By PAT WATSON
Maybe we here in Toronto should just change our city motto from “Diversity our strength” to “We market our diversity when it suits.”
The better to explain that in a city where 49 per cent of the people living here originate from outside Canada and in which there is a healthy cross-section of “diversity” among the 70 or so individuals who registered to run for the office of mayor, the ones getting the most attention from mainstream media are two multi-millionaire White males? Namely, Doug Ford and John Tory.
And, these two individuals, both Conservatives, have a history.
When John Tory first considered running for mayor in 2003 – that was when he ran against David Miller – he heeded some advice to seek out the endorsement of the Ford family patriarch, Doug Ford Sr. An important reason being that in the newly amalgamated city of Toronto, to win as mayor, a person had to not only take the downtown vote but also to win in what used to be considered the suburbs. In the former suburban city of Etobicoke, the late Ford Sr., then a retired Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) backbencher in the hard-right Mike Harris Government, had much clout.
The story goes that Tory arranged a lunch date with the retired MPP but wound up having a meeting with the entire clan. In a Toronto Life magazine look at the Rob Ford phenomenon, Tory recalls that after an hour of pleasant conversation, Ford matriarch, Diane Ford, finally spoke plainly that her family would support Tory for mayor. In the May 2012 article, Tory is quoted as recalling that Diane Ford said, “You can serve for a couple of terms and then it’ll be Robbie’s turn.” Apparently, Tory was “dumbfounded” at this.
As the days roll along and Doug Ford Jr., the representative political aspirant from the Ford clan, continues his impertinence towards Tory, and while Tory takes the tack that he will not participate in any debate that Ford bows out of, it bears remembering that history.
Perhaps the Fords now take offence that Tory, who was plainly informed of their game plan, chose to challenge their sense of entitlement to the position. A sense of entitlement is standard gear for particular segments of our diverse populace.
We certainly are witness to an unseemly vortex of personality politics with a good helping of campaign trail mud wrestling to go along with it. So, if you get a kick out of watching rich guys get down and dirty, then now is your time.
It is ironic that a couple of members of that social-economic stratum that leads a very comfortable life in this city where poverty is increasing daily – perhaps even minutely – are out front in a fairly undignified display. In halls across the city, they scrap for their political futures before derisive audiences, some members of whom reportedly participate with mockery.
Moreover, in a world where reality television wins ratings, the celebrity factor of the bombastic Fords is a selling point. Interesting times indeed.
On the plus side, not in recent memory has there been this much attention given to municipal politics, if not municipal politicians. Bear in mind that the main purview of city council are within the areas of public works and infrastructure, community services, parks and recreation, licensing and permits, city planning and growth. That’s pretty dry stuff on paper, but if the young people in your community are in need of development programs and the lack of diversity in the leadership at city hall results in decision makers without a keen understanding of how vital such programs are to the health of your community, and furthermore such individuals consistently vote against such initiatives, it becomes a bigger problem.
A note on being a contributor to peace in the city…
On average three violent crimes are committed each hour of the day in this city, based on Toronto Police Service 2012 statistics. Thursday, October 2, is designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Non-Violence. There is no shortage of violent actions across this planet. Still, we can each do our small part to diminish that level of violence today, whether through words or actions.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.