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Friday, October 22, 2010

Ultimately for Toronto, it has to be Rob Ford

I have to admit a certain hesitation towards Rob Ford as the next mayor of Toronto. Up until recently if asked I would have said that Rocco Rossi was my horse in the race, but with him stepping out I have had to take another hard look at Ford and Smitherman as my options.

One thing that I’ve noticed, if I ask someone to tell me why I should vote for Mr. Smitherman they instantly tell you why I should not vote for Rob Ford. Which makes George Smitherman the negative choice, the not Rob Ford choice. This is ironic because Mr. Smitherman has a much more in depth and comprehensive policy platform than Rob Ford. George Smitherman’s supporters really don’t do him justice by making him the negative choice.

Ultimately the real choice isn’t Rob Ford versus not Rob Ford, it is Rob Ford versus George Smitherman. In that contest the main complaint against Mr. Ford evaporates.

A year ago if someone had told me Furious George will one day be winning a character debate I would have laughed at the notion. The man is every bit the bully and embarrassment that Rob Ford is. He is merely fortunate that his worse antics were never actually caught on tape. The character debate is lame anyway. Frankly it doesn’t matter who you would rather grab a beer with, you are electing a mayor not a bar mate. It is completely irrelevant how much of a dick a politician is, all that matters is what policies he/she will enact once in office.

As I said earlier the Smitherman plan book is considerably more complete. But I just cannot bring myself to trust George Smitherman on the most important issue: public financing.

Yes he is saying basically the same thing as Rob Ford on finances, perhaps with a less populist tinge, but I never feel that he really means is. He knows that the mood of the city is for fiscal restraint so he is going to promise fiscal restraint. His true attitude, I think, is reflected in his dumped proposal to raise taxes to fund a program for the unemployed. He sees public finances as just one issue, not the core public policy problem now facing the City of Toronto.

This actually matters because when it comes to making austerity plans it will take guts and personal commitment to push it through. If Mr. Smitherman is merely playing lip service to the popular mood he will not have the political courage to fight the special interest groups that might suffer under budget cuts. If you want to be sure (or at least surer) that the budget will be cut, it has to be Rob Ford.

The other often made point is that Rob Ford is a divisive figure. More specifically that he is not a team builder and he is likely to be isolated on the council. It is true that the Toronto’s mayor is less powerful than other mayors or a Prime Minister and the future mayor really does need allies on council. But this ignores the very real power that will be in the hands of the Toronto mayor.

Let me put it to you this way. Who would you rather appoint the next TTC Commissioner, Rob Ford or George Smitherman? Considering the sort of people that have been cozying up to Mr. Smitherman lately, again it has to be Rob Ford.

Rob Ford isn’t the perfect choice by any means, but no politician ever offers a perfect choice. There are good things that can be said about George Smitherman, but at the end of the day Rob Ford is what the city needs right now: someone who will cut spending and fix the pot holes.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 22, 2010 | Permalink


What I don't understand is the fear for Rob Ford? What is the worst he can do? Waste a billion dollars out of TO's 11B budget? Smitherman has already done that to us, and yet some 40% of voters want to reward him with the mayor's job. It's absurd.

Posted by: hamster | 2010-10-22 8:00:21 AM

Boiled down and made folksy, I take your point on finances to be this: both candidates a carrying a cost-cutting axe, Ford just brandishes a little higher and is more certain to swing it when the time comes.
My concern is that he will swing it without much care, not just because he promised to, but because it's his nature. That kind of carelessness doesn't make good policy.

Posted by: Ian Shelton | 2010-10-22 8:11:53 AM

I was joking with one of my public service colleagues yesterday and asked whether he was going to vote for the bully or the buffoon. He laughed and said he would never vote for Ford. Although we have both heard first-hand stories of Smitherman's rage and bullying, he seemed oblivious to the choice I presented.

Unfortunately, this mentality is all too prevalent. Smitherman's character and egregious errors as a provincial minister (à la eHealth and the Green Energy Act) are dismissed as as inconsequential, while Ford's consistent and believable advocacy of fiscal responsibility are ignored.

Fundamentally, I think all those who depend on the public purse for their livelihood see Ford as a harbinger of what is to come at other levels of government. However, given Ontario's precarious fiscal position, I would argue that Toronto's fiscal health is of critical importance to Ontario public servants.

I would suggest that every dollar that Toronto extracts from the province to help address its fiscal imbalances in the future will be a dollar that comes out of other programs. And that will mean the much vaunted job security of civil servants will be in jeopardy. As the UK illustrates, things can get ugly if you wait until you are about to drive into the wall before you take action. In the case of Toronto, precautionary fiscal measures are certainly called for at this time, which is why I am supporting Rob Ford.

Posted by: Steve | 2010-10-22 8:21:05 AM

Both candidates are flawed but Ford at least genuinely believes in his platform.

The key for Ford will be team and delegation! If Ford engages capable allies (such as Coun. Holyday) and outside experts and gives them real responsibility, while he manages the overall strategy and communicates with the people of Toronto, I can see him getting fantastic results.

If on the other hand he tries to micromanage things, without capable liutenants to help him, it could result in disaster - hopefully that's not what he chooses if he's mayor.

Posted by: Toronto Boy | 2010-10-22 11:57:52 AM

How can this blog fail to comment on the recent "guilty" deals awarded Basi and Virk in BC?

Featuring a cast of characters you couldn't possibly make up, from a former clerk of the privy council, a past PMO, a provincial federal campaign manager, drug money laundering and subversion of the democratic process by the fraudulent purchase of party memberships with drug money?

After six and a half years in court, the defendants plead guilty, have their SIX MILLION DOLLAR defence costs covered by the province and get probation and house arrest...oh and are forced to repay the kick backs they took...how harsh. Meanwhile the movers (Cabinet ministers, premiers and CEOs) of the chess pieces are set to testify and face cross examination and suddenly the accused decide to cop a plea?

Nothing to see hear citizens...what about that mayoral race in Toronto?

Posted by: peter | 2010-10-22 12:42:09 PM

It's ludicrous some people are going to exercise their democratic right to vote via a "not Ford"decision 10.25.10.What happened to relevant prerequisite skills for a job:
- Ford in his family business,if he wasn't qualified certainly wouldn't be the CFO who has the authority to manage their P&L,thus mismanage it also
- 10yrs.as a city hall councillor who remained true to his ideology,this much his detractors have to agree with;Ford doesn't tax and spend recklessness
- 2010 mayoral race,Ford came in after January,and set the agenda,this is what a leader does,they understand the pulse of the city

Posted by: lone wolf | 2010-10-22 12:58:09 PM

What I don't understand is the fear for Rob Ford?

Hamster- Some people fear Ford because they have been living off the taxpayers largesse for many years. Besides, he not a scum-sucking socialist and that doesn`t fit into their world view.

Remember the `scary`Stephen Harper and George W Bush

Posted by: ralph | 2010-10-24 5:39:11 AM

Yaaaaaaaaaaa Ford won!!!!!!! Yipeeeeeeeeeee

So sad for us in Calgary.

Posted by: Merle Terlesky | 2010-10-25 9:22:18 PM

Of course, it will be all for not. As much as many are heralding Ford as the saviour of Toronto, he can do nothing. Toronto, that Babel on Lake Ontario, the Calcutta of the North, Canada's second largest cesspool (Next to Montreal) is beyond repair. The next mayor will be muslim -- no question about that. Unless the earth were to suddenly open up and swallow the city and everything in it whole, there is no solution.

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-10-26 7:14:31 PM

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