10.27.2010 10:38 AM

The Lesson from Barrie

From regular reader “The Other Jim:

I’m not convinced that Ford will be a failure, but the Ottawa template was also evident in Barrie’s 2006/2010 elections.

Dave Aspden defeated the incumbent mayor (Rob Hamilton) in 2006. As a councilor, Aspden had a Rob Ford type of image; the lone wolf banging away at the “Elite”. He captured just over 50% of the popular vote but was a disaster in office. He couldn’t work with council (and blamed council for that right to the bitter end), was repeatedly involved in self-inflicted scandals (generally caused by his tendency to do things beyond his authority as mayor) and basically just spun the city’s wheels for four years. Seriously, he was the beta Rob Ford.

He lost last night (no surprise, as Barrie has turfed the incumbent mayor in four straight elections), but the margin of his defeat was astounding. In 2006, 14616 people voted for him. In 2010, just 1249 did. That’s a 91% drop in popular vote. Staggering when you think of it!

I think that Ford’s team will shelter him from being an Aspden type of failure, but he will have a tough road ahead.

Smart commentary (I get a lot of that, from wk.com commenters).  What’s your view?  Can Ford get a second mandate?


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    Ted says:

    If you watch clips of Ford at City Council, it is very apparent that Aspden (especially the part of his tendency to do things beyond his or council’s authority) is exactly what Ford demonstrates. It is not the political incorrectness that concerns me – I kinda a like a politician who says it as he/she says it, it’s so refreshing (most of the time!) – but he doesn’t understand the most basic rules and purposes of council or even the implications of even the motions he himself put forward (eg. “I want to buy a helicopter”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsLpnZs-NGA&p=7FEDA2F4A368A0E8&index=43&playnext=2). And when he doesn’t get his way, he goes juvenile ballistic calling everyone a socialist traitor (eg. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOi2wIUCTnA&p=7FEDA2F4A368A0E8&playnext=1&index=41).

    For City Council to work the next 4 years, Rob Ford has to change more than Council does or at least as much.

    But that is not going to happen.

    So what you will see is this: an “opposition coalition” will form very quickly if it hasn’t already. They will go along with a few of Ford’s issues like cutting down on councillor waste and a few pet projects of Fords to appear like they can work and be reasonable. But once Ford shows he can’t be reasonable – when the gap between what he’s promised and reality becomes apparent during budget discussions – they will flex their muscles and make Ford’s motion-by-motion gridlock a permanent thing and spend 4 years campaigning for one of their own – I’m guessing Adam Vaughan who doubled his personal votes – who will be put out and promoted as Mr. Reasonable and Mr. Can Get Things Done, and they will even push forward some key pieces that get through Council against Ford’s objections.

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      Derek Pearce says:

      Bingo. Perfect summary of the situation Ted.

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    J. Coates says:

    Why not another mandate? He’s been winning elections for almost ten years and just won the Mayoralty race for Canada’s largest city, despite disdain from the media and the so-called elite.

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      Ted says:

      Anger can only get you so far. Eventually you have to produce results. Getting the mayor’s job will prove to be the worst thing to have happened to Rob Ford.

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    MississaugaPeter says:

    George W. Bush was re-elected. Anyone can be re-elected. With a greater percent of the vote than the first time.

    If Rob Ford surrounds himself with good people (having his brother helps), and listens to them most of the time, he may surprise many. He has proven to be able to listen and he has already surprised.

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      Namesake says:

      It was the “9-11! 9-11!” fear-mongering and deflection from the real issues that got Bush re-elected; what’s Ford going to do… ACTUALLY declare war on unions as his ‘Wag The Dog’?

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    David says:

    If council appears to be sabotaging some or all of Ford’s initiatives then the voters will see through this.

    Incumbents can nearly be impossible to beat so I’d say he can win again.

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    Bruuks says:

    Ted, I watched both those clips. Wow. Speaking your mind is one thing. Ignoring rules and procedure and throwing a fit when you don’t get your way is quite another.
    Good luck Toronto. You’ll need it.

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      Ted says:


      Problem is that it is not just “procedure”. It is jurisdiction, authority and the basics of what a City Council can and can’t do that he clearly did not get. And then his temper tantrums that follow. And he’s our mayor.

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    Dave says:

    Sorry gang, I’m STILL terrified we’ve elected one half of Insane Clown Posse. And I don’t even live in Toronto!

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      Steve Gallagher says:


      You go guy! I wonder if there is a butterfly in a jar story in the brothers’ past?

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    J. Coates says:

    In addendum, why doesn’t a city the size of TO already have at least ONE police helicopter?

    Many years ago a Calgary Police Service Constable was killed by a 16-year-old car thief, while laying a spike belt.

    The community response was to raise the money to buy and maintain a police helicopter. Lately a second unit was bought with money raised from public donations.

    This says a lot about Calgary and unfortunately Toronto.

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    Cow says:

    Such random comments.

    He absolutely can get a second mandate. We should probably wait until he completes some of his first one in order to judge. A lot will come down to whether he acts in an Aspden-like fashion or whether he can actually work with council and try to get something done.

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      James Curran says:

      That was soooo two days ago….

      Ford: I’ll eliminate the LTT….last week….I can’t do that until at least 2012…I have to speak to the province

      Ford: I’ll scrap the street cars….today….I can’t do that…I have to speak to the province

      I call BULLSHIT.

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    The Other Jim says:

    A bit of a background piece for the (presumably large number of) readers who don’t follow small-town Ontario politics:


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    hatrock says:

    Three words:

    Ralph Klein

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    Meagan Trush says:

    I doubt that Ford will get a second mandate.
    The resounding sentiment heard in Rosedale seemed to be “four years of Ford is still better than eight years of George”.

    Too bad Rossi didnt hang in to the end. I quite liked him.

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      J. Coates says:

      Ford’s political adversaries had better hope he ISN”T a Ralph Klein clone.

      Like King Ralph and George W. Bush, it is very likely Ford will leave a lot more political corpses in his wake.

      I remember what the political establishment was saying when Klein was first running for Mayor of Calgary. It was very similar to what is/has been said about Ford. Joe and Joan Everyperson took that to heart and sent him to the Premier’s office.

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        Ted says:

        I think you exaggerate what was being said about Klein, but be that as it may, they also never said that he didn’t have a clue about basic rules in Council and the people who voted for him weren’t holding their nose the way they did on Monday.

        Who knows what will happen over the next 4 years.

        I don’t object to Ford or think he will be a problem just because he is an idiot – and Klein was never an idiot – nor because he is politically incorrect or loves the taste of his own leather or because he refuses to answer tough/difficult questions. But because I’ve seen what kind of a councillor he has been: he’s represented his interests and those of his constituents well, but he has shown a complete inability to understand basics of municipal democracy and accounting. And when this is pointed out to him, he goes on rampages of insults and anger.

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    JimDougBob says:

    The other example for people to consider is the sorry record of current Toronto Councillor Doug Holyday, when he was the last Mayor of the former City of Etobicoke (pre-MegaCity). The council minutes show a steady stream of 12-1 defeats as he proposed whatever popped into his regressive head, without bothering to build coalitions or even civility with the members of his council. It was three long years, and eventually council and city staff learned to just exclude the Mayor and work around him.

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    Edith Prickly says:

    That’s kind of a silly question considering he hasn’t started his first mandate yet, but I’m guessing one-term wonder. Ford is going to make Mel Lastman look like David Crombie by comparison

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    Pcase says:

    Coates –

    Unlike Calgary, there hasn’t been a major incident like the one described above in which in a reactive way the community may rally around and fund raise for a helicopter.

    The notion was bandied about by council in the 90’s or 00’s and I believe it was dismissed because needs were being met using neighbouring departments choppers if/when necessary.

    Not sure what you are implying re: Calgary and Toronto???

    A reminder, to all those pissing on Toronto:

    Toronto’s crime rate is lower than Calgary’s.
    It is one of The Economists 10 most livable cities.
    16th in Worldwide Quality of Living survey – The 2010 Mercer Quality of Living survey
    Named Canada’s most sustainable city.

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    bza says:

    AA big part of whether Rob Ford gets a second mandate or not is who will be his opponent? It will have to be a candidate that all the progressives can rally behind, ala David Miller’s victory in 2003. Smitherman was a very partisan choice which of course alienated the Pantalone/Miller/NDP voters. The progressive candidate in 2014 will need all of the progressive support behind them and reach out to the inner suburbs and just not rely on the old city of Toronto vote.

    UI would agree with Warren that this candidate would probably be Adam Vaughan. 3 years from now, if he is that candidate, he probably would have the old city of Toronto vote pretty much locked up. His challenge would be bridging that divide in the suburbs. Of course, if Ford does manage to surprise everyone and run an effective city council big names may not show up to face him in 2014, ensuring that he cruises to an easy victory like Miller and Lastman did. His success or lack thereof, will play a big role in who he will face in the next election.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    As demonstrated previously, anything is possible, or even probable, in politics…

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    DL says:

    “If council appears to be sabotaging some or all of Ford’s initiatives then the voters will see through this.”

    I don’t know about that. Republicans in the US have been very open about how they want to sabotage every single solitary one of Obama’s initiatives – to the point of using the filibuster in a way that no one ever used it before. So far, I see no backlash against them for that. I don’t see any downside to the left and centre on city council treating Ford the way Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have treated Obama!

    I’m not so sure about Adam Vaughan running in 2014. i think that the ideal progressive candidate is someone who is NOT from downtown Toronto and who has Liberal ties but gets along well with New Democrats – that person is Shelley Carroll.

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    CaligulaJones says:

    Just wondering: if Ford is the dumb one, and the rest of council borders on, if not greatly exceeds the measure of “genius”, why:

    1) couldn’t it find $160,000 in a $9 billion budget to keep skating rinks open for March break a few years ago;
    2) did it spent two years to get new food carts on the street, THEN blame the vendors for the failure;
    3) did it allow a Norway Maple to destroy someone’s foundation on one street, but allow other Norway Maples to get cut as “invasive species”, in a curiously arbitrary reading of the city’s “tree canopy” scheme (thanks to Joey Pants);
    4) almost every capital project is overdue and overbudget;


    I voted for Ford, despite pretty much every misgiving any of his opponents care to mention, because he’s pretty much the first politician I’ve ever seen who DOESN’T TALK DOWN TO ME. And, I should point out, I helped Sandra Bussin retire into her $99,000 Golden Handshake (a good investment, actually – it costs a bit to gas up her BMW 328iX these days).

    BTW, the incumbent council and mayor were also turfed in cottage country’s Township of Muskoka Lakes. Seems all that tax money from all those McCottages is going SOMEWHERE, but by the state of the roads, snow plowing and garbage collection (basically all most residents get), it wasn’t being spent on THEM.

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