So, Rob Ford is now mayor of Toronto, and I think some of my friends up here may soon immigrate to the United States in the trunk of a car. Their Facebook updates are liberally bespangled with F-bombs. Again, I say this strictly in the name of further debunking. Not only does Canada boast a more politically conservative government than is southern neighbor, but its biggest city just elected the most conservative candidate in the mayoral race. In a landslide.
There was even a whole Ralph Nadery, Ross Perrotish kind of situation with one Joe Pantalone — the third wheel candidate who supposedly was going to steal vital votes from Ford’s real competition, George Smitherman. “A vote for Pantalone is a vote for Ford,” went the common wisdom. “Screw that. Vote your conscience,” went the other common wisdom. In the end, Pantalone’s and Smitherman’s votes combined didn’t add up to Ford’s.
To be clear, there’s no was party partisanship in this municipal election. That said, Ford stood on a classically conservative platform of fewer taxes, cuts in government spending, “Stop the gravy train” for city councilors, etc. There is also no partisanship in commuting but by all measures Ford is pro-car, anti-bike-lane and he isn’t too fond of street festivals that tie up traffic. This is in the decidedly liberal, conservation-minded population center of Canada — a city more bike-friendly than a LiveStrong fundraiser. Sometimes it feels like it’s all about cars for Ford. (I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t intend that pun.) His first order of business, he says, apart from congratulating the councilors who won tonight? Eliminating the $60 car registration fee. Next? Get rid of that land transfer tax. Once again, as an apartment-renting, visiting reporter whose car is still registered in Boston, I have little to say.
I was trying to think of how to quickly explain the full import of Ford’s victory. But I can’t possibly do better than this brilliant, entertaining article by Nicholas Kohler of Maclean’s magazine (which is kind of akin to the Atlantic Monthly). It’s a great read. I swear you’ll enjoy it, even if you have zero interest in Canadian/Torontonian campaign politics. It came out a couple of weeks ago, in the ramp up to this fateful evening.
Meantime, Calgary — which is known up here as a cow town, they have an actual stampede every year — elected Naheed Nenshi as their mayor last week. He’s Toronto-born, Tanzanian by extraction, Harvard-educated, and is the first Islamic mayor in Canadian history. This is in Alberta. Sort of the Texas of Canada. Black gold. Big hats. There’s no reason any of the facts in this paragraph should be incongruous with any of the others. But… y’know. They are.
Anyhow, forgive me. I know it’s arrogant and high-minded to keep saying I’m debunking American-held myths about Canada. Besides which — lately it seems like Canada is debunking a few myths it holds about itself.
Best to you,