Rob Ford

Great Moments in Spin

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Great Moments in Spin, Toronto Municipal Politics | 4 Comments

I can’t wait to see the tourism brochures:

Toronto mayor Rob Ford is still dodging allegations that he smoked crack cocaine, but now he seems to think there’s a silver lining to the international attention brought upon his city by the scandal over his (alleged!) drug use: tourism dollars. At least that’s what Ford told Toronto radio DJ Maurie Sherman on Saturday when asked if the extra high-profile press, from morning shows like Good Morning America and Today to late-night hawks like Jimmy Fallon and Jon Stewart, was hurting the city. “No. It’s whatever people perceive it as. Any time you can get Toronto on the map,” Ford said. “I think people have to come to the city and see what we have to offer. And we have great arts and culture, great theatres, great restaurants, great sporting teams. I encourage everyone to come to Toronto.”

Cone of Silence

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Scandals, Toronto Municipal Politics | 10 Comments

ford harper

Rob Ford and Stephen Harper are about as different as two politicians can be, but the one thing they have in common is an uncanny ability to brush off scandals before they stick. Harper entered the 2011 election facing a “controversy of the day” – from Bev Oda’s orange juice, to Bruce Carson’s fraud charges, to Jason Kenney’s use of government resources to target “very ethnic” voters, to “in and out”, to a historic contempt of parliament vote. What did all that get Harper? A majority government.

If I tried to list all of Rob Ford’s blowups here I’d run out of virtual ink, but despite being one of the most controversial politicians in Canadian history, his approval rating stood at 49% just last month.

However, this past week we’ve seen holes form in both Ford and Harper’s teflon and, in both cases, they have no one but themselves to blame.

It’s been nearly a week since claims surfaced of a Rob Ford crack video, yet the Mayor has refused to respond, beyond calling the allegations “ridiculous” and blaming it on a Toronto Star witch hunt. He’s cancelled his weekly radio show and has dodged reporters, to the point where even the Toronto Sun has joined the witch hunt, demanding he clear the air.

In Ottawa, Harper has been equally evasive when it comes to Nigel Wright’s $90,000 gift to Senator Mike Duffy, letting his enforcers take questions in the House before fleeing to Peru. In his lone public speech on the topic, Harper refused to admit anything wrong had happened, painted himself as the victim. More troublingly, he did not offer any sort of compelling explanation or solution.

Both Harper and Ford appear content to plug their ears and hope these latest scandals gently fade away, like so many scandals have before. However, by failing to offer any sort of consistent or coherent explanation as to what happened, the public has been left to assume the worst.

2012 Woman of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year | 3 Comments

Every December, I like to name a “Person of the Year” – the individual who left their mark on Canadian politics over the past year. The only rules are that the PM is too obvious a choice, and that lame picks (“You!”) are strictly verboten. The Person of the Year doesn’t need to be someone who used the force for the powers of good, or someone I like – just someone who made a difference. Below is a list of recent choices:

2011: Jack Layton
2010: Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi
2009: Jim Flaherty
2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

Unlike 2011, when Jack Layton’s rise and death came to define the year that was in Canadian politics, no single event or person stands out in 2012. There was no federal election, and little that happened in Ottawa resonated outside the political bubble. After being warned about Harper’s “hidden agenda” for a decade, the most newsworthy item of Flaherty’s first majority budget was the death of the penny.

The robocon scandal might eventually stick, but we have no way of knowing, so selecting Pierre Poutine, or Misters McGregor and Maher is likely premature. A few people on Twitter nominated Mark Carney, but I’m not sure his flirtation with the Liberal Party or departure to England will really change much.

Rather, the focus in Ottawa this year was largely on leadership races in the opposition ranks. Thomas Mulcair deserves consideration for Person of the Year – he won a competitive race, allowing the NDP to complete their journey from protest to pragmatism. Mulcair proved himself to be a steady opposition leader, but his polling bounce has faded due to…

Justin Trudeau. I don’t doubt that Trudeaumania II will be the “Story of the Year” on a lot of recap lists, but it’s not clear to me Justin left any lasting mark on Canadian politics (other than the ones on Patrick Brazeau’s face). And being talked about isn’t enough to make you the Person of the Year, or else I’d be handing out this award to the IKEA Monkey.

If we move outside of federal politics, a couple of past winners find themselves on the short list again in 2012. Rob Ford was a headline machine this year, culminating with a judge ordering him to be removed from office. The only problem is, if we’re going to start naming troubled Mayors, it would make for one long list of co-winners, since you’d also need to include Gerard Tremblay, Gilles Vaillancourt, and Joe Fontana, among others.

It’s tempting to give my 2007 Person of the Year, Jean Charest, and fellow Liberal-on-the-way out Dalton McGuinty a lifetime achievement award for the impact they’ve had on Canadian politics over the past decade. After all, this fall’s Quebec election was a thriller, and Charest surprised everyone by nearly hanging on.

However, even more exciting and unpredictable was the Alberta election. Which brings us to our 2012 Woman of the Year:

Alison Redford poses with Daryl Katz

The PCs winning elections in Alberta is hardly news. They’ve now done that a dozen times in a row, and will soon break the record as the longest-serving government in Canadian history. Alison Redford won 61 of 87 seats which, admittedly, marks a down year for the PCs – but is still considered a rout in most functioning democracies.

But, oh, what an exciting rout that was.

Redford led by 37 points in a January Leger poll, and there were actually non-satirical articles printed citing senior Tories worried they’d win “too many” seats. Luckily for those senior Conservatives, Alison Redford quickly put those fears to rest.

The issue that landed Redford in dire straits and caused her to lose complete control of the agenda was the “money for nothing” controversy. When it came to light that MLAs were receiving $1,000 a month to sit on a committee which hadn’t met in four years, the opposition members did the sensible thing and returned the money. Redford did not. She called the gesture by the opposition MLAs a “stunt” and said there was nothing wrong with the committee – but hung her MLAs out to dry by suggesting there would be electoral consequences if they didn’t return the cash. Her caucus whip said voters were too stupid to understand the issue. Redford dithered and didn’t act until the polls went south a month after the story broke. But the damage was done. She had given the Wildrose Party all the ammunition they would need to run an “entitled to their entitlements” campaign.

In most years, Redford’s stumbles wouldn’t have been fatal, but what made this a truly great election was that the PCs were facing their strongest competition in 20 years. Smith versus Redford pitted two of the country’s strongest politicians head-to-head, in what is likely to become Canada’s most interesting political rivalry over the next few years. Contrary to what anyone reading news stories in 2010 or 2011 would believe, Danielle Smith isn’t perfect – she confusingly tried to brand herself as the “anti-change” candidate and presented voters with a gimmicky platform, offering Ralph Bucks and Doris Day petitions. But Smith is a smart, articulate, and charismatic politician, so it’s no surprise her campaign strategy of “let’s do photo-ops with cute animals” was paying off. Before long, the Wildrose Party had pulled ahead. Alison Redford was sounding more and more desperate by the day, accusing the Wildrosers of being the party of “old white men” (fun fact: Alison Redford’s Cabinet was 86% male and 95% white).

By this time, Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan must have been having flashbacks to the 2004 federal election – a long time government brings in a new leader with expectations of a landslide victory, only to mismanage a scandal and see a new right wing party pull ahead. Sadly for Doctor Tom, the similarities would continue down the stretch, with voters en masse having second thoughts about what this new right wing party truly stood for.

For that, Redford can thank a pair of Wildrose candidates. Allan Hunsperger blogged that gays would burn for all eternity in a lake of fire in hell, and Danielle Smith didn’t seem too troubled. Ron Leech talked about “the white advantage”, and Danielle Smith didn’t seem too troubled, saying every candidate should put forward “their best argument for why they should be the person who can best represent the community”.

For a variety of reasons, the pundits and polls were as off the mark as Smith’s candidates, setting up one of the most stunning election nights in Canadian history. Columnists across the country were forced to madly re-write their columns on the demise of the PC dynasty. Some weren’t able to, hence Andrew Coyne’s first page Post column which beganUnless something astonishing happens, the Wildrose Party will form the next government of Alberta”. Turns out astonishing things can happen in politics every now and then – even in boring, predictable Alberta.

Redford has stayed in the news post-election, thanks mainly to two more badly mismanaged scandals. However, she’s also had an impact on the national stage, being at the centre of the Enbridge pipeline feud with Christy Clark. Although Redford has only been PC leader for a little over a year, she is quickly becoming one of the most well known and respected names on the national stage – and her prominence is likely to grow with new Premiers recently elected or on the way in Quebec, Ontario, and BC (unless something astonishing happens!). With Alberta continuing to grow, and Redford showing an eagerness to expand Alberta’s influence in Canada and around the world, expect to hear more from her in 2013.

Goodbye

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Toronto Municipal Politics | 4 Comments

Rob Ford is removed as Mayor of Toronto, and Mark Carney is flying across the pond to become Governor of the Bank of England.

If any politician is looking to unload some bad news, today would be the perfect “take out the trash day“.

A Tale of Two Cities

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Calgary Municipal Politics, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment


I had some fun last fall comparing the elections of Naheed Nenshi in Calgary and Rob Ford in Toronto. Fairly or unfairly, it appears the two will be forever linked. We got yet another example of that this week with the news that Nenshi will become the first Mayor to lead Calgary’s pride parade, after Ford became the first Mayor in over 20 years to skip Toronto’s.

Now, I don’t think anyone should be surprised by Ford’s decision. A lot of Ford’s supporters likely feel he has his priorities straight by choosing the cottage over pride. Still, there were plenty of other Pride Week events Ford could have attended, to show his support for an event which is important to his city and many of the people who live there.

Ford missed an opportunity to expand his base – instead, all he’s done is needlessly fire up his opponents.

2010 Person of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

As 2010 winds down, it’s time to pick a Calgary Grit Person of the Year for the 7th consecutive year. The criteria is simple – a person who made an impact on the Canadian political scene in 2010 (ruling out obvious choices like the PM, or lame picks like “you“).

But this was a tough year, with no obvious choice once it became clear that I couldn’t contort the criteria to give the award to Sidney Crosby.

Federally, 2010 was about as dull, meaningless, and mundane as it gets. No election. No crisis. No bold policies. No leadership races. Wake me up when it’s 2011. If I had to pick a federal politician, I’d have to go with my buddy, Tony Clement. He was, after all, at the centre of the largest stories of the year – the Census, Potash, the G20 Summit. So convinced was I that Tony should be the Man of the Year that I sent him an application form – alas, he never filed it out, so I had to look elsewhere.

Now, the “political person of the year” doesn’t have to be a politician. Ivan Fellegi and Munir Sheikh could have been joint winners for turning the Census into the unlikeliest of issues. A wild card pick might have been the kids who set up the “anti-prorogation” Facebook group. But in both cases, Harper seems to have recovered and the probability of long term damage is low.

As always, interesting candidates can be found in the provincial arena. Shawn Graham signed then unsigned the NB Hydro deal and, in the process, signed away a promising career. Danny Williams called it a night. So did Gordon Campbell, though he would have been a more deserving candidate in 2008 for his carbon tax, or in 2009 for his re-election victory and subsequent HST announcement.

All good candidates, but none really define the year that was.

In my mind, 2010 was all about municipal politics. Some people think municipal politics don’t matter, but they must if people like Jim Watson, George Smitherman, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Maurizio Bevilacqua, and Inky Mark leave provincial and federal politics for a chance to run (and in some cases, lose) municipally.

The problem is, I can’t very well pick 100 mayors as my people of the year. And selecting Rob Ford is a bit too Toronto-centric for a blog with “Calgary” in the name. So, after much thought, here are my Men of the Year:

Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi

Of all the mayoral races in 2010, none were more fascinating, surprising, or memorable than these two. In a city overrun with “pinko cyclists”, a loud Ralph Klein clone from the suburbs drove away with it. In “redneck” Calgary, a Muslim Harvard graduate who teaches University and blogs about urban sprawl was the come from behind winner. Ford and Nenshi shattered stereotypes, prompting many to scratch their heads and wonder if we’d entered the world of bizarro politics.

Though the differences between Ford and Nenshi are obvious, their campaigns were quite similar when you get down it it. They both ran as anti-establishment outsiders. They both defined themselves early with a clear message and understandable policies. They both filled a void left open by overly cautious front runners. Yes, the kinds of people who voted for them may have been different, but a vote for Nenshi or a vote for Ford was a vote for change regardless of whether you were a commuter from Etobicoke or a student in downtown Calgary.

Beyond the immediate impact Ford and Nenshi will have on the 3.5 million Canadians they now represent is the effect their wins will have on the rest of the country. Is Ford’s win a dark omen for Dalton McGuinty or an opportunity? What does Nenshi’s victory in Calgary do to the already rocky world of Alberta provincial politics? What does this anti-establishment wave sweeping the country mean for Stephen Harper?

In addition to these questions, the lessons learned from these campaigns will last…well, at least until the next memorable election. There isn’t a politician in Canada who isn’t thinking about “the gravy train” right now. And there isn’t a campaign manager in Canada who hasn’t looked at Nenshi’s use of social media.

But above all else, in a dreary year for politics, Calgary and Toronto gave us mayoral elections worth watching and worth talking about. Which is more than can be said about just about everything else that happened politically in 2010.

2009: Jim Flaherty
2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

What’s the matter with Calgary?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Humour, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

Dear Calgary,

You used to be cool. You were the conservative rebel without a cause. You welcomed George Bush and Sarah Palin with open arms. You could always be counted on for a good pro-Iraq war rally. Ann Coulter called you “the good Canadians”.

The man who embodied this Calgary image was Ralph Klein. He was your mayor in the 80s. By voting for Ralph in 1993, you saved Alberta from a Liberal government. You stood by your man even after the drunken visits to homeless shelters, after the plagiarism, after he heckled the AISH recipients. The rest of the country laughed at Ralph, but you didn’t care. Because, like Ralph, you were too cool to care.

This all led to a good natured rivalry with Toronto. In 2004, Scott Reid famously said “Alberta can blow me” during the election campaign. A decade earlier, you’d pasted “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark” bumper stickers on your trucks. That was just the sort of relationship Calgary and Toronto have always had.

And you know what? The relationship worked. Calgarians hated the Toronto elites for their self-righteousness and their blind devotion to the Liberal Party, while the self righteous Toronto elites shook their heads and wondered what was wrong with those backwater Calgarians who would elect a donkey if you slapped a Tory logo on its behind.

But now, everything has gone topsy turvy. Here’s the Leger mayoral poll from yesterday’s Calgary Herald:

Nenshi has now rocketed to 30 per cent, tied with Higgins and just behind Ric McIver’s 33 per cent support, according to a Leger Marketing survey of 500 Calgarians conducted between Oct. 6 and 11.

Holy chinook?!? The “it” candidate in the Calgary election went to Harvard, ran a nonprofit, and blogs about the best ways to limit urban sprawl. Rosedale parents are going to have a hard time using that to turn their children against Calgary and scare them into voting Liberal.

Especially given what’s been going on in Toronto, where the front runner wants to limit immigration, says “oriental people work like dogs“, and has a record of DUI and assault charges so long it would make Ralph Klein blush.

I mean, seriously. Take a look at these two pictures and tell me which one of these guys looks like he should be mayor of Toronto and which one looks like he should be mayor of Calgary:

And it’s not just Naheed. The “conservative” candidate in Calgary’s mayoral election, Ric McIver, has staked out the conservative turf by…promising to raise taxes less than the other candidates. Hell, he’s been attacked by the NDP candidate in the race for wanting to spend too much on the airport tunnel. The guy isn’t exactly the president of Tea Party North.

The other front runner, Barb Higgins, is assumed to be progressive but, in fairness to her, that’s only because no one really knows what she stands for.

So Calgary, I’m writing you this letter as a friend. I feel someone has to let you know you’ve gone soft. Hell, you elected 5 Liberal MLAs in the last provincial election, more than “Redmonton”. Here’s an e-mail I got from a friend of mine in Calgary yesterday:

I for one, being a proud Western Canadian, welcome 4 years of insanity to the city of Toronto. I have always maintained that the real crazies in Canada live or reside in the city of Toronto, Mel Lastman proved that and may Mayor Ford continue that proud tradition.

All I know is that wack jobs like Lastman, Miller and Ford would never see the light of day in a sophisticated Canadian locale like Calgary, Alberta.

Is this how you want to be described Calgary? As “sophisticated“?

So I am begging you. To stop this insanity and preserve your reputation as Canada’s conservative bad boy, I am urging a massive “Rob Anders write in” campaign for mayor. You need to make this happen, simply to keep the natural order of the universe in balance.

Or else next thing you know they’ll be holding Pierre Trudeau parades down 17th Avenue and Stanley Cup parades down Yonge Street.

Right Turn

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Polls, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

Polls out today show fiscal conservatives ahead in Calgary and Toronto.

Calgary (Leger, n=500 phone)

Ric McIver 43% (profile)
Barb Higgins 28%
Naheed Nenshi 8% (profile)
Kent Hehr 4.1% (profile)
Bob Hawkesworth 3.9%
Craig Burrows 3.6%
Joe Connely 2.9%
Wayne Stewart 1.8%
Alnoor Kassam 1.4%
Oscar Fech 1.2%
Bonnie Devine 0.8%
Paul Hughes 0.8%
John Lord 0.4%

Kassam and Hughes are actually out of the race. Likely a wise move, because if you’re tied with Oscar Fech, it’s time to go (Oscar’s platform usually involves digging up gold buried under City Hall).

The results from this poll are hardly earth shattering. McIver has been the front runner for the past 5 years and Higgins is still finding her feet in this race. However, the news isn’t all bad for her – 15 points can be made up in month municipally, and she is clearly positioned as the “anybody but McIver” candidate. Nenshi is still far back, but can at least spin this as a sign he’s pulling away from the pack. For the rest of the field, there’s little joy in mudville.

Toronto (Nanos, n = 1221 phone)

Ford 45.8%
Smitherman 21.3%
Pantalone 16.8%
Rossi 9.7%
Thompson 6.4%

This poll will come as more of a shock for anyone living outside of Toronto. Yes, those “Liberal elites” John Baird rails against are lining up behind a man who could become Canada’s first Tea Party mayor.

For those in Toronto, it’s not as big a shock. Ford has become the torch bearer for every suburban voter fed up with waste at City Hall and has forged a Ralph Klein common man connection to voters, to the point where voters will forgive his many deficiencies.

Luckily, as is the case in Calgary, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played and many voters are just now tuning in this episode already in progress. Right now, the “Stop Ford” vote is being split – by Election Day it will congeal, presumably around Smitherman.

Still, the early returns are strikingly similar in both Calgary in Toronto – in both cities, voters have clicked their right turn signal, looking to the candidate who talks the loudest about cleaning up waste at City Hall.

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