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Getting out from under the Ford frame

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Much ink is being spilled and many bytes of web copy being posted pondering the progress of the populist pugilist Rob Ford.

Canada's largest city, Toronto, is not blessed with a particularly strong slate of candidates for mayor. And those with interesting ideas, Joe Pantalone, the lone progressive and Sarah Thompson, the lone female, get far less attention than the twin bloviators Rob Ford and George Smitherman and the quasi-revitalized Rocco Rossi.

In fighting the Ford über-recht phenomenon, Smitherman has played the slippery middle; he's right, he's sorta left, but a floundering attempt to straddle the middle has resulted in merely a muddle.

Rossi, slightly behind Thompson and Pantalone (or an inch ahead, depending on the poll-du-jour), has himself a new campaign manager, has recruited political ass-kicker Warren Kinsella, and has issued a series of promises, some odd and 1950ish. The latest is a cavernous tunnel, 'neath the Earth's crust, funneling cars (and cyclists!) from the traffic-jammed north end of Toronto to its congested south. This highway through Hades smells of brimstone and the old Spadina Expressway -- a cause well-known to Jane Jacobs acolytes that was 86'd in '71.

Rossi and Smitherman are attempting to fight Ford on his own turf. They've bought into Ford's political frame -- the voters are ragin' for City Hall fixin'. The irate electorate hates taxes, unions and services that help lower-income Torontonians. They see City Hall as a black hole where money slips past the event horizon, never to be seen again or benefit the beleaguered taxpayer.

In a "what's the matter with Kansas" scenario, Ford has regular folk all ginned up to oppose the very programs that many of these regular folk rely on and use regularly.

The tenor of the mayoral campaign has fallen into the Ford frame and with the exception of Pantalone (and to some degree Thompson), all have been suckered hook, line and sinker into this pernicious, populist politicking.

In a semi-recent poll, Ford claimed a fifth of his support from self-identified New Democrats. Gadzooks! I'd prefer to see the poll's methodology and questions before drawing any firm conclusions, but my initial opinion is "say what"? I feel like the Double Rainbow guy minus the mind-altering narcotics. I keep asking what it all means between sobs and heaves of disbelief.

The real attention on the municipal election, so the news pundits tell us, happens post-Labour Day. Whether that's true or not (I've been railing on Smitherman, Ford and Rossi since early 2010), now is the time to voice your opposition to the politics of fear and loathing.

Attend mayoral debates, send your questions to campaigns, write op-eds and letters to editors, join an activist group, pledge your support for progressive politicians, and vote goddammit. In the 2006 Toronto election less than 40 per cent of Torontonians voted. That's pathetic.

Don't like the electoral system? Then do something about it. Vote for those who make your city inclusive, progressive and refuse to get drawn into hate-mongering Ford politics. Hell, run for office yourself.

My friend Mary Fragedakis wasn't pleased with Case Ootes' 22-year treatment of Ward 29, so she's running for Toronto City Council. Good for her. And she eschews the malingerers and anger-monkeys. She's bucking the Ford frame.

Indeed, all non-Fordaholics should not get sucked into his brand of divisive politics. Change the channel and turn Ford News off.

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