Winner: Rob Ford, for now
Rob Ford was about six seconds into his opening statement at Wednesday night’s televised debate before claiming he’d saved the city a billion dollars. By now, it’s a well-known—and false—Ford talking point. But the most notable thing about the campaign’s first major debate was how ineffective Ford’s opponents were at challenging his lies.
When David Soknacki endorsed an LRT in Scarborough, for instance, Ford shot back, “Just like St. Clair, right?” Soknacki responded that Ford didn’t understand the difference between an LRT and a subway. He then tried to correct himself—Ford doesn’t understand the difference between an LRT and a streetcar—but it didn’t matter. Ford had already made his point—LRTs will clog our streets—so he repeated his billion-dollar savings claim, and then took a breather while his opponents attacked one another.
The debate, moderated by CityNews broadcaster and potted plant Gord Martineau, was a perfect platform for Ford to deliver his talking points. Sometimes, Ford’s opponents even delivered them for him. “Mr. Ford is actually right that the funding of the TTC has gone up, not down,” John Tory said during a discussion over transit. At other times, Ford’s opponents fanned on opportunities to attack him, like when Tory said the mayor’s record was “the subject of great debate.” And when Olivia Chow had a chance to question Ford directly, she asked a long, weak question about mothers who can’t get on buses. Ford dodged it easily.
Ford’s opponents fared better at Thursday’s debate, which featured tighter moderating and a more involved audience. The mayor was heckled for his ridiculous non-response to Ralph Lean’s question about hanging out with drug dealers. “I don’t condone crack cocaine,” Ford said. “I condone being the best mayor this city’s ever had.” And the next day, new police records obtained by the media reminded us that, like most of Ford’s winning streaks, this one probably won’t last for long.
Loser: Karen Stintz
All five mayoral candidates appeared on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning last week. Karen Stintz spent a sizeable chunk of her Thursday morning interview defending two major changes of heart: her decision to support a subway in Scarborough after repeatedly endorsing light rail, and her recent support for flying jets in and out of Billy Bishop Airport.
Stintz has also continued to endorse Ford’s fiscal record. At Thursday’s debate, she listed her accomplishments as a loyal supporter to the mayor. “I voted to outsource garbage. I voted to make the TTC an essential service. And I voted, on the striking committee, to make the union contracts the way that they were,” Stintz said.
What’s David Soknacki going to do about the police budget?
David Soknacki publicly called the Toronto Police Service’s budget “unsustainable” at least three times last week. “We need to address those largest budgets, that are unsustainable,” Soknacki said during his Metro Morning interview. “I’m talking about the police budget and I’m talking about the emergency services budget.” On Thursday, Soknacki repeated this talking point twice, saying, “Nobody else is going to be touching the police budget or emergency services budget.”
Public officials meddle with the police budget at their own political peril. And in a field that’s crowded with supposed fiscal conservatives, Soknacki appears to be the only candidate, at least so far, willing to raise the billion-dollar elephant in the room.
Apply cool water to this burn
“The mayor’s taking joy in the fact that I’ve lost. You’ll have the experience soon enough.”—John Tory discussed his past political failures at Thursday’s debate. As he did so, Rob Ford mockingly counted his rival’s various defeats out on his fingers. Tory responded with a top-notch burn.
Council candidate Lekan Olawoye appeared alongside Peter MacKay to announce nearly $500,000 in funding for the For Youth Initiative. Olawoye, who’s running in Ward 12, is the initiative’s executive director. He also wrote an op-ed for the Star.
John Tory drank a pint at Toronto’s Festival of Beer.
Olivia Chow and Soknacki dropped by Spacing magazine’s launch on Friday night. Chow also attended Saturday night’s Garrison Ball. Rob Ford stayed away.
Karen Stintz canvassed at Union Station and plugged her support for a downtown relief line.
What you might have missed
The province released the 2013 sunshine list, a tally of public employees whose annual pay is $100,000 or more. Mark Towhey, fired as Ford’s chief of staff last May, somehow pulled in 104,996.09 in 2013. (Hint: severance pay.)
Cesar Palacio registered to run for re-election in Ward 17 (Davenport). He’ll face Alejandra Bravo, Saeed Selvam, and George Stevens.
Big changes, including a new name and new prices, are coming to Bixi.
Bring the ’Paign runs every Monday. Send large, expensive elephants to firstname.lastname@example.org.