Smitherman’s Desperate Ploy

July 24, 2010

First, mayoral candidate George Smitherman flit over to China to attend a meeting of mayors although he had yet to be duly elected as such. Now he’s decided the time has come for a one-on-one debate with Rob Ford without outside distractions like, well, the 30+ other registered candidates in the running. It seems that George Smitherman will stop at nothing to become the next mayor of Toronto short of actually campaigning effectively for the office.

Presumption aside, it proves beyond the shadow of a doubt just how much of a bully Smitherman is. I mean, who wouldn’t want to debate Rob Ford one-on-one? It’s like picking on the slowest, dumbest kid in the schoolyard. Yes, some polls have him as the front runner right now but that’s only because no one else – including George Smitherman – has stepped up and delivered a compelling reason to vote for them. Ford is simply filling the vacuum with his focused rage at all the neo-conservative shibboleths that resonate with underthinkers. Overtaxed! Out of control spending! Bureaucrats!

Despite becoming more of a target now that his rivals are taking his candidacy seriously, Ford thrives in the present debate format. Like a whack-a-mole, he pops up every now and then to spout off bits and pieces of his anti-government tirade usually in non sequitur format before going back underground to avoid his opponents’ flurry of mallets. Perfect scattershot delivery for the sound bite age.

What could Rob Ford possibly have to gain granting more open and undiluted access? Sure, he’d assume the mantle of the lone right wing standard bearer but doesn’t he have that already? The entire mayoral field save maybe Don Andrews has bestowed that honour on him. If he turns Smitherman down, he might be perceived by his followers as running scared, poking holes in his football coach bluster. How would it go over in Ford country if they started thinking he was afraid of some fruit?

But the downside dwarves these concerns. Just him, Smitherman and a host, say for an hour. How many times can Ford talk about Kyle Rae’s retirement party or cutting council in half or killing City Hall’s indoor plants before he starts sounding devoid of any meaningful ideas? George Smitherman: So far, Councillor Ford, you’ve cut $25 million from the annual operating budget at City Hall. Not even close to a single, solitary percent of it. Now what are you going to cut? Hmm? Hmmmm?? Rob Ford: [harrumph, harrumph, harrumph, turning redder and redder] Errrr.. errrr.. errrr.. eHealth scandal! Tax and spend Liberal!! You went to Kyle Rae’s retirement party on the taxpayers’ dime!!! Probably danced with him, too!!!!!Nope, there’s absolutely no reason for Rob Ford to agree to a one-on-one debate proposal. Not with Smitherman. Not with any other candidate. He’s the perceived front runner and it’s his prerogative to decline. Ford’s in the driver’s seat right now and a desperate George Smitherman is attempting to bait him out of his comfort zone.

Smitherman’s also displaying a disturbing anti-democratic streak with this maneuver. Caught in a dog fight with an unexpected opponent, he’s trying to end run the electoral process, using some spin and optics to give the impression of it being only a two man race. Ford’s got the far off centre right vote sewn up while Smitherman’s splitting the soft centre right with Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson. Unable to differentiate himself from those two with solid policies ideas and a vision of leadership, he’s now trying to bulldoze his way with little regard for an open, varied and democratic debate.

What exactly does this say about the prospects of a Mayor George Smitherman? All politics with no governance? He is clearly trying to win this thing by setting up a situation where people vote not for him but against the other guy, in this case, Rob Ford. If he’s successful, then what? With no particular agenda or mandate, the city just flounders on a choppy sea of posturing, politics and horse trading. Pretty much the same scenario as that of a lone wolf Rob Ford mayoralty. Four years of inane bickering and inaction.

Nothing good can come of this. So do us all a favour, Rob Ford, ignore George Smitherman’s throw down. It won’t help your chances and, more importantly, it won’t do Toronto any good either.

hopefully helpfully submitted by Cityslikr