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The Rob Ford echo: mayoral front-runners suddenly sound a lot like Rob Ford

With Rob Ford solidly in the lead of the mayoral race, the other four candidates are all trying to figure out how to claw down his numbers. Joe Pantalone has stuck with his “like David Miller, but shorter” pitch, while Sarah Thomson continues to support high-concept policy ideas. This leaves Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman competing for who can sound most like an angry centre-right politician. Here’s how they’re doing it.

This week, both candidates announced policies designed to appeal to Ford’s voters. On Tuesday, Smitherman said that he would freeze taxes for one year if elected, something that many read as an attempt to be more Ford than Ford, according to the Globe and Mail:

He even went a step further on the tax issue than Mr. Ford, who called it “impossible” to promise a freeze on property taxes, saying he would aim to hold them to below the rate of inflation.

[Mr] announcement is a measure of the success of Rob Ford on tapping into a sense of alienation and outrage,” said David Soknacki, the conservative councillor who served as budget chief from 2003-2006.

In fact, Mr. Ford and candidates Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi were all quick to accuse Mr. Smitherman of treading on some territory they had already claimed. Ms. Thomson is the only other candidate who has also vowed a one-year property-tax freeze.

Meanwhile, Rossi announced yesterday his plan to cut the number of city councillors in half, something that is almost directly lifted from the Book of Ford. (Rossi would add a handful of councillors elected at large.) The proposal is similar to one endorsed by Thomson a while back. This is kind of a return to type for Rossi, who had cornered the angry right vote before Ford entered the race.

And in case they didn’t sound like each other before last night, all of the candidates agreed that the city they’re hoping to run is “isolationist” and “parochial,” according to Smitherman; has had “more than its share of pettiness and rivalries,” according to Rossi; and is a city with “very little innovation,” according to Ford. Way to make us feel loved and wanted, guys.

Apparently people are calling it the “Rob Ford echo.” If they’re all going to sing from the same songbook, could voters at least get a decent boy band out of it? We’re thinking Old Boys on the Block could have a hit single with “The Right Stuff.”

UPDATE: Say it so, Joe. Joe Pantalone joins in the tax-cutting chorus yesterday afternoon, meaning even the left-most candidate can do backup vocals for the Ford band.

• Smitherman vows to freeze property taxes for one year [Globe and Mail]Mayoral hopefuls say Toronto is too self-centred [Toronto Star] • Quotable moments from the Toronto mayoral debate [Toronto Star]There goes the middle [Spacing] • Smitherman’s desperate lurch to the right  [Toronto Star]Smitherman sounding more like Ford [Toronto Sun] • Smitherman campaign risks crash by veering left and right [Globe and Mail] • Rossi vows to reduce city council’s size [Toronto Sun]

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