Mayor Rob Ford? No thanks
The Toronto mayoral race has sparked fiercer debate than I have remembered in Canadian politics in a long time. This is a function of how political partisans have in many cases lined up on opposite sides of the debate.
Conservatives in particular find themselves split between front-runner Etobicoke councilor Rob Ford and Rocco Rossi, former National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada and CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Many may wonder why such a division exists. Isn’t it natural for conservatives to flock unanimously to Ford, a partisan Conservative? The answer is absolutely not.
I find it amusing that Conservative party partisans now flock to Rob Ford. Apparently big government is fine in Ottawa, but not Toronto. On the flip side, I find it almost comical that Rob Ford has appeared at events with Jim Flaherty, conductor of the Ottawa “gravy train”.
With hypocrisy abound, Conservative hacks accuse those that don’t back Ford of being “Liberals” simply because Rob Ford is a partisan Conservative.
There is more to a municipal race than partisanship. It’s about character, leadership and ideas. For all of these reasons I will not be jumping on the Rob Ford bandwagon.
The most common case people make against Rob Ford and what has gotten the most media attention are questions surrounding his character. While the Rob Ford spin machine may dismiss this as a Toronto Star conspiracy, the reality is that when one is running to be a leader of approximately 2.5 million people questions of his personal conduct are fair game.
It isn’t the fact that Ford was arrested for driving under the influence and marijuana possession in Florida that should alarm people, it’s the fact he refused to admit the truth until he was busted cold by the media.
Similarly, Ford lied about becoming verbally abusive towards fans at a Maple Leafs game, until it was clear he was guilty. These instances, coupled with Ford’s penchant for playing fast and loose with facts and figures lead to serious questions about his integrity.
I would consider looking past his obvious character issues, along with his irritatingly obnoxious behaviour if his policies were something to get behind. Unfortunately they are heavy on typical boilerplate rhetoric about “stopping the gravy train” and with little substance to back it up.
For a candidate that believes Toronto has a spending problem he offers little for a plan to cut spending. While cutting council spending is admirable it is a drop in the bucket of the city budget and should hardly be front and centre with more important issues on the table.
Perhaps his lack of grasp of the big issues is why upon examination his policies have bigger holes in it than the one that sunk the Titanic.
Ford’s plan to scrap the vehicle registration and land transfer taxes, among other things, will blow a hole in the city budget of over $250 million. He does not explain how he will afford it. Critics are right to point out that Rob Ford’s budgeting was metaphorically done on the back of a napkin. This is not fiscal conservatism. It is irresponsible.
Ford’s subway plan is dependent on taking $750 million out of pledged provincial money for York region’s bus system and doesn’t take into account fees for cancelling contracts for the planned Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail
Transit. It is little wonder he announced his plan with a terribly done YouTube video in an effort to avoid scrutiny. Ford simply does not grasp the big issues.
Conservatives must realize that this man is not the saviour of their fortunes in Toronto. Ford represents the worst of the conservative movement: knee jerk, reactionary populism.
This attitude is not grounded in conservative philosophy or economic principles, but on simply an uncontrolled hatred towards intellectuals and the purported “elites” in society.
By focusing in on this voter anger Ford will win on Oct. 25, just like Republicans will win off the backs of the Tea Party in the coming mid-term elections.
In both cases conservative long-term prospects will be destroyed. With changing demographics there simply aren’t going to be as many angry white men as there used to be and any political movement without an intellectual grounding to stimulate the growth of ideas is not viable.
For Conservatives, simply backing Ford because of his partisanship is irresponsible. His character, unprofessionalism and lack of substantive policies should raise alarms.
Partisan hacks can rejoice now in their coming political victory, but take heed of the old adage: the bigger they come, the harder they fall.