The same phrase has been delivered by every candidate in the mayoral race so far (especially those not in first place): “the race really begins after Labour Day.” So, for all of those people who haven’t been paying attention to the campaign before now, welcome! Unfortunately, it turns out the only clarity we’ve really discovered since 12:01 this morning is that people still only want to talk about Rob “Teflon” Ford.
The front-runner of the last few months is seemingly unstoppable, with upsets that would normally sink another candidate bouncing right off him. No, it doesn’t matter if newspapers plaster Ford’s mug shot across the Internet, if he tells newcomers that he personally wishes they’d stop coming here or if his attempts to build bridges with the gay community backfire in the most hillarious ways possible. Ford’s support so far seems to be unshakable.
This leaves the other four leading candidates struggling with campaign strategies. Making Rob Ford look bad isn’t just difficult, it seems to be redundant and ineffective. Roughly speaking, there have been two different responses. George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi have tried to pry away some of Ford’s angry, penny-pinching voters with proposals like term limits (Rossi) or spending freezes and tax increases (Smitherman).
The two quieter front runners, Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson, have responded with a different tactic, namely proposing policy ideas that sound incredible and have precious little chance of ever happening. Whether it’s Thomson’s early and enthusiastic embrace of subways and road tolls, or more recently Pantalone’s ideas about local food production and making Toronto more senior-friendly, both candidates have tried to elevate the debate with policies that appeal to more than just the angry vote. Unfortunately for both of them, angry seems to be carrying the day.
That’s basically the race for the last six months or so. The most jarring change in the race has been the precipitous drop that Rossi has taken from nipping at Smitherman’s heels to being an also-ran like Thomson and Pantalone. A few of Toronto’s writers seem to have been left dazed and confused by the rise of Ford, with Linda Diebel of the Star telling her readers “don’t panic folks, it’s only Labour Day” and with Marcus Gee of the Globe literally inventing characters to interview so he can discuss the election. Gee, who in March of this year was begging Ford to run for office, seems to have officially soured on the Etobicoke councillor, writing that he hopes voters “will show a little intelligence” and turn against Ford. The problem for Gee’s theory is that Ford isn’t backed by morons: Kelly Grant‘s reporting with non-fictional people shows students, accountants and doctors are all voting for Ford.
Toronto’s election is on October 25, so the city has seven weeks left. The only question we have is how will the candidates escalate the crazy beyond what we’ve already seen? The Thunderdome option is still open, we believe.
• Smitherman proposes property-tax freeze [Globe and Mail]
• Imaginary hot dog seller thinks Ford can’t cut the mustard [Globe and Mail]
• This is why I’m voting for Rob Ford [Globe and Mail]
• Was Rob Ford underestimated? ‘A big resounding yes’ [Toronto Star]