Toronto's municipal election officially got underway Thursday and Mayor Rob Ford wasted no time filing his paperwork and making good on his promise to run for re-election, despite an ongoing drug scandal.
“My track record speaks for itself,” Ford told reporters, according to the Globe and Mail. “I can’t wait to get my record on the floor so people can decide for themselves.”
With the nomination process now ongoing, the clock starts on roughly 300 days of campaigning that will push city affairs to the background, and campaign slogans and rhetoric to the front.
On Oct. 27, Toronto will elect a new mayor, whether that is Rob Ford or someone else. If the past year has taught us anything, expect 10 months of fireworks.
Here is a crib sheet on things to come over the next year.
Serious competitors will register to run
TTC chair Karen Stintz has already announced she will run for mayor. Stintz will wait until after the transit agency completes its budget process before stepping down and officially filing her nomination.
Former Scarborough councillor David Soknacki has also confirmed he will run. But other serious candidates are sure to fill the pews as well. Former Ontario PC leader John Tory is said to have considered running.
NDP MP Olivia Chow has not made it official but has a high level of support, according to public polls. Conservative Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong also says he is considering a run. Other potential candidates include left-of-centre councillors Adam Vaughan and Shelley Carroll.
Former Liberal Party of Canada Leader Bob Rae has already said he would not run for mayor and former candidate George Smitherman ended any thought of a rematch in December, when he announced he would support Chow, should she run.
Less-than-serious competition will register to run
Ahead of the 2010 election, dozensof people submitted their candidacy for mayor. Only a few garnered any level of support, and fewer still made an impact on the campaign. That won't stop the crowd from coming out again this season. Prompted by ego, envy, ambition and alcohol, there will be more than a few also-rans in the mix. Eight people have already signed up as candidates, including Ford and a man named Al Gore (presumably not the former U.S. vice-president).
Last year's fringe candidates included Joseph Pampena, a blind PR agent who claimed he had a "vision" for the city, and Kevin Clarke, a street protester and perpetual mayoral candidate. They both received more than 1,000 votes.
Sound bites, sound bites, sound bites
Ford was all about stopping the gravy train in 2010. This year, he says his slogan is "Ford more years." He will campaign on his track record of pushing for "subways, subways, subways" and "respecting taxpayers."
"You’ve seen what happens when they strip my powers, all of a sudden they start spending like drunken sailors," Ford said on Thursday. "We’re going to get this city back on track."
Pundits credited the success of Ford's last campaign to the simplicity of his message and his ability to stick to easily-accessible talking points. Ford's campaign manager this year will be his brother, Coun. Doug Ford. He will replace the experienced and respected Nick Kouvalis, who previously declined to participate in Ford’s re-election bid. Don't expect the Ford campaign to stray too far from the road map laid out in 2010.
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Ford will be attacked over his personal life
Said Ford on Thursday, "If they want to get personal, go after my record, that’s fine. If they want to get personal, I’m ready for it." Glad the mayor is ready for it, because the 2014 campaign will largely be a referendum on his personal life. That includes various legal woes over the first three years of his mandate, a history of unsubstantiated personal attacks, drunken stupors and vulgar language and, of course, a history of drug use and reputed dealings with the city's criminal underworld.
Ford confessed to buying illegal drugs and smoking crack cocaine following months of denial after Police Chief Bill Blair confirmed the existence of a reputed crack video. Ford says his substance abuse issues are behind him, but that won't stop other candidates from questioning whether he is fit to run the city. There is room for a right-of-centre candidate to paint Ford as soft on crime and scoop up some of his support base.
Ford will be attacked on his record
“I’ve got the strongest track record, I’ve been the best mayor that this city has ever had,” Ford said, vowing to campaign on his record. He quickly repeated two of his most common refrains: that he has saved the city $1 billion and that he has the best attendance record on council. But the math behind his claim has been scrutinied, and his attendance record is actually less than ideal.
He has been noted absent from dozens of meetings and once notoriously missed a meeting to coach a high school football game. He was also recorded by police meeting on occasion with his friend, alleged drug trafficker Sandro Lisi, during the work day. Expect competitors to make Ford defend some of his more questionable claims over the course of the campaign.
Expect candidacy withdrawals and horse trading
Candidates have until Sept. 12 to announce their candidacy. They also have until then to withdraw and have their name removed from the ballot. In 2010, councillors Giorgio Mammoliti and Adam Giambrone notably withdrew from the mayoral election before the deadline. Contenders Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson, however, ended their campaign after the deadline and their names remained on the ballot (they received 5,012 and 1,883 votes respectively).
Thomson threw her support behind Ford's key rival, George Smitherman, while Rossi did not officially support anyone. The intention, however, was the same: to bring the anti-Ford vote under one banner. It wasn't enough, but the threat to Ford of a concentrated opposition is real. Ford is hoping for a congested field and, according to the Toronto Sun's Don Peat, encouraged everyone to stay in the race until the end this time.
Expect a lot of similarity between this election campaign and the last, but with some key differences. Ford is a known commodity now, not just a fringe councillor with a localized support base. He is the incumbent and won't take anyone by surprise. And also, the world is watching.
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