“This is the first of many rallies against the Ford administration,” said OCAP organizer John Clarke, surrounded by a slew of television cameras, reporters and press photographers. “He’s assembled a hard right team of key people and advisors closest to him.”

Clarke’s no stranger to fighting the hard right. He spent 8 years battling former Conservative premier Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution from 1995 to 2003 and predicted Ford will employ a similar strategy, moving quickly and decisively with little regard for his critics or the people he hurts with his policies.

Before sunrise last Wednesday on his first day in office, Ford had already axed Transit City and the vehicle-registration tax, slashed councillors’ office and staff budgets and promised no increase in property taxes in 2011, leaving left wing councillors in an uproar.

On the same day, Clarke spoke to a small crowd at City Hall during the lunch hour. It was a cold December day with the wind cutting through Nathan Phillips Square. Clarke said the crowds will swell, eventually filling the Square with people fed up with the new mayor’s knee jerk conservative moves.

“We are already dealing with a situation of enormous poverty that exists in this city,” said Clarke. “And at the municipal level, there is a great deal that can be done to make the situation worse and Ford and his people are going to do that with considerable enthusiasm.”

Under former mayor Miller, homeless people were banned from sleeping overnight at City Hall. Swept off the streets under the mayor’s Streets to Homes program. He eliminated shelter beds, closed drop-ins and under funded public housing repairs and maintenance budgets.

“That attack is about to become a thousand times worse,” he said. “Having those two men (Ford and Mammoliti) in charge of welfare is really and truly having the rats in charge of the cheese.”

OCAP will mobilize quickly and launch a strong counter attack against Ford’s agenda. Because Clarke believes that Ford’s policies will have a far reaching effect, he feels it’s possible to attract people who don’t normally join progressive social movements.

“It is vital that we build a movement to challenge him,” he said. “People are going to fight back. Ford is not going to get away with his agenda.”

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.