The Toronto Election 2010: An Analysis From the Fringe


The 11th hour recap from a guy who won’t be Toronto’s mayor on October 25th

By: James Di Fiore

The night before the election and I did what any fringe candidate would do. I went grocery shopping.

It’s been a crazy ride. Nobody expected me to win, which is probably a solid prediction, but I really can’t complain. I walked to the neighbourhood Metro with a thousand thoughts and flashbacks dancing in my head. I registered in August even though I told everyone I was going to register on January 4th. OK, that was actually pretty funny. But even though I waited so long to register, I was still able to garner a fair amount of press, especially for a fringe candidate.

Several people have told me that I am not qualified to be mayor. They might very well be right, but if you look at what qualifies a person to hold public office, and the general consensus is that most lifer politicians are generally untrustworthy, then I am certain I am different from the cast of characters vying for the top job in 2010. On paper I am a freelance writer and an events producer, but I have never misused public money, I have no criminal record (much to the surprise of anyone who went to high school with me), and I do not have trouble getting along with my professional peers. And since my entire campaign has been directed towards the daunting task of eroding voter apathy among young people, I think my qualifications are sound. I may not win this election, but I am one of many young Torontonians who have made it our mission to shine a spotlight on the one item that defines politics today – young people, the largest demographic in the city, have been left out of the process.

On October 18th, Calgary residents went to the polls in their own mayoral election. Ric McIvor, often compared to Rob Ford, was the right-of-center front runner in all of the polls. Barb Higgins, a former local news anchor, was polling a close second, and a political novice named Naheed Nenshi was a distant third, polling at a paltry 18% just three days before the election.

On September 30th I traveled to Calgary to attend an event and met with McIvor and his campaign manager to talk about the youth vote. I was given a surprising response when I asked what he thought the turnout among young people would be.

“We don’t really try to reach young people. They don’t vote, so why bother?”

Nineteen days later McIvor lost the election to Nenshi who credits the mobilization of young voters as the key ingredient to his victory.

Toronto does not have a Nenshi, and contrary to a sparsely held belief, Joe Pantalone does not resonate with young Toronto voters. Incidentally, Pantalone will still receive a higher percentage than the current polls indicate as there is a movement of anti-strategic voting taking place as you read this. People are growing exhausted at the political construct and the media alike. Toronto is being dictated to by pundits, smarmy journalists, political lifers and their handlers, all caused from a  subliminal consensus that has convinced them of the following: Rob Ford and George Smitherman are the only two politicians who can win this election.

Even the polls are showing a lack of depth as it pertains to critical thinking and execution of facts. EKOS, an otherwise reputable firm, recently admitted to using an automated dialer to conduct a poll that claimed Ford was ahead of Smitherman by 9 points. Of course, these robocalls cannot distinguish between the target receiver of the phone call or a 12 year old child. Additionally, this poll was conducted over a period of 9 days, an eternity in election time when many people change their minds about their choices more than once.

The Toronto Mayoral Election of 2010 is a first of its kind for the people of this city. We are seeing tactics normally reserved for American political races (Rob Ford has also used robocalls to reach thousands of voters) as well as a media who have become cheer leaders for particular candidates not just in their editorials, but in their so-called balanced reporting. So blatant has this year’s biases been that many readers have called for the termination of journalists who have openly endorsed a candidate, not because it hasn’t been done before, but due to the uniformity of opinions in the columns of their colleagues. Like it or not, the media is not only editorializing the election but shaping the outcome. Writers from The Sun took Rob Ford. Star readers think Smitherman is their guy. The National Post also selected Ford, and The Globe and Mail held their nose and took Smitherman. NOW Magazine still doesn’t matter.

And we sit here, looking at suspect poll results, sifting through each newspaper and countless online publications, listening to the incessant sloganeering of each campaign and gasp at how our electoral process devolved into something so blatantly artificial. A glimmer of hope can be found in the 34 candidates who are not projected to make the top three. Fringe candidates, while endlessly marginalized, include a handful of people who have surprised the media and turned more than a few heads in the electorate. What a statement it would be if these candidates collectively stole 25% of the vote. And while I include myself in that figure, the bigger picture is the libertarian idea that the individual still has the ultimate say over how he or she exercises their self given right to vote for whoever they please.

I don’t know how many votes I will receive, and frankly I don’t really care either. During the process of registering, campaigning, encouraging young people to vote, debating the mainstream candidates and writing about this election, I have learned one invaluable lesson: it is much better to be engaged in the political process, however flawed it may be, than to sit idly by and wait for the results determined by the mechanism itself.

On the way out of the grocery store I ran into Olivia Chow who was handing out leaflets for her son, Mike Layton, who is running for council in Chow’s old stomping grounds of Trinity-Spadina. We know each other from when I voted three times in her riding back in the federal election of 2004. I asked how Jack was doing in his cancer battle and wished Mike good luck in the election before sauntering away with my groceries. It was a fitting way to end my engagement in this exhausting political season.

Happy voting, and don’t believe anything you read in the paper today.

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2 comments

  1. You are hitting the nail on the head….but if the “old boys” don’t see your generation as an integral part of the future there may be no future sin
    ce the demagraphics of the age groups are changing dramatically.

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  2. In an otherwise thoughtful commentary I dont think you have been entirely fair with me, We pride ourselves on our methodologies and perhaps our final update might convince you that we made a sound forecast . Thanks for listening and the final release *which went out Sunday ” is copied below.
    Frank Graves

    : FORD POISED TO WIN – October 24, 2010
    [Ottawa – October 24, 2010] – Further to our release on October 22nd, we extended our polling for three days to see if the race had changed in the final stages. While the final three days of polling provides too small a sample (n=275) to treat this as a reliable stand alone poll, it is more than adequate to test the hypothesis that Rob Ford continues to possess a significant lead.

    Recall that in our last release, Mr. Ford had an eight point lead. Some speculated that because polling was conducted over an eight-day period (we do not poll on the weekends), the race may well have been tightening over the final stages of the field work and that this had been masked. We had looked at this issue informally before releasing on the 22nd and were comfortable that the clear advantage was not an artefact of the early field period. The additional three-day roll presented here formally tests this question and leads to the clear conclusion that Rob Ford has a large enough advantage to win and his margin of advantage appears to be widening in the final stages of the campaign.

    Over the final three-day roll, Mr. Ford enjoyed a near 15-point lead over Mr. Smitherman (48% to 33%). Mr. Ford has a huge lead with older voters. Mr Smitherman does very well with the most educated voters, but this will not be a large enough advantage to surpass Mr. Ford’s overall advantage. Education and age will be the key fault lines remaining after the winner is declared. If only the university educated voted, Mr. Smitherman would win handily. If the ballots were restricted to older votes or those without a university education, Mr. Ford would receive a crushing landslide victory.

    As it is, this campaign will vividly reveal the potency of the populist, conservative wave evident in upper North American politics, and the continued woes of more progressive politics. Barring some sort of dramatic and frankly unlikely shift in the electorate, Rob Ford will emerge as the next mayor of Canada’s largest city on Monday.

    Click here for the full report: full_report_october_24

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