James: Can Pantalone turn Ford’s momentum into victory?

The race to become Toronto’s next mayor is fascinating. The major media dislike Rob Ford – can’t believe that he is the front runner. Rob Ford is the front runner because  he has actual support  from real voters.

I came across an interesting article about this in the June 14, 2010 Globe written by Marcus Gee.  The following comment on this article offered an interesting prediction:

“October 25 is a long way away. Rob Ford’s success is rooted in the fact that, whether or not you like the message, Rob Ford does stand for something. Furthermore, he has real “flesh and blood” supporters. The other candidates stand for nothing except wanting to be Mayor.

Here is my prediction (barring a strong candidate entering the race):

1. Ford’s support will continue to grow. The reason is that he actually has support from real voters. The other candidates have support from only the media.

2. The “left” will rally around Pantalone.

3. Smitherman will be relevant only is so far as we will see where his supporters go when it becomes clear that he can’t win.

4. The left will ignite an “Anybody but Ford chorus”.

5. This will solidify Ford’s support.

6. On October 25, in the largest percentage turnout in Toronto voting history, Rob Ford will win.

What the intelligentsia fails to understand is that people do not like and do not respect City Council. They want a change and Rob Ford is it!

There is time to reverse Ford’s momentum. The first step is to realize that Rob Ford does embody a lot of what people want from City Hall.

The current City Council does not.

I will reread this prediction on October 25 and see if I was right.”

It looks as though  Royson James may be having similar thoughts. The other mayoral candidates need to understand that Rob Ford is for real.


July 12, 2010

Royson James


City Hall is near shut down for the summer. Mayor David Miller is on vacation and unavailable for comment. And Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone is the man in charge.

The last thing Joe needs is a quiet two weeks of summer doldrums. He could use something dramatic to catapult him to the top of public consciousness. The career politician needs a crisis or two to test his civic chops, something to show the public that Little Joe can handle the big job.

Alas, exactly six months after declaring his candidacy for mayor of Toronto, Pantalone’s campaign is mired in neutral, treading water.

News during the interminably campaign has swirled around the other candidates. Rocco Rossi wants to sell off public assets. Sarah Thomson wants to build subways. Rob Ford wants to smash things. Giorgio Mammoliti embraced every wild idea. And George Smitherman gobbles up everyone’s ideas and gives it a bulldog twist. Pantalone?

Well, he’s ah, a nice environmentalist. Status quo. Miller Jr. Miller Lite. And he did hand out that enlightened World Cup soccer schedule. And those “Not your average Joe” condoms during the Pride Parade.

Pantalone hasn’t riled anyone. And he has not excited the masses. Voters know he’s running, but they don’t know why, what he stands for, or how he’d make Toronto better.

They do know he’s affiliated with the outgoing regime. And while a solid percentage of voters subscribe to the last seven years and want more of the same, even Pantalone knows that it is “change,” not the “same old same old,” that will propel a candidate into the mayor’s office in October.

Pantalone is practical to a fault. Under Alan Tonks at the pre-amalgamation Metro government, and with Mel Lastman, he positioned himself close to power so that he was a player, a conscientious objector in the ruling regime. With Miller, he has been the high-profile lieutenant, the face of the allied Millerites.

But in truth, Pantalone was no more responsible for what happened at city hall than the average councillor. Miller ran a tightly centralized government, taking little advice from anyone. In the end it bankrupted the city of wise counsel and set in motion discontent that now licks at the heels of incumbents.

The irony is that Pantalone, most open to conciliation and participatory democracy, suffers from the Miller affiliation. No need to read his policy pronouncements. Oh, he’s Miller’s right-hand man? Been there, done that. Next candidate.

So, will he drop out of the race? No. There are enough pro-Miller voters to keep Pantalone in third or fourth place in opinion polls, even as the leaves turn colour.

What the candidate and his backers are hoping is for two things to break Pantalone’s way. First, the emergence of a strong, divisive, anti-progressive threat to take the mayoralty — someone like a Rob Ford. This first step is progressing nicely. The Ford phenomenon must continue, though, into September. Then the fear-mongering can start in earnest.

Secondly, should Ford show he has staying power, Pantalone’s backers would argue that he is the one to lead an “Anybody but Ford” movement.

Why coalesce around Pantalone and not Smitherman? Pantalone backers hope to argue that Smitherman had all year, and failed, to subdue the political right. So, the only way to stop Ford is to abandon Smitherman and go to Joe.

You can already imagine the “Go to Joe, Go to Joe” chants, come mid-September.

Admittedly, it’s a long shot. But as the days shorten, this appears to be Joe’s only hope.

Royson James usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Email: rjames@thestar.ca


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