Toronto is shaping up to be a battleground for the provincial election (but where’s Ford Nation?)
A raft of new polls on the provincial election race is showing the same thing over and over: where once it looked like Tim Hudak could win the election in a cakewalk, it now appears there is a genuine race to form government in Ontario (in one poll, by polling firm Forum Research, only five points separated Hudak from Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, with NDP leader Andrea Horwath running a strong third). But there is one player who’s noticeable because of the surprisingly weak effect he’s having on the race—Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford.
In Toronto, immediately following the May federal election, long-slumbering pockets of Progressive Conservative voters began prophesizing a return to the conservative “triad” of the 1960s: a conservative Prime Minister, a conservative Ontario Premier and a conservative mayor of Toronto. In March, Toronto mayor Rob Ford was even threatening to mobilize “Ford Nation” against Mr. McGuinty. “If he’s not helping out the city then I have no choice but to work against him,” Mr. Ford told Newstalk 1010 at the time.
Five months later, Toronto’s support for the Ontario Tories has evaporated faster than anywhere else. According to [Lorne] Bozinoff, [president of Forum Research,] much of it is a backlash to Mr. Ford. Cheered by a flood of new Conservative MPs elected in Toronto, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives assumed they would pick up at least a few new MPPs in the 416. “It doesn’t look like they’re going to win anything now,” said Mr. Bozinoff.
Earlier this week, city councillor Adam Vaughan told reporters, “Ford Nation is a notion. It’s just a notion.” If these numbers hold up, he may just be proven right. Ford has gone from being heralded as a champion of the conservative brand (the impact of his endorsement of Stephen Harper in the federal election is debatable—but it sure got noticed) to a possible drag on the momentum of the larger conservative movement.
What’s more, if the backlash against Ford is real (and if it really does drive down Tory numbers inside the 416) it’ll also be the second time Ford has ruined Rocco Rossi’s chances of holding an elected office. First, Ford ousted him in the mayoral campaign; now, Ford could very well be a contributing factor if he’s defeated in his race to be the MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence. Of course, if Rossi fights back by breaking out his “Goodfella” posters again, we won’t be complaining, if only for nostalgia’s sake.