[On Thursday, March 7th, Idil Burale and I will be hosting a discussion forum at the Academy of the Impossible called, Reimagining Toronto: Understanding the framework of urban/suburban politics. So this week at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, we’ll be looking at some of the issues that make up the divide of such urban/suburban politics.]
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Throughout the week, we’ve been writing about the political landscape that lead to Rob Ford’s victorious run for mayor of Toronto in 2010. The historical background, the media environment, all the what you might call externalities. More or less an attempt at objective observation.
Today, let me get all subjective and present a frank and full mea culpa. How I played my part in the election of Mayor Robert Bruce Ford. A big ol’ ooops.
As cub observers of the political scene in Toronto, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke made its first appearance on January 4th, 2010. The day candidates could officially file with the city. We and Rocco Rossi made our municipal debuts together. Ha, ha. We’re still here.
Councillor Rob Ford as candidate for mayor was still a figment of our feverish imagination. It would be another couple months before he declared his intention to run. The possibility of such a thing merely tickled our funny bone. If nothing else, it would provide a bit of comic relief to the proceedings.
We continued not to take him seriously throughout the spring and early summer. His building constituency had to be fragile, a protest movement with no legs. It wouldn’t sustain itself through the all the missteps and scandals that would surface. When people were confronted with his deplorable behaviour during his ten years as councillor – the ‘Orientals’, dead cyclists, drunken outbursts at hockey games and on and on and on – there’d be a collective ‘Eewww’.
Yes, we were guilty of hurling invective, comparing him to Chris Farley, an excellent candidate for manager of a Walmart and on and on and on. Not only did we mock his one-note campaign style and his dodgy grasp of important policies but, unfortunately, we also ridiculed him about his weight and appearance.
When it became clear that Rob Ford had established himself as a serious contender for mayor, we finally had to overcome our disbelief and bewilderment and come to grips with that cold, hard reality. No, that can’t be right. What’s going on? What the fuck is wrong with people?!
On July 14th, 2010, we wrote a post entitled ‘An Open Letter To Rob Ford Supporters.’ By a long shot, it remains our most read piece to this day. (That’s called building an audience, that is.) In it we asked, with as little snark and condescension as we could possibly muster, what was the appeal. Why were they embracing his candidacy like they were. His numbers didn’t add up. His policy planks were wobbly under the weight of sheer improbability. His track record as a councillor indicated no desire on his part to solve the problems suburban voters faced in the amalgamated city.
Nearly three years on, the validity of our concerns holds up. There have been cuts when candidate Ford said there would be none. He’s shaved spending not cut the billions he said he could cut. His transportation plan is in tatters, no more thought out than it was in 2010. On most major issues the city faces, the mayor has been sidelined, reverting to the lone wolf councillor he always was.
Yet Mayor Ford has retained his core support. His approval ratings hovering between 42-48%, essentially where they were when he was elected. The conundrum continues.
I don’t share some of my colleagues concern that this makes him re-electable. Sure, given his lack of performance one might think the numbers would be significantly lower. Where they were for his predecessors when Toronto had tired of them, in the thirties and high twenties. But compared to where Mel Lastman and David Miller sat at the same time during their first term? 48% is nothing to be boasting about.
And the news that John Tory hasn’t ruled out a possible mayoral run next year must send shivers up and down Team Ford’s spine. It’s what they feared most in 2010 and fought so hard and under-handily to stave off. The appearance of any credible right of center candidate in the 2014 campaign – be it Tory, Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson – will spell the end of Mayor Ford’s hopes for a second term.
But that it’s come to that as the catalyst for a crash and burn of this administration should be mystifying to many of us. A startlingly high number of suburban Torontonians still love the mayor, despite what the rest of us would view as a bad case of the unrequiteds on his part. For our part, we’re still as confused about that connection as we were back in 2010. Now, as much as then, we need to come to terms with it and figure out how to make the case that it is an unhealthy relationship for all of us.
— earnestly submitted by Cityslikr