[xtypo_dropcap]R[/xtypo_dropcap]ob Ford is a juggernaut, and not because he is slightly overweight, his greatest weakness according to himself in one televised debate.
Ford has come from behind to claim a commanding lead as the Toronto municipal election enters the crucial last month. According to the latest poll, he has doubled George Smitherman’s numbers among decided voters.
Speaking on the phone with The Epoch Times, Ford sounded tired between one of the two debates he had participated in that night. Arriving home while on the phone, a little girl’s voice could be heard asking him something.
“You mind if you call me back, I am just at my home now, with my family,” he said.
He had talked a bit before that about his plans for transit, halving the number of city councillors, and opening garbage collection for competitive bidding.
He was the easiest candidate to reach but had the least time to talk, two qualities one might expect from the front runner for mayor.
Ford has campaigned on what is wrong with Toronto as much as he has on what he will do to correct it. His website once featured an animated Ford dressed like a super hero stopping the speeding “gravy train” full of wasteful politicians. That video has since been replaced by one of him announcing his transit plan which includes new subways, road improvements, and bike lanes.
Prof. Jim Mars at Ryerson’s School of Urban and Regional Planning gave Ford full marks for incorporating circuitous routes in this subway plan and its connections with Scarborough, but said it will take at least 10 years and that costing is an issue.
“Ford has a couple good ideas built into his plan … [but] it is way too slow and he can’t pay for it by just taking money away from street cars,” he said.
Ford has proposed taking money away from the now in-progress Transit City light rail plan and putting it toward his own initiatives, a move some say would be difficult or maybe even impossible.
But while there are obvious, perhaps insurmountable problems with his plan, Ford shows again that he knows what Toronto wants. Others may offer plans with similar features and more realistic funding structures, but none has sold their plan as well and the polls show it. The same Nanos Research poll that shows Ford leading also shows transit as the top concern for voters.
Ford has also won support for taking a strong stance against the city’s garbage collection system which infuriated Torontonians last year when an extended summer strike saw parks turned into temporary dump sites.
Unlike third-place candidate and former deputy mayor Joe Pantalone, who does not favour privatizing garbage collection, and George Smitherman, who thinks looking at the issue on an area-by-area basis may or may not reveal noteworthy advantages, Ford is all for opening up bidding.
“It’s actually a very simple process,” he said on the phone.
“Just ask for some proposals, ask everyone to bid like they do in Etobicoke. In Etobicoke it is all private garbage collection, we don’t have the city doing it here.”
But when asked about the unions fighting to hold onto their jobs, perhaps striking to preempt or disrupt a bid, Ford was less certain.
“I don’t see how they could do that. I guess they could do whatever they want to, but they are bidding on it right? If they get to bid on it, why would they go on strike?”
Labour historian Laurel MacDowell at the University of Toronto in Mississauga is upset that so many of the candidates are considering opening bidding, and thinks unrest is almost certain.
“I think if they try to do this it will also create labour unrest and strikes because people are going to act to protect their jobs and I don’t blame them,” he said.
But while MacDowell condemns the move towards privatization, many Torontonians support it and are frustrated after outgoing Mayor David Miller, who taps into labour support, gave into what many saw as unreasonable union demands to end the strike.
Again, some academics might disagree, but the people of Toronto are liking what they hear. With the election just now getting into the last month, anything could happen, but Ford’s lead certainly indicates that he is making the right moves.