Candidates gambling through dead ideas and quiet alliances
By: James Di Fiore
Labour Day has always been the unofficial start to what is often referred to as the ‘real campaign’ during municipal elections. Policies dreamt up months earlier are either tossed aside or proudly announced, depending on the mood of the electorate, the poll numbers and the advice from campaign strategists. Politicians roll up their sleeves, taking more risks and hoping those risks pay dividends.
So while it was not surprising to see Rocco Rossi announce that he had an upcoming policy announcement (redundant much?), the peculiar and downright recycled idea of extending the Allen Expressway by tunneling underneath the city from Eglinton to the Gardiner was desperate at best. In short, Rossi’s campaign appears to believe he and George Smitherman are on a path to split the vote, vaulting Rob Ford into the mayor’s chair at City Hall. So instead of creating a vision unique to his campaign, Rossi gambled and is now swimming in political quicksand just 5 weeks away from the election.
Smitherman, whose stagnant campaign has surprised even his most unforgiving critics, has the rare opportunity to position himself as the only realistic opponent to Rob Ford, but his first ad after Rossi’s blunder had a spelling error. You can’t make this shit up. It writes itself in what will one day be regarded as the most farcical election in Toronto’s history…guaranteed.
Meanwhile, Rob Ford continues to pull the string on his back, making the exact same few statements about spending cuts and transparency as he has throughout the campaign. Coincidentally, Ford’s unchanged messaging is mirrored by his poll numbers which have plateaued at around 35%. His supporters, who have been the most vocal of any candidate, were cemented long ago in the outskirts of the city and will likely not increase unless Ford extends an olive branch to the downtown population. Even if Ford does unveil a more inclusive platform, it is unlikely his numbers will grow due to a genuine dislike downtowners seem to have for the frumpy front-runner.
Sarah Thomson is also struggling to increase her support. In fact, the lone female candidate has now taken up her own renditions of Ford’s key talking points in an effort to reach the right-leaning citizenry that have thus far ignored her platform. Thomson, who positioned herself verbally as a social conservative, spent most of the start of her campaign cosying up to Toronto lefties through her environmental initiatives, abandoning her neo-conservative roots in the process. This deliberate attempt to disguise her true colours cost her credibility among informed voters while coming off inauthentic to everyday Torontonians. Her parroting of Ford’s positions on wasteful spending have become so obvious lately that one wonders if she will drop out of the saturated race and throw her support behind the Ford campaign, perhaps securing a spot in his administration should the current numbers hold.
Finally, Joe Pantalone is still in the race. Expect nothing notable from Miller’s concierge between now and October 25th. It would be nice to expand on Joe’s campaign progress, but the tiny City Hall lifer just doesn’t resonate with voters.
In the end, this election will be decided on how the vote is split, and whether or not candidates without a chance of winning will be stubborn enough to stay in the race. Time will tell…