By: James Di Fiore
It has been a strange municipal campaign so far in the process to decide Toronto’s newest mayor. We have seen marijuana charges, a freezing out of Canada’s largest newspaper, Sarah Palin comparisons and charges of racism – and that’s just one candidate.
On paper, you might think this has been a nail-biter; an election with such excitement that the city will be holding its collective breath until October 25th. In reality, the city is asleep.
Here is a quick breakdown of each ‘viable’ candidate in this year’s race for mayor:
Rob Ford – Widely considered the front-runner in most polls, Ford is a slapstick version of former Toronto Mayor, Mel Lastman. I know, crazy eh? Ford’s campaign follies are punctuated by his inexplicable popularity among older folks. His one-trick-pony message of lower taxes and lower spending has resonated among small picture conservatives, but his mouth won’t let him get the kind of lead he needs to prevail. This Chris Farley meets Rush Limbaugh politician can’t afford any more screw-ups, even though the field of other so-called front runners are too impotent to capitalize on his mistakes.
George Smitherman – Dubbed The Invisible Man by this blogger/candidate, Smitherman is either getting a raw deal by the media or just hasn’t been savvy enough to make any real headway. The former Deputy Premier hasn’t quite shaken off the eHealth scandal that cost tax payers over 1 billion dollars, and his lack of bite in the campaign is a surprise to most pundits. He took a lot of flack about his temper before the race began, so perhaps he has been advised to keep it in check. However, since Ford has been able to gain a lead through snide remarks and an unrelenting arrogance, methinks the time has come for ‘Furious George‘ to be let out of his cage.
Rocco Rossi – He might be the nation’s most disingenuous politician. Every time Rossi takes the podium the natural reaction is to dry heave or throw something…hard. His over-rehearsed style and repetitive messaging is more than nauseating, it is simply not working. He has accredited an Einstein quote to his father, habitually speaks to voters like they are pre-schoolers, and even tried to bait Ford on-camera after a rally at City Hall. Rossi used an opener about his parents being immigrants before shouting questions like “Why are you running away Rob?” in that phony, uncompelling voice of his. He is a perfect case study of why lifelong strategists should take a page out of Warren Kinsella’s handbook and never, EVER run for office.
Sarah Thomson – The lone female candidate in this year’s race, Thomson redefines the term ‘shell candidate’. Her self proclaimed image is that of a fiscal conservative who also happens to be hip with environmental issues, but dig deeper and you find a woman whose business experience is exaggerated and whose political leanings are akin to the Tea Party south of the border. Thomson has a Clintonian way of explaining how she is the co-owner of a neo-libertarian web site whose address is the exact same as her campaign headquarters: “I have nothing to do with it.” Bravo. Unfortunately for her, yet fortunate for Torontonians, her message is delivered in a style that reeks of steadfast memorization and without any natural flair for the issues.
Joe Pantalone – David Miller’s spendthrift sidekick over the past 7 years has had a difficult time connecting with anybody during the campaign. Not to sound politically incorrect (but what do I care?), Pantalone’s accent is sometimes difficult to decipher and is often more front and center than the actual issues. He’s a backdrop personality whose experience works against him, especially now that David Miller is being portrayed as an incompetent lefty who turned Toronto into Flint, Michigan.
The choice for mayor this year has proven to be not just sparse, but embarrassing. The youngest voters (ages 18 to 35) represent over a third of the city’s overall population, yet these candidates spend their days pandering to seniors and hurling insults at each other. Their strategists have clearly advised them to not bother with youthful voters, likely citing apathy as the unconquerable obstacle among the most savviest demographic. They might be right, or they might be blowing an opportunity to tap in to the only group of voters that could help one of them take the keys to City Hall.
Stay tuned for Part 2: The Fringe Candidates coming soon…