The Ford family of Etobicoke has presented Torontonians with yet another twist in perhaps the most watched mayoral race in Toronto’s history. News of Rob Ford’s illness was hastily followed by news that the Fords were reshuffling their cards to ensure that their name remains in the race. As such, Rob Ford withdrew from running for mayor and hastily registered to run for councillor in Ward 2 Etobicoke North from his hospital bed. This is the post he had relinquished to run for mayor and which his older brother Doug Ford was able to take in the last election. Another scion was place holding the Ford spot in Ward 2 until last Friday when all of this unfolded.
What is canny about all this movement is the timing. In the football parlance that Rob Ford likes to use, this could be the Fords’ “Hail Mary pass” since the final day to withdraw or register to run was last Friday, September 12, when all of this unfolded.
We now face the prospect of Doug Ford, the one-term councillor for Ward 2, taking a run at the mayor’s chair.
It is hard to imagine a time when municipal politics in Toronto was more dramatic, with a more circus-like atmosphere than this period branded by the dyspeptic and bombastic Fords. If drama is all that city council is good for, then the Fords have given us much. Yet we have to question whether the Fords are doing this out of love for the city or out of hubris.
The issues that matter to this city have to be dealt with at City Hall. This city is on the threshold of transportation hell. The rate of poverty is increasing among immigrants, visible minorities and single parent households, however, instead of pondering clear positions on those matters, we are drawn into the machinations of the Ford family as they seek to impose their presence at the highest level of city decision making.
When we look at Rob Ford’s voting record on matters that concern the most vulnerable in this city it is clear, despite all his talk about taking care of those in need, that he had not been willing to support any initiatives that addressed their concerns.
The mayor and his brother have voted in lock step, time and again, against funding for programs in high need neighbourhoods, while user fees for recreational facilities have increased under their watch.
While the education ministry is a provincial concern, Ford has been clear that he is not a supporter of initiatives such as the Africentric Alternative Elementary School, having cast such programs as “segregationist”.
This city has been traumatized and, yes, humiliated by the rampant and bullying behaviour of the Ford brothers on council.
The only force that can arrest these aspiring dynasts is the municipal electorate. However, given the dissatisfaction that has set in among those who live on this city’s periphery, both residentially and financially, whatever they understand from the presence of Rob Ford at their door, as he commiserates with them about the state of disrepair in their underserved housing complexes, means the Fords’ hopes can remain alive.
The fire that they project for their brand of low-tax, no-tax politics is what has the polls giving Rob Ford’s share of decided voters over to his brother Doug as he becomes his substitute in the campaign to become mayor. It is clear that the Fords are playing football with this city. It is the Fords versus Toronto, or more specifically, downtown Toronto. We are in the final quarter, and they are planning their strategy to get to the goal post. But it bears remembering that the Fords do not have a plan for how to support the most vulnerable in this city. Their voting record already shows that.
We have six weeks left before Election Day, Monday, October 27. For many people in this city, weary of the drama, that day cannot come soon enough.