To the surprise of absolutely no one, Toronto District School Board Trustee and Nephew, Michael Ford, resigned from the board and announced he was in the running for the late mayor and Ward 2 councillor, Rob Ford’s seat, seemingly moments after city council declared it vacant and voted to hold a July by-election to elect a new councillor. Almost as if they were already prepared to go. Almost as if that was the plan all along, which it was, back in the 2014 municipal election, until Rob Ford stepped out of the mayoral campaign for health reasons, and settled back into the Ward 2 council race. The TDSB trustee position was something of a consolation prize for Nephew Ford.
I had initial reactions to this week’s completely expected turn of events but then, it dawned on me. Here in Ward 20, in 2010, there was a similar if not exact scenario. After long time councillor Joe Pantalone decided to run for mayor, leaving the ward open, a young Mike Layton stepped forward to replace him. You might recognize the surname, not to mention that his famous dad was partnered up with the local sitting Member of Parliament, herself something of a City Hall institution, having represented the ward just one over for 15 years or so.
Truth be told, I did not take to Mike Layton. I resented the political carpetbagging aspect of it, the dynastic sensibility, the passing of the torch. Besides, to my mind, there was a much more qualified candidate, someone who seemed to have spent much more of her time working in the public realm, let’s call it. I did not vote for Mike Layton in 2010.
I did in 2014. Turns outs, he’s an exceptionally good city councillor. So… you know. Michael Ford. It could happen.
People are certainly saying nice things about him. He doesn’t seem to possess the bombastic side of both his uncles. He comes across as soft-spoken, gentle even, legitimately open-minded on some social issues.
Then, there’s his campaign website. “Customer Service”. “Keeping Taxes Low”. Even his “Sustainable Community Investment” is couched in Fordian terms careful spending and within a tight budget framework.
No rabid dog Subways! Subways! Subways! Light on the Respect For Taxpayers. But not without some coat tailing. “I will continue the benchmark set by my family”.
I guess the idea that Nephew could be a better city councillor than either of his uncles is a step forward. A pretty low threshold, for sure, almost imperceptible on the progress scale. It is, however, the way we measure things in a Mayor John Tory’s Toronto. Oh well, better than X Ford.
Electing Michael Ford as councillor for Ward 2 is not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing that could happen is some sort of uncontested coronation. Michael Ford cannot be acclaimed as the new councillor. This should never happen at any electoral level, ever, anywhere.
Look, even Rob Ford, who’d served as Ward 2 councillor for 10 years before becoming mayor, only garnered 58% of the popular vote in 2014 when he ran again for the council seat. Yes, no one else came close. Yes, by almost every measure, you could call it a laugher. And yes, the absolutely unqualified Nephew had something of a cakewalk in his trustee race, pulling in about 46% of the votes.
But this is a city council election, the only city council campaign that will be taking place in July, not one of 44, not as part of a mayoral campaign. The summertime spotlight will shine exclusively on the Ward 2 by-election, on Nephew Ford. He must be challenged. The idea that Ward 2 is some sort of family fiefdom needs to be challenged.
In 2014, 42% of Ward 2 voters expressed dissatisfaction with the Ford family brand, and that was with Rob – arguably the brand – flying the colours. Is the Nephew new and improved or is this just a case of Multiplicity, a watered down, reasonable facsimile of a knockoff?
Voters in Ward 2 need to be able to kick the product tires to start to figure that out. That can’t happen if the doors to City Hall are held open for him to just walk through, proclaimed, acclaimed, unchallenged, uncontested. Nephew Ford needs to campaign for the position not simply have it handed to him as some sort of birthright or family heirloom.
— repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr