Case Ootes was always a stickler for the rules of order back when he was running Toronto council meetings as former mayor Mel Lastman's dependable deputy. There was no way Mel's second-in-command would tolerate lowly ward reps making nuisances of themselves with inane inquiries and points of privilege designed to do little more than waste valuable time. No way.
But that was then and this is now. Things have changed since Ootes was relieved of his lofty magisterial perch and assigned a seat in the bleachers with the rest of the right-wing fanatics who've made it their mission to get under Mayor David Miller's skin at every available opportunity.
Nowadays, the plain, ordinary councillor for Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth) is behaving much like the ill-mannered oafs he used to slap with stern reprimands for rude and inappropriate behaviour. In fact, Ootes seemed intent on diving to the murky bottom of the behavioural barrel this week when he tried to stir the political pot containing the pink slip served police Chief Julian Fantino's last month by the disabled and divided police services board.
Council had barely started sifting through its huge agenda in search of supposedly "time-critical" items when the former statesman from East York was on his feet with a question about the rules of order. But the query had nothing to do with time-critical items. Rather, Ootes wanted to know why Miller had ruled Councillor Doug Holyday out of order when he tried to introduce a "verbal notice of motion" at last month's council meeting.
"I want to know what the rules are," Ootes told the mayor. And with those eight words he began what must surely be one of the most ridiculous interrogatory interludes in City Hall's often embarrassing history.
Never mind that Holyday had made no fuss whatsoever four weeks ago when Miller ruled out of order his attempt to verbally introduce a notice of motion. That motion would have called on council to ask the police services board to rescind its controversial decision not to extend Fantino's contract past next March so a new board can reconsider the matter when it has a full complement of members in the fall.
Instead, Holyday submitted his list of "whereases" and "therefores" to the city clerk in writing and had it circulated around 100 Queen West early last week.
But this fact did nothing to deter Ootes - who, as a pro-Fantino member of the police board, rejected an almost identical proposal to put off deciding the chief's fate when it was presented to the board by its lefty contingent.
"I want to know what the rules are, Mr. Mayor," the one-time procedural know-it-all snorted.
When Miller claimed he wouldn't provide "advice in the abstract," since there was no notice of motion (verbal or otherwise) before council, Ootes just became more disturbed.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Mayor, but it's not an abstract question," he protested. "It's a question of what the rules are."
Miller asked the Ootes to "please be seated." But the councillor refused. "What is the rule, Mr. Mayor?" he whined. "What is the rule?"
When Miller tried to give Councillor Jane Pitfield an opportunity to recommend an item for the time-critical list, Ootes interrupted. Not once, not twice, but at least three times.
"I want to know what the rule is," he grumbled on each and every occasion.
At this point, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the self-serving buffoon who put himself in charge of the 10-council-member "Keep the Chief" campaign, entered the fray with a so-called "point of privilege."
"I don't know what we're talking about here and I'd like to know what we're talking about," Mammoliti said.
"Frankly, I do not know what Councillor Ootes is talking about," Miller replied.
"We should find out," Mammoliti opined, mindless of the fact that nobody besides Ootes and himself seemed the least bit interested.
At this juncture, Ootes jumped back into the fray. "Do you understand the question, Mr. Mayor?" he asked.
"I don't," Holyday, the seemingly unwitting occasion for the ridiculous verbal-vs.-written-notice inquisition, interjected with a modicum of disgust as Miller tried in vain to get Ootes seated so council could carry on with business.
When Ootes ignored repeated suggestions that he consult his copy of council's procedural bylaw for the desired information, Miller finally gave him the basics on the proper introduction of notices of motion.
"The council bylaw, which is unchanged on this matter for seven years, says they shall be in writing," the mayor said.
"Thank you for that clarification," Ootes replied. "Now that we know what the rule is, we can expect all notices of motion to be in writing. Thank you very much."
Julian Fantino must surely be encouraged that he has the likes of Ootes and Mammoliti championing his cause.