Unfortunately, all 300-plus pounds of Toronto mayor Rob Ford have once again hogged our city's headlines this week because of his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Bundled up in a black suit-and-shirt combo and a bright red tie, Ford was the unexpected gift that kept on giving for the late-night comic.
Even Kimmel couldn’t believe Ford was sitting right across from him. “Why are you here? What good could come of this? Have you seen the show?” he asked. Next was around 15 minutes of Ford playing the laughing stock.
While painfully hilarious, I think it’s time for the local media to cut back on Rob Ford. Like junk food, too much could prove detrimental to our city’s wellbeing with October's mayoral elections lurking around the corner.
As much as Ford is the politician Torontonians love to hate, voters don’t vote against candidates – they vote for them. Ford benefits from name recognition. Everyone, even those not politically inclined, knows Rob Ford, who even managed to squeeze in some campaign positions on Kimmel. Yes to saving money for the city, yes to more subways.
But come 27 October, will we be as familiar with the other major contenders in the race and how they intend to tackle issues that matter: public infrastructure, unemployment, the minimum wage and small businesses? Do the names John Tory, Karen Stintz and Olivia Chow mean anything to anyone?
My biggest worry is that if Torontonians don’t know or care about the other candidates, they won’t come out to vote. Only 53 per cent of eligible voters turned out in 2010 and Ford won with 47 per cent of that figure. If you crunch the numbers, that’s only around one in four people who voted for Ford. This could happen again if the media fails to convince voters to vote. We can definitely count on zealous Ford supporters to turn up; they call themselves Ford Nation and are well aware of the rest of Toronto’s disdain toward their candidate. They're feeling very protective.
Also, remember the anti-Ford votes are split multiple ways. It’s not enough that the majority of voters don’t want Ford in office, they have to feel strongly enough about a single candidate to come out, possibly in bad weather, to vote for him or her. That’s more dependent on the relative strengths of the other candidates of course, but it’s the media’s duty to give everyone a fair shake. By now we all know the kind of person Ford is so excessive coverage of his outrageous antics is just distracting. Other candidates should not be penalised for being more sane and dignified.
The trouble is that Ford is like an addictive bag of crisps: we know he’s bad for us but we can’t help but consume more. With elections looming, local media should not enable this addiction but focus instead on other mayoral options that are healthier for Toronto.
Jason Li is a researcher and writer in Monocle's Toronto bureau.