Why Ford Is Still the Man to Beat

Apparently, the reports of Rob Ford’s political demise have been greatly exaggerated.

I thought that when Ford confessed to having smoked crack cocaine, he would be forced out undemocratically by Toronto City council or Ontario Liberal Premier Wynne.

Four Toronto newspapers, including the National Post and Toronto Sun, all called for Ford to resign.

Ford was the butt of jokes on every late night American comedy show from Stewart to Letterman. Much to the mortification of some overly-sensitive Torontonians.

So Toronto’s four great newspapers have collectively spoken. Ford must go.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the “powerful Toronto media” trying to ride Ford out of town on a GO Train rail.

As a result of these papers raging against Ford, Ford’s support increased by about 5 points to about 44% approval.

I am not sure what is declining faster — these papers’ circulation numbers or their rapidly declining influence on public affairs.

What is patently clear is that in these papers’ rush to judgment, they don’t understand Ford’s populist appeal.

And long after their newspapers are used to line the city’s cat litters, they still will not get it.

I think all those years of drinking fancy tea at David’s Teas, sipping Almond Milk at Whole Foods and eating organic beef from Rowe Farms, where everybody knows your cow’s name, may be the cause.

I don’t think even 30 days of rehab in Scarborough will do the trick.

But I will try one more time to explain the populist and enduring appeal of the Ford phenomenon.

I have known and met many members of Ford Nation in the last few years. I have met them at coffee shops, restaurants and in their homes. I have met them at Ford Fests.

The bulk of Ford’s support is in the cities of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough.

Many Ford supporters are hard-working lower-income and middle-income families who have immigrated to Toronto from all corners of the world: Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and South America, just to name a few.

Rob Ford, the white Waspy guy from a wealthy business family, appeals to all these different peoples. He also appeals to a lot of old line white and ethnic Toronto families.

They love and support Rob Ford. Their support is deep, wide, visceral and unbreakable. They will stick by Ford even if he is convicted of a criminal offence.

At these Ford Fests, Ford is treated like a racial rock star. Ninety percent of his people are non-white. They have come to see Ford, not for the free beer and hot dogs. But to be photographed with Ford. To hear his simple message, of saving their tax dollars. And stopping the ‘gravy train” of free-spending urban elites. And of course, “Subways, subways, subways!” The battle cry of these suburbanites who for too long had been ignored by the lefty Millerites at City Hall.

I have covered Canadian and American politics since the 1970s . Ford’s immigrant non-white supporters revere Ford as if he was a combination Bobby Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
It has to been seen, to be believed.

For some strange reason this Ford character relates to and understands these people.Ford understands that his supporters are worried about making their rental payments, their mortgage payments, buying groceries for their families and ensuring their children are properly educated. They are worried about their jobs and whether good jobs will be available for their children in the future.

They work very hard for their money, and they resent that their tax dollars, in the past, paid for unnecessary and very expensive vanity projects of Mayor Miller and his left wing acolytes on council.

These people resented these councillors flying all over Canada and the world on their dime. They resented these councillors’ over-inflated office budgets. They resented that Miller treated city hall as an employment agency for his union buddies. Miller’s city hall granted union members jobs for life with overly expensive pensions. Such financial benefits were paid for by Ford’s supporters, on one hand, but were out of their reach, on the other hand.

Ford supporters also resented that Mayor Miller and his lefty acolytes apparently spent most of their time and their taxpayer money, trying to “save the whales,” that is, promoting and imposing policies these suburbanites believed were irrelevant to their own daily needs and wants. For example, a highly subsidized urban bike program, anti-car, city bike lane proposals, penalties on plastic bags, vegetable gardens on city’s roofs, all to save the planet.

To his credit, Ford delivered on his campaign promises. During Ford’s first three years in office, he gained control of the city budget. He reduced the rate of tax increases from Miller time. He tamed the unions and implemented the partial privatization of some garbage city services. He also drastically reduced his own mayor’s office budget and the budgets of all 44 city councillors at considerable annual savings. And he scored an unusual political coup by securing tri-level financial support for the expansion of the much-needed and much-desired Scarborough subway.

Ironically, the full-on media onslaught against Ford, this over the top Ford hate-fest, has turned a mirror on his Old Toronto critics. And exposed them as elitist, self-centred, power-hungry, undemocratic, condescending, ignorant and insensitive.

Any politician who courts Ford’s Old Toronto critics is no friend of Ford Nation.

Rob Ford will still be the person to beat in next year’s municipal election.

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