Rob Ford, Rest in Peace, Buddy

I am personally devastated by the sudden death of Rob Ford. About six months ago, I had dinner with Rob at a downtown Italian bistro. At that time Rob appeared happy and optimistic. He had lost some weight.

The cancer appeared in remission or at least appeared- beatable. At dinner, Ford had that political fire in his belly. He was highly critical of the Tory mayoralty and in two years he was going take him on again and win back the mayoralty.

Though the cancer beat Ford today, the cancer will never wipe out the love and affection that many Torontonians had for this man. His strength as a person is that he genuinely cared about people and he sincerely wanted to help them out. Whether it be by fixing the potholes in the neighborhood, ensuring the heat was turned back on in the apartment,  or making sure there was sufficient local police in the area to ensure the safety of the local citizens. The little things that mean a great deal to the average man or woman on the street. Regardless of race, color, creed, gender, ethnicity or religion.

Rob Ford was the consummate retail politician. A true man of the people. And he had great political instincts.

These political traits made him ultimately a very formidable politician. Rob was fiercely supported by a large number of people, from all walks of life, men and women, young and old, old stock Toronto and very visible nonwhite minorities (collectively, Ford Nation) who stuck by him through thick and thick and through all his personal problems. The rock-solid support of his followers never wavered. Never bent. Never collapsed. Even his political foes and media opponents grudgingly acknowledged that fact.

Hey, buddy, the fight is over. You can safely rest in peace. But your indomitable spirit and the many fond memories will always linger on among your many friends and followers.

Mitch Wolfe Recalls With Great Fondness Ford Fest 2014- And the True Face of Ford Nation

Ford Fest 2014 (Scarborough) Major Success- Ford is Back!!!

I attended last year’s 2013 Ford Fest in Scarborough and this one in the summer of 2014 was bigger, more boisterous and the crowd was stronger and more vocal and clearly loyal to their man, Rob Ford. Like last year, I was very impressed with the diversity of support that came out for Ford.

This time about 75% of the 10,000-15,000 in attendance were non white representing all the major communities in this great city of Toronto: the black, Asian, South Asian, Persian, Filippino, South American, Middle Eastern, European, Eastern European communities and many many more.

Young and old. Families, singletons, all ages, all nationalities and even some old stock white Torontonians made the trek to Scarborough, Thompson Park, to have a photo with Ford or just be part of Ford Nation.

In this photo I am with some very impressive hard-working Scarborough women who are fiercely loyal to Rob Ford. They love and respect this man. They told me that he relates to them. They trust him.

They will go to the wall for him. The lovely woman next to me, Georgette, thought so highly of Rob Ford that she named her little boy, the son she is holding, Rob Ford.

The tradition continues.
Fordy More Years!!!
Ford Nation forever!!!

My dinner with Rob Ford

Last night, at the last minute, I showed up at a Toronto restaurant, and guess who was in attendance? Our former mayor, the incomparable Rob Ford.

He was having a bite to eat with a friend of mine.

I approached Rob’s table and my friend motioned for me to sit down.

Under the circumstances, Rob looked great. He was smiling. He was funny. He was mellow.

He had lost some weight and you could just tell he was getting back into fighting political trim.

Rob recalled that for a certain period during his mayoralty, I had written a series of articles in the Huffington Post explaining the political phenomenon that was, and still is, “Ford Nation.”

I’d explained why Rob Ford was that rare politician and public figure, one who inspired devotion and loyalty from a truly diverse multicultural population.

Ford Nation consists of men and women from their teens to their 90s. Cutting across all races, religions and ethnicities and socio-economic groups. Predominantly, working class and middle income South Asians, Asians, blacks, Filipinos, Persians, Russians, Vietnamese, Italians, Greeks, Muslims and of course, Jewish folks.

(And, yeah, a smattering of angry old white men and women.)

Mostly, from the GTA heartland: Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York and East York, but not exclusively so.

I reminded Rob that then and now, he still had the best political instincts in Toronto, if not in all of Canada.

Rob Ford would have stopped that stupid Olympics gravy train in its tracks. And not dithered back and forth, hemming and hawing, like the current mayor John Tory.

Remember Ford’s familiar rallying cries?

“Subways, subway, subways”

“The war on the car”

“Stop the gravy train”

“Respect the taxpayer”

These are not empty political slogans, but reflect a philosophy that still resonates with a large number of  GTA residents, both in the suburbs and in downtown Toronto.

And still drives the agenda in Toronto City Hall.

Rob Ford and John Tory both campaigned on saving millions of dollars of taxpayer money by privatizing garbage services east of Yonge Street.

By now, Rob Ford, if he was mayor, would have honored that campaign promise to the Toronto people. To date, Mayor Tory, as I predicted, has caved to the self-entitled unions and the highly conflicted Toronto downtown elitist leftist councilors.

Tory has failed to make the tough fiscal choices that Mayor Ford made during the very successful early years of his mayoralty.

Every day, Ford is getting stronger and stronger.

Last night, Rob Ford showed signs that he still has that fire in his belly.

In two more years, the complacent Tory and his downtown elitist supporters, better watch their back.

Because I think Tory is going to have quite a fight on his hands.

FORD MORE YEARS!

Toronto Globe’s Antipathy Towards the Fords Has Tainted Its Coverage of Olivia Chow, John Tory

I have been reading the Toronto Globe and Mail, religiously, for over 40 years.

At one time, the Globe was considered very highly as Canada’s national paper, “The New York Times (NYT) of the North”.

Note this was during the golden newspaper years of “The Pentagon Papers” and “Watergate” when the Washington Post and NYT were the “go to” media for objective, unbiased reporting and analytical and critical commentary.And the Globe was not far behind.

But today, the Globe- a mere shadow of its former glory.

I must confess. I still enjoy reading some Globe’s columnists. Liz Renzetti’s Saturday column is always sharp and funny. Ian Brown still writes beautifully.

Margaret Wente still impresses me with her courageous anti-liberal writing. And Liam Lacey’s film reviews are consistently bang on.

I also miss the excellent political reporting of Karen Howlett, former Queen’s Park senior reporter, who was always tough, but fair and never pulled any punches- with any politician regardless of political or ideological background.

But the same cannot be said for the current crop of Globe urban reporters and columnists- especially those involved with the almost year long Toronto mayoral election.

Globe’s professionalism

Okay. I get it. The Globe and its staff were so turned off by the personal problems of Mayor Rob Ford ( the crack smoking, the alcoholism, the inappropriate language while inebriated) that it parked its journalistic integrity at the door, when it came to reporting on Rob Ford.

I do not agree with this position. It reflects badly on the Globe’s professionalism.

But what I further do not understand is why has the Globe failed to hold to account the other candidates- Olivia Chow and John Tory.

From practically the moment Chow entered the race in March, 2014, her campaign was in trouble.

Although Chow had name recognition and was known as popular Jack Layton’s spouse, Chow also carried a ton of political baggage. She was feared as an extreme “tax and spend” lefty, way to the left of David Miller and closer to the scary John Sewell.

Many Toronto voters had never forgiven her for living in a subsidized three bedroom co-op unit while her family income exceeded $120, 000. Chow also had a negative reputation for having one of the highest office and personal expense budgets of all Ontario federal politicians.

Right out of the box, she insulted and alienated a majority of the Toronto voters in the vote-rich suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough with her proposal to terminate the very popular and fully funded Scarborough subway for a third-rate bus and LRT solution.

Her first debate was a disaster. She was clearly defeated by Rob Ford. Chow came across in that debate as inarticulate, uninformed, confused and unintelligent.

I believe that Chow never recovered from that disastrous performance and her campaign went downhill from there.

But as to the Globe reporters, they ignored all of Chow’s negative baggage and they ignored her poor debating style,  her uninspiring speeches and her unpopular policies.

Instead, it appeared the Globe reporters and analysts tried to prop up Chow for months with biased and uncritical “puff” pieces as indicated herein. (Here, Here, and Here)

It took the Globe about 7 months (September, 2014) to publicly admit that Chow’s election was in serious trouble.

But consistent with its anti-Ford bias, the Globe then turned to propping up and implicitly promoting John Tory, by once again failing to do its journalistic job and critically holding Tory to account.

For example, the Globe failed to take Tory to task for his classless personal attack on Doug Ford on the very day Doug announced that his brother Rob had cancer, was withdrawing and Doug was taking his place in the campaign.

Secondly, the Globe failed to properly call into question the gaps in John Tory’s business career- ie his many years of being on the board of directors of Charter Communications which went into bankruptcy.

The Globe also failed to question how John Tory with very little media experience could be hired as CEO of Rogers Media by family friend, Ted Rogers.

Recall Ted Rogers was first a lawyer at the firm founded by John Tory’s father and uncle, Torys. And then Ted Rogers and Rogers Communications became a major client of the same firm.

In this instance, the Globe failed miserably to ask and answer the musical question, “If John Tory’s last name was “Smith”, would John “Smith” have had any business career?”

The Globe’s crack investigative team also failed to delve into John Tory’s involvement with Rogers’ publicly disastrous “negative option billing scheme, during Tory’s time at Rogers Media.

In a Toronto Region Board of Trade debate, Tory had the chutzpah to deny that he was at Rogers when negative option billing was introduced.

In fact, I recall Tory was hired in 1995, one month after this negative option billing policy was introduced at Rogers Cable. And I remember distinctly that John Tory was given the task of managing consumer opposition to this Rogers’ policy, where consumers were additionally billed for services to which they had not consented.

Instead of critically analyzing Tory’s business career, the Globe instead hit a new journalistic low with its recent so-called expose of Doug Ford’s business experience at his family firm, Deco Labels.

Crack investigative journalist Robyn Doolittle, ( remember her from the Rob Ford crack video expose) thought she made a journalistic scoop by revealing that Doug Ford’s attempt to set up New Jersey branch met with failure.

Conversely, she proved that Doug Ford was a superior businessman to Tory, because Doolittle’s article instead revealed that Doug Ford single-handedly turned a non-existent Chicago office into a successful operation, purely as a result of his own efforts.

Ironically, other large Canadian companies, unlike Deco Labels-Chicago- failed to succeed in the United States ( ie Royal Bank, Canadian Tire and Peoples Credit Jewelers, to name a few). So the fact that Deco Labels- New Jersey failed, does not detract from Doug Ford’s success in the tough American market.
In sum, how the mighty Globe has fallen.

The Globe’s failure to hold Fords’ opponents to account during this mayoral election has called into question its journalistic integrity and objectivity.

Time will tell whether the Globe will ever recapture its journalistic reputation.

On Kimmel’s Show, Ford Was the Epitome of Grace Under Pressure

Initially I had my concerns with Mayor Ford agreeing to be a guest on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show.

But I should not have worried. Despite facing a barrage of good-humoured jokes, embarrassing videos of past foibles and probing questions, Ford comported himself calmly and coolly with good humour. Grace under pressure.

And Ford even had the self-confidence under the hot Hollywood lights, to launch a few zingers himself at his City Council critics and his enemies in the press.

This was great TV. It was edgy, no holds barred, two guys flying without a net — and laugh out loud funny.

Kimmel was in fine fighting form. He might have even been training for this bout with Ford for months. He was lean, he was quick and he was very well prepared.

Kimmel admitted half-jokingly, “In a way I feel that I’ve been waiting for this night my whole life.”

But Ford was ready for this match too. Ford strode out confidently, dressed in black with a bright tie and matching handkerchief. He looked more like lovable family man, Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, of The Sopranos fame, than a magician, as Kimmel joked.

And then Ford started chucking Ford Nation T-shirts into the crowd.

For a big man, Ford is very agile and athletic. (Later in the show, Kimmel showed a brief video of Ford on a football field, falling backward on his ass, trying to throw a football.)

This was a good, aggressive start for Ford. He had come to play. The home town crowd loved the free T-shirts.

Right from the opening intro, Kimmel was jabbing Ford with a left, then a right, then a quick combo left/right to the face and to Ford’s stomach.

Kimmel asked, “Why are you on this show? What good could come of this?”

Kimmel was clearly the quick-witted Muhammad Ali, to Ford’s more slow-moving, but very solid George Chuvalo.

If Ford was a little surprised by this comical assault, he quickly recovered and responded that he came on the show because Kimmel had personally called him on his cellphone.

Then Ford counter-punched with a brief defence of his political career, by saying that for 14 years, 10 years as councilman and four years as mayor, he always responded to the people. He takes their calls, listens to their problems and if required, he goes out to visit them at their homes to solve their problems. In effect, he gives out his number, because Toronto residents are his bosses.

Kimmel was temporarily thrown by the sincere honesty of Ford, the consummate retail politician.

Then Kimmel tried to hit Ford below the belt, by quoting Ford haters who were angry with Kimmel for having Ford on his show. These trolls claimed that Ford was racist, homophobic and other outrageous things.

Ford kept his cool. His smile never leaving his face. Calmly Ford replied, quickly and adroitly, “Is that all you got?” to the approval of the Kimmel crowd. They might have felt, as I had, that Kimmel had blindsided Ford.

Then Ford, keeping his cool, started promoting Toronto as a fantastic place. To the effect that it is booming with tonnes of cranes all over the city (accurately implying that there is still a construction boom in Toronto).

Ford stated that he wanted people to come to Toronto to see how good the city was.

Just as Ford was about to promote Toronto’s film industry, citing the success of TIFF, Kimmel cut him off, which is unfortunate.

In a earlier CBC radio news report, prior to the Kimmel show, Ford had talked with a CBC reporter at length about the fact that Toronto had a very successful film and television industry. With millions of dollars being invested annually in film and television productions, this creates thousands of well-paying industry jobs. Ford was trying to use his profile to promote Toronto as a great place to do film and television business.

In the second round, after the break, Kimmel tried to sucker-punch Ford, by moving him off the comfort of the couch to a large TV screen, in order to have Ford comment on some of his most embarrassing videos:

  • Ford’s rant against an unknown enemy, (Ford admitted not remembering that video);
  • Ford accidentally knocking down fellow councilor Pam McConnell in the council chambers;
  • Ford speaking Jamaican patois at the infamous Steak Queen fast food restaurant (Ford explained that this was a private meeting with friends and that he has a lot of Jamaican friends, undermining claims that he is truly a racist.)

Fortunately for Ford, he laughed off these very embarrassing videos and when he returned to the couch, he
defended his record as mayor:

According to Ford, he’s tamed the unions, stopping further strikes by the city garbage union and the TTC, privatizing garbage services, saving Toronto taxpayers over $800 Million and keeping tax increases to below 2 per cent annually. Yet Toronto is still booming.

Ford concluded with saying “90 per cent of what I said I was going to do is done.” Ford caught Kimmel flatfooted with that legitimate claim.

In the last round, Kimmel was easier on Ford and suggested that he may want to get help for his drinking. Ford, true to form, countered that he was not elected to be perfect. Which of course was true then, as it is now. Ford never represented himself as a paragon of virtue or a model for Toronto’s children.

Kimmel concluded that “Ford is the most wonderful mayor I have ever witnessed in my many years.” I sensed that deep down, Kimmel, like the famous Ali toward Chuvalo, respected Ford, for being such a good sport.

And for surviving this tough 16-minute comic onslaught, still on his feet, with good humour.

Verdict: Kimmel may have won on comic points, but Ford did not embarrass himself. Nor did he embarrass the city of Toronto.

And, typical Ford, he controlled the media for the last several days.

I still think Ford is the man to beat.

Ford Nation Is Stronger Than Ever and Ford Is Unstoppable

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.

I Support Rob Ford: The Man and His Policies

I believe Mayor Rob Ford will be re-elected.

Some of you Ford haters, critics and doubters may question my position.

You may rightly retort that all the polls suggest Ford will lose to Chow and Tory, in some hypothetical political match-ups.

All I can say is the so-called expert pollsters had NDP Adrian Dix beating Liberal Christy Clark for BC Premier. Or Wildrose leader Danielle Smith beating Alison Redford for Alberta Premier. Or the Federal Liberal candidate beating the Tory candidate in the recent Federal by-election in the Manitoba riding of Brandon-Souris.

The only relevant finding is that despite the continuous 24/7 anti-Ford feeding frenzy by old media, Ford’ssupport and approval rating have held steady in the 40 per cent range.

Unlike these robo-calling pollsters, my associates and I have actually gone out into the field, into the darkest, deepest Ford Nation, (Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough). We have talked to real people about Ford.

For months I have been writing that Ford Nation is staying with Ford. That itssupport and loyalty are growing. And that Ford is the man to beat.

Still these pollsters and old media types cannot believe why Ford Nation is sticking with Ford.

So they have come up with another cockamamie theory: Ford supporters support Ford’s fiscal agenda, but not Ford the man himself. So if another candidate (read, more presentable candidate) can espouse a conservative fiscal agenda, then John Tory can grab Ford Nation support and Ford will be defeated.

Excuse me while I go all Marshall McLuhan.

Ford is both the message and the medium. The message and the messenger. The people trust Ford to deliver on his hard-nosed, tight-fisted fiscal agenda of stubbornly keeping the rise of taxes low, city expenditures moderate and to respect taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.

I believe Ford supporters do not trust Stintz, Tory or Minnan Wong to support, fight and implement a strong and stubborn Ford fiscal agenda.

Tory will always talk and talk and talk a good game. But Tory will cave to his elitist buddies. And in the end, he will deep six the Scarborough subway out of deference to Metrolinx Chairman Prichard, and cave to garbage union and city workers. He will also put the brakes on Porter Air expansion.

I think Olivia Chow would be worse.

I believe Chow would stop Porter Air in deference to her base, the elitist/NIMBY Toronto Islanders living on very expensive city island properties. She would undo privatization of garbage and re-institute city union jobs for life with overgenerous pensions. She would increase property taxes and land transfer taxes on home owners to further her tax and social/infrastructure agenda. In other words, a return to pre-Miller days of anti-biz and anti-development.

But what has solidified Ford Nation’s support for Ford is his public performanceduring the recent nine day power crisis. Ford was focused. He gave daily updates to the media and the people. He was genuine and sympathetic.

He stayed in Toronto in the cold and helped while his deputy mayor flew off to sunny Florida. Ford often showed up at cold apartments and homes, trying to lend a hand. Ford did what he has always done best: looking after the little important things that mean so much to the people like warm food and getting the lights and power on for Toronto residents.

Ford supporters are ready for Chow and Tory. They will leave no stone unturned, no subsidized apartment unquestioned. Bring it on! Let the games begin.