News / Toronto

If things don't get interesting, Tory has nothing to fear from Ford: Teitel

New poll released Tuesday shows the current mayor with a 27-point lead, though that can drop if another candidate splits the left vote.

Doug Ford announced he will be running for mayor in the 2018 Toronto municipal election and described Mayor John Tory as “all talk, no action”.

Christopher Katsarov / THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo

Doug Ford announced he will be running for mayor in the 2018 Toronto municipal election and described Mayor John Tory as “all talk, no action”.

Doug Ford, the late Rob Ford’s sterner, slighter brother, has returned to the Toronto news cycle on a mission to land the city’s highest office. Ford announced last week at his family’s annual Ford Fest cookout (I’ve been, and say what you will about the Fords, but they throw a great barbecue) that he plans to take on John Tory in the 2018 mayoral race, a man Ford recently described as “all talk, no action”.

And yet, according to a new poll released on Tuesday, it may be Ford himself whom Tory will one day describe as all talk and no action. The poll, conducted by Mainstreet/Postmedia, indicates that if a Toronto mayoral race were held today, Ford would lose badly to Tory. According to the poll, Tory “wins easily” against Ford “with a 27-point lead”. However, if Tory faces both Ford and city councillor Mike Layton, the progressive vote splits and Tory loses 20 points.

“John Tory has nothing to fear from a one-on-one matchup against Doug Ford,” said Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research, said in a statement about the poll. “But things get much more interesting if there’s a strong progressive candidate in the race.”

Well, here’s hoping things don’t get much more interesting. Here’s hoping they stay nice and boring. Interesting is great in every context except politics. It’s great when you’re watching a Ted Talk or that new Netflix documentary Diana. Interesting is not so great when the future of your city is at stake.

Luckily, for those of us who aren’t keen on an interesting Ford More Years, Doug Ford doesn’t appear to have the lovable loser quality that ingratiated so many to his younger brother.

As Ashley Csanady, host of the political podcast Canadaland Commons, put it on the air this week: “Despite being wealthy, Rob Ford had a man-of-the-people vibe to him. And Doug does not.”

Put another way, where Rob Ford was a coach, Doug is more management: hair slicked back, icy stare, dark suit. He’s kind of like Gordon Bombay in The Mighty Ducks, pre-community service.

Silly analogies aside, Doug Ford may lose to Tory in 2018 because another tawny populist succeeded in 2016. I’m talking about U.S. President Donald Trump, a walking warning to the world that proclaims: “This is what happens when you aren’t vigilant. This is what happens when you don’t take bullies at their word.”

Doug Ford is not Trump, but he excels at a similar style, one that is brash, flashy, and contemptuous of media. Hopefully, Torontonians, even some who voted for Ford, are put off by such a style in light of recent world events. After all, Canadians at large are put off by it. According to another poll, this one also from Mainstreet/Postmedia, in February, “only 16 per cent of Canadians would call President Trump honest, only 21 per cent would call him rational, and only 23 per cent would call him inspirational.” While Canada isn’t by any means immune to populist creep, many in our nation are less keen on populist bravado than they might have been pre-Trump presidency and, if Tory is smart, he’ll play to those fears when he faces Ford next year.

But there’s a catch, of course. This, from the same February poll: “While Canadians disapprove of Trump (84 per cent), 53 per cent approve of his economic policy — higher than the 43 per cent who approve of Trudeau’s economic plan.”

In other words, Trumpism can win here and so too can its cousin, Fordism, for a second time. Which is why in the event that Doug Ford gives John Tory a serious run for his money in 2018, I have a suggestion for our notoriously wooden mayor: fight Ford tactics with Ford tactics, while at the same time remaining a mensch. Be nice, but be bold. Host your own bash, John Fest, complete with a classic rock cover band that pens an original tune just for you. Better yet, develop your own barbecue sauce (“John’s Own”) and donate all the proceeds from the sauce to a children’s sports charity. When you win, you can go back to being boring and we can rest a little easier until the next Ford takes the podium. 

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