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.
A Toronto city councillor refuses to be quiet about a “homophobic, racist, sexist” letter she received from an apparent Ford
You can still vote for me on October 27, but striking your ballot will have the same result. Instead of putting up my dukes, I'm admitting the humbling failure that was this brief foray, and settling into a future more suited to someone of my limited skills and boundless grumbling.
Tomorrow is the first appearance at a debate of mayoral candidate Doug Ford, not to be confused with councillor Doug Ford, or Rob Ford's campaign manager Doug Ford. This is a whole new ballgame. After just a day as the candidate, Ford propelled the fortunes of Ford Nation from a distant third to within striking distance of the leader. Polls showed him at levels no Ford has been at in over a year outside of Etobicoke. For the few people still following this race, here are my thoughts on the five things to watch for in this first Doug Ford debate.
The values we used to be most proud of as Canadians are slipping away. We used to differentiate ourselves from the States because of our kindness. Our compassion. Our politeness. Our open-mindedness. Socialized medicine. These are progressive values. These are Canadian values. Or so I thought. Our heros have been fighters for the underdog. Tommy Douglas. David Suzuki. Jack Layton. Nellie McClung. Terry Fox. Yet somehow, most Canadians seem to be saying that progressive values don't speak to them anymore.
We can pretend living in Toronto and having $200 dollars you aren't using qualifies you to be Mayor, but it doesn't. There are realities that come with running for office and one of those is being able to demonstrate popular support for your candidacy and ideas.
Now more than ever we need to acknowledge that an election choice is more subtle than any winner-take-all contest can ever capture. Voters are forced to choose the lesser of all evils and vote strategically about who they want as well as keep in mind who they are afraid might win. Why not let the voters rank the evils directly and stop worrying? It would be more honest. Government and democracy are about more than just finding efficiencies, lowering taxes or even getting people moving. Informed and responsible citizens of a democracy need to work to make the system better.
With only six weeks to go until Toronto elects its next municipal government, Doug Ford, the obnoxious, ignorant, careless, and deeply polarizing former Councillor with his own conflicts of interest and drug dealing past, is now stepping in to try to rescue his brother's administration. Good luck with that. Regardless of the end result of Rob Ford's medical situation, whether it's manageable or not (and again let's hope it is a solvable problem), it's the end of a turbulent era in Toronto politics.
For a sophisticated city like Toronto, it is embarrassing to see the leading candidates passing random lines drawn on a map for transit plans. These so-called plans lack research, engineering cost and ridership estimates, and transit revenue forecasts. At best, one could call these plans the transit dreams of mayoral hopefuls. However, given the underestimated costs and overestimated benefits of these proposals, it is likely that the politicians' dream would become taxpayers' nightmare.
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.