Try as we might, we can’t ignore Rob Ford—and neither should John Tory
Promises, promises. John Tory assured us he would make city hall boring again. He even held up boredom as an ideal, the grand capital-P Promise embodied by his administration. “If anybody said city hall was boring but productive—better results, but boring—I would take that as a major compliment, as a badge of honour and as a sure ticket to re-election,” he told the National Post’s Natalie Alcoba last December. Then came former mayor Rob Ford’s turn at the microphone.
On January 19, Ford, now demoted back to his old job as councillor for Etobicoke North’s Ward 2, attacked Tory’s plan to expand transit service, happily drawing a comparison to his own time as mayor: “If he wants to undo all the money I saved that’s up to him, but that’s not what the people voted him to do.” Tory and Ford traded verbal jabs all through the rest of January, but Ford landed more punches, at one point saying Tory was “making David Miller look fiscally responsible.” The best comeback Tory could muster was “I won the election.” As if that would shut Ford up. The ex-mayor won’t stop upping the ante: last week he got himself thrown out of a council meeting over a $20,000 proposal to send a delegation to Milan for Expo 2015. That story led the CBC’s local evening newscast. They carried Ford’s scrum live.
Ford’s return to prominence is welcomed by approximately nobody in the city’s political class. His renewed presence on television newscasts acts like a kind of post-traumatic stress trigger. To some degree, his rise from the ashes is a media creation: the Tory administration’s efforts at workmanlike dullness have created a vacuum. The only thing that abhors a vacuum more than nature is a news broadcast, and Ford can be counted on to fill it. The shtick he’s pulling now is the same shtick he was pulling a decade ago: confrontational, conflict-driven, sound-bite politics.
But the media are always buying that, no matter who’s selling. The fact is that Ford is more skilled than any of his council colleagues at using the media to his own ends, and it’s those ends Tory truly needs to worry about. Rob Ford single-handedly built one of the most powerful political movements in recent Canadian history: you can dismay or decry Ford Nation all you want but you cannot dismiss it, not even now. During last year’s campaign, when Ford’s health forced him to pass the baton to his lesser brother Doug, Ford Nation still nearly delivered an upset victory. Today Ford Nation is like the creature in Little Shop of Horrors: weakened, it needs to be fed. Ford is feeding it. And Tory is letting him.
So, for that matter, is the entirely of council’s centre and left, who refuse to acknowledge the genius of Ford’s methods. Because municipal politics has no party structures, its political movements, moreso than in any other forum, are rhetorically constructed, the result of pure affinity between people and political statements. To put it with less Poindexter: the only way to create a popular coalition like Ford Nation is to say it exists, and then to will it into being by sloganeering about respect for taxpayers. No one takes out an official membership in Ford Nation; its members hear Ford talk on the television and they say to the other person on the couch, “that guy’s on to something,” and they’re in.
Meanwhile, as affinity-building, voter-focused appeals go, the left’s favourite comeback to Ford—various iterations of “we are not just taxpayers, we are citizens”—is the least effective political slogan of all time. It appeals to no one other than those who already oppose Ford and does nothing to enlarge their tent. It’s a meta-appeal that places them above Ford and above politics. It is designed to give them permission to ignore Ford. This is not a strategy for success. Here’s what Tory must do to keep Ford in check:
1. Embrace the theatrics of city hall. Legislatures are political theatres—forums for drama. Tory seems to believe that the mere act of diligently going about the business of government is enough to make him a good mayor, but it’s not: he’s got to script its public performances more tightly to feature a steady stream of pre-arranged, half-improvised confrontations—reasonableness versus invective, horse sense versus ideology, better service versus cutbacks—that make him look good, allow him to keep chipping away at Ford Nation, and put Ford himself on the defensive. This idea will not come as news to Tory or his staff, though they may not have realized the magnitude of their particular challenge: a play majestically titled Boredom might not be a shoo-in for a successful four-year run at The Clamshell. To that end they should bear in mind the following corollary:
1(a). Know how to make the stage go dark. If Tory’s team leaves the stage empty but forgets to turn off the spotlight and the microphone, his opponents will step up to the microphone, Ford first among them. When the show’s over you shut down the theatre. David Miller was a master of this tactic. He kept a remarkably tight lid on information in the weeks leading up to his budget (which left his opponents with nothing to talk about) then dispensed with the budget announcement in a single day. Tory’s big rookie mistake in his first budget was announcing an $86-million provincial loan before it was a done deal, only to have it fall through. Now the world gets to watch while he struggles to patch both the budget hole and the PR damage. It’s nothing but cannon fodder for his opponents, and none of it should ever have reached public view.
2. Unleash the hound. Where is Denzil Minnan-Wong when you need him? I wrote back in December that Minnan-Wong was a brilliant choice for deputy mayor because he’d be the one Tory could send to wrestle in the mudpit. Ford will always try to push his way into the spotlight; someone has to push back, and that someone shouldn’t be the mayor.
3. Have a laugh. With Minnan-Wong handling the dirty work, Tory should be left free to enjoy the thrust and parry of his work. Nothing conveys confidence better than humour. Tory’s best moments in the 2014 campaign came when he was cracking jokes at Ford’s expense. At the Board of Trade debate, when Ford tried to insist he was “a silent partner” in his family firm, Tory quipped, “that’d be a first”—a remark that caused even Ford himself to crack up. Ford’s evil superpower lies in the fact that the more his opponents seem scared of him the stronger he grows. Laughter will deflate him.
32 thoughts on “Try as we might, we can’t ignore Rob Ford—and neither should John Tory”
yet another яed Tsar-style hack job against the greatest mayor ever.
VOTE FORD 2016
I love how Ford Nation supporters are so well-informed that they don’t even know when we have municipal elections in this City. Go ahead big guy, you go vote for Ford in 2016. Should be an eye-opening experience for you.
allwright I will. I supposed your voting for Olivia Chow again lol
That might be because Ford Nation supporters are not sheep who apply laser focus to things like election dates and spelling for e.g.. The sheep do things like this because they are lost in todays world and need something to cling to. Something to feel good about. But they are merely listening to the wolves and will be devoured by the same. #JustSayBah
okay, I guess youv got me dere – if I don’t voted for Ford, I must voted for Chow right? Luv youre Ford logic. See you in 2016!!!
WELL SAID FARGOR
lol english pls
My bad – I just realized this is a parody account. When I saw the horrible misspelling, piss poor grammar and of course, tenuous grasp of facts and logic, I naturally assumed it was the real thing…..
not a parody account, why does everyone keep saying that
I’m a true blue Ford supporter
“Doug Ford nearly pulled off an upset”
Wellll…first, Doug did better than Rob ever would have because people trusted he wouldn’t end up going on a bender. But more importantly, this was the first legitimate 3-person Toronto mayoral race since amalg. The 3-person dynamic overstates Ford’s closeness. How many Chow-to-Ford votes would there have been had she dropped out? Tory VERY conservatively gets 2/3 of her vote.
Rob could be living on borrowed time for all we know. This is just his idea of going out with a bang.
I’m shocked by the total reluctance of our elected officials to just straight up point out to people that Rob Ford is incredibly, unbelievably stupid. Every time Rob says something, the response should either be “But Rob, you’re stupid” or “But Rob, you’re lying…” Just call it like it is, Rob Ford is too stupid for most people to comprehend, and you might as well write off anyone who votes for him anyway, because they’re too stupid to know what’s good for them. They don’t understand anything more sophisticated than “I hate everything!” This is why democracy is so dumb. Who cares what a bunch of malcontents think about the city? Eliminate all the garbage of electoral politics and let the bureaucrats get on with fixing the mess Ford left behind.
The only reason he “can’t” be ignored is because you’re putting him on stage. He’s babbling the same (SAME) crap he always has, he’s an endless font of BS for it’s own sake. Stop giving him a platform.
I disagree with your premise that Tory has to play Rob’s game. If he wants to win over Ford Nation by being a street fighter for everyone’s amusement, he will lose some of his own base. Tory is at his best when he is civil and productive. You media guys just want fodder. The only appeal to this Nation base is “no new tax”.
I also disagree with your comment that he has mishandled the budget issue. Quite the opposite. A master chess move in my opinion. He has laid out his parameters. TTC needs improvement and he undid Rob’s cuts. He plans to travel to sell the city because that works. He also argued that the homeless needed “fancy motels” in this extreme cold.
He has promissed no tax increase about rate of inflation and that is his position. He is also on record as not liking new revenue tools. So what has to give?
Everyone is talking about the budget (civily) . Everyone is talking about what matters to them. Everyone learns that running a city is a matter of setting priorities. So his plan has bought time to rationally and responsibly cut costs by doing without or doing it more efficiently….like the police budget. He has also started with TTC. Next comes city staff working more efficiently in these modern times.
I also disagree with your view that he should use Denzil Minnan-Wong as his attack dog. This is a time to really make a difference in how politics is conducted. No need to get personal.
Sorry but there is little that I agree with.
Yup agree. Tory may be able to win over some who voted for Ford…. those who will respect his stance on no property tax above inflation. The rest are just malcontents.
Rob has a lot on his plate for the next few months. The Lisi trial, Mark Towhney’s book and of course his health. I bet Tory does not want to be seen as kicking a man when he is down. Nothing to gain politically in my opinion. But it does seem that he has his limits of tolerance for abuse. He will retort when pushed but I believe he is not in his comfort zone.
Psychologists will tell you some people get real joy out of other people’s misery, or putting one over on them, or just having the power over other people. They seak and create situations to satisfying this need. Other people get their joy out of helping other people, sharing their knowledge and educating and elevating people’s lives. I think Ford and Tory are on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Maybe enough people will realize that we handed over the keys to a celebrity clown who associates with criminals and can’t hold enjoy the company of educated people. He likes frat parties. This should never happen again, now that jounalists hands are no longer tied behind their backs.
When are people going to point out to Ford that his cancellation of Metro Links / transit City will cost the city $75 million?
Oh, shut up Rob. Oh, do shut up. You were not a good mayor, You were pretty lousy. Pretty crummy. You had no ‘respect for taxpayers’. No respect for yourself. Just shut up.
Greatest d-bag ever, MAYBE.
Well, that is obvious by your spelling errors!
its spelt “you’re”, dummy
whose the moran now, huh? LOL!
Oh I should have written “…by you are (you’re) spelling errors”. Ya right!
now your just talking jibberish
You are (you’re) a spelling guru!
whatever, I don’t have time for this. I have seven businesses to run
Fix or repair daily. Let’s move on. I agree – don’t give him any platform; don’t cover him and his nonsense. It is a phase this city wishes to move on from – hence the out come of the election. Thank god (any of the myriad of gods available) that no voice was given to the enabler – that other FORD – found on the road dead – Doug.
You might have had a point – if you were not wrong. They are sheep – sheep follow, sheep simply are herded – a dog can control an entire flock with just a few whistles. Ford or his other guard Doug just had to whistle (and being slipped a $20 note helped too) and the all fell into line. Non sheep think and because the think they see mistakes, errors, and help to correct them – that is democracy. Thank goodness one of them was put out to pasture.
“Don’t kick a guy when he’s down” doesn’t work when that guy (Rob Ford) refuses to “stay down” and keeps getting back up regardless how beaten up he gets.
Kicking a guy when he’s down happens when that guy never knows when to stop taunting and continues to start fresh fights. Rob Ford never recognized his own limitations and ignores and stomps over his own flaws as if they never existed (accusing others of lying is funny coming from Rob Ford… an unrepentant and admitted liar himself who still thinks he’s the gold standard authority for whistle blowing).
It sounds like Denzel Minnan-Wong has taken the place of Doug Ford (who, in losing the mayoral election and did not return to Toronto Council), as Rob Ford’s new tag-team buddy.
you are the sheep. thank you for bahhhing up
There are morons, sheep and astroturfers. There are the 3 primary classes of fools who don’t see Rob Ford is the real man. A leader for today’s wacky messed up world.
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