Below is an excerpt from our May cover story, “The Incredible Shrinking Mayor” by Marci McDonald. The full text is now available online. Click here for more »
On Newstalk 1010, the sly strains of the Hollies hit “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” offered the first clue. Then morning host Jerry Agar burst on the air with a surprise announcement: Rob Ford and his councillor sibling Doug were taking over the station’s Sunday afternoon talk-fest, The City. For the once-staid CFRB, landing the boisterous brother act that Margaret Atwood had puckishly dubbed the “twin Ford mayors” was clearly a coup, but that didn’t answer the more obvious question: why on earth would the Fords want to spend two more hours a week in front of an open microphone when they were hardly suffering from a lack of media exposure?
Rob Ford, after all, ranks as one of the most compelling and exhaustively chronicled figures in Canadian politics, adored and despised with equal gusto. His every pronouncement seems to turn into front-page fodder, his every grimace and belly scratch catalogued by rapt photographers. And who could forget the YouTube footage of comedian Mary Walsh arriving in his driveway, decked out with a velvet breastplate and a plastic sword?
But by the time Agar announced the show’s February 26 debut, the mayor was none too keen on his press clips, which aptly mirrored his increasingly bleak political fate. Ever since the new year, a small band of independent councillors had been leading an open revolt, dealing him a series of humiliating defeats, first on his budget, then on his cherished subway-building agenda. No matter how he tried to spin it, one conclusion was unavoidable: the mayor was increasingly isolated on his own council.
In Conservative backrooms across the city, there was undisguised consternation. Ford’s predecessors, David Miller and Mel Lastman, would never have allowed themselves to lose such key power struggles, especially so early in their first terms. Ford was becoming an embarrassment—one who could do lasting damage to the party as a whole. “There are only so many votes you can lose,” says a prominent Tory advisor who asked for anonymity, “and then you end up becoming sort of neutered.”
Read the rest of this entry »