Rob Ford is not popular among his City Hall peers. Nor among city queers. He’s a self-admitted liar, a loose cannon that likes to fire at sexual and racial minorities. Though Ford’s stupidity, bigotry and willful ignorance does serve some purpose — God knows he creates lots of teaching moments — that purpose is overshadowed by the monolith of his buffoonery.
Ford was first elected to Ward 2, Etobicoke North, in 2000, then won again in 2003. This time he faces four rivals (so far): Cadigia Ali, Kevin Mark, Nick Nobile and Mike McKenna.
Wouldn’t it send a positive signal to see Ford get the boot? Better yet, wouldn’t it feel good?
"From what I know, if you’re not gay or an IV-drug user, you probably won’t get AIDS,” said Ford this summer, questioning $1.5 million in grants to health-promotion and cultural groups in Toronto.
"I don’t understand a transgender. I don’t understand. Is it a guy that dresses up like a girl or a girl that dresses up as a guy? And we’re funding this?…. We’re funding this for, what does it say here, we’re giving them $3,210,” said Ford last summer, questioning the city’s grant to the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line.
"The situation is out of control. There should be a refugee freeze in Toronto,” said Ford, as reported in the Toronto Sun in 2003.
"This is for hiring people, to do what, to talk about AIDS. We’re having an AIDS conference — that’s where people are supposed to get educated. Holy smokes, talk about frustrating. This is the biggest waste of time I’ve ever seen,” said Ford this summer, again on health education grants.
"Who the fuck do you think you are?? Are you a fucking teacher?… Do you want your little wife to go over to Iran and get raped and shot?” Ford asks a man at a Maple Leaf’s game at the Air Canada Centre on Easter weekend 2006. Security guards escorted Ford out for being belligerent. First he claimed it wasn’t him, then came forward to apologize for his behaviour and his lie.
"Pathological liars,” is what Ford calls fellow council members during a city hall debate in June 2004.
"When you say racism? how do you describe racism? Is it someone’s skin colour, religion, race? It’s a very broad word and I’d like to know what you’re pinpointing…. If you criticize someone because they wear braces or have glasses, are overweight, what sort of crime are they committing? Is that a hate crime? Is that a racist comment?” said Ford, unable to understand the city’s Access And Equality Grant Program last year.
"There’s a myth out there that incumbents canst be beaten,” says Dave Meslin, project coordinator of Whorunsthistown.to.
But there are a few ways to mobilize.
"Cut off their government perks,” says Metro reporter and perennial election candidate Enza “Supermodel” Anderson. “Implicate them in a sex, drug and money laundering scandal. List their top 10 stupid remarks. Set term limits, and limit the terms of three years to two years."
A little less glamorously, Meslin suggests that merely getting more people to vote can have an effect. “Focus on the 60 percent who don’t vote. You can let the incumbent keep every vote that they got the last time and still beat them."
That can be done by word of mouth, e-mail campaigns and websites — just talking up the election itself can encourage people to vote.
There are also more formal ways of doing things.
"Work on a campaign team,” says Anderson. “Also the best way is to run. It doesn’t matter whether you have experience, the only way you will learn or understand the whole process is to actually run."
Susan Gapka, who is running against Kyle Rae in Toronto Centre-Rosedale, agrees that becoming a politician helps shape the debate. But there are easier points of entry.
"You can write to your local newspaper. There’s always the all-candidates meeting, where you can hold up a sign expressing your point of view. You can protest. You can volunteer for candidates and gain experience. That’s one of the ways I got involved."
Meslin points out that losing your first campaign is a big step toward winning your second.
"Councillors like Joe Pantalone ran and lost many times before they won their first campaign."