casino would be a welcomed addition to the city of Toronto, if for nothing else than to provide residents with a legitimate venue to bet on the future of Rob Ford, who could very well be imprisoned in 2014 if ongoing investigations warrant official charges.