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Michael Ford, heir to the Ford Nation throne, makes his first-ever debate appearance

Michael Ford, heir to the Ford Nation throne, makes his first-ever debate appearance

For the longest time, it seemed that as long as there was a Toronto city council, there would be someone with the last name Ford sitting on it—meddling, casting lone-wolf votes, running for mayor. Now, the future of the Ford legacy rests on the broad, seemingly sort-of-capable shoulders of Michael Ford, the 22-year-old son of Rob and Doug’s sister Kathy. The junior Ford first made the Toronto political scene in October 2014, when he was elected as a Toronto District School Board trustee. In May, he announced he was running for city council, vying for the Ward 2 (Etobicoke-North) seat that has been vacant since Rob passed away in March.

Unlike his press-loving uncle Doug, Michael doesn’t grant a lot of interviews, and he skipped a candidates’ debate during his school board campaign (he talked to Toronto Life only after he’d already won his TDSB seat). Last night, he finally made a debate appearance, along with nine other Ward 2 candidates. We tuned in to the TV broadcast to see if we could get a bead on this newest, youngest, greenest Ford. For the busy Ford voter, we’ve rated all of his statements according to how Fordlike they were.

7:05 p.m. Michael Ford gives his opening remarks. “I’m dedicated to continuing the customer service that my family has been providing to Etobicoke North for over two decades,” he says. Beyond his name-brand association with the Ford legacy—which has to be meaningless by now, right?—l’il Michael hews close to Ford-style promises like lowering taxes and offering a “voice for the people.”

Ford level: Medium. Michael Ford will Ford.

7:13 p.m. The debate begins. The first major issue to be addressed is the apparent increase in violence in Ward 2. Michael Ford says solving the problem “is about bringing people together to the same table.” He wants to invest in community centres and places for young people to go, so they don’t turn to gang crime. Isn’t this precisely the sort of thing that Rob Ford once dubbed “hug-a-thug” programs?

Ford level: Alarmingly low. Michael Ford wants to invest in… community outreach?

7:24PM: Ford says that fixing the problems of poverty and violence in the ward is “also about understanding the cycle, the economic cycle.” He claims to have experience in understanding this cycle, thanks to his two-year stint as a school board trustee. Kevin Clarke, a perennial political candidate who is running against Ford, keeps trying to interrupt with non-sequiturs about families of famous athletes. Michael Ford responds politely, “May I finish?” He is civil, and above the fray.

Ford level: Low. He’s actually conscientious about being drawn into circus-like theatrics. Is this kid even a Ford? What is going on?!

7:33PM: Now we’re drifting back into familiar Ford family territory. “I am not in favour of raising taxes or revenue tools,” says Ford, when asked about budgeting. “I’m in favour of finding efficiencies in our government, and keeping citizens and businesses here.”

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Ford level: Medium. Underneath his polished veneer, Ford remains very Ford-like.

7:37PM: The candidates have started shouting, thanks in large part to Kevin Clarke. “This is a circus!” says candidate Christopher Strain, who seems totally reasonable and normal. “This is why I called for a one-on-one debate with Michael Ford!” The moderator is pleading for some kind of decorum.

Ford level: Low. Michael Ford is mostly sitting out this free-for-all.

7:39PM: Michael Ford is talking about responsibility. “We can’t jump to raising taxes all the time! People cannot afford to live in this city.” Again, Kevin Clarke keeps trying to interrupt. Then he does. “This guy has dodged me for 60 days!” Clarke yells nonsensically, calling Michael Ford “a disgrace on Rob Ford.” Then comes Ford’s response: “I apologize to Mr. Clarke that I’m not focusing on him. I’m focusing on the residents.” Burn! When he gets the floor for a few brief seconds, Michael Ford goes on to talk about public-private partnerships, and working with the local business community.

Ford level: Medium. Again: standard Ford family boilerplate.

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7:47PM: Now we’re on Toronto’s favourite subject: public transit. Ford says a lot of mostly meaningless things about “looking to the future.” He doesn’t think Ward 2’s taxes should go to projects that don’t directly service the area.

Ford level: High. He’s doing the classic Fordist thing of pitching the ward as an overlooked underclass, as if it’s its own city, or nation. A Ford Nation, if you will.

7:56PM: Time, at last, for closing remarks. Man, these 56 minutes just blew by in a whirlwind of interrupting and bizarre tangents. Once again, Michael Ford is clear, and predictably on-message: “Some of my competitors are busy talking about me, and I’m busy talking to you,” he says, making the bold presumption that anyone other than local civics commentators are watching this.

Ford level: Medium. The message is the same as ever: customer service, low taxes.

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