From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Oct. 25, 2010 11:13PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010 10:05AM EDT
Vox populi vox Ford.
Against all advice, Torontonians elected Rob Ford their new mayor in numbers significant enough it took the first TV network less than 10 minutes after the polls closed to officially declare the purportedly close race over.
The most irritating thing about the blessedly ended race was how many people felt utterly compelled to tell Torontonians they shouldn’t vote for Mr. Ford, the veteran penny-pincher councillor who completely dominated the campaign.
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The day I knew for sure there must be something good about Mr. Ford was the day Justin Trudeau, the son of the late prime minister and the MP for Papineau riding in Montreal, came flying in to give George Smitherman his stamp of approval and save Toronto “from the politics of fear and division,” as he put it.
Thank you for that, Mr. Trudeau. You may resume tossing your locks.
But that wasn’t the end of it, and though in my business newspapers usually endorse one candidate or another, invariably to negligible effect (this time, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and one-half of NOW magazine plumped for Mr. Smitherman; the National Post and Toronto Sun were in Mr. Ford’s corner; the other half of NOW picked Joe Pantalone), I don’t recall another election where so many of my fellow columnists also got into the endorsement business, or at least into the business of telling me and everyone else not to vote for Mr. Ford.
Frankly, I found this bewildering: If anyone could get city politics on the front page with any frequency, it’s Mr. Ford, with his well-documented penchant for hoof-in-mouth disease and that cartoonist’s dream of a face.
How fondly I remember the days of the Bob Rae government at Queen’s Park, when, as a columnist for the Toronto Sun, I could get out of bed and, still wiping the sleep from my eyes, simply stumble upon on a fabulous story wrought purely by the inept Rae gang. It really was like shooting fish in a barrel, and it was a brilliant time for newspaper hacks. A city turned into Ford country offered some of that same promise.
Even my local councillor, Adam Vaughan, who is a really good ward-heeler and a very bright guy, joined the chorus about 10 days ago, though he described his throwing of Mr. Pantalone under the bus and endorsement of Mr. Smitherman as more of “a frank and realistic look at the way the polls are breaking…you have to fight the election you’re dealt, not the one you want.”
I voted against Mr. Vaughan, purely because I was offended that he felt the need to formalize his clear dislike and disdain of Mr. Ford. Anyone who has even walked past City Hall in recent years when council was meeting might have heard Mr. Vaughan standing to snidely rebuke Mr. Ford, or smelled his contempt for him.
In the contempt sweeps, though, councillor Maria Augimeri took the prize. Ms. Augimeri represents a North York riding, and in the wake of a handful of NDP councillors having described the prospect of a Ford victory as “appalling,” she felt the need to explain that those left-leaning gentlefolk weren’t ogres. “They want to create a better world,” she said. “It’s just they didn’t take into account the learning curve of people in the suburbs” – you know, they’re a bit thick out there.
Ms. Augimeri then helpfully tried to explain the difference between downtowners and the suburbs. “If you talk to Adam Vaughan,” she said, “he’ll say his residents have asked him for an extra tax. I don’t think you get that in the suburbs.”
An extra tax? Strange, I don’t remember asking for that and I’m a resident of Mr. Vaughan’s downtown ward.
“I don’t think it’s going to work,” Adrienne Batra, Mr. Ford’s glamorous communications director, said of what might be termed the “For-God’s-sakes-just-don’t-vote-for-Ford” appeals. “All the elites have done is talk to each other.”
It was just hours before the polls closed.
Mr. Ford was “Burma Shaving” – this refers to the practice of standing at an intersection, holding a sign and waving, as in the old ads for that shave cream – at the corner of Kipling Avenue and Dixon Road. He was getting a ridiculously warm reception from all those less-evolved folks low down on the learning curve.
The moral of the story is, if you tell the people what to do, they’ll tell you where to go.