This is the problem with a long weekend, it feels like you have twice as much work to deal with once you get back to the office after the weekend's over.
Three, big ongoing news stories had new developments today. Let's take a look at them one at a time.
Toronto City Hall - For a big city mayor, to have 90 per cent of your council subvert a key platform of yours would be a big story in and of itself, but this is Rob Ford, and his issues are, ahem, bigger.
Last week, Ford came out and said that the casino issue was dead after he had one last conversation with Premier Kathleen Wynne that seemed to indicate that there was no will in Queen's Park to give Toronto a green light to build a casino on the waterfront. But a group of councillors wanted to put the proverbial nail in the proverbial coffin to make sure that casino issue doesn't rise from the dead. And then Gawker happened...
Yes, the flurry of press in city hall today wanted to talk crack more than casinos, which is understandable. Ford has been a scandal magnet since pretty much day one of his mayoralty, but this was the first time that the bombastic Ford has been this silent on the subject of a controversy he's been at the centre of. After laying low on the weekend, and cancelling his regularly scheduled radio show, the mayor allowed aides to clear a path through the reporter throng at the elevator and bulldozed his way to his office upon arrival, and then, as leaving, headed out a side exit and gunned it through the City Hall parking garage in his SUV to evade reporters.
The drama would be bad enough, but Ford's silence hasn't done him any favours. Not only is it unusual for Ford to stay so quiet on his own issues, that is aside from batting off the accusations Friday with a simple "ridiculous," but the Ford team had three days to come up with an explanation, or a denial, or some kind of media strategy, and until Ford talks, all oxygen at City Hall is going to be sucked up by the lingering cloud of smoke from a crack pipe that the Mayor may or may not of had a drag on.
The Senate - Meanwhile in Ottawa, a politician who's usually more practiced at the art of control was having trouble maintaining some. At a meeting of the full caucus today, a rare meeting where the media was invited to be a fly on the wall, laid down the law. “Let me be very blunt about it,” Harper said. “Anyone who wishes to use and have public office for their own benefit should change their plans or better yet, leave this room.” Naturally, no one left the room.
“I did not get into politics to defend the Senate,” he reiterated. "And it was this party that put Senate reform on the national agenda"
Harper also gave himself a pat on the back saying, "Canada now has one of the most accountable and transparent systems of governance in the entire world and this is something Canadians are rightly proud of."
But of course Canadians aren't feeling a tremendous sense of pride in their government right now. And although Harper actually spoke in public on the subject, it's getting really hard to believe he knew absolutely nothing about his Chief of Staff Nigel Wright giving a $90,000 cheque to Senator Mike Duffy, especially when the PM's own lawyer drafted the paperwork. For this Prime Minister, who's been more controlling than any other politician in recent memory, to claim to have heard about all this through the media is like Sargent Schultz claiming he knows nothing even though he knows damn well that there's a radio in the coffee can and that Newkirk and Carter are digging a tunnel under the barracks.
Still, Harper showed his hand again by having media tossed from caucus when they started shouting questions, and there was no further public engagements before the PM got on a plane and headed for South America for a four-day trade mission. Even hardcore Conservative supporters were left wanting more, but it seems that like Ford, Harper's still holding out hope that a couple of days on the QT and the whole thing will blow over.
The Ontario Budget - In somewhat brighter news, Andrea Horwath announced that she and the Ontario NDP would not force a snap election in the province by supporting the Liberal budget. Horwath said that she was satisfied by her negoiations with Wynne, especially with the decision that the budget would add a new government accountability office in response to various, recent spending scandals.
"When the Liberals presented their draft budget, we asked Ontarians what they thought — some said they wanted an election immediately, others said they didn’t feel an election was necessary right now,” Horwath said. “But what most people agreed upon was that after the scandalous abuses seen at Ornge, at eHealth and the crass decision to spend over $500 million cancelling private power deals in Mississauga and Oakville, is that they wanted their government to be balanced, accountable and transparent.”
On the one hand, the timing was great, today is Kathleen Wynne's birthday and she can celebrate the big 6-0 by getting to stay Premier for a couple more months. For Horwath though, the victory was muted by the somewhat big news day across the other sectors of government today. The Ontario NDP leader has made a veritable epic of her balance of power decision to support or not support the Liberal budget, but coming off the long weekend and with the breaking news at Toronto City Hall and on Parliament Hill, it seems that maybe Horwath took too long to announce the inevitable.
After all, with the NDP perpetually running in third place in the polls, and the equal possibility of a PC minority government as a Liberal one following an election, all Horwath had to do was ask herself was who was going to give her issues more of a fair hearing: Wynne or Tim Hudak? The answer was obvious, but it took Horwath three weeks to get there, and in hindsight it seems that for her political benefit it was too little, too late.