Illustration/ A.I. Marin      


A well-known Johnny Cash song ends with the line “come on you got to listen unto me, lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be.” If allegations are true, then no doubt Rob Ford is learning the lesson of that fable. Unfortunately, Ford is not learning the lesson of Cash’s signature song “Man in Black." This incident will not teach Ford to care “for the poor and beaten down living in the dark and hungry side of town,” or “the prisoner who long paid for his crime, but is there because he’s of a victim of the time.” Indeed, this episode, like those surrounding Ford’s alcohol abuse, is only one of many reasons why Ford should not be mayor.

Ford’s rise to prominence did not come out of the blue, but within a broader right-wing context. Toronto’s social-democratic status quo came under attack, simply because the otherwise popular Mayor Miller respected the right of garbage workers to strikeand I say respected, not supported because, despite his previous allegiances, Miller was perfectly willing to back Bay Street’s demands for austerity. Various right-wing candidates, including Giorgio Mammoliti and Rocco Rossi, entered the race. The early favorite, Liberal George Smitherman, was painted as a progressive, and many backed him as part of an anyone-but-Ford campaign. Smitherman, nonetheless, campaigned from the right, promoting the outsourcing of some city services and the elimination of 1/3 of public sector jobs.  

My own riding pitted two liberals (along with a poorly financed and inexperienced NDPer) against each other. Like Smitherman, they portrayed themselves as anti-Rob Ford, yet both otherwise campaigned from the right. The vote’s eventual winner condemned the garbage collector’s union saying we all have to tighten our belts in austere timesa right-wing line of thought that ignores society’s loose-belted economic elite.

In the end, Ford was elected with a large plurality. He won by making his message clear and thus exciting certain constituencies enough to vote for him. Unfortunately, the anti-Ford message is not as clear. While an individual with several alleged drug problems, and a tendency to make ridiculously insensitive statements (about women, racial minorities, the LGBT community, the homeless, etc.) should not be mayor, there’s more wrong with Ford than his bigoted buffoonery. After ridiculously playing up the budgeting shortfalls of his predecessors, Ford proposed cuts to numerous public services including libraries and homeless shelters. He partially privatized garbage collection and sought to limit striking rights to various public employees. By focusing on Ford’s behavior and not his austerity, the left risks empowering another Smitherman (a more socially-polished austerity champion). For that matter, a draft John Tory campaign has emerged on Facebook in response to the Ford allegations. The irony of this is Tory, who’s conservative credentials include calling for private-sector solutions for OHIP's short falls, demanding tougher penalties against first-nations-led-land occupations and supporting the further de-secularization of Ontario’s public schools, was publicly supported by Ford in his 2005 provincial-parliamentary campaign.

While many may be convinced that alleged crack abuse is reason enough to kick Ford from officeespecially considering that in 2005 Ford said “tough love” (of the prison system) was the only way to combat drug usethe fight against Ford should  use the whole picture. Torontonians don’t need a fictional gravy train to be stoppedrather they need a government that spreads the gravy of economic and social justice to all.

Editor's note: This article was written well before the developments of October 31, 2013, however, the arguments within it remain very relevant.

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