Reading Judy Rebick’s tired rhetoric in the Toronto Star last week, under the headline “John Tory not an option for feminist voters,” made me weep. Olivia Chow has trailed in the polls since July and to suggest she can prevail now is a siren call to disaster. The Forum Research Poll done last Monday showed a Tory decline to 39%, Ford surging at 37%, and Chow still trailing at 22%. The polling aggregator ThreeHundredEight.com was more consistent with earlier polls, but still showed a Tory slump, a surge for Ford, and Chow trailing. New polls are pending.
The Forum poll reminds everyone that there is one key issue in this election for mayor: Do the citizens of Toronto want four more years of a Ford as mayor or not? Rob Ford and Doug Ford are interchangeable; their words and actions say so. They personify a brand of populist politics characterized by a belief that what a mayor does on his private time has no impact on the city, rules can be flouted, sectors of the populace insulted, City Councillors bullied, facts distorted, long-established policies overturned by fiat… all justified in the name of “saving taxpayers money.” As if “saving taxpayers money” were the only goal of municipal government.
Recent weeks of election campaigning have diverted attention from the key issue. Transit? The Ford transit plan is a proven “non-plan.” Chow’s reopening the Scarborough subway is not in the stars; Ontario politics have always determined subway decisions. Otherwise, the Chow transit plan and Tory’s Smart Track, put into the hands of experts, should not be mutually exclusive. On social issues, ethical issues, the responsibilities of a mayor in a weak mayor system, Chow and Tory are on the spectrum. The Fords are beyond the pale. Since last November, their track record has been to treat the public interest (and taxpayers’ pocketbooks) as their personal playing field. Their September Triple Shuffle is more of the same. It is time to send the whole lot packing. With the highest voter turnout in the history of the city, this is our one chance to say loud and clear that Fordism and all it represents will no longer be tolerated in this city.
The left has anguished over this election. Olivia Chow is well-respected and has a long track record of impeccable service to the city and the country as a school trustee, City Councillor and Member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina. No one can deny her energy, sincerity and commitment to the public good over the years. She would undoubtedly make a fine mayor. She might even make a better mayor than John Tory. The electorate could have decided that issue squarely had Doug Ford not assumed his brother’s mantle in September. But he did, and yet again we are left with the fall-out. The only issue is which of John Tory or Olivia Chow can beat Doug Ford. ABF* is what it is all about.
People should keep in mind the results of the 2010 mayoralty election. Then, Rob Ford secured 383,501 votes, or 47.1% of the electorate. George Smitherman got 289,832 votes or 35.6%. Joe Pantalone, the Deputy Mayor and candidate for the left, secured 95,482 votes or 11.7% of the vote. Together Smitherman and Pantalone gained 385,314 votes, or 47.3% of the electorate. The left had no chance of winning in 2010 but their votes gave Rob Ford his victory. The left were “the enablers,” and Pantalone the spoiler. Do the people of Toronto want this to happen again?
In my view, Olivia Chow (or any other left-wing candidate for mayor) is probably not electable at this time. For better or worse, she inherits the baggage of former mayor David Miller who, particularly during the garbage strike, alienated centrists. The legacy of Rob Ford has been to move Toronto to the right. Ford did get garbage collection privatized west of Yonge Street; he did get the vehicle registration tax annulled, his “gravy train” myth forced all candidates to trumpet their personal capacity to control costs. This means that no left-wing candidate could get the numbers necessary for victory. Defeating Rob Ford requires a centrist, because it is the centrists who hold the balance between Ford and the rest.
As a life-long feminist, a progressive, and a realist, I will vote for John Tory. The principles at stake in this particular election cross the political spectrum and are fundamental to the city in which we live. These are respect for the law, regard for the equality and dignity of all citizens, and a capacity to work with others to attain common goals. Both Chow and Tory qualify; the Ford brothers do not. Any seepage to Olivia Chow at this stage would only serve Doug Ford. After election, I would expect John Tory to reach out to Olivia Chow so they could work together for what Toronto needs.
As for City Councillor, I endorse leftist incumbent Mike Layton, Olivia Chow’s stepson and ideological companion. It strikes me that leftists ought to work hard to elect councillors who share their perspective. Ours is a weak mayor system. The mayor may have special powers but only one vote. If there were a majority on Council who shared Layton’s perspective, John Tory would be hard-pressed not to pursue a Progressive Conservative agenda. Remember the Progressive Conservatives of Premier Bill Davis? Although a Tory government, his was one of the most progressive the province ever had, especially when goaded by Stephen Lewis and the N.D.P. as the Official Opposition. “Progressive” and “conservative” need not be antonyms.
THE ADVANCE POLLS OPEN TODAY. Best to vote ASAP and then tune out the “sound and fury signifying nothing” which plagues this preposterously lengthy municipal election campaign. On the evening of October 27th, we can watch the results.