How Doug Ford challenges the progressive vote

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Photo: Flickr/Shawn Merritt

When someone is deeply pathological, it's hard to know where truth ends and the con begins. It's also difficult to know what they themselves believe. Do they even recognize their lies and manipulations? As George Costanza once said "It's not a lie, if you believe it".

Which brings us to Doug Ford. The first time city councillor -- who served constituents very poorly in his single term for Toronto's Etobicoke Ward 2 riding -- now wants to be mayor of Toronto. Just how long he has had this goal is anyone's guess.

Seemingly always stepping in for brother Rob is the same Doug Ford who is being investigated for insider dealings regarding the use of his position for personal gain. The Doug Ford who has threatened fellow Councillors and even members of the public. He is the very definition of a bully. Doug the Thug, as many call him; his cold, targeted stare has struck fear into many.

Can such a man be a consensus builder? Being able to work with other city councillors is a trait very much needed in order to make city council work well. Or at least work.

Doug's late entry into the mayoral race gives him a financial advantage. What Rob Ford has already spent doesn't apply to Doug. He can now spend the maximum allotted amount for campaign financing from now until the Oct 27 Election Day. Over the next six weeks, he can spend as much as others have over many months.

The other way Doug's entry into the race puts his opponents in check is this: whatever money they have already spent on ads and flyers attacking Rob Ford will now have been wasted. The candidates will now have to rush to spend some of their limited campaign funds on new materials, while the Fords now have spending limits ostensibly twice that of their opponents.

And given that the Fords do not behave as though rules apply to them, expect to see challenges, post-election, to Doug Ford's use of Rob Ford's staff, campaign materials such as "Ford for Mayor" t-shirts and so on.

Doug Ford doesn't have to convince the majority to vote for him, he only has to convince his base. If they deliver a solid vote, he has a shot. Whether they will deliver this vote is an open question. Doug is not nearly as "likeable" as Rob.

Rob and Doug. They play politics with everything and anything. The entitlement and manipulations seem endless. So it comes as no surprise that Rob Ford's recent health issue is being exploited for political gain as well.

If his opponents don't play along and wish him well and send their prayers out to him and his family, then they come off as heartless and petty. If they do play along and send him all their best wishes at this difficult time, then they inadvertently help the Fords to garner the sympathies of the public.

Rob Ford's illness is something that many Ford watchers felt was a long time coming. His weight and his lifestyle, as well as past concerns, don't lend themselves to creating a picture of health. So when it was discovered that Rob Ford had a tumour, it didn't come as a shock that he could have a health-related event. The Fords playing politics with that health issue also shouldn't come as any surprise.

We've seen extraordinary feats before in terms of politics and health. Jack Layton ran an incredibly gruelling national campaign for Prime Minister, criss-crossing the entire country while dying of cancer. But to be fair, that's a pretty high bar.  

It reveals just how far cunning and con-artistry can get you in a comparatively naive and trusting system. Whatever happens on Oct 27, Toronto will never be the same. Sadly, we are not the better for it.

Fords: One for all and all for one at the citizens expense

For those who are not political junkies following the many threads, about Rob, Doug, and Mike Ford and their election switcheroos, let's have a brief recap of recent events,  starting with Mayor Rob Ford seeking treatment for substance abuse:

May, 2014

Rob Ford's substance abuse needed some action, otherwise say goodbye to power. The Fords don't like to say goodbye to power. So, in May, Rob Ford enters #SpaHab. What exactly went on while Ford was at Greenestone we'll never know, but on his return he did appear a little healthier. Decision day in the race for mayor was still months away and Ford seemed determined.

July 18, 2014

Rob Ford's nephew, Michael Ford, quietly entered the race for city council: It was only this past February that the 20-year-old Michael Ford's name was legally changed to 'Ford' from his birth name "Stirpe" (he is the son of Rob and Doug's troubled and addiction-embattled sister Kathy) and now he was set up to run in Ward 2 -- Rob Ford's old job. The job that Ford held for a decade before becoming mayor. The job that Doug Ford was most recently elected to do, but appears to have done as little as possible.

Serving Ward 2, it would seem, is not what Doug really had in mind when running for Councillor. Doug Ford announced he would not be seeking re-election, citing the need to attend to the family business as his reason.

Even before the election was officially underway, Doug Ford  acted as Rob Ford's campaign manager and later Mike Ford's media manager: Mike Ford for Ward 2, Rob Ford for mayor, Doug on the sidelines. Yet, notably, Doug was the one in front of the media far more than any of the Fords actually on the ballot. Mike stays out of the spotlight and doesn't participate in debates or talk to anyone in the media. He "doesn't need the media," said uncle Doug.

Using the excuse that the media are always out to get the Fords, Mike will be off limits to the media. How convenient. It's clear that if inexperienced Mike Ford were to participate in a debate with the Andray Domise, who was running second in Ward 2, it would likely be excruciating to watch. Domise is highly intelligent, articulate and thoroughly competent, to say nothing of being telegenic. There was an increasing buzz around Domise and there was not a chance the Fords would have Mike Ford going up against him in any debate. It appeared the Fords believed they didn’t really have to do anything other than put the name "Ford" on the ballot to win.

Sept 10, 2014

An official announcement is made that Rob Ford has a tumour. Ford had been admitted to Humber River Hospital where coincidentally a highly partisan conservative doctor, Dr. Rueben Devlin, is president and CEO. Devlin was president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and a vocal critic of Ford mayoral rival John Tory back when Tory was leader of the provincial PCs. Devlin was instrumental in a campaign to oust Tory as leader. Humber River Hospital also recieved the proceeds from the sale of Rob Ford's "Robbie Bobbies" bobbleheads. But surely Ford wants to be among friends at a time like this.

After Ford's brief stay at Humber, he was transferred to Hospital Row in Toronto -- University Ave -- where all the best hospitals live. It will take about a week to learn what the biopsy results are of his tumour. Funny that. For most cancer patients in Ontario, biopsy results take about three weeks. The wait time is shorter if the tumour doesn't show signs of malignancy. So if Ford is getting results back in about a week, that raises it's own set of questions.

The deadline to take Ford's name off the ballot was only two days away at this point.

Sept 12, 2014

Now it was down to the wire. By 2 p.m. all the paperwork needed to be filed if it was decided that Rob Ford was not well enough to continue his bid for mayor, and Doug was going get his name on the ballot to run in his brother's place.

After a mad dash and a close call to the 2 p.m. deadline, it was official. Doug Ford was indeed running in Rob Ford's place. Turns out, Ford is not well enough to run for mayor. He's ill. Could be very serious. A distraught and emotional Doug, voice cracking, says he's stepping in to carry on his brother's legacy, as Rob wished. It was all very last minute. A decision needed to be made and they made it under tremendous pressure, in difficult circumstances. As though Rob Ford was under some sort of death watch.

However, there are a few things that don't quite add up.

Friday night, after it was all official, Doug Ford held a press conference. The staging was so very American. It would have done any Tea Party strategist proud. The lion's share of the Ford family were present and surrounding Doug. They strategically placed what would be considered the two prettiest daughters, behind and to the side of Doug so that one or both of them would be obviously visible in the frame from various camera angles, and hid the overweight daughter directly behind Doug. The daughter standing closest to matriarch Diane also served as a prop to comfort her in her time of grief -- i.e. when the cameras were rolling.

Doug Ford's dramatic claim of heroically "carrying the torch" of Rob Ford's legacy in this time of crisis was not, as he was claiming, a last minute decision. It was calculated and was as manipulative as ever. After all, no one can game the system like the Fords. It is simply not believable that this wasn't in the works well before the looming deadline of Sept 12.

Indeed, Nick Kouvalis, former strategist for the Fords that brought them to victory in 2010, made an interesting post on Twitter back in July:

@NickKouvalis wrote:  Rob Ford will run & win in Ward 2 - Doug Ford will run & lose the Mayor's race. You heard it here 1st. ‪#topoli‬ 5:13pm - 18 Jul 14

Curiously, dougfordformayor.ca was registered on May 6 of this year. It remains to be seen if it will in fact be used by the Fords, as whoever registered it, did so anonymously.

While Rob Ford is far too ill to run for mayor, turns out he's well enough to run for his old job of Councillor for Ward 2. The fancy paper work on the Friday deadline was not just about Doug. The scramble included Michael Ford dropping out of the Ward 2 city council race, Rob Ford dropping out of the mayoral race, but putting his name on the ballot for Ward 2 Councillor. Now Mike Ford is instead running for school board trustee in Etobicoke North (Wards 1 and 2), which is solid Ford country.  

Let's just think about that for a second. Rob Ford is too ill to carry on campaigning for another six weeks. His health issues are too serious. Does that mean being Councillor for Ward 2 is some kind of cakewalk? A job that won't be too taxing?

Does this not give rise to ponder just how little he may have done while in that job in the past if he feels it will be such an easy ride for him in his condition? Or perhaps poll numbers weren't looking so good for RoFo being re-elected and the Fords view Ward 2 as a safe bet to still hold on to some level of political office.

Does it mean his condition is not quite as serious as we've been led to believe?

And what about Mikey? What about all that time he put into not campaigning? Is school board trustee a consolation prize for being such a good placeholder? No one ever seems to know who these people are who are running for school board trustee, so the name recognition will come in handy. After all, name recognition is 99 per cent of the battle according to Forum Research's Lorne Bozinoff. Will most people going to vote in Etobicoke North take note that Michael Ford is an inexperienced 21 year old with absolutely no qualifications for making school board decisions? We'll find out on Oct 27.

You have to hand it to the Fords. The skillful manipulation of the system for their benefit is truly something else. It reveals just how far cunning and con-artistry can get you in a comparatively naive and trusting system.

 

Heather Morgan is a writer and musician living in Toronto. She tweets @HeatherMoandCo

Photo: Flickr/Shawn Merritt

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