Councillor Doug Ford has fired back at world-renowned author Margaret Atwood for her criticism of suggested library cuts, telling reporters: “I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is.”
Ford also said that the literary icon and activist — who took him to task on Twitter for saying, erroneously, that his Etobicoke ward has more libraries than Tim Hortons — should get herself elected to office or pipe down.
“Well good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is,” said the councillor and advisor to his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, after a committee meeting on proposed cuts.
“She’s not down here, she’s not dealing with the problem. Tell her to go run in the next election and get democratically elected. And we’d be more than happy to sit down and listen to Margaret Atwood.”
Atwood, an activist on literary and human rights causes, waded into municipal politics in a minor way last Thursday.
She retweeted a Twitter message asking people to sign an online petition, started by the library workers’ union, telling city hall to ignore consultant KPMG’s suggestion to “rationalize the footprint of libraries to reduce service levels, closing some branches.”
Many of Atwood’s more than 250,000 Twitter followers complied, promptly crashing the server hosting the petition.
The author then started tweeting about the library fight, mocking Doug Ford’s Tim Hortons comment on talk radio, and telling the Star that Toronto’s libraries are “astonishing. I’ve done research in them.”
She tweeted Friday: “Twin Fordmayor seems to think those who eat Timbits (like me) don’t read, can’t count, & are stupid eh?” and later asked her followers to check out library books, hold a book club in Tim Hortons and submit their names to win a visit from her and possibly other authors.
Atwood was publicly quiet Tuesday, a day after writing that she would be away from Twitter for a week writing her next novel. Calls to her publisher and private office have not been returned.
Both “Margaret Atwood” and “Doug Ford” were briefly “trending” worldwide on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, meaning they were among the most discussed topics on the social networking site.
Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) stood by his contention that some of Toronto’s 99 libraries should close, adding he would shutter one of the three in his Ward 2, Etobicoke North ward “in a heartbeat.”
“All my point is, in my area at Rexdale and Kipling, there’s a library in an industrial area that is an industrial plaza and no one knows it’s there. But it’s there.
“Why do we need another little library in the middle of nowhere that no one uses? My constituents, it wouldn’t bother them because you have another library two miles one way and two miles the other way.”
His comments about Atwood left some council colleagues bewildered.
“It’s just not something you say one of Toronto’s, and Canada’s, literary giants,” said Councillor Mike Layton. “She’s Margaret Atwood — she’s pretty important and a source of pride to a lot of people. What I’m hearing from people is mostly embarrassment about his remarks.”
Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), a rookie member of council’s left wing, said he would be “surprised” if Ford meant he has never heard of Atwood, one of the world’s most honoured living fiction writers, with awards including a Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin and two Governor General’s Awards, for The Circle Game and The Handmaid’s Tale.
“Whatever he meant, to tell somebody they have to get elected before we’ll listen to them is just rude. But he was equally dismissive with two CUPE (deputants) who had just told us how they clean up blood and puke in police cells and don’t want to lose their jobs to contracting out.”
With files from David Rider
Wow. Just Wow.
1) I am amazed that someone wouldn’t recognize Margaret Atwood
2) Why should you have to hold an elected office to voice your opinion?
Not impressed with Mr. Ford’s comments.