I was not prepared for what actually happened last night. Olivia Chow started off with vigour but then seemed to fade, John Tory was aggressive, and both attacked Doug Ford as if he were the frontrunner. There were no kid gloves for the debate newcomer. I think many observers may see this as the beginning of the end for John Tory, the much anticipated point where he begins to lose as he has done so often before.
It's almost as if that nasty business of the media running roughshod -- downright bullying -- a man suffering from a mental illness never happened. Journalists never hounded him at the rehabilitation facility. Or coerced other patients into revealing intimate details of his treatment. Or wrote features about the clinic founder's own history with the law. Now that he's dealing with a physical disease, on the other hand, it's real. Let's give the man some privacy, our noble journalism vanguards suddenly declare.
The trouble is that recent years have invigorated the mayor's brand of hyperbole politics. It pays out in spades for those willing to join the bandwagon and echo the "us versus them" chorus. Its cronies transcend party lines; its victims and resisters fade quickly from memory ("not a leader", anyone?). It is the Ford Nation creed. A new, normalized nastiness has imbued the body politic, harshly demarking who is "one of us" and who is to be cast aside. Its candidates bob in the fickle surf of prejudice or fashionable platitudes, instead of wading into their own vision or fair-minded convictions.
Mr. Ford and Mr. Tory share something else. Neither wants to work to the plan we have, preferring instead to draw new lines on maps. It's never easy to decipher what, precisely, Mr. Tory believes today, but it seems he no longer supports the Sheppard or Finch LRT's. And he certainly no longer supports the subway relief line that is the TTC's top priority, which is odd because getting it built allegedly propelled him to run.
The mayor is only relevant if people make him relevant. For every time we make a sensation about Rob Ford and his latest scandal, we give him attention that he does not deserve. His election chances were ill-served when social media went quiet, and we are now ill-served by perpetuating stories about how he is a tactless, corrupt, and bigoted embarrassment to the city.
Toronto is more than Ford Nation, true, but it is also so much more than the Core. Let me tell you about my Toronto. Toronto is getting a Jamaican beef patty on a fresh portuguese bun at Eglinton and Oakwood. Toronto is getting congee rice porridge in North Scarborough. Toronto is so much more than the Core or the car-centric suburbs.
Many teens spend their babysitting money on something to listen to --music downloads, movies or concerts. Morgan Baskin put hers into being heard. The 18-year-old high school senior is running for mayor of Canada's largest city. Amidst the international circus that is Toronto municipal politics, Baskin is a glimmer of hope.
If we truly want Toronto to be the best city it can be, we are going to need to accept the stark reality that the way we have been approaching gridlock simply is not working. Throwing more money at the problem won't solve everything, and more transit won't fix our congestion challenges alone without fixes for other modes.