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How The Heck Did Rob Ford Get Elected Mayor Of Toronto?

Submitted by on May 18, 2013 – 9:01 pm6 Comments

By now, you’ve probably heard of Rob Ford, Toronto’s alcoholic, distracted-driving, “Oriental”-praising, AIDS-victim-bashing, cyclist-hating, conflict-of-interesting mayor. He was allegedly recently captured on camera smoking crack (the video has been viewed by several journalists who take it so seriously, they are trying to raise money to buy it). While that’s all fascinating, the more interesting question is: how the heck has this guy been elected to various positions for over a decade?

Of course, we Americans are no ones to talk. Some of us just put Mark Sanford back in Congress; Marion Barry seems to have a career (and controversies) that just won’t die; the New York Senate is a joke; and… Newt Gingrich. I could go on, but enough said.

But that’s us. As Josh Barro at Bloomberg says, Canada is “supposed to be better than us.” So how did this happen? Once we get down off our incredulous judgement pedestals, we can see that Ford can be a savvy politician with a signature issue that struck a chord- and that his outlandish behavior and statements may have even helped.

1. His main issue is cutting spending.

Barro answers the question of how Ford got elected very well in his article. He quotes “Ontario-based conservative political consultant Jim Ross” in explaining how suburban-versus-urban divides in Toronto allowed Ford to press his central issue:

From 2003 to 2010 Toronto was governed by a green-left former councillor named David Miller, and a lot of his initiatives were perceived by suburban Torontonians as favouring downtown over suburbs, and specifically favouring bikes over cars. There was also a well justified perception of wasteful spending and personal overindulgence by downtown councillors, a very expensive retirement party for one of them was often cited. Rob Ford was elected as a reaction by the suburbs against what was perceived as a city hall hostile to their lifestyles and careless with their tax dollars.

According to Wikipedia, when Ford first became a city councillor, he immediately tried to cut the work budgets for councillors. I can’t help but think that Ford was more able to absorb this cut than the others because: Ford’s family is RICH.

Ford’s father started a multi-million dollar label making company. They have a huge estate. I think we all know that being a drunk big mouth with a record and getting into politics is a bit easier when you have a wealthy family.

But back to the more positive things.

2. He’s great at relating to voters.

Ford is famous for being reachable and relatable to his constituents. Even as mayor, he continues to contact residents directly about their problems- which many critics believe is pandering that gets in the way of actually running the city.

But put another way, he’s the candidate most people would want to have a beer with. And his constant stream of offensive statements could actually help that, creating the image that he is a normal guy standing up to city hall elites.

Boy, have we heard that one before. In a much more critical piece than the Bloomberg article, Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail lambasts those who voted for Ford for these reasons, and even for Ford’s budget proposals (which Gee says never really added up).

Any Canadians out there wish to weigh in?


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  • Ben Smith says:

    Also worth noting that in the suburbs where Ford did best is home to newly landed immigrants who hold socially conservative values. Ford’s main opponent is gay, which lead many to vote the guy in.

  • Esn says:

    You’re pretty much accurate. It helped that his main opponent in the last election looked really sleazy (responsible for a $1-billion provincial boondoggle, alone of all the candidates refused to release his list of donors) and seemed to have no principles other than getting elected (he was basically saying “I’ll do the same stuff Rob Ford’s going to, since he seems to be getting so popular, but not quite as much because I’m not as extreme as him” – you run that sort of campaign in ANY election, you’re going to lose). You didn’t even really have a case if your main argument against Ford was that he was too simple-minded – at least he’d graduated high school, which his main opponent never did.

    Unbelievable as that may sound, Ford looked like the best choice among the front-runners (the third-place guy would have been the best choice overall, but he was deputy mayor in the previous administration which people were very angry at because a months-long garbage-workers’ strike had just ruined the entire summer in the city).

    Also, a quibble: Ford’s “Oriental people work like dogs” comments were not perceived as offensive by the actual subjects of those comments. Consider what he was really saying: “Asians are more successful than everyone else because they work harder than everyone else.” This is something that Asians here are quite proud of, and they definitely picked up that he was praising them despite using awkward language to do it with.

  • Stu says:

    Also to note, voters are incredibly lazy. Anyone who actually took the time to look at his reduced spending measures in detail would have clearly seen that they were just BS and required people not actually looking at the details for anyone to believe. Either that or voters are too stupid to have any common sense regarding realistic spending, but I think lazy is a more likely cause. I don’t honestly believe that many people are stupid enough to buy it after looking at the numbers so for the sake of my belief that Toronto isn’t completely moronic, I have to side with the laziness argument.

  • Danielle says:

    You think he’s ok? You can have him. Add to your collection!

  • wls says:

    Society loves nothing better than to see a king naked. Especially when the king still believes he is fully clothed. Someone needs to tell Bob that he needs to exit the stage.

  • Nancy says:

    I like him, he is honest and tells the truth. You think someone else would be honest with no hangups? Leave the guy alone and let him continue doing his work.

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