In one Toronto election riding, it's Andray vs. The giant

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Photo: Elizabeth Littlejohn

The Fords have held power in North Etobicoke since before Etobicoke was even part of Toronto. Doug Ford Sr. was an MPP in the Mike Harris Progressive Conservative government back in the 1990s. In 2000 Rob Ford was elected to amalgamated Toronto as City Councillor for Ward 2 Etobicoke North. In 2010 when Rob Ford became mayor, Doug Ford Jr became Ward 2 City Councillor.

The 14 years of Fords representing Ward 2 isn't necessarily an issue. The real issue is that the Fords made themselves the gate keepers for any and all developments in the Ward. Nothing got done without the Fords' say so. And it seems, not much did get done.

Amalgamated Toronto is vast and sprawling with an operating budget larger than most provinces. It can take hours to get from Scarborough on the one end to Etobicoke on the other, especially using public transit. So it's no surprise that Ward 2 was dimly lit in the minds of many Torontonians. Not much attention was paid. The Fords got lots of attention. Who they were elected to represent, did not. 

It was easy to believe the stories spun by the Fords: that they worked tirelessly for their Ward, the place they grew up in and represented. 

Only it seems they did not work tirelessly; at least not for the benefit of Ward 2 residents. 

Enter Andray Domise, young, community-minded and incredibly smart. First coming to the attention of many in Toronto by writing an open letter to Toronto's African Canadian community on Mayor Rob Ford and his racism. The more people began to hear from Domise, the more they began to take notice. 

Domise grew up in the area of Toronto known as Rexdale, part of sizable Ward 2. He didn't like what he was seeing after years of dynastic rule, nor the stories the Fords were spinning about all their hard work and fictitious accomplishments. He wanted people to know the truth. So he decided to put his name on the ballot and take a run at the Ford's Ward 2 stranglehold. 

When Domise first entered the race, it seemed to many like an insurmountable task. A David and Goliath story. He had no high profile. He didn't come from money as the Fords do. He didn't have big connections. And yet, he has sparked interest across the entire city in a way that is unprecedented for an unknown running for a City Council seat in the far reaches of Toronto. Support began to pour in, city-wide, to his campaign. People have come from as far as Scarborough to volunteer. 

In the process of campaigning, what Domise revealed to Toronto at large was a Ward shockingly underserved at the hands of the Fords. From a Toronto Community Housing children's playground declared unsafe since March 2012 with no repairs in sight, to a giant hole left by the initial construction of a condo development that never went anywhere, to not even a park bench in green space areas that seem all but abandoned. To the tanking of a billion dollar project -- Woodbine Live. Compared to other Wards, Ward 2 starts to look like the Eastern European outpost of the GTA.

But Ward 2 is the heart of Ford Nation. In spite of Ford's racist rants caught on video, the racially diverse Ward still embraces him. Still supports him in inexplicable numbers. Whatever ideas people seem to have about what part race plays in politics such these, need to be shelved when it comes to Ward 2 and the Fords. There are no clear explanations as to why any racialized person would vote for a man who practices what Domise called "the political equivalent of Black Face."

The election is only a few days away. Will Ward 2 elect a rising star candidate, or will it re-elect the cancer battling Rob Ford in some kind of political Stockholm Syndrome? 

We find out on Oct 27.


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