Rob Ford is overweight. This much is obvious. But how much over he is, and how that plays into his overall health, is a mystery.
Is his weight a health risk? Should it be a factor in the election?
As uncomfortable as that question is, the answer has to be yes.
Obesity is a risk factor in a number of chronic diseases, including all matters of the heart, according to Health Canada and pretty much everyone else in the world. That includes heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and a host of other conditions that very likely lead to premature death.
Ford, for all anyone knows, could be characterized as at-risk. He had a health scare
earlier this last summer, the details of which he was very forthcoming.
Right now, the City of Toronto website won't even include an email without a disclosure form from the candidate. So publicly available health reports seems a long way off.
But for reasons of transparency and stability at city hall, candidates for mayor should post a full physical on the city's website. That includes all the basics: age, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and any other indicators.
I've argued all this in the past - including age disclosures - so it's not just a matter of me picking on Ford. I'm not trying to be mean here, and Ford himself has made reference in his campaign that he needs to get in better shape. I'm not the first to suggest that Rob Ford's not in tip-top shape, either. One of Ford's supporters wrote in the Toronto Star that his candidate of choice needs to lose weight, suggesting he should make a pledge to slim down once in office.
Why does the public need to know this? Well, why not?
Barack Obama posts the results of his physical online, with the result "fit for duty." That is, of course, because the POTUS leads the largest military in the world. The mayor of Toronto has no such duties.
But should something happen to the mayor, succession rules say that Deputy Mayor fills the position. Each mayor chooses his own deputy, and does so after taking office.
That's a fairly high level of uncertainty, especially if a candidate is in ailing or poor shape. All the more reason to know up front whether or not a mayoral candidate has a relatively clean bill of health.
The subject is a delicate one, to be sure. And the politics of weight, as far as I can tell, are unpredictable.
In a recent governor's race in New Jersey, then-candidate and now governor Chris Christie's weight became an election issue. His opponent released several attack ads, which were thinly veiled swipes at his size.
Polls indicated that more than 11 per cent of voters felt like Christie's weight should be a publicly debated issue. Not a small number, any pollster will agree.
Yet Christie would not disclose how much he weighed. He said he'd been struggling with weight his entire adult life, and did his best to demonstrate that it would not have an affect on his performance.
Other polls indicated undecided New Jersey voters would be reluctant to vote for a heavier candidate. But that didn't seem to be a factor in his election.
In any other job, level of fitness should not play a factor. But politics is not any job. David Miller saw it necessary to drop a bunch of pounds during his tenure.
Barney Frank, a congressman from Massachusetts, once ran around a baseball diamond in a television ad to prove he was fit for the job, despite carrying around extra fat.
I'm not suggesting that sort of fitness test. But there should be some sort of indication that our mayoral candidates are physically able to take on the stresses of the mayor's office.
And if he or she is not in shape, it absolutely shouldn't disqualify them from running. But, with a mandatory, publicly available health test, at least voters know what to expect going in.