There is something rotten in Toronto's City Hall. What stinks is the Ford brothers and their seeming disdain for public opinion. Though there have been more than a few controversial moments in their short reign, the one that I wish to concentrate on is Councillor Doug Ford's comments about the possible closure of public libraries.
For those unaware of the controversy, I will elaborate. When asked about possible spending cuts, Doug Ford replied to reporters saying that he would close down some libraries. He argued that there are "more libraries than Tim Hortons" in his district, a fact which proved to be false. Due to the proliferation of libraries, he claimed that he would close one "in a heartbeat". This attitude provoked Margaret Atwood to step forward and voice her opinion on the subject and her legion of Twitter fans followed suit. Over 25,000 signatures were collected as a result of Atwood's advocacy in favour of Toronto libraries, and her efforts have been recognized by Indigo books as well. For everyone who purchased an Atwood book this weekend at any of the bookstores under the Indigo banner, they received a 30% discount when they presented their library card. Atwood's efforts have not gone unnoticed by Doug Ford, who said that until Atwood runs for office, she had best keep her opinion to herself. He even went so far as to say that she has very little political capital and he wouldn't be able to pick her out of a police line-up.
Doug Ford's reaction to Atwood's call-to-action was more than a little childish and the backlash has only provided more of a platform for Atwood and the campaign to save Toronto libraries. If Ford is speaking the truth and he would not be able to identify Atwood in a crowd, then that says more about him than her. He comes off as a philistine who is out of touch with Canadian culture and clearly does not understand the value of libraries. Maybe if he visited one more often, he would realize that libraries are hubs of the community where everyone has equal access to books, magazines, newspapers, and the internet. It is one of the few institutions where everyone is welcome and all types of literature are accessible. Taking away this vital resource means that certain segments of the population will have only limited opportunities to read great books. With the funding cuts to school libraries, their selections are too small for parents to rely on as a primary source for books. For adults like me whose reading tastes exceed their bank balance, it is a great way to read what I like without any financial sacrifice. It`s guilt-free shopping and a nice pick-me-up.
The only compliment that I can pay Doug Ford is that he managed (if accidentally) to begin a conversation about libraries and their role in our lives. I hope the resulting backlash will generate the amount of political capital necessary to take Toronto libraries off the chopping block. Or else Margaret Atwood and her band of CanLit loving minions will come for you. Based on personal experience, never oppose smart women with challenging hair.