Thursday, October 28, 2010

welcome to rob ford country

Warehouse Election Central

Special Election Edition of Adventure Comics!

So here we are, just a little over a month before Rob Ford officially assumes the duties of Mayor of Toronto. Based on the numbers from Monday night, there were slightly more people walking around Tuesday with long faces (or nursing hangovers) than those giddy at the prospect of derailing the gravy train (and nursing hangovers). The results capped a campaign where anger reigned supreme and both candidates and voters did their best to imitate the Incredible Hulk.

***

I admit it. I drew a line to connect the two stumps of arrow next to Joe Pantalone's name. Not my ideal candidate, but as the sort-of-stand-in for the outgoing administration, I could live with myself if I voted for him.
Neither Ford nor George Smitherman were enticing prospects. The only thing I discerned all along from the former provincial cabinet minister's campaign was that he was running for mayor just to become mayor. Give Ford credit: his policies were unpalatable, but there was no question about where he stood. Smitherman's vagueness allowed him to swing toward the right side of the spectrum when Ford gained momentum, then swing back toward the middle when he became the anointed lead for the anyone-but-Ford brigade...though Smitherman's swings weren't as wild, or bizarre, as Rocco Rossi's.

The notion that voting for Smitherman was a must-do in order to prevent a Ford victory sealed my decision. I've never been impressed with strategic voting and its tendency to backfire (remember Buzz Hargrove's attempts to corral votes in certain directions?). The concept encourages negativity as voters are directed to vote for someone just to prevent a more odious candidate from winning rather than cast a ballot for anyone more aligned with your belief system or who serves as a lesser evil than the designated lesser evil. It's human nature that we don't like being told what we should do, which affected my decision and may have swayed other angry voters to the Ford camp (I admit being one who relished insulting Ford for being a buffoon without thinking about the boomerang effect).

While David Miller made missteps, he was nowhere near the anti-christ figure he was made out to be in some circles (hello Toronto Star!). I still admire his positive energy and sense of care for the city. While driving through Leslieville on Saturday, I noticed Miller on the sidewalk outside Bonjour Brioche. I almost yelled out the window something praiseworthy, like "the city's going to miss you" or "thanks for seven great years."

***

I sat down at my computer just before CBC Radio started its coverage at 8 on election night. Besides natural curiosity over how the night would unfold, I intended to help supply the Torontoist live feed with anything interesting that floated across the airwaves. Within twelve minutes of the polls closing Ford was declared the victor.

It hadn't been a good day generally (for election- and non-election related reasons), but hearing Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Anne Levy sound oh-so-smug as her paper's poster boy cruised to victory was more than I could take. I got up and yelled at the radio "Oh, f@*k off, Levy!" (possibly with more unprintable words), then rushed over to turn it off. Had the window been open, it might have been the end of my long-time waker-upper.

Sensing I needed to cool down and get some air to regain perspective, I decided it wasn't worth getting any angrier by sending off more missives. I closed my email, tossed on a pair of pants, flipped the radio back on (luckily Levy had moved on) and waited a few minutes before heading out for a stroll down Bayview with Sarah. We pondered the consequences of the vote and tried to find silver linings amid the gloom that most of our acquaintances reported as they heard the results. The street was quiet, with only a few souls walking or dining. Televisions in bars were fixed on football. Mannequins in store windows offered no comment on the night's proceedings. The walk provided the calming atmosphere I needed to come back to Earth.

***

So far, we’ve learned that interviews with our new mayor and football practice don't mix, streetcars aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, and rumours are floating of nepotism among candidates for the new executive committee. Opponents and pundits are slowly recovering from their shock to figure out how to ride out the next four years. Should progressives tone down the insults that didn't work during the campaign and find respectful, constructive ways to reach out to and understand the anger of voters who chose Ford? Should they find every means possible to convincingly counter the inevitable gaffes that so far have increased Ford's appeal? Pray our new mayor commits a snafu so bad that council turfs him? Embrace the quasi-apocalyptic visions predicted during the campaign and wait to rebuild the city after 2014? Keep fighting the good fight at grassroots/community level? Flee to Calgary?

Life rolls along. We'll survive, one way or another. - JB

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