Toronto Named World’s Most Intelligent Community in 2014 ‘Despite’ Rob Ford

Amazing things happen when Rob Ford is tucked away in rehab.

Like this, for example: The Intelligent Community Forum this week named Toronto as the 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year at its annual awards in New York City.

That’s not to say Ford’s absence is responsible for Toronto’s win—after all, the city was selected after a year-long evaluation and has made the finals multiple years in a row, all under Ford’s watchful, if oft-drunk, eye. It’s not that at all. We just mean that with Ford temporarily and partially out of the picture, Toronto can actually made headlines for a reason other than its mayor is speaking in Jamaican and sweating profusely and spatting with late night television show hosts (nevermind: Ford is already back on the front page).

Toronto is the first Canadian city to capture the Intelligent Community Forum’s global award since 2007, when another Ontario community, Waterloo, was named. The award was accepted by a Toronto delegation led by Councillor Ann Bailao, Councillor Michael Thompson and Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell. The co-founders of the Intelligent Community Forum—Lou Zacharilla, John Jung and Robert Bell—presented the award to Toronto, which succeeds Taichung City in Taiwan, the 2013 recipient.

Interestingly, Zacharilla feels Toronto won despite Ford. “[Toronto] proved that in a democracy an Intelligent Community can move forward despite challenges to the quality of its leadership and its image,” he said in a statement.

And a press release issued by the Forum is worded as such:

Despite a controversial political situation with Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford that provided a unique public challenge, Toronto has achieved economic growth.

While it’s difficult to argue that Ford has anything other than a unique reputation, it seems strange to me that the awards organization would look at that as something detrimental to Toronto’s capacity to be an intelligent community. Would Toronto really have made the finals multiple times, and then ultimately win, if the mayor wasn’t at least doing some things right? Does Ford now no longer share in Toronto’s successes, only its failures? And are even supposedly neutral awards taking jabs at the down-and-out mayor for no meaningful reason?

Who cares. Toronto won. And, knowing Ford, he is apt to have the last laugh about it.

Photo: Canadian Press