I thought former Trinity NDP MP Olivia Chow, would be a formidable challenger to Mayor Rob Ford. But I am starting to have my doubts, as the glow of the brief honeymoon with Chow has dissipated. And Olivia Chow is faltering and fading.
Let me explain.
For several weeks now, my associates and I have been tracking the support of Ford Nation in Mayor Rob Ford's base -- Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough.
We have been talking to folks informally in Tim Hortons, Wendy's, McDonald's and in bus stops and subways.
We have been calling, emailing and Facebooking known Fordites.
As we suspected, the support for Ford is holding steady, notwithstanding the arrival of such high profile politicos as Chow and John Tory.
But something strange is also happening in downtown Toronto -- the home of such Ford antagonists as dystopian novelist Maggie Atwood and Jane Jacobs-wannabe, Richard Florida.
Anecdotally, we are hearing that downtown Toronto residents are leaving Olivia Chow and gravitating back to Rob Ford. Notwithstanding the continuous media onslaught against Ford by the Star and Globe -- and the overt air-brushing of Chow's political image, by these very same newspapers.
In a recent Forum Research poll of Toronto voters taken immediately after the first TV debate, Mayor Ford's support increased from 28 to 32 per cent. While Chow's support of 36 per cent, (taken on March 16 when Chow first announced her campaign) dropped significantly to 33 per cent. Tory's support was stable, but unchanged at 21 per cent (22 per cent on March 16).
Mayor Ford's approval rating has also increased from 42 per cent (March 16) to 46 per cent.
Clearly, Ford benefited from the first debate. Chow's surprisingly weak performance, hurt her.
Effectively, both Ford and Chow are tied.
We had noticed indications of Ford support in downtown Toronto in a previous informal survey of young Toronto residents. Even prior to the official launching of the Ford, Tory and Chow mayoral campaigns.
Since the first debate, the indications are even stronger that Ford is cutting into Chow Country.
The reasons are obvious.
I believe that Ford is clearly drawing support from midtown and downtown Toronto residents who are pro-business, pro-development, low property taxes, pro-Porter Air, pro-subways and pro-garbage privatization.
Chow, according to her own platform and her public statements, is on the opposite side of all these issues.
Both downtown and midtown Toronto residents appreciate that under the pro-business and pro-development Ford Administration, Toronto has continued to enjoy a construction boom of not only residential condos, but office buildings, as well.
Large Toronto-based companies, banks, life companies and pension funds are not running off to Calgary or Vancouver, but are choosing to stay in Ford's business-friendly and tax-friendly Toronto. And instead they are building new office complexes downtown for the thousands of employees who prefer living and working in downtown Toronto.
I believe that Chow's pro-children, pro-families, pro-higher taxes around inflation, pro-social welfare agenda/platform, is not attracting this low-tax/pro-business Toronto crowd.
Chow's agenda recalls an earlier more left-wing extremist period in Toronto politics, pre-Miller time, when the anti-corporate, pro-tax and spend councilor and former mayor John Sewell (and political friend of Jack Layton) ruled the roost in Toronto city politics in the 1970s.
In other words, the prospect of Olivia Chow being mayor, like the controversial former mayor Sewell, scares many downtown and suburban Toronto residents -- shirtless.
I also believe that Chow's anti-Scarborough subway position has hurt her in her efforts to attract voters in suburban North York and especially in vote-rich Scarborough.
Apparently, Chow has thrown Scarborough residents under the proverbial bus, with her strange anti-subway, pro-bus policy.
Chow's whole position of Toronto transit has been incredibly incoherent and inconsistent.
This is very surprising because for years Chow was the federal NDP transit critic. For years Chow had been criticizing the Harper government and imploring the said federal government to invest in transit.
Well, last year, PM Harper and Finance Minister Flaherty committed about $660 million to the Scarborough subway extension, with the public support of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.
In addition, the Toronto city manager last year concluded that whereas the LRT option would cover a larger geographic area, include seven stations and come at a lower cost, the subway extension option, with only three stations, would have higher speed, higher quality service, higher ridership and no transfer for passengers from one mode to another at Kennedy station.
In other words, the subway option was a superior mode of public transit -- higher speed, higher quality service, higher ridership and no transfer for passengers from one mode to another at Kennedy station.
Furthermore, this Scarborough subway option had the support of the Wynne government, the opposition provincial Tories, the majority of the Scarborough city councilors. And Ford had agreed to a dedicated tax in support of this subway.
Notwithstanding the above, Chow still opposes the Scarborough subway and now believes the downtown relief line should not even be an issue in this election.
Chow seems to be parroting the views of fellow leftist SWAG (smug white affluent gentry) councilors Matlow and Perks to the effect that the Scarborough subway is too expensive and Scarborough residents should settle for a cheaper LRT.
These self-centred councilors don't think that their affluent downtown constituents, through their taxes, should pay for a Scarborough subway, despite the fact that Scarborough residents have been financially supporting three downtown Toronto subway lines for years. And notwithstanding that Scarberians are as deserving of transit benefits as their wealthier neighbors in downtown Toronto.
Wow, who would have thought that Olivia Chow, from a modest immigrant background, would have become so SWAG?