Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Toronto election to be a referendum on Rob Ford

By: Metro Published on Mon Jan 27 2014

Less than a month into Toronto’s 2014 municipal campaign, it’s already become clear what this election will really be about.

It’ll be about Mayor Rob Ford. In October, we’re going to have a referendum on whether his scandals and behaviour are enough to keep him out of office.

It was probably naïve to ever think this race could be about anything else. Still, I held out hope, thinking that maybe the race could be about transit funding, or taxes or development, or, hell, even parking regulations — about anything more tangible.

But already we’re seeing Ford opponents talk a lot about character and only a little bit about issues. Olivia Chow, who is clearly running for mayor but has yet to announce, spent the last week on a tour promoting her new book. It all seemed geared toward bolstering her image as the anti-Ford. The differences she’s highlighting aren’t really political, but personal — where he’s a chaotic jumble of impulse and negativity, she’s measured and optimistic.

Chow hasn’t really talked about a single municipal issue yet. And here’s the scary thing: there’s a decent chance she won’t have to.

Other candidates have also seemed to realize that this campaign is about character. John Tory looks to coast in and lean on his credibility as an honest elder statesman, the returning hero here to save the city. Maybe that’ll play well with voters, if the guy can ever make a decision about running.

Meanwhile, Karen Stintz has taken care to paint herself as a fiscal conservative with a heart. And David Soknacki — who, to his credit, is the only person who has anything resembling a coherent policy position at this point — still makes sure to trumpet his clean-cut image and self-made business bona fides, a stark contrast from Ford and his inherited wealth.

All this may be smart political strategy, but I can’t say I’m very happy about the way this race is shaping up. In an era where Toronto faces so many critical issues — issues that require big ideas and big leadership — this city looks like it will spend the next nine months talking about Rob Ford.

No one needs to convince me that Ford is not the right person to run this city. But the reasons for that go beyond character. His strategies haven’t worked. His ideas — when he’s had them — have been misguided, sometimes even dangerous.

I’d be happier if this election could serve as an opportunity to talk about that — to have a conversation about better ideas, new leadership and ways we might actually be able to make this city better.

But it doesn’t look like we’ll get that opportunity. Instead, it’s going to be all Ford, all the time. Buckle up.

This post was originally published at on 2014-01-27T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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