One cover story at a time, The Grid’s Ed Keenan is writing what would be, if bound together, a very good book about the Rob Ford mayoralty. His latest looks past the mayor and discusses Councillor Doug Ford, a figure referred to by some — including, sometimes, me — as the man who’s really setting the agenda for this city.
As part of the feature, Keenan talked to a number of left-leaning councillors, who seemed relatively optimistic about Doug Ford’s presence at City Hall:
Both supporters and detractors of the Fords say that as Doug learns the ropes at City Hall, he may represent the best hope for a functional government. No one expects that he will suddenly turn his back on his right-wing ideology (“That’s his religion,” says Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker of Scarborough). But, as Carroll says, “If it turns out that he is a little more of an empath, he may go back to the mayor’s boardroom saying, ‘We need to listen to this person, whether our politics are aligned or not.’”
Beyond that, Vaughan has seen something else he considers promising in Doug’s approach. “Doug is more likely to see the merits of a good idea than his brother. His brother looks at the source of the idea instead of the merits of the argument. Rob is made into a better mayor with Doug’s presence here. The family made a wise decision to send a second son.”
I don’t think there’s any denying that having Doug at City Hall has helped Rob tremendously. Doug has kept the mayor’s once-famous temper in check. There’s even been the occasional compromise — though they’re rarer than they should be.
Still, though, I’m wondering if in the long-term Toronto would have been better off without Doug Ford. A free-wheeling, old-school Mayor Rob Ford would have made for a more explosive and chaotic council, but he also would have been more likely to burn himself out earlier. He could have been marginalized with a firm majority of council against him.
Without his brother, a second term for Mayor Rob Ford would have been challenging under the best of circumstances. With Doug around, another four years is far more plausible.
Good for Rob Ford but, I’d argue, bad for Toronto.
The thing that worries me most about Doug Ford is that he’s more calculating. He’s better equipped to work political angles, to court allies and to spin issues to fit what Councillor De Baeremaeker aptly calls his “religion” of right-wing ideology. His younger brother is much more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality. Headstrong and sometimes destructive, but always pretty obvious.
Doug Ford is different. He can, and will, surprise us.
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