Doug Ford, brother of our late mayor Rob Ford, has announced his intent to follow in his brother’s footsteps. Ford used the family’s annual Ford Fest barbecue in Etobicoke on Friday to let the world know that “Robbie, this one is going to be for you.” A crowd of Ford Nation fans erupted and the stage was set for what may be an interesting race for 2018.
Calling current Mayor John Tory “all talk and no action and broken promises,” Ford vowed to lower taxes and end the “war on the car.” Pointing to the “dysfunctional” 2010-2014 council term during which Doug represented Ward 2 and Rob was mayor, Tory said later that the reputation of the city was being challenged “every day in media and around the world.”
Thinking back, he’s not wrong. There were newspaper accounts of Rob’s infamous crack video as far away as Europe. Then there were the homophobic and racist comments caught on video, the arrest of his driver for drug trafficking, his public drunkenness and texting while driving, an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, a conflict of interest case and some TMI comments about getting enough to eat at home. And those are just the ones I came up with off the top of my head.
He was also a financial whistle-blower who didn’t suffer bureaucracy gladly, and he wasn’t afraid to incur the wrath of his fellow councillors before he was mayor. He was certainly blunt, and more complex than I think a lot of people gave him credit for. He was available to his constituents to an unprecedented degree. He was also willfully ignorant and belligerent, and still had his fair share of devoted fans. He succumbed to cancer in 2016 at the age of 46.
Doug, who lost to Tory in 2014, seems to be hanging his upcoming campaign on being anti-bureaucracy and Trump-style drain-the-swamp proclamations. So far, indicators are that it’s not going to fly in Toronto.
A new Forum Poll says 64% of decided and leaning Toronto voters back Tory compared to 36% who back Ford, says the Toronto Sun. A third candidate would syphon off some votes, but even taking Councillor Joe Cressy into account, Forum says Tory would take 53%, Ford hold steady at 35% and Cressy take 11%.
Ford will need a stronger showing on the left, and to win over swing voters to have a shot. Tory currently has a good approval rating, at about 53%. The Forum research says Tory gets his support from provincial Liberal supporters, those under 35, those 45 to 54 and seniors, while Ford’s base tend to be 55 to 64-year-old low to mid-income earners in Etobicoke or York, and provincial PC fans. While the survey was relatively small with 658 participants, there’s nothing surprising there.
Ford will get support from Deputy Mayor Vince Crisanti, a long-time Ford fan. Crisanti told the Star he was “confident I can continue doing my job supporting the administration without hesitation.”
Doug has been credited with being more politically savvy than his brother, if not more firmly in charge of his temper or his ego. He didn’t manage to ride a wave of sympathy for his brother into office in 2014, and I suspect he won’t be any more successful next year, but I was quite surprised by the outcome of another big election not that long ago, so I’ll admit that anything is possible.
It’s even possible he may not make it onto the ballot, faced with some fundraising challenges thanks to changes to campaign financing rules; candidates can’t contribute more than $25,000 to their own campaigns, and Doug kicked in about $600,000 last time.
Little brother Rob may have lacked a few qualities desirable in a leader, but he certainly didn’t lack personality. Without his spark to light the way, we’ll have to wait and see if Doug has enough je ne sais quoi to make it on his own.