Danielle Paradis explores what makes Edmonton a great city.
Resisting Alberta smugness in light of Rob Ford
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At about the same time Toronto’s sweat-laden mayor stunned the country with his now infamous words, “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Edmonton’s dimpled chief magistrate was: a) Thanking a former mayoral opponent on Twitter for his support; b) helping your grandma cross the Yellowhead; or c) saving sick kids from a burning hospital.
Don’t bother flipping this story upside down for the answer. I’m not giving it.
While it’s tempting for me to compare Rob Ford to Alberta’s young and progressive leaders, including Naheed Nenshi in Calgary and Tara Veer in Red Deer, I’m also making a Herculean effort to resist my smug urges.
Yes, I’m aware that for decades Alberta has been a dartboard for Eastern snobs who called us rednecks on the best of days. And, yes, in 2010 those same people elected the biggest ‘bro’ to rock a suit and tie and, if his approval ratings stay steady until October, will likely elect him again.
And, yes, I do recall Mel Lastman, North York’s former mayor who would eventually become Toronto’s mayor, saying, “Comparing North York to Edmonton is like comparing a stylish brick bungalow to a clapboard outhouse”.
But while this schadenfreude is most satisfying, I’m not going to use it to prop up my city. After all, we’ve elected our own Rob Fords.
Remember William Hawrelak? He was elected Edmonton’s mayor, ousted for corruption, re-elected (after instigating a riot), ousted for corruption, and then re-elected a third time before dying a year into office. Good thing we named our premier park after him, otherwise how would we forget his dubious antics?
And, surely, if Twitter existed in 2001, when Premier Ralph Klein stumbled into the Herb Jamieson Centre—actually in a drunken stupor—threw money at homeless people and told them all to get jobs, that would be Edmonton’s brand getting skewered by everyone with opposable thumbs.
Heck, it might have even made the Colbert Report on Comedy Central.
So while I’m not above ridiculing Rob Ford, as my online friends and followers know, I won’t use him to bolster my city or province or pretend that he’s a reflection of all Torontontians.
Aside from knowing what it’s like to be a citizen lumped in with your dimwitted leader’s hijinks, I also know that Toronto, whether we like it or not, is Canada’s biggest ambassador. We should be hoping it succeeds, not relishing in its embarrassment.
And, besides, isn’t the best revenge living well?