UNPOPULAR OPINION: I Live In Toronto And I Don’t Believe Mayor Rob Ford Should Be Forced Out Of Office

Naturally, people are angry. I get it. But, I'm starting to lose patience. For three years I've lived among the tyranny of the court of public opinion. Because some voters can't accept that Rob Ford earned the majority of the votes.
Publish date:
November 19, 2013
electoral politics, voting, democracy

As a sapient being living in Toronto, opposing Rob Ford comes naturally to me. Much more naturally than defending his right to remain as the mayor of Toronto, yet, here I am.

To the world, Toronto must look like the most self-loathing city, to have elected Rob Ford as mayor. While the news of his crack-smoking tendencies may be the makings of a municipal Watergate, it probably won't remove him from office.

Make no mistake, I am no Rob Ford supporter. In 2010, I was the social media manager for a rival mayoral candidate. It wasn't a politically motivated hire, I needed a job and it sounded like an interesting challenge. Pretty quickly, I became acquainted with Rob Ford and his endless history of scandals. I became a ride or die communicator pulling back the veil from Rob Ford's phony right-wing populism and exposing Torontonians to how brutally unfit this man was for office.

As election day drew nearer I began to think of voting as a form of protest: if we vote, we could prevent Rob Ford from taking office. Sadly, publicizing his difficulty with the law, alcoholism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, violent temper and violent tendencies only resonated among the people downtown, while suburbanites who opposed Rob Ford just didn't vote. It's unclear why, but it's chalked up to administrative disenfranchisement (AKA - the political version of "It's not you, it's me").

Naturally, people are angry. I get it. But, I'm starting to lose patience. For three years I've lived among the tyranny of the court of public opinion. Because some voters can't accept that Rob Ford earned the majority of the votes. Regardless of how any of us feel about it, pointing the finger at the government and blaming them as the problem doesn't help anyone build a better city. It focuses on resentment and only serves to amplify every asinine thing that mayor's done, instead of focusing on the issues that deserve our attention.

So no, I don't agree that we should forcibly remove Rob Ford from office. I don't believe anything good will come from setting a precedent that elected officials have the right to push each other out because they have opposing opinions. Government needs to have that diversity in order for it to function. If the majority votes for a candidate, regardless of how you or I feel about it, there is no contingency plan other than voting in the upcoming election to replace that official with another. Spending time relentlessly shaming the mayor in an effort to get him to resign is displacing the electorate's power to choose its government -- it is fundamentally anti-democratic.

The fact remains that the only way Toronto will get a new mayor is if Ford A) resigns B) is convicted of a crime, or C) loses an election. Believe it or not, the third option hasn't exactly helped us in the past. In 2010, 50.2% of voters turned out -- while higher than in previous years, it's no gold standard. If blame were to be placed, I would look towards those who didn't make it out to the polls in the first place. In the wards (i.e., electoral areas) where Rob Ford won, it had 5.25% less people turn out then in the wards where he lost - which happened to be in the suburbs.

Voter apathy is nothing new, only a few weeks ago Russell Brand became the poster boy for it. I cringe every time I see someone cite his interview with Jeremy Paxman as the justification for not voting in the 2010 election. Technically, Toronto is the case study for how that model can spectacularly fail. Regardless of how you feel, the democratic process is the only system with have, if you're like Russell Brand (and I very much doubt that you are), then be all means suggest some "alternative political systems" that you've spent time researching. Clearly, you'll have a much easier time implementing those then trying to convince members of our current system to forcibly remove Rob Ford from office.

Yes, Rob Ford's behavior makes me wince. And while people rightly rebuke him for all his flaws and behavior that have put him in the center of PR blowups so numerous it's almost as if they are written into his schedule. But, as painful as this is, I wouldn't force him out of office -- I don't understand why he doesn't think it's time for him to resign, but I wouldn't forcibly remove him. There's no evidence in history where revoking the electorate's right to choose their representative, or to have a government absent of opposition, that has ever turned out well.

As a population we have power, we can engage in the political process by connecting with our local representatives. At the same time, Rob Ford is a citizen, there's nothing to say that he should be allowed to attend any events -- Leafs games, Pan Am Games, World Pride next year, bars, crack houses -- whatever, just shut him out.

When it comes to election time, if you have the sense that not voting is an adequate protest, then you're woefully misinformed. If you don't agree with the candidates, spoil (or 'reject' if you're Canadian) your ballot. This simple action of checking "None of the Above", all the boxes, or writing in at the bottom the name of another candidate, your voice will be documented as someone interested in the process but in none of the candidates.

If there's enough of those votes, then it forces the administration to ask why and learn more about what's important to you. Don't leave it up to speculation.

In the meantime, those of us in Toronto will just need to find a way to make it work.