By TOM GODREY
One month can be an eternity in a fiercely-fought municipal election campaign.
It was about that long ago when Mayor Rob Ford checked himself into rehab and changed the electoral landscape of Toronto.
We all remember when Ford, still in his prime last April, kicked off his second run for office in front of 1,000 screaming Ford Nation supporters in Etobicoke, who were feted with free booze and a live band.
Most of Ford’s volunteers have since returned to their day jobs and expect their candidate may remain in rehab for a big part of the summer.
His officials are arranging to recover the Mayor’s Cadillac Escalade that is parked without its vanity plates in a Gravenhurst impound lot. And, a friend of Ford has been charged for allegedly being under the influence of alcohol while driving the vehicle.
Ford rivals, front-runner NDP Olivia Chow and John Tory, are no slouches, having run or fought in about a dozen election campaigns among them. They are making inroads into luring dismayed Ford supporters.
Chow, according to a recent poll, continues to lead mayoral contenders with 36 per cent of support, while Tory trails with 27 per cent. Ford has dipped to third place and is slipping fast.
Loyal Ford Nation fans are looking at other candidates following the most recent allegations that drove the Mayor into rehab.
Ford once held a whopping 46 per cent of popular support before allegations of alcohol and crack use surfaced to make him, andToronto, the brunt of jokes on late night TV.
It is better for the Mayor’s health to be away from the political activity inTorontothese days. His re-election signs may not be among those sprouting up on lawns soon to promote candidates running for Council on Oct. 27.
Jobs, transit, traffic gridlock and the economy remain big-ticket items for the main contenders hoping to show Ford the door.
Chow last week announced a plan to create 5,000 jobs to combat youth unemployment. She vowed all capital projects that cost more than $50 million would include provisions to hire more young people who live inToronto.
“When I launched my campaign, I said I’d make job creation for young people a priority and I will,” Chow promised on her website. “One of the biggest challenge families face is our City’s unacceptable level of youth unemployment.”
She said youth unemployment increased under Ford and John Tory’s solution is to make a few calls to his “network of business acquaintances”.
A cautious Tory said he will act as a “youth employment ambassador” to create jobs if elected. He will promote “industry clusters and innovation centres” to help youth with business opportunities.
“As Mayor, Tory will roll up his sleeves and help to tackle our City’s growing youth unemployment rate by promotingTorontoas a place to do business,” his website said.
Tory has been pushing for the development of theEastDonLandsarea, which he claims can create up to 70,000 new jobs inToronto.
The formerRogersexecutive will work to create a “major business district” in a 23-hectare site that includes the former Unilever site at the intersection of theDon Valley Parkwayand the Gardiner Expressway.
He is also against the demolition of the east end of the Gardiner and wants subways.
Karen Stintz is vowing to establish Transportation 4 Toronto (T4T) – an agency led by one individual to act as a Transportation Czar responsible for ensuring that all transportation customers benefit from a coordinated system.
The main contenders are unleashing policies and gaining momentum with every passing day, which will make it harder for Ford to catch up, if he decides to try.