Much of Toronto’s urban core is professing shock and horror at the antics of their current mayor. They may wish to remember that it was Toronto’s former mayor David Miller who is responsible for the creation of Rob Ford. The Harvard educated David Miller isolated most voters through his autocratic ambitions, overspending, cold shouldering of the suburbs and his focus on unimportant but emotional causes such as plastic bags in grocery stores. Additionally, Mayor Miller sought to increase his own powers in 2008 by having the ability to engage and/or fire staff and the power to create an executive committee in the council. This executive committee would look a lot like a cabinet in the federal and provincial government. All the while, Mayor Miller discounted the views of the suburban wards while constantly increasing spending. To many, his spending look more like caving into special interests groups rather than improving city services.
Mayor Miller had so antagonized the voters that by the time 2010 came around, a mayoral candidate such as Rob Ford actually looked attractive! In fact, Mayor Ford won every pre-amalgamation ward in the suburbs and was still able to get 20% of his total vote in the “downtown 13” wards. The voter turnout was 52% which was the highest turnout in a post-amalgamation election. Mayor Ford won just slightly less votes than the next two candidates combined.
Such was (and is) the visceral voter anger at the Toronto City Council that even with all of his personal problems on public display, Mayor Ford can still poll in the high twenties or low thirties. All that may be required for him to win again would be a three candidate race and polling in the high thirties.
A lesson in all of this should be clear. There is much anger among the voters in Toronto (and elsewhere). They are feeling the constant pressure of higher prices and taxes, less job security, crumbling infrastructure, higher education costs for their children and diminishing expectations for their futures and for those of their children. Corruption and malfeasance are common place in government whether it is at the municipal, provincial or federal level. The population is losing faith in government as a whole.
Whatever his personal sins (and they are truly legion) Mayor Rob Ford has not been seen to be enriching himself at the cost of the taxpayer. He as been fiscally responsible on the whole while he is perceived as bashing entrenched special interest groups. He is a man of his times – as hard as that may be to believe for many in Toronto’s downtown core.
Whoever is running for mayor next time in Toronto may wish to examine the records of Mayor Miller and Mayor Ford when making election promises and policy considerations. (Hint: look closely at Mayor Ford’s fiscal record and avoid Mayor Miller’s “causes.”)