Home > Current Affairs, Politics > A Coup in Ford Nation: The Future of the Mayoralty of Toronto

A Coup in Ford Nation: The Future of the Mayoralty of Toronto

Yesterday’s remarkable news that the consistently controversial mayor of Toronto Rob Ford has been legally removed from office by a judge who ruled that he violated provincial conflict of interest laws has sparked a flurry of immediate reactions and imminent possibilities. Ford will certainly appeal the ruling, and both the divisive mayor and his ever-dwindling base of conservative support in city council (his Executive Committee lost staunch defender Giorgio Mammoliti hours after the decision was released) and in the public will couch the ruling and its yet-to-play-out aftermath in the comforting paranoid terms of a vast left-wing conspiracy aligned against him and his gravy-cutting agenda. This martyrdom narrative will doubtlessly form the core of Ford’s practically inevitable campaign to recapture to the mayor’s chair, whenever the next election is held (Justice Charles Hackland could have banned Ford from running again, but pulled back from this even more radical judgement).

“Which lawsuit is this again? I have ever so many to keep track of…”

Ford is a  political figure who has long posed as the champion of the marginalized working-class suburban right against the supposed liberalized interests of the downtown core. He and his supporters will hardly hesitate to build up the ruling (concerning his unethical use of his own power and influence to solicit donations for his football foundation and then decision to debate and vote on a council resolution concerning those actions) as a perceived injustice to render him as an even greater hero to a municipal constituency best described as the righteously unoppressed. The key upshot, therefore, of this day in Toronto political history is that Rob Ford is far from spent as a political force in this city. He will fight on, if only because the stubborn, entitled heedlessness (“Wilful blindness”, in a memorable description from Hackland’s decision) that led him into his illegal folly in the first place will not allow him to back down.

But Ford’s widely-arrayed opponents (including not merely the demonic pinko leftists that he darkly warns about but increasingly the moderates and even right-leaning sorts who took a flyer on him in the election but have turned away as his blustering ineffectiveness as a reformer and administrator has become apparent) should not get too giddy about this small but perhaps fatal blow against his odious mayorship. Certainly, Ford is not even close to finished, and neither the legal and procedural denouement of this ruling nor the eventual election that will truly decide the immediate future of Toronto’s political leadership will be a cakewalk for liberal candidates.

It will take more than a prominent mayoral hopeful with name recognition like, say, Olivia Chow to sweep aside the Ford taint at City Hall. It will take a strong voting coalition and organizational structure in the election and afterwards, as well as a concerted effort to advance a progressive vision for the city’s future that encompasses more than incremental elements like plastic bag bans and restored bike lanes. It is not enough to merely rid the city of Ford, a buffoonish frontman for greedy business interests and anti-union zealots. The regressive ideology that he represents must not merely be temporarily deferred by a legal technicality. It must be convincingly proven to be insufficient to the challenges posed by a modern city and unquestionably displaced by a set of ideas and policies that show it to be nothing more than the thin set of demagogic slogans that its critics dubbed it even before it emerged, full-throated and imposing, in the mayoral campaign of 2010. It may only take a court ruling to removed Rob Ford from the mayor’s chair, but it will take much more that that to remove his damaging ideology from the political cityscape.

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Categories: Current Affairs, Politics

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