I am not sure Woody Allen was thinking of Rob Ford, when he quipped, “80 per cent of success is showing up.” But it sure applies in our mayor’s case.
Recall many political lifetimes ago, in June of 2013, after the Star had broken the story about Ford and the crack cocaine video, the Star and the Globe were calling for Ford’s head. And even the unelected Premier Wynne was considering stepping in to remove the democratically elected Ford from office.
I wrote then in a Huffington Post blog that, notwithstanding the incredible pressure that was brought to bear on Ford by Old Media and other forces, Ford stubbornly stood his ground and stayed true to himself. Ford also knew that his supporters, the famous Ford Nation, were intensely loyal to Ford, and would stick with Ford right through the 2014 election.
When shocking polls came out indicating that Ford’s support was still strong, Old Media and the anti-Fordists, especially in downtown elitist Toronto, beat an embarrassing retreat.
Fast forward to the present. It seems like déjà vu.
In the last three months, Ford admitted that the alleged crack video did exist. He confessed to having smoked crack cocaine.
Despite this admission in November, Ford’s approval rating held at 42 per cent with 33 per cent saying they would vote for him.
Then Toronto City Council stripped Ford of most of his mayoral powers.
But still Ford’s approval rating held at 42 per cent with 33 per cent still wanting to vote for him — even though Ford was shunned by City Council, and Premier Wynne only wanted to deal with Deputy Mayor Kelly.
A lesser man, a weaker man with no backbone who was overly concerned with public opinion would have resigned. But Ford is made of much sterner stuff and he was buoyed by the unwavering support of his family, his close friends and of course, Ford Nation.
Ford, just by showing up every day at City Council, even though he was a figurehead, stayed in the game.
Then the political gods shined on Ford.
A terrible ice storm was unleashed on Toronto and Mayor Ford was thrust into the spotlight, and into Toronto political history.
I have followed Ford for over 13 years, especially when he was an obscure Etobicoke councilman.
The guy has a big heart. He cares about his constituents, and he takes their calls, answers them and then tries his best to solve his constituents’ problems. Problems like fixing potholes, fixing the roads and sidewalks, installing stop signs, lights and traffic-calming road bumps.
So when the ice storm struck, Ford naturally helped out on a daily basis. He held press conferences, made speeches, and kept the public informed. He rallied and bolstered the morale of Toronto residents and the heroic Hydro workers who were working 16-hour shifts in the freezing cold.
Ford, on a daily basis, travelled all over the city to lend support to residents in distress in their icy cold homes and apartments.
Ford had the public spotlight to himself for over seven days. Deputy Mayor Kelly to whom Council had transferred Ford’s power, was caught MIA travelling to the sunny climes of Florida. Olivia Chow, putative mayoral candidate, was not seen or heard throughout the crisis.
Olivia Chow is launching her book on January 22, 2014. I am assuming she was engaged in putting the final touches to her personal memoirs and preparing for her book launch.
Then Mayor Ford, faced with the option of declaring the city in a state of emergency and calling in the troops, showed true leadership, political smarts and instincts, by standing tough and trusting Toronto’s tireless Hydro workers to restore the power across the city.
This was a gutsy call by Ford, because he was criticized by his leftist enemies on Council for not pulling a “Mayor Lastman” and calling in the troops.
Ironically, Marcus Gee of the Globe, no fan of Ford’s, supported Ford in not declaring a state of emergency (SOE) and calling in the troops.
I actually braved the cold and interviewed many hydro workers trying valiantly to re-install fallen hydro wires.
On the sixth day, on Whitehall Drive, in Rosedale, all the hydro workers I interviewed supported Ford’s decision not to call a SOE. They also appreciated Ford’s show of confidence in them and the superb work they were doing. These hard-nosed workers, dripping with ice and snow spoke glowingly of their mayor with whom they identified.
Then it struck me. OMG — Ford has captured Toronto’s union and non-union people: the hydro workers, the TTC guys, the cops, the firemen. Toronto’s hard working men and women, who help make the city tick.
Because they can identify and feel comfortable with this rough, boorish, fat everyman, with all his flaws and his personal demons. More than the elitist leftists on City Council. And more than Olivia Chow, with whom they have little in common.
Because we all have flaws. We all make mistakes. We all suffer disappointments. We all come under criticism. But the best of us, like Ford, pick ourselves off the ground, and try to stay in the game. And that is 80 per cent of the battle.
Recent Forum Research poll has Ford at 47 per cent approval rating with 41 per cent saying they would vote for Ford.
I predict that the 2014 Toronto Mayoral campaign is over. Ford is unstoppable.
Neither Tory nor Chow can match Ford in toughness, luck or political instincts. And they lack his rock solid and very broad support.