Implications of the Election
In 1999, he lost the seat, despite a vigorous campaign on his behalf by then provincial cabinet minister Jim Flaherty, because of redistribution. Since then, Flaherty has remained a political mentor to the Ford family.
Looking at Rob Ford’s election campaign, and his actions during his terms as Councillor for Etiobicoke North, one can see clearly the Flaherty influence.
That same year, when the city was considering opening some homeless shelters away from the downtown core, Now Toronto reported him saying: “This is an insult to my constituents [Ward 2, Etobicoke North] to even think about having a homeless shelter in their ward.”
The Toronto YWCA recently issued an anti-Ford statement, clarifying some of Ford’s homelessness proposals, and claiming that he had seriously misled the issue of the Bergamot shelter in Etobicoke. The plan was for a 68-unit apartment building that would provide affordable housing for women as well as a childcare centre.
The article goes on to say:
“Mr. Ford opposed its construction and refused to meet with the group to discuss the plans. [Ford] also intentionally mischaracterized the building as a homeless shelter to constituents in his riding.
We understand that people have legitimate concerns about what’s being built in their communities, but a good civic leader brings people together and fosters debate and comes up with a strategy that works.”
In the same article, Ford spokesman Fraser MacDonald is quoted as saying: “[Ford] does not support the construction of new public housing.”
He instead believes that we should use this money to subsidize rent for lower-income people to get them into mixed housing and some of the tens of thousands of vacant rental units in the city. This is a win-win for landlords and people who would otherwise be in public housing.
Views on poverty and social housing are not the only planks the Rob Ford campaign has borrowed from the Harper Conservatives.
Road traffic in Toronto will see major changes, if Ford can decide which of his promises to keep.
For seven years, City Hall has tackled Gridlock by declaring war on cars in Toronto. Toronto has eliminated lanes from busy roadways, increased parking charges, ignored roadway repairs and generally made life miserable for drivers.
Toronto’s approach to penalizing drivers has not gotten people out of their cars – it’s just gotten them and their cars out of the city. It’s time to prevent a war between drivers and cyclists. And, it’s time to stop the looming Transit City disaster.
The current $60/year municipal car tax will be gone, but the subway expansion will go ahead. According to his election website, Ford promised to cut back severely on the current streetcar network, but more recently, according to the National Post, Ford is now reconsidering this promise.
Big Oil and the Harper government need exactly this sort of policy and denial of reality to stay in business for the next few years, until oil becomes too costly to extract. This is why the federal government is persisting in its Tar Sands development, and its licensing of pipelines across the Rockies, despite the known environment hazards.
In the same vein, Ford has constantly been at war with cyclists, so a big question will be what happens now. Immediately prior to his election, he was proposing:
“… a network of bicycle trails across the city. This will include 100 km of off-road bicycle paths along rail and hydro corridors, ravines and valleys. This system of dedicated 2-metre wide, paved trails illuminated with street lamps will provide a safe, convenient “backbone” for bicycle transportation across Toronto”
Also included in this project are paths for pedestrians.
Ford’s loud homophobia is also very much in line with unspoken federal government thinking. Various Reform MPs are on record for their unashamed stance on the subject.
Art Hanger declared:
“Homosexuality, to anyone who has not been brainwashed by the last decade of effective propagandizing by the gay lobby, is unnatural. It is a repudiation of nature.”
Reform MP Randy White accused gays and lesbians of making up stories about homophobic violence.
Predictably, Ford has spoken and voted against AIDS prevention programs.
It is very preventable. If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line.”
Next Stop – Ottawa or Queen’s Park?
There can be little doubt that the Reform/Conservative Party contributed much to Ford’s victory. His style and many of his actions fit hand in glove with much of the Reform Party philosophy. Had he been born an Albertan, rather than a Torontonian, one can argue that he would have run for a federal seat in Ottawa.
Now, as mayor-elect of Toronto, he has achieved one of the top political positions in Canada, as well as Jim Flaherty’s personal endorsement. Where does he go from here?
Ottawa mayor-elect Jim Watson was a minister in the Ontario government – prior to that, he was Mayor of Ottawa. Former provincial cabinet minister George Smitherman was Ford’s only major opponent in the race to be Mayor of Toronto.
For the next four years, it’s likely that Ford will be content with Toronto. Will he decide to stay in Toronto, or will he set his sights higher up the political ladder, and seek either provincial or federal office?
If Ford can rein in his mouth, not speak without permission from Harper or his successor, (or perhaps Harris/Hudak), and learn to be a “team player”, he might have a brilliant future in Ottawa or Queen’s Park. However, these habits are probably too ingrained to change.
If he can get himself re-elected as mayor four years from now, he will be doing well for himself. Certainly, no neo-conservative premier or prime minister, who depends on absolute control of information flow to maintain political power, could survive having such an uncontrollable maverick in any position of authority.