The better option for Doug would have been to run for the PCs in Etobicoke North, but the PCs don't want him
The last time Doug Ford had a “very exciting and special announcement,” media who schlepped all the way to his mom’s house in Etobicoke came away disappointed when they found out it was to flog a “tell-all” book Doug had co-written with his brother Rob just before Rob’s untimely death. The tell-all didn’t end up amounting to much. That’s Doug for ya.
On Friday, Doug summoned the Toronto media to the annual Ford Fest backyard BBQ at his mom’s for another special bulletin to announce what was already the city’s worst-kept secret: that he’s running for mayor (again). But not before one of his supporters made a splash of her own, losing her footing and doing a face-first dive into the shallow end of the Ford family pool. Perhaps it was just a coincidence and not a harbinger of the soaking Doug’s in for if he somehow manages to be on the ballot come next October’s vote, which is far from a given.
But first thing’s first. When Rob was mayor, Doug was known as the so-called brains behind the operation and being a man of great political instincts, but his high estimation of himself seems to always get in the way of his better judgment, or what little he has of that. Like when he tried to ride Ford Nation to the Ontario PC leadership.
The better option for Doug would have been to run for the PCs in Etobicoke North. Only the PCs don’t want him because a) he’s a loudmouth and b) PC leader Patrick Brown already has enough goofballs like Ford in his caucus messing with his efforts to remake the party.
So Doug was left with two choices: defy Brown (and go for a nomination anyway with no assurance the PC leader would sign his nomination papers if Ford won). Or, go back to the family business. In true Ford fashion, Doug decided to hitch another ride on his late brother’s coattails and run for mayor. This one’s for you, Rob – or at least, that’s what he said Friday.
Maybe it’s Doug’s twisted way of getting back at Brown – or at the world. With the Fords, it’s always them against the world. But if Doug thinks he’s the second coming of Trump, he’s dreaming. The tide went out on that one after the 2014 race.
Doug likes to think that if he had another week he would have beaten John Tory, after Rob was forced to bow out of the race for health reasons. Didn’t happen, even with the Rob sympathy vote. And, in the end, the near-miss, as some people like to describe the result, was not so close. Doug lost by more than 60,000 votes despite the presence of Olivia Chow in the race to split Tory’s support. When presented with a choice, even some inclined to vote for Chow went to Tory, who won most of the downtown areas. There is no Trump Part Deux in the making, folks.
Yes, a good crowd came out for Doug’s announcement on Friday. Maybe it was the burgers. Maybe it was for the watered-down beer. Maybe it was the robocall promising a free T-shirt.
But outside the usual suspects who make up the reactionary rump at city council (here’s looking at you, Giorgio Mammoliti), there were none of the political heavy-hitters we’re used to seeing at Ford Fest. Brown was a no-show. Tellingly, the only person of note from the PC caucus in attendance was MPP Monte McNaughton, who Rob endorsed for PC leader and, as a part of the PCPO’s SoCon rump, has been marginalized under Brown.
I’m betting Ford won’t be on the ballot come October. The race doesn’t officially get underway until May. And with changes to campaign financing rules restricting fundraising until then, it’s an open question whether Doug is going to be able to raise the $2 million needed to make a credible run. The news rules also caps the amount a candidate can contribute to his or her own campaign at $25,000. So Doug won’t be able to spend his way to the mayoralty like he tried to last time, blowing $600,000 of his own money.
Truth is, Tory is a reasonably popular mayor. Popular enough that neither the Libs nor NDP seem inclined to muster a challenger in 2018. Wynne might be pissed off enough to try and convince someone. The odd name or two has been bandied about.
But it’s been pretty much a given that if there was to be a challenger in 2018 for Tory, it was going to come from the right, which is in knots these days about what it stands for. That’s what Doug is banking on.
He was front and centre at the Manning Centre confab in Ottawa in March, which gave up most of its gathering to the hardcore in conservative circles. But that was at the height of Trump mania, which seems like a lifetime ago after Charlottesville, and the reckoning that the fallout has meant for the conservative movement in Canada.
Besides, what’s Ford going to run on? The billions being wasted on a Scarborough subway? Doug’s speech did mention something about residents’ calls being returned. He’s setting the bar pretty low in true Fordian fashion.
To be sure, Tory is no gem. He’s fumbled the policing agenda at a critical juncture in relations between police and the Black community, mortgaged the city’s future on keeping up a little-used piece of the Gardiner, and is nowhere near delivering on his signature SmartTrack promise. He inspires (if that’s the word) just the right amount of ambivalence to make you forget his shortcomings, it’s one of his admirable qualities.
Doug has a record, too, from his City Hall daze. As if we need a reminder. When he wasn’t acting as consigliere and opportunistic enabler-in-chief for his drug-addled brother during the crack video scandal, he was using the influence of his office to help clients of the Ford family business. He’s damaged goods.
He caught lightning once with little brother Rob. That’s not going to happen again, even if he somehow manages be on the ballot on election day. Until then, don’t believe the hype.
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