A Muddy Affair: Paul Ainslie’s Selective Moralizing

Paul AinsliePaul Ainslie is asking for our sympathy.  He says the Mayor has been a bully and a liar, and he just can’t take it anymore.

I can’t take it anymore either.  Here is yet another Councillor acting like a victim after having enjoyed the power and privilege of being on the Mayor’s team.

Councillor Ainslie was only too happy to accept chairmanship of the Government Management Committee and to sit on Ford’s Executive Committee.  For almost three full years, he has been working closely and quietly with the most disruptive Chief Executive this City has ever seen.  Has it really taken him that long to conclude that Ford is unfit for office?

It’s hard to explain Ford’s sudden fall in Ainslie’s esteem.  Maybe bullying and lying improve with age, like wine and cheese.  The 2010 bullying and lying wasn’t intense enough to offend Ainslie, but by 2013 it had ripened sufficiently to complain about.

Ainslie knew all Ford’s shortcomings before he joined the Reign of Error.  He felt just fine about accepting appointments and wielding influence that were denied him under David Miller.  He was untroubled about the Mayor’s sketchy history and the misconduct that led to Ford’s suspension from office a year ago.  Like the rest of Council, Ainslie had heard many calls to censure Ford before his own cry for justice last week.  None of this upset him until now.

Everyone knows why Ainslie left the fold and why now.  On September 25th Ainslie’s political mentor, David Soknacki publicly spoke of his intention to run against Rob Ford in 2014.  Ainslie was Soknacki’s Executive Assistant at City Hall when Soknacki was a respected fiscal right winger and former budget chief under Miller.  They go back a long way and remain close.

Soknacki’s the kind of right wing candidate who would contrast favourably with Rob Ford.  Like Ford, he thinks government should be more limited and frugal.  Unlike Ford, he can speak,  add, decline a drink, and avoid association with petty criminals.  Under the right circumstances, for example if more tangible drug connections get the Mayor in hot water, Ford Nation might line up behind a less embarrassing candidate.

On October 9th, Ainslie voted against adopting a plan to build a subway spur line into Scarborough and stepped down from the Executive Committee two days later.  Announcing his resignation, Ainslie declared his intention to support Soknacki in 2014 and his disappointment with Ford.

Ford retaliated with robocalls to Ainslie’s constituents.  This triggered a press conference October 15th in which Ainslie accused him of being a bully and a liar, which brings me back to the sorry beginning of this post.  To recap:  Having allied himself with Ford for political gain in 2010, and having broken that alliance in 2013, also for political gain, Ainslie now plays for public sympathy and censure of Ford, for further political gain.

Take a Lesson, Ainslie:

Karen-StintzAs outrageous as this seems, Ainslie isn’t the first to benefit from both association with and disassociation from Ford.  As TTC Chair, Karen Stintz turned her toxic relationship with Ford into political balm during her defense of a fully-funded, Council-approved, LRT expansion plan.  The more Ford bullied, the more sympathetic a figure Stintz became in the media.  Every time he impugned her, she respectfully reiterated her duty to the Mayor and her confidence in finding resolution.

Her segment on Secret Boss didn’t hurt.  Nor did her feminine appeal, which in politics can evoke notions of vulnerability and strength in what is a punishing, male-dominated environment.  My favourite image from that time is of her signing an agreement with Metrolinx.  For this photo op, strands of pearls circle above a plunging neckline, her head tilts coquettishly.  What chance did the ruddy, stubby, corpulent Ford have against that?

All things considered, Stintz broke away from the Ford camp much stronger than she went in.  Unfortunately for her, and for us all, speculation about her mayoral run started prior to Ford’s full court press on the Scarborough subway line.  To keep her mayoral hopes alive, she had to compromise on the very issue that had vaulted her to prominence.  Now she looks just like one of the boys, playing the game without any concern for the values that appeared to have guided her out of trouble a year ago.

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And now Paul Ainslie is on the sidelines, screaming that he’s been tackled out of bounds by the robocalling Ford brothers.  We all know that rules were broken by unscrupulous players, and we should all be worried about the precedent Ford may have set.

Yet it’s a little late in the game for Ainslie to be crying foul, as if he just noticed that the rules have been ignored.  For the better part of this Council term, Ainslie has been a quiet beneficiary of his association with the Ford regime.  Now he’s paying the price for exploiting that relationship.

Policy and principle seem to have very little to do with the manoevering of former Fordies, Stintz and Ainslie.   Nor for all the other former Executive Committee members who have left the inner circle.  Their decisions have more to do with the next election than with the well-being of Torontonians.

Executive CommitteeWatching Ainslie’s press conference reminded me of something I heard in a PR strategy session.  My client said, “You can wrestle with pigs in the mud, and you might win.  But the problem is, the pigs like it.”  Ainslie, no one else, chose to muddy his reputation.

The robocalls are only one consequence of Ainslie’s bad judgement, and despite his whining, Ainslie is only one victim of the negative campaigning we’re going to see so much of in 2014.

Maybe it’s just rough justice.  We’re all complicit in the election of the most destructive Toronto Mayor in living memory.  We all have our own reasons for having supported Ford or for having been complacent in opposition to him, but we all bear some responsibility.   And we all will pay.

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