Given the way Toronto voters choose their representatives in provincial and federal elections, I’m surprised to find that the two centre/centre-right candidates are leading the nationally known left-wing candidate.
According to an Aug. 26 Forum Research public opinion poll, John Tory at 34% and Rob Ford at 31% lead the former Trinity-Spadina New Democrat MP Olivia Chow in the upcoming City of Toronto municipal election. Chow’s support is at 23%.
Karen Stintz recently dropped out of the mayoral contest, but there are others with total support of less than 10% that are still running in the race that will end Oct. 27. If the race had only the three main contenders, John Tory would take 36% to Rob Ford’s 31% and Chow, the only progressive candidate, would improve to 26% of the vote.
Surprisingly, Mayor Rob Ford has gained ground while Olivia Chow has fallen into third place. The crack cocaine scandal that made global headlines and the other stream of controversies that have dogged Ford’s term as mayor does not seem to be as big an issue as it was in the spring for, since then, he has passed Chow and narrowed the John Tory lead.
Mayor Rob Ford came to office in late 2010, and at that time many were surprised that he’d been chosen to lead arguable the most left-of-centre city in the nation—a city that had elected Barbara Hall and David Miller. So who’d have thought a hard-right fiscal conservative like Ford had even one chance in a million to be elected as mayor.
As I’ve said before, though, Ford had the right message, namely, “Toronto has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.” And remember his campaign, “Stop the Gravy Train!”?
Large numbers of voters agreed with him that Toronto politicians had lost respect for the city’s taxpayers and that there was too much wasteful spending at City Hall. And, in Ford’s view of the world, labour unions—who had pretty much called the shots for decades in Toronto’s municipal politics—would take a backseat to taxpayers and their families.
Ford’s campaign provided the right message at the right time—a powerful combination in any election. Moreover, it didn’t hurt that his chief competitor for mayor came in the form of a former member of Ontario’s spendthrift Liberal government.
Notwithstanding his election win, however, local media never did accept Ford as mayor. He was not, apparently, as sympathetic to the Gay and Lesbian community as they believed was appropriate. He was not as smooth socially as their would have liked, nor was he as sophisticated. So their anti-Ford media campaign continued unabated into his term as mayor.
Unfortunately for conservatives across the land—who welcomed the example that Ford’s fiscal responsibility set for all municipalities—he provided fodder enough to feed the voracious appetites of the Left’s media.
There was one silly, avoidable controversy after another: reading while driving on the highway; illegally chatting on his cell phone while driving; passing the rear door of a streetcar, while its front door was open; to name the less egregious. Then there was the crack cocaine scandal and videos of him in compromising situations saying inappropriate things using off-colour language, followed up with headline-grabbing TV appearances in the US to spread his disgrace across the globe.
To many, Mayor Ford became socially unacceptable even though he had done a great job of tempering the fiscal appetite of City Hall and had slowed down its tendency towards waste and an attitude that public service unions know best and should be catered to. For that, many saw him as a winner and felt grateful for his efforts.
Ford has the right ideas to be mayor, and he’ll walk the talk. He’s already demonstrated that. Unfortunately, he seems to suffer from a sort of mental block when it comes to implementing his ideas and, well, just acting mayoral. Furthermore, his offensive personal conduct has been far too egregious to be overlooked. Consequently, he has proven he’s the wrong man to be mayor of our largest city—even though he might still have the right ideas.
With Ford so close to the lead in the Oct. 27 race, I’m hoping soft supporters of Olivia Chow—assuming she is still in third place as voting day nears—will come to their senses and migrate their support to John Tory the only candidate representing the political centre and fiscal conservatism and one whose private and public life is not pockmarked by scandal and sleazy behaviour.