The sounds of much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth could be heard this week in reaction to John Lorinc’s Spacing piece, Subway Nation rises again. “There’s little doubt,” Mr. Lorinc writes, “that this long-awaited federal contribution marks a check mate move for Mayor Rob Ford. Barring a criminal charge relating to Project Traveller, he will walk away with next year’s race…”
I’m hoping Mr. Lorinc states that as some sort of heads-up warning shot, a little chin music to stiffen the resolve of those grown complacent, thinking the mayor’s political future will destruct under his own volition. Focus, people! This bad dream isn’t over yet.
He’s too astute an observer of the political scene here in Toronto to honestly believe that statement. That this particular moment in time, more than 13 months before the actual election, will prove to be the defining moment in securing the mayor his re-election. This transit situation has been too fluid to imagine a sudden hardening in place. And Mayor Ford, well, he hasn’t shown himself to be the best in protecting leads.
Here’s a politician who took an electoral mandate in 2010 and trampled his way to surprise success for the first year of his term before squandering it with a potent mixture of hubris, over-reach and chest-beating triumphalism. Since that time, he’s established that he can take a punch like George Chuvalo, Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. He has a solid base that hasn’t abandoned him yet. But that’s about the extent of it. Now suddenly, he’s snatched the ring from Frodo and has an undefended line straight to Mordor?
I think already this week since the fed’s announcement of funding for the Scarborough subway and Lorinc’s Spacing article, some loose threads have shown along the hemline of Mayor Ford’s cloak of invincibility.
The $660 million in federal funding seemed to secure the certainty of the city’s Scarborough subway proposal to replace the LRT. It also immediately exposed city council’s need to come up with nearly a billion dollars of its own to put some skin in the game as many of the subway’s supporters like to say. (For a crazy good analysis of the full costs of the Scarborough subway, David Hains’ post in the Torontoist is a must read. Click now. Go, read it. I’ll still be here when you get back.)
Back in July when council precipitated this whole transit fiasco, Mayor Ford would only agree to a .25% property tax increase to be dedicated to the Scarborough subway which, everybody else knew even in the best case scenario of funding from other levels of government, was woefully inadequate. It seems the mayor is holding tightly to that number despite the obvious shortfall.
So when city council meets next month to debate the issue, the mayor is either going to have to champion the subway but go on record as being not willing to pay for it or he is going to have to get behind a higher property tax increase. That one’s going to be tough because, while Mr. Lorinc suggests that subways were “the centre piece plank in his 2010 platform”, I don’t remember it quite that way.
Rob Ford’s centre piece plank in his 2010 campaign platform for mayor was about money. Transit was a hastily drawn up throw in when the campaign team realized his candidacy was actually being taken seriously. He was the numbers guy, stopping the gravy train, representing the little guy tired of being nickel and dimed to death with tax increases and money grab fees.
Now he’s going to hold the subway trophy above his head in 2014 and tell Ford Nation, oh yeah, about those additional property tax increases?
I get the concern that logic and reason don’t always apply to the supporters of Mayor Ford. Cognitive dissonance and magical thinking tend to be a way of life. But, come on, every house of cards eventually collapses.
On top of which, recent polls suggest that the subway preference in Scarborough isn’t nearly as maniacal as its most ardent supporters insist it is. Already soft, what happens when the true costs, ridership numbers, coverage become a campaign issue? When voters are being inundated with what they’re getting versus what they’re giving up?
This goes right to the matter of the mayor’s slam dunk re-election. Much of that supposition rests on the belief with both the mayor’s supporters and biggest detractors that somehow 2014 will play out just like 2010. That the 47% of votes he collected in 2010 are somehow an unmoveable bloc. That the power of incumbency will only play a positive role. That Mayor Ford will face no serious opposition in a candidate a plurality of Torontonian can rally around.
While I’m uncomfortable making any sort of prediction about an elections that’s still more than a year away, I will confidently suggest 2010 will be nothing like 2014.
Take former Scarborough councillor David Soknacki’s open musings about running for mayor. A pro-LRT, right of centre suburban candidate with past experience but no office to have to give up to run full tilt right to the end. How rock solid is Mayor Ford’s support to withstand an attack from not one of the usual suspects who is constantly calling into question the mayor’s fiscal credibility?
More than that, let’s atomize next year’s race down to the council level. What happens when Scarborough councillors running for re-election outside of the immediate area where a subway might be beneficial get assailed by opponents pointing out that their constituents are getting none of the pluses while paying their share of the costs? The Norm Kellys. The Mike Del Grandes. The Michelle Berardinettis. Paul Ainslies and Gary Crawfords.
Beyond Scarborough, what do incumbents in York, North York and Etobicoke tell their voters about asking them to pay additional property taxes for a subway that in no way will help them. In fact, it’ll probably set their transit needs back decades. Answer me that, Councillor Vincent Crisanti in Rexdale. Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti, Frances Nunziata and Anthony Perruzza in York. Councillors Mark Grimes and Peter Milczyn in Mimico. Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio. Budget. Chief.
Campaigned on just the right way, the Scarborough subway could fracture this whole suburban as one myth that everyone seems to have accepted as fact based on just the past election.
From a transit perspective, the Scarborough subway is nothing but bad news. But I also fail to see how it’s all good news for Mayor Ford’s re-election chances. The electoral landscape may’ve changed, it’s just far too early to tell to whose advantage.
– wobbly submitted by Cityslikr