About two weeks ago, Toronto’s political scene was quite straightforward – team Rob Ford versus team anyone-but-Ford. Then, however, the notorious mayor had to pull out of the mayoral race to treat a malignant tumour as his omnipresent sidekick brother, counsellor Doug Ford stepped in and launched his own campaign.
And now, with the October elections just a month away, the poor Torontonian voter is more confused than ever. For the onlookers one thing is clear: the electoral frenzy will be anything but boring. The main protagonists in this rollercoaster ride have remained the same but the rankings have been rather shaken up. Olivia Chow, Rob Ford’s main rival since the beginning and one-time election-watchers’ favourite, has now dropped significantly behind the new front-runner candidate John Tory. The latest poll-figures earlier this week show that Tory (who Ford criticised as an “elitist” politician without hands-on experience at City Hall) now leads on 40 per cent leaving Chow trailing at 25 per cent, with Doug Ford just two points behind.
So what happened Toronto?
Torontonians, like voters pretty much anywhere in the world, want a solution to a problem. Ford was the answer to the disregard for taxpayer's money after his predecessor David Miller mismanaged garbage policy and public transit plans. Now Torontonians seem to be voting for their best chance to get rid of the Fords.
The initial favourite, Chow, has been faltering in her campaign lately, being accused of lacking charisma and even stamina to hold her own in bigger debates.
Meanwhile Doug Ford officially began campaigning this weekend betting hard on Ward 2 and Etobicoke – the area that he currently represents – and the ward in which his brother has enjoyed much success. But the Ford team was just hit by yet another crack-scandal bomb. A judge has released the latest search-warrant documents surrounding Mayor Ford’s drug-taking investigation, leaving a lot to ponder: are Doug Ford’s questionable political skills affecting his candidacy or is it his family agenda?
The truth is that with more than 50 councillors, City Hall is a pretty massive public corporation with Toronto's mayor being the CEO. And, for now, Tory seems to be the best person to fit the role. He gets the moderate conservative brand right and comes across as a smart compromise with voters willing to overlook his shortcomings. Doug Ford meanwhile is overloaded with political baggage and is perhaps just too abrasive to get along with anyone but his infamous brother.
And no matter how much I would like to see a woman leading this city, at the moment Chow lacks charm and communication skills. It's about time for her campaign management to step up, get her out of this rapid plummet and reboot her chances.
Nelly Gocheva is Monocle's Toronto bureau chief and acting business editor.