Is it just us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke or has this mayoral campaign convulsed into a pitiful freak show? An exercise in futility where no one really capable or with even a modicum of imagination appears to want this city’s top political job. What does it say about the trials and tribulations of running this city or, for that matter, what does it say about the city itself?
In the past week a dubious poll put Rob Ford – yes, that Rob Ford – 9 points ahead of his nearest rival, George Smitherman – yes, that George Smitherman. Why ‘dubious’? Well, no one’s really ever heard of the firm that conducted the poll. No one knows who commissioned the poll. And, most importantly, no one’s telling what the question or questions were that the 420-something pollees were asked. For us, that’s the important one.
The question could’ve been something like, If all the other registered candidates other than Rob Ford suddenly died, who would you vote for in the upcoming election for the office of mayor? You see how that could be important for deciphering voter intention? While Ford supporters crow about his 1st place standing with some 37% support, others might look at the nearly 2/3s of the folks who said they would vote for a dead candidate over Rob Ford. Context matters.
Still, media outlets ran with the results and trumpeted Ford as the official presumptive front runner, gaining momentum and threatening to break the race wide open. That is, until the murky polling details began to surface and then they just did a wipe-clean, removing any references to the Pollstra Poll or calling the poll’s integrity into question. But that did not stop them from referring to Mr. Ford’s growing lead in a poll that may lack any validity whatsoever.
And why would they? If they can arbitrarily determine the 5 or so candidates that voters get to choose from, why can’t they arbitrarily pick who’s in the lead and who’s falling behind? Democracy according to media whim.
Embracing his newly anointed mantle of The Man To Beat, Ford proceeded to act the part of Mayor-in-waiting by calling all his council colleagues ‘corrupt’. That’ll build him some bridges down at City Hall if he does indeed become the next mayor (and I can now write that without wetting myself). Somehow Ford’s True Believers think that once they get him into office he’ll change everything. Their taxes will go down. Their services will increase. It will become legal to run down bicyclists on purpose.
By managing to alienate even the very few councillors who share some of his radical ideological views — like Doug Holyday — Ford will be powerless to do a thing as mayor. (Ooops. Peed my pants just a little on that one. It’s OK.) No, Rob Ford supporters, your guy can’t wrestle 22 councillors into toeing his line. No taxes repealed or cuts enacted just because your guy can stuff more hot dogs into his face than anyone else on council.
As for the former front runner and now possible also ran, George Smitherman? Well, he may be just where he wants to be. Now no longer in the lead according to some discredited poll, no one’s asking him pesky questions anymore about what he as mayor would do about public transit or how he’d balance a 9.2 billion dollar operating budget. You know, all that vision thing stuff.
Instead, he gets to just sit back and help direct peoples’ attention to the glaring grotesqueries of Rob Ford the Candidate. To whit, fordonford.com (which is nowhere near as sexy as it sounds), a website set up by the Smitherman campaign, highlighting all the lowlights of Ford’s various contributions to public discourse over the past 10 years. Look at this guy, eh? What a joke? No one in the right mind could possibly vote for him. So vote for me because I’m not that guy.
Next up, may I suggest Hizzonners.com? A montage of the gaffes and guffaws from both Rob Ford and former mayor Mel Lastman, stitched together to show people the horrifying results of electing an incapable boob to the office of mayor. Clearly the Smitherman campaign has nothing else on offer.
You might think that into this gaping leadership void, someone might take the opportunity to step up and present themselves as more suitable mayoral material. You would think. But it’s hard to truly differentiate yourself from the others when you’re essentially singing from the same fiscally conservative songbook à la Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi. Cut. Sell off. Privatize.
As for Joe Pantalone, the sole left-of-centre representative? He should be having a field day, yet he insists on laying low, waiting to spring into action after Labour Day. Come September — watch out Toronto — Joe’s going to pounce hard! Here’s hoping but as of right now, you can colour us increasingly skeptical.
It offends our sensibilities to look at all this and wind up saying something trite, like we get the candidates we deserve. But, well, we get the candidates we deserve, right? More disturbing, however, is that in times of crisis, and it’s not too melodramatic to dub the present as one of those, what with serious fiscal pressures, stop gap measures to deal with aging infrastructure, a shitty transportation system, we seem to encourage leaders to pander to our worst instincts. Narrow-mindedness. Short-sightedness. Miserly tribalism.
Just like we did back in 1997 when we were reeling from the enforced amalgamation. Who did we turn to calm our jangled nerves? A dimwit, for no other reason besides his pledge not to raise our taxes, and then who panicked in the face of a blizzard and continued to embarrass this city, time and time again on both national and international stages. It did not reflect well on us then and it will not reflect well on us now if we insist on traveling down that road once again.
If we want our leaders to be bold and undaunted by future challenges, we first have to exhibit a little of those qualities ourselves.
– sadly submitted by Cityslikr