Toronto Life. Toronto The Bad.

September 21, 2010

Rob Ford’s Powers of Persuasion. Persuade (tr.v.): To induce to undertake a course of action or embrace a point of view by means of argument, reasoning, or entreaty. Entreaty: (n.): An earnest request or petition; a plea.

In her Editor’s Letter in the October issue of Toronto Life, Sarah Fulford tries to unlock the key to Rob Ford’s mayoral appeal that now has 46% of committed voters on board. For someone who assures her readers that not only wouldn’t she vote for the guy but she wouldn’t even be his friend, Fulford certainly carries a lot of water for TeamRobFord in a few short paragraphs. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

From the get-go, Fulford paints Toronto in the dystopian hues that Ford (and Smitherman and Rossi and Thomson) want you to believe it’s become. Outrageous taxation, infrastructure crumbling, civic strikes and hellacious transit are portrayed as the norm. And, dear reader, do you want to know whose fault it is? Current mayor, David Miller, and current mayor David Miller’s alone. That’s who. In Sarah Fulford’s view, all was well and good in the fair city of Toronto before we went and got goofy and elected that completely inept and ‘ineffectual’ Miller as our mayor.

Exactly how old is Sarah Fulford anyway?! Can she remember as far back as 2003? Hey, Ms. Fulford. Remember Mel Lastman? Everything wasn’t all roses and sunshine back then either.

Are there problems the city faces? Yes, of course there are. Some that David Miller didn’t deal with and may well have exacerbated? Yes, very likely. But when Fulford suggests that “the union pretty much got what it wanted” as a result of last summer’s strike, she is truly blowing smoke up her readers’ collective asses. It’s nothing short of campaign rhetoric and a patented fantasy recasting of the scenario. Not a supporter of Rob Ford? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

It bears repeating every time someone tries painting the bleakest picture of Toronto under the mayoralty of David Miller that not everyone sees Toronto in such unflattering light. From The Telegraph UK: “Toronto nowadays is a progressive and welcoming city with a thriving economy, flourishing arts scene and renowned cuisine. Its education and healthcare provision are among the best in the world.” A tale of two cities?

I know the article’s author, Saundra Satterlee, a ‘property expert’ writes ‘a buyer’s guide, ostensibly to promote Toronto. She is an outsider who wasn’t subject to the indignity of having to deal with her garbage for a whole 6 weeks and probably didn’t spend a lot of her time in our city’s less desirable neighbourhoods. But has Sarah Fulford? Call me skeptical.

Now, I’m guessing Ms. Fulford was trying to bring balance to the representation of this election’s front runner since the issue has an article about ‘The Messy, Angry Life of Rob Ford’ written by Gerald Hannon. Heaven forbid that she and the magazine be seen as downtown, liberal elitist, just trying to deliver a hatchet job. Fair enough, I guess, but does that mean it has to come at the expense of a balanced portrayal of the state of the city and the performance of the current mayor?

Sarah Fulford ends her Editor’s Letter with the following paragraph: It was enough to make this voter wish at least one of the candidates was hyper-articulate, someone who wouldn’t embarrass us on the world stage, maybe someone with a law degree from Harvard. Oh, wait. We voted for that guy twice already, and look where it got us.

Where exactly is that, Ms. Fulford? In a city that made it through what was the biggest global economic downturn in nearly 80 years in relatively good shape albeit with numerous problems to deal with? A city still suffering under the weight of an ill-advised and ill-thought out amalgamation while attempting to make it as fair, equitable and livable a place for all its citizens? Or the mean, nasty, out of control, bureaucratic heavy city of our nightmares, hitched to a down bound train heading straight to Pottersville?

Endeavouring to be fair-minded and even-handed is admirable. How about applying that journalistic rigour to both sides of the story, Ms Fulford? It would be a good place to start as we draw nearer to electing our next mayor.

persuasively submitted by Cityslikr


Rob Ford Worship

September 20, 2010

So the Nanos poll arrived yesterday on the virtual doorstep with a dull, deadening thud of a wet, weekend newspaper on the front porch. Rob Ford now has an eye-popping lead of nearly 25% over his closest opponent. Surprising? Unquestionably. But the source of the surprise goes deeper and wider than just the fact that Ford is even being touted as a viable mayoral candidate.

The poll is startling because I thought in the last couple weeks there’d been a shift in tone to the debate from an avalanche of negativity about the state of the city to one more reasoned and composed. Take, for example, Alan Broadbent’s letter on the Maytree Foundation website. While all we’ve been hearing over the course of the spring and summer from most of the candidates running for mayor how bad a shape the city is in – i.e. rampant fiscal irresponsibility, a non-responsiveness to citizens’ needs, the phantasmagorical “War on Cars” – that characterization may be, well, a little over the top. “Toronto nowadays is a progressive and welcoming city with a thriving economy, flourishing arts scene and renowned cuisine. Its education and healthcare provision are among the best in the world.” So says the The Telegraph U.K. But, they’re probably just a bunch of Chelsea elites.

So, what’s with this disconnect and the Fordian anti-everything appeal?

I lay a large portion of the blame on the campaigns of George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi. Despite the fact that our current mayor stated his intention not to seek another term last September, both men decided to run in opposition to him. Rather than talking about how they’d build on the successes of the Miller administration and fix the things it messed up, they chose to portray Toronto on a steep, Skeleton speed decline toward 3rd world status. They (with mainstream media assistance) created the anti-City Hall environment that is Rob Ford’s milieu and his only strength as a candidate. To use Bill Maher’s reference to the Tea Party’s ascension within the Republican Party, Teams Rossi and Smitherman let the Frankenstein out of the castle and lost any control over it.

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone should also shoulder some of the blame for not vigorously defending the administration that he was an integral part of. Only belatedly has he embraced the sentiments about Toronto expressed by The Telegraph and tried to force back the apocalyptic visions stirred up by his opponents. Too often he was sheepish in defending the accomplishments achieved at City Hall over the course of the past 7 years. An odd tactic to take since some polls released over the past month or so suggest that David Miller would be the front runner in this race if he was in it. Clearly, a sizeable chunk of people who live here believe that we haven’t been on the wrong track.

People like us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke also need to accept responsibility for the Ford phenomenon. We clearly misunderestimated the man’s appeal and spent much time focusing on his appearance and personal foibles although, in terms of the latter, there is much overlap between the man’s shortcomings and his politics. Clearly, we should’ve concentrated our efforts purely on his ideas, policies and what a Ford mayoralty would look like if he actually won. (Like Eye Weekly’s Edward Keenan did last week.) I guess the idea of Rob Ford actually winning on October 25th seemed so impossible to contemplate that it hardly seemed worth the effort of criticizing him as if such a thing could ever happen.

There’s still five weeks to go until the election. Federal and provincial don’t officially start until around now. With such a commanding lead, the scrutiny on Rob Ford will only increase in its intensity no matter how much his handlers try to keep him in a bubble and not allow him to make any serious blunders. But the Nanos’ numbers do suggest a huge hole that those chasing him have to try and dig themselves out of. As John McGrath pointed out this morning on Twitter, a candidate hoping to overtake Ford not only needs to build their own numbers but they have to cut into Ford’s support.

How they do that, I’m ashamed to admit that I have no idea. The Rob Ford Army is entrenched and their belief in his candidacy as the cure for all that they see ails Toronto is firm and not subject to much dissuasion. Point out that their man’s transit plan is completely impractical, will not alleviate congestion and has almost zero chance of ever, ever being implemented and their response is ‘Stop the War on Cars’! Or that his electoral reform idea of cutting council by half would represent the complete antithesis of increasing accountability and responsiveness, and they’ll demand ‘Respect For the Taxpayer’! All that ‘corruption’ he claims happens behind closed doors at City Hall like the Tuggs deal? Had he been doing his job as a member of the auditing committee, he could’ve sent the deal to be audited by casting the deciding vote but was in absentia at that particular meeting. No matter because when he’s mayor, Rob Ford will ‘Stop the Gravy Train’!

It seems once Rob Ford supporters cross that divide, there’s no getting them back. Failure to do so means he will be Toronto’s next mayor and no one else is to blame except ourselves. Those 54% of us who cannot even begin to fathom the prospect of His Worship Rob Ford.

stumpedly submitted by Cityslikr