We will have a new mayor. That mayor might be Rob Ford.
By days end, we will have a new mayor. That mayor might be George Smitherman.
Baited breath… only the sound of a thousand clicking fingers in Gerstein Library accompanies this cold, numb dread… No epiphany arrives, only boredom and apathy. The choice between the two no longer seems worthy of debate or distinction. We will either be ruled by Ford or Smitherman, and if you are expecting change in this city, you are shit out of luck. Let me explain why.
I’m not going to write an article about Rob Ford The Buffoon. It’ s been done. I will not even waste time motivating a claim that intellectually he is unfit to be mayor of the fourth largest metropolitan area in North America. It’s been done. What I will try to put forward is the notion, that constantly battling with city hall and its councilors will result in a short, ineffective term as mayor. As for Smitherman, the man used to be a cocaine addict… that I will say.
While Rob Ford, one thousand pounds of barbecue sauce, does appear to embody conservative change in city hall, his attitude will probably make his goals impossible to achieve. Regardless of whether or not it is a good system, I daresay it is not, our municipal government is constructed in such a way that each city councilor has the same voting power as the mayor. The mayor generally amasses power by accumulating the votes of many councilors, incubating himself with all the necessary power to have a more linear rule. Note, I say ‘he’ because Toronto has never had a female mayor. Unfortunately.
What does this all mean? City councilors are needed. They are, for any mayor, even Rob Ford, a necessity. They are the most direct contact the municipal government has with its citizens. As a councilor, Rob Ford understood this. Does he understand it now I wonder? Or will he, if he wins today, the probability of such an event being undoubtedly high, change his philosophy on the role of a councilor? I think he will attempt to work around this truth, which is an attempt to bypass the very architecture of Toronto’s municipal government. This might be an admirable thing in some respects. I don’t think many people would argue that our current system is all that effective. And if they were to argue such a thing I’d venture to say they would be wrong. Here is a small example that speaks to why one would be incorrect to think our councilors make up an ineffective government.
A friend of mine who was, until very recently, an employee of the much beleaguered Green Room, told me that Lab (an excellent bar on Brunswick Avenue) did not have their patio license renewed. I inquired as to why, “Adam Vaughan” was his response. At first I thought he was trying to be funny. He didn’t laugh, though he did elaborate. He told me that a shop owner in the area was good friends with Vaughan, best friends even, and he had asked him to stand in the way of their patio renewal. According to my friend this was ‘so his yuppie friends could drink coffee and talk without having to listen to drunk people’ (I’m doing a bit of paraphrasing here). Now this is hearsay evidence to say the least, third hand information, but if it is true (and I think it is) it elucidates my concerns with City Hall’s effectiveness. Rob Ford, apparently, wants to put an end to all this. No more entitlement! No more favors! Oh, and also, HIV is only a threat to queer men and heroin addicts. Sorry Rob, I know that’s a bit of an old one now.
To be fair, some of the things Ford has said are hard to argue with. The reigning in of expense accounts for example. I doubt many of the ‘average voters’ would take exception to such an initiative. However, it might be pertinent to note that Rob Ford is independently wealthy, and when I say ‘independently wealthy’ I mean ‘comes from money’. It may seem a trifle rich to his councilors, when, as mayor, he begins preaching conservative spending, or when he motions to limit expense accounts. It will certainly introduce an interesting vignette of Torontonian politics: A hostile, embattled mayor squabbling with a posse of upper middle class councilors over their lunch money. This might be politics in Toronto only a few months from now.All because of a sudden groundswell of conservative sentiment. Angry white people. Classic.
Conservative ground swells have always piqued my interest. Oftentimes they occur in unlikely rungs of society. There is a common misconception the conservatism is the policy of the working man , the blue collared folks. Perhaps this is socially true, but economically, where conservatism lives and dies, it is ludicrous to argue that lower taxation, free markets and the out-sourcing of labor are to the benefit of the working class voters. This is the part of Conservative ground swells I find most interesting; the political movement is introduced at the bottom, builds through the middle and levels out at the top, the exact opposite direction conservative economic policies tend to maneuver.
Rob Ford will not win this election by securing the wealthy yuppie-yorkville vote, nor will he capture the heart of the downtown core. He will win the suburbs. Etobicoke, Rexdale, Scarborough etc. And whether or not that is a good thing for those subdivisions remains to be seen. The most admirable thing Ford has done, from my perspective, does in fact take place in Rexdale. He coaches an inner-city football team, and by all accounts, he’s done a great job.
Football is arguably the most political sport commonly played in North America. Every position possesses a highly specific skill-set, and is required to complete a task that on the surface appears to be simple, but is always complicated by the moment, by the game. How will Rob Ford play the game? That is the most important question we will have to ask ourselves, and him if he win. Because, at least in some aspects, City Hall is a political game, and as in football, when you disregard and limit the roles of your teammates, when you try to put on a show for the fans, when you get greedy and start switching the plays, you lose. Every time.
I think Rob Ford will lose. The election? probably not. He’s still the odds-on-favorite. It’s the game, the fight with city council, where he is most definitely the underdog. And in that fight, no matter who wins, we lose.