Yes, it's been a bad week for Rob Ford and his supporters, to say the least. And the court's decision to strip him of his mayor's chain of office has turned municipal politics in Ontario's capital city upside down.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, in happier times two years ago, at an all-candidates' debate.
But before the Ford-haters start rubbing their hands in glee at how damaged the mayor has become, we need to take a step back and consider the long view:
- If Ford Nation was becoming at all blasé because of the mayor's travails, that will almost certainly come to an end. Ford Nation will be energized as never before at what it perceives as the "vast left wing conspiracy's" attempt to remove Ford from office. They don't see a man who broke the law. They see the elites ganging up on their guy.
- If the anti-Ford forces think there will be a coming-together over Olivia Chow's candidacy, think again. Some may see Chow as a champion of the anti-Ford vote, but Toronto politics is more layered and complicated than that. For example, it seems inconceivable that Toronto Liberals would work to elect Chow, someone they've tried hard to defeat ever since she first stood for MP back in 2004. She lost that election by fewer than 1,000 votes to Tony Ianno, but has held her seat in the three federal elections since.
- Given the mayor's predicament, one can imagine a deluge of candidates coming forward to challenge him if he's thrown out of office now and runs for re-election in 2014. They'll all (wrongly, in my view) assume Ford is damaged goods and can be taken down. The more likely scenario is that, unless something completely unexpected happens (and 'tis the season for that), Ford will run again in 2014 and hold the 35 or so per cent of Torontonians, mostly in the inner suburbs, who swear by him. As more candidates challenge the mayor, the more they cannibalize the anti-Ford vote, and the more likely Ford is to win re-election.
- As we're seeing with the federal Liberal leadership race, more people getting into the hunt doesn't seem to deter others. In fact, it has had the opposite effect. Politicians say to themselves, "Well, if that guy can run for it, surely I'm as good or better than him." And they jump in, too. If a similar scenario transpires at Toronto City Hall, it only helps Ford's chances of re-election.
So the Ford opponents have a hard job. It's likely that the only way to defeat Ford is to coalesce around a single champion who is acceptable to the anti-Ford forces. That is not Olivia Chow. Is there someone out there who could become the single champion of the anti-Ford vote, whose entry into the race wouldn't prompt half a dozen others to join in as well?
By all means, suggest some names below. It sounds like an impossibly tall order. But as they say, a week is a lifetime in politics.
The candidates from a mayoralty debate in the 2010 election.
(L-R): Rob Ford, Rocco Rossi, Sarah Thomson, Joe Pantalone, Giorgio Mammoliti, & George Smitherman.