Mel’s minions take control

Forget Mel's election-night promise to work with everyone. Now his attitude is "If you're not with me you're against me."|


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while mel suns himself in flo-rida, a core group of his council supporters, led by deputy Case Ootes, has been meeting secretly to decide who’s in line for plum board and committee appointments. The slate leaked so far is heavily stacked with mayoral yes- men and -women. Lefties will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for jobs of any significance. But that’s only half the bad news.

Forget Mel’s election-night promises to work with council’s left wing. The mayor, City Hall insiders say, has decided to adopt the “If you’re not with me, you’re agin me” credo.

What does it say about the mayor that he rewards his friends for their loyalty and relegates some of the most progressive, talented and hardworking members of council to the fringes?

Sources say it was ex-Sun honcho Paul Godfrey, Mel’s long-time adviser, who came up with the idea of tabulating how councillors in the last term voted on the dozen or so issues nearest and dearest to the mayor’s heart.

Word is, the mayor was surprised to see that lefties he’d brought into the fold last term, like Jack Layton, Olivia Chow and, to a lesser extent, Kyle Rae, showed up at the bottom of the ledger when it came to supporting the mayor’s positions.

His Melness has seen the enemy and decided, as a result, to scrap the consensus-building pretense and hand key posts to his closest allies.

“It’s obvious the mayor wants to deliver his agenda and wants to put people on committees in that light,” says Ootes. “But there’s no element of revenge here. We’re a city of many interests, and we have to recognize that.”

Perhaps. But animosities still linger from the Adams Mine fiasco. And the preliminary signs are not encouraging.

As with the post-amalgamation bureaucratic appointments at City Hall, the most important jobs will go to Mel allies from his old stomping grounds in North York.

Enter Mike Feldman, who maintained a low profile last term but will now chair economic development and oversee a project particularly close to Mel’s heart, the Olympics-inspired waterfront plans. Another North Yorker, David Shiner, looks like a lock for budget chief.

Etobicoke’s Gloria Lindsay Luby is a name mentioned prominently among those the mayor wants to see on the police services board. The Police Association is reportedly keen on the young and impressionable Brad Duguid.

Scarborough’s Brian Ashton is back in Mel’s good books and has the inside track to become TTC chair.

Betty Disero, who voted with the mayor on the Adams Mine, becomes a full-fledged insider and gets the works committee chair.

Layton, who hasn’t been on speaking terms with the mayor since he led the charge against the Adams Mine, was hoping to be offered the post. Is there a politico more versed in the recycling and waste management challenges facing the city?

It’s all a very disturbing turn of events for Layton, who recently reflected on how important it would be for the mayor to send a clear sign he’s committed to waste alternatives by not appointing someone who voted for the Adams Mine.

But he, like other lefties, can expect the big freeze-out.

Ditto for Chow, Layton’s political partner in crime, and to a lesser extent David Miller, Joe Mihevc and Howard Moscoe, all lefties who played fairly significant roles in the last term.

Mel has all the right-wing votes he needs. “The edict is, “Screw anybody who didn’t support me during Adams Mine,'” says a City Hall insider. “Mel wants his friends near him. Forget the independent thinkers. Nobody with a brain, please.”

According to this source, Mel’s infamously thin skin has gotten even thinner since the Adams Mine debacle.

Noticeably absent, however, from the pro-Mel names in line for plums so far is the newly elected Paul Sutherland, Mel’s former North York deputy and a member of his staff during the post-amalgamation transition.

Sutherland will be a major player in time, says one Mel insider, and maybe end up as budget chief down the road. For now, though, those handing out the political cookies at City Hall have decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

Sutherland, despite his very Tory credentials, may be a little too independent-minded, it turns out, for those behind Mel who are calling the shots.

John Filion, a North Yorker who served as health board chair last term, also stands to see his role diminished. A political loner, he’s viewed by Mel’s people as someone who’s travelled once too often with council’s NDP wing.

What’s left, then, of the left? Besides Joe Pantalone and maybe Kyle Rae, the pickings for progressives will be slim. A new lefty name that’s being kicked around as someone the right may be able to work with is Maria Augimeri.

She’s from North York and fills the gender gap for Mel.

And while she votes like a lefty, she isn’t an intimate player in the NDP caucus.

Those politicos who occupy the political middle and played reasonably significant roles last time won’t be getting, as one observer puts it, “the opportunity to grow.”

In Layton’s view, bureaucrats, lobbyists “and those with direct access to the mayor” will be running the show.

“I worry about a city,” Layton says, “where there’s no opportunity for the public to be meaningfully involved in decision-making (and where) the culture of citizen participation is gone.”

Paul Godfrey, Joe Pantalone and the mayor’s chief adviser, Rod Phillips, did not respond to requests for comment for this story.


enzom@nowtoronto.com

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