Farewell, Rob Ford. Now, says Florida, time for a really strong mayor

Richard Florida’s farewell editorial to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in the Globe and Mail yesterday  concludes with a counter-intuitive call for stronger mayors.

It seems like a contradictory prescription given the litany of troubles the Ford administration has inflicted on the GTA, from conflict of interest scandals to paralysis on the transit front. What might have happened if Ford had even greater powers?

But Florida’s key point — the reality that Canadian cities rely on senior levels of government to do the heavy lifting of city-building — cannot be denied. What’s less clear is that transforming what is fundamentally a “weak mayor” system would be easy or even possible.

Also unanswered: how to bridge the great divide Florida points to between the dense, urban cores of Canadian cities and the generally poorer, car-dependent suburbs, the source of what he considers an unwinnable culture war that needs to end.

In the GTA, the battle is being fought inside the sprawling boundaries of the recently-merged municipalities of the region. How will such tensions play out in Metro Vancouver, where 22 municipalities are struggling to find the way forward, particularly on transportation policy?

Florida’s farewell to Ford raises important questions at the end of a month that saw a wave of Canadian mayors sent packing.