2012 has been a hell of a year, especially if you’re into the city council scene in Toronto. Basically, the year in Toronto politics can be summed up by the following neat graph.
What you’re looking at is a similarity graph of recorded votes in city council, from October 2011 to October 2012. An edge is drawn between two councillors if they voted the same way 90% of the time. The edge is coloured blue if they voted together 92.5% of the time and it’s green if they voted together 95% of the time. Remember, the last time we did this, the graph looked kind of like this:
Let’s refresh our memory of the first year of the Ford council. Most councillors were willing to work with Ford in the face of his relative popularity at the time. Right-wing and centrist councillors tried to position themselves to gain the mayor’s favour and the mayor had a pretty easy time getting his agenda through. With little effort, he was able to repeal the vehicle registration tax and put an end to Miller’s Transit City plan. It seemed like we were in for a long four years.
But then, something happened over the summer. In his quest for efficiencies, the mayor had actually dove into the realm of cutting services. People didn’t like that. After all, the mayor had promised he could reduce spending without cutting services. And it’s here where the mayor and the citizens diverged, on where the line between finding efficiencies and cutting services was drawn. And so, the mayor’s popularity dropped.
And then there was the hilarious Port Lands thing, but whatever.
Anyway, fast forward to January 2012, when the vote on the budget is taking place. Via some fascinating political manoeuvring, a majority of councillors were able to reverse some of the mayor’s planned cuts. In February, a majority of councillors, again, reverse the mayor’s plans and performed some necromancy on the Transit City LRT lines. Council had realized sometime in the preceding months that the mayor was no longer the threat that he was at the beginning of the term and his refusal to compromise on some very reasonable points made him look worse.
And so, 2012 has played out, with Council taking the task of governance into its own hands, without the guidance of the mayor.
So how different does the dynamics of council look after 2012? Here’s a graph that takes all of the data from the beginning of Ford’s term up until the last council meeting on October 4, 2012.
What will this graph look like by the end of the term, in 2014? It’s hard to say. Remember, we were all expecting 2011 to be the new normal, until 2012 hit. Who knows what could happen in another year. The alliances at council are always shifting and there’s always the temptation for some councillors to go out on a limb and inadvertently blow something up in the process.
Well, there is one thing, which is that the data could look significantly different because of a structural change made at the last council meeting. In Ford’s council, the mayor insisted that every single vote be a recorded vote, in an effort to improve accountability and transparency. Of course, what this means is a blowup in the number of recorded votes for things like speaking extensions. During the last council meeting, it was decided that speaking extensions would be done away with. This will likely affect the data because most councillors usually just vote yes. Well, except for the one councillor who always votes against speaking extensions: the Midnight Mayor, Mark Grimes.
Bonus: Miller, 2009-10
Toronto’s council voting records go all the way back to the beginning of 2009. Since I was already clicking endlessly to download the voting records for the year, I thought it’d be neat to see how different council was back in the final days of the Miller council. The time period represented here is from January 2009 to the final council meeting in August 2010.
The most striking thing is, of course, where the former councillor for Ward 2 can be found.
It was kind of tough to figure out a good threshold for this dataset because the differences in voting were much, much greater, almost certainly caused by Ford’s insistence on recorded votes for speaking extensions. Here, an edge is drawn between two councillors if they voted together at least 75% of the time. If they voted together more than 85% of the time, then the edge is orange, and the edge is red if they voted together more than 90% of the time. Of course, the colour scheme was chosen to reflect the evil New Democratic Communists running council at the time. Since I didn’t really pay attention to council during those years, I don’t have much to say, but I’m sure that if you did, you’ll find some interesting quirks.