Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Much ado about yet another Rob Ford scandal, but it won't matter

By: Matt Elliott Metro, Metro Canada Published on Tue Aug 13 2013

Given recent events on Danforth Avenue, a friendly reminder: Mayor Rob Ford's political career is not likely to end because he drank beers and ended up on YouTube. Ford's political career will end when someone runs against him in an election and wins.

There's this thing that politically-involved progressives and others in anti-Ford camps tend to do where, after every Ford-related controversy, they dial up the outrage on social media. I've been part of it. It's not that the outrage isn't justified — it usually is — but rather that it seems almost entirely ineffective.

Whether it's allegedly drinking on the Danforth, getting kicked out of a charity ball, stealing a reporter's cellphone or allegedly smoking crack in an alleged video, there seems to be a collective hope amongst opponents that the newest shocking Ford headlines will be the thing that finally causes the city to rise up against the mayor and secure his immediate resignation.

It hasn't happened yet.

Maybe it could have, at one point, had a certain video surfaced in a more timely manner. But it didn't. And given that it's hard to imagine how the mayor's personal scandals could get much crazier, it's a safe bet that it's not going to happen in the next fourteen months before his name appears on a ballot again.

And besides, for a lot of people, all the Ford-directed outrage seems to do is convince them that the mayor must be doing a good job. Ford's supporters can easily view the reports on Ford's scandals from the Toronto Star and the outrage from left-leaning types as proof that Ford must be successfully implementing policies contrary to whatever they imagine the Star and the left stand for.

And so the emphasis amongst those who would rather see someone else in the mayor's chair needs to shift. It shouldn't be about trying to shame Ford voters from 2010 by continuously pointing to the mayor's personal issues. Nor should it be about engineering an early Ford exit. It should be about figuring out how to utterly trounce Ford at the polls.

That requires a strong candidate. It requires a candidate that will do more that step out and wave the “I'm not Rob Ford!” flag. It requires someone who can inspire people.

Being inspirational is a strength Ford still has. No one should argue that he has much of a chance of capturing the popular vote percentage he did last time, but he still has an incredibly dedicated group of supporters who have weathered a dozen storms with him and show no signs of giving up.

These people aren't just willing to vote for Ford. They're also ready to write songs about him, call in to radio shows to sing his praises and show up at parties where they stand in line for two hours to get a photo.

One of the reasons I think it's important to look at some of the lesser-known potentials for the mayor's chair, is that I find it hard to imagine the current crop of likely Ford challengers developing that kind of base. I don't foresee people getting really excited about Karen Stintz or John Tory. Olivia Chow definitely has a shot at it, but she'll need to avoid being cast as the presumptuous outsider. She'll also need a platform that isn't filled with wishy-washy platitudes.

Whoever the candidate is, they and their supporters can't let this contest turn into a simple referendum on whether Ford's personal issues make him unqualified to be mayor. It needs to be about more than convincing people to vote against Ford.

Ford's political career won't end that way. And, we've learned, it won't end with a scandal. It ends when someone offers voters a viable alternative.

This post was originally published at on 2013-08-13T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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