Really, People? Really!?

It’s too early to panic. Deep down I know this. In the bright light of day, I can convince myself that it’s nothing to get all tied up in knots about. This too, it shall pass like a quick bout of food poisoning.

But come the darkness in the early morning hours, when irrational fears and unconquerable dread combine to produce buckets and buckets of the night sweats, well, it ain’t so easy to shrug off. There is recent precedent for such justifiable, anxious concern. Madness, initially brushed aside as merely temporary bouts of insanity, coalescing into a movement, a serious threat and, ultimately, government.

There was Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution in 1995 and again in ’99. Mel Lastman in ’97 and 2000. A little further afield but no less detrimental, George W. Bush in 2000 (the fall of which was a dark, dark time around these parts) and once more in 2004. Clown princes all, who rode to power on a combined wave of misdirected discontent and apathetic nonchalance and then rode off into the sunset, leaving in their respective wakes little more than a big heaping mess of problems for others to try and clean up.

And now there’s Rob Ford.

A recent poll has unexpectedly placed him second among mayoral hopefuls, almost double his nearest competitor and a mere 7% behind front runner, George Smitherman. Surely you jest, comes my first response. Even acknowledging the large degree that name recognition factors into the political equation at the municipal level, Ford is known as much for his bad behaviour as he is for anything positive. Yes, he promptly returns calls from his constituents (and sometimes those of other councillors which probably endears him greatly to his coworkers) and spends none of his office budget, making him a folk hero to some. But he’s also made a name for himself for his loutish outbursts, both at city hall and out in the wider public, and doesn’t seem to play all that well with other councillors. How that will translate into an effective mayoralty is anybody’s guess.

Unless you’re a Rob Ford fan and know, you know, in your bones, that he represents everything that would turn this city around.

Clearly, I am being too rational in my approach. Nothing about the prospect of a Mayor Rob Ford or those who rabidly support him makes any sense whatsoever. He has tapped into to the deep well of disgruntlement and unfocussed anger that rises up during times of economic turbulence. Ford is our very own, home grown, Tea Party Patriot, full of blind rage and illogical, nonsensical, simple-minded solutions. A populist, anti-politician politician who promises that, if elected, will do as little as possible for his ward, his city and that’s exactly how it should be to his cultish followers.

He is the screaming id that now passes for modern conservative thought. Mindless banalities spewed forth from the cerebellum, sounding all homespun reasonable but amounting to nothing more than short-sighted, counter-productive, regressive measures that will make no one’s life better. No one, OK? Cuts to your taxes can only result in cuts in your services. Everybody’s services. Cuts to the number of councillors cannot possibly result in better response time from them. Take a moment and do the math on that one, folks. And fewer councillors mean more power for unelected bureaucrats and all those with a whole lot less concern for the general welfare of this city.

So yeah, you better believe that I’m fucking concerned that Rob Ford’s being taken seriously. It just seems beyond belief.

But it’s April, still more than 6 months before election day. I’m not panicking. Yet. But I will confess to a creeping edginess.

stoically submitted by Cityslikr

14 Responses to Really, People? Really!?

  1. Bob says:

    There’s a whole world north of Bloor Street and its a world that’s not happy. Something akin to Richard Nixon’s “silent majority”. We’ve all been warned.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Bob,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke readily acknowledge that people everywhere in Toronto have reasons to be angry. Politicians like Rob Ford are not providing them answers or solutions. Just merely an outlet for their rage and frustration. Any hack demagogue can do that.

  2. it’s worrisome how Ford is starting to set the agenda of the mayoral debate, abetted by a feckless media that knows what people get riled up over and what sells papers. look at all the ink spilt recently debating whether or not city councillors should receive a slight increase in salary. these are the debates Ford lives for: nickle-and-dime, symbolic gestures that conjure up the stereotype of the ineffectual, overpaid, corrupt politician and valourize the private sector as some bastion of fairness and accountability.

    i think much of animus toward politicians stems from the fact the shrinking middle class is working more and earning less than it did even ten years ago, and instead of blaming the real culprits – an exploitative economic system and unbridled consumption habits – the middle-class casts its demons as politicians, unions, – basically anybody who seems above or outside the reaches of the capricious market. reified thinking at its worst.

  3. Mark Cidade says:

    If wishful thinking serves me right (it hardly ever does), Ford’s momentum will peter out like with Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson. But that leaves Smitherman. Six months is pretty tight given the circumstances. The media needs to step up.

    I heard that some guy in Brazil joined an election 11 days before voting and because he had a substantial platform and regulations state that all candidates get equal air time, he won!

  4. pielrick says:

    My bet is Ford will say and do too many outrageous and outlandish things in the next few months. The saying goes: give a man enough rope and he’ll hang himself.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Pierre,

      You’d think, right? But we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke get a sense that a disturbingly high percentage of the public in Toronto (including the media) take a candidate like Ford’s outrageous and outlandish comments as a straight-shooting style that’ll fix all that ails the city. Like they did Mel Lastman before him.

  5. If you have to resort to a word like “cult”, then you probably have nothing to say, and maybe you should think of something cogent before you start typing. Rob Ford has an actual theory of government. He believes in a service-oriented and otherwise minimal government. Like any coherent argument, you can choose to subject his to a rational refutation. Such as: if governments get too focused on responding to the public, they end up catering to the loudest voices at public meetings, and worse, end up without the coherent policies the city requires. If you try to make transportation policy of a ward by ward basis (cars in Rexdale and Malvern, bicycles and the TTC downtown) how do you handle the mode switches, to say nothing of restricting the pollution? You can answer Rob Ford’s arguments, and argue, in a civil and respectful way that his ideas won’t work well and he could not put together an effective governing coalition.

    But if you let him reduce you to an inarticulate protest that someone like him would have the effrontery to run for elected office, then you’ve effectively endorsed him to his natural constituency. And you will also have communicated a much worse message: that the defenders of David Miller’s legacy have no argument left but their own sense of themselves as having a right to rule.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Mr. Spragge,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke find it interesting that in your comment you have chosen to overlook two of Councillor Ford’s “theory of government” which we addressed in the article — low taxes and cutting the number of city councillors — and focus on our one use of the word “cultish”, therefore implying that we simply were engaging in empty rhetoric name calling. You then proceed to bring up two separate issues while ignoring the ones that were staring up from the screen in front of you. Assuming, that is, that you took the time to read the entire post. A sleight of hand, we would suggest, intended to diminish our opposition to Rob Ford rather than engage it honestly.

      And please, spare us the dignified call for civility and respect when it comes to Mr. Ford. The moment he starts displaying examples of either, we might consider reciprocating.

  6. OK, you seem to have claimed, in between bouts of fervid rhetoric, that tax cuts can only mean cuts in services. No government, in history, has ever wasted money. Or maybe you’ll allow that, say, Robert Mugabe hasn’t spent all of Zimbabwe’s money on quite the right things, but every penny of outlay David Miller has authorized has gone right to the welfare of the people of Toronto. Since thousands of businesses have flourished by finding more efficient ways of delivering better levels of service, I certainly don’t regard your argument as a foregone conclusion. I particularly don’t regard a belief that the city can find more efficient ways to do things as “mindless” or “banal”.

    As for eliminating half of council, I don’t think it will work. But look at if from Rob Ford’s point of view: he answers all his emails, including those sent to him by people outside his ward. If he can do it, it makes a kind of sense that councillors can manage to answer queries from two current wards. Again, just asserting that councillors couldn’t possibly work harder doesn’t refute his argument.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Mr. Spragge,

      Wow.

      You accuse us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke of ’bouts and fervid rhetoric’ and within two sentences introduce Robert Mugabe into the discussion?! We’d almost think you were being funny if we hadn’t had previous dealings with you.

      If you want to have a reasoned argument with us than argue the points we bring up not ones that you pick out of thin air to help back up your case. We have never suggested that David Miller has spent every penny wisely. Nor did we suggest that council members couldn’t possibly work harder. How be you go back and read our posts regarding Councillor Ford thoroughly (if you can make your way through all the bouts of fervid rhetoric) and get back to us with arguments and disagreements to the things we wrote not things you imagined we wrote.

  7. Two points:

    1) Keep at it. The kind of attacks you make on Rob Ford do him almost as much good (with anyone likely to actually vote for him) as a breathless endorsement from Tim Hudak.

    2) You wrote: “We have never suggested that David Miller has spent every penny wisely.” But earlier you wrote, without qualification, that “Cuts to your taxes can only result in cuts in your services. Everybody’s services.” That statement can only hold true if every penny went to services, i.e. the government (in this case mayor and council) did spend every penny wisely. So by elementary logic, you did imply that Mayor Miller did spend wisely. In fact, your implication goes further: cuts in taxes will, according to you, mean cuts to everyone’s service. This implies that Mayor Miller does not just spend wisely, he spends equitably.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Mr. Spragge,

      Now that you’ve taken apart our argument with your great powers of elementary logic (we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke think somebody might be reading too much Arthur Conan Doyle), perhaps you might like to start proposing ideas instead of sitting, hidden away on the grassy knoll, taking shots at passers-by without ever really contributing positively to the discussion.

      If the city’s budget has to be balanced and you start reducing revenue through tax cuts and freezes, expenditures have to be reduced correspondingly unless your elementary logic has other ideas. Start reducing expenditures, Mr. Spragge. And do it in a way that won’t adversely affect everybody. Take a knife to all that extraneous waste the city has been allegedly spending and show us how you’d do it wisely and equitably. Assuming that’s your goal. To reduce the city’s expenditures wisely and equitably.

      • And here I thought I merely wanted the people who comment about Rob Ford’s candidacy to refute his ideas (which, as I have said, I disagree with), and to treat the whole process, if not Mr. Ford, with some respect.

        But if you want some ideas:

        1) Pay for transit city with an auction-based congestion charge. We pay for congestion in this city; let’s limit the number of cars allowed to operate in the city to a number the roads can actually handle, then auction the permits for those spaces. In a relatively efficient market, the government should take in a reasonable fraction of the cost of congestion, which the OECD estimates at three billion a year, money we now pour down the sewers.

        2) For the record, I don’t consider the tax levels in this city excessive. And I don’t personally feel a need for tax relief. But I want our fiscal discussions to take place in an atmosphere of realism. I want to know who pays the taxes we levy (case in point: everyone knows that when the city taxes residential rental property, the landlord cuts the cheque, but the tennants pay the freight. I would propose a commission on taxes and wages in Toronto, so that instead of dividing up on a knee-jerk basis (with the left calling for good treatment for workers, and the right calling for tax relief) we actually make our choices on a coherent basis.

        Final comments: yes, I’ve presented these ideas in a drive-by form. I don’t have the time, and your comment board doesn’t provide the space, to go into too many details.

      • cityslikr says:

        Dear Mr. Spragge,

        Thank you for your very provocative and insightful thoughts. We here at All Fired Up find it interesting that we all probably agree on a great many things but still manage to rub each other the wrong way. Stylistic differences perhaps?

        And as we’ve replied to you previously throughout this particular thread, we don’t think our attacks on Mr. Ford and his supporters have been purely gratuitous or lacking in specific refutation of his ideas. We disagree heartily with his proposal to cut council numbers in half. We do not think it possible to cut or freeze taxes while balancing the budget and maintaining proper services. His recent announcement of scrapping Transit City in favour of building subways through the private sector is equally devoid of anything resembling a realistic approach. It sounds great but there’s next to no evidence to suggest such a thing is possible.

        He just makes it so easy to take a mocking tone. Sometimes we just can’t resist.

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