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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Ford on Kimmel: Toronto's Intervention

Really?  A majority of Torontonians elected Rob Ford as Mayor, fully aware he "wasn't perfect."  They didn't care.  They were mad at the system and in a real sense, electing Ford was a way of giving the finger to City Council.  

Since then, people have continued to be supportive of Rob Ford - there's still a chance, depending on how the campaign goes, that he could win.  I guarantee that a most of Ford Nation either didn't watch Kimmel or if they did, will agree that Ford was ambushed.

After all - we fundamentally don't care about what he does other than lower taxes and sticks it to The System, right?  He's not an elitist, he's a human being.  He validates our own selfishness and that's what matters.

Despite everything that's happened - the crack, the lies, the broken promises, the mistreatment of his wife, his abuse of taxpayer-funded resources, the drunk-driving, video-ranting, Councillor-shoving, etc. - Rob Ford could still win a second term.

Despite the fact that his supposed triumphs have all been inflated or completely fabricated, people still tout his economic record as reason he should win a second term.  They love his subway plan, even though it makes populist sense only.

Here's what Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had to say about it:

The Fordian trolls under the bridgecan attack Nenshi.  They can attack Kimmel.  They've certainly attacked other Councillors, Premier Kathleen Wynne and everyone else who makes light of their man, but there has to come a point when all Ford's most ardent supporters connect the dots between all the arguments against the Mayor and his conduct inside and outside of City Hall and realize that a picture is starting to emerge.

True, some people are gleefully mocking him, the way that he gleefully mocks his opponents.  Gleeful mocking has become a political staple in Canada.  It's also true that disaffected, disillusioned Torontonians are past the point of having any confidence in political leadership, at all.  

I continue to find it fascinating how mature leaders get sucked into his game - Wynne caving in on the ill-conceived subway plan and Blair expressing sentiment publicly which, as a leading public servant, wasn't the wisest choice.

Even now, the mayoralty campaign teams are pulling out the usual tricks, doing a weak-tea version of what Ford himself did to win; simplifying the narrative, demonizing and dehumanizing their opponents and attacking anyone who criticizes their candidate.  Whatever it takes to win, right?

How on earth is it that Torontonians have become so cynical and disaffected?  The city's not in bad shape compared to many.  There's much here to be proud of and even some international cred with events like Pride and TIFF to acclaim.  Our politicians aren't great, but far better than what Montreal's been through of late.

Ford won because he focused squarely on "the taxpayer" with populist, individualist tripe that people bought into gladly.  He says he loves Toronto (and in his mind, he probably does) but has shown no interest in really promoting the city or in acting the part of leader and setting a positive example for Torontonians and world audiences.

Torontonians didn't care - because they don't seem to care that much about Toronto, either.  Maybe it's because I'm from Eastern Ontario and not the megapoplis, but I rarely feel any sense of community in this city; it's a lot of people living in tight quarters, at best tolerating each other.  They crowd subway doors instead of letting people off.  They race lights and block intersections.  

On Twitter, they are quick to mock the Mayor or his opponents, but it's like pulling teeth to try and get people to focus on the positive (evidence: three #TorontoIs campaigns that never took off, but then I never paid for help or spent time marketing the idea - I mistakenly thought something positive might catch on organically).

How on earth has it come to pass that Torontonians are so disaffected, disengaged, negative and bitter?

We can get mad at Mayors, Councilors, the media, each other as part of what makes us upset - but if we're not willing to do anything but complain, what's the point?

Einstein famously said that "we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."  It's absolutely true.

For whatever reason, Toronto has a negative, dispirited mindset that focuses on the negative and stands opposed to the very essence of community.  Rob Ford is the anti-Mayor, because he doesn't believe in community, diversity or individual responsibility.  And he remains a contender because of this.

It was a brutally frank line, but one that Ford needs to hear.  It doesn't seem he did.

It reminds me of what John Stewart had to say about Toronto:

There are a lot of good, community-minded people in this city doing amazing things, often on a volunteer basis, to make our city better.  I would imagine they aren't the majority.

We who live in Toronto can continue to attack Ford, attacks his opponents and complain about the mockery being made of this city, we are the city.  If we choose to place all the responsibility for leadership on one man who we know isn't up to the job, that's not on him - it's on us.

Yes, Councilor Robinson, the world is mocking Toronto.  But we've given them no reason not to.

This is Toronto's intervention moment as much as it is Rob Ford's.  We can pay attention and clean up our own act, or we can keep on complaining and finding others to blame.

But if that's the path we choose to take, we have no place mocking Rob Ford.  He's not Toronto's problem, just a symptom of our own social malaise.

The best leaders are conduits.  If we end up with leaders who embarrass our city and fuel divisions among the people, that's not on them - it's on us.

Let's stop standing against others and putting ourselves first, Toronto.  Let's be a community for once.

Then, instead of being mocked for what we say we aren't, we can be celebrated for what we are.

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