From last week, The Globe & Mail’s Patrick White:
As Mayor Rob Ford heads into a contentious period of labour strife, spending cuts and possible job losses, a new poll suggests he has political capital to burn.
The survey of 913 Torontonians, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for the Toronto Real Estate Board, found that 70 per cent approve of the mayor’s performance and 65 per cent support the way city council is handling tax dollars.
A couple of points about this.
First, while not invalidating this poll’s methodology, this whole thing was commissioned by the Toronto Real Estate Board with an intent to show public support for repealing the land transfer tax. Their press release practically drips with excitement: these people are downright jazzed at the thought of the mayor eliminating this tax:
“The public’s support for Mayor Ford and the current direction of Toronto City Council is high, and it is clear that moving forward with repealing the Toronto Land Transfer Tax will help to keep it there,” said [TREB President Bill] Johnston.
That 68% of the public wants to repeal a tax isn’t surprising. Nobody likes taxes. But it’s hard to be sympathetic to the TREB when there’s not really much to indicate that the Land Transfer Tax has had a negative impact on home sales. We still have a healthy market.
Second: I don’t know how anyone could reasonably expect Ford’s approval rating to be much lower. As far as the public is concerned, he’s done only a handful of things as mayor, most of them popular proposals he laid out when campaigning last year. He’s killed the car tax, frozen property taxes for the year, eliminated the threat of TTC strikes, ‘cleaned up’ TCHC, and started the process of privatizing garbage collection, eliminating that threat as well.
It’s actually surprising his approval rating isn’t higher. That he’s not riding David Miller-style approval numbers in the 80% range shows that the mayor is still fairly divisive.
Council-watching nerds know that Ford’s record since taking office is more complex. There have been TTC route cuts, attempts to eliminate oversight and consultation, a bizarre campaign to sell the waterfront, short-sighted fiscal maneuvers and just downright embarrassing moments.
But the general public is unlikely to have felt any of these things. Many of them are still largely conceptual: ideas that have been floated to the media or voted on, but not implemented.
Will the public ever tire of Mayor Rob Ford? I think so. Eventually. The Ford Team has shrewdly — if somewhat short-sightedly — removed the two major obstacles that hurt David Miller: transit and garbage strikes. That should help him. But I don’t believe Miller ever faced budget circumstances as tough as what we’re looking at for 2012.
We’re just getting started.