Ford in decline: populist mayor is unpopular

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The Toronto Star’s Wendy Gillis:

Research and communications firm Stratcom polled 1,300 Torontonians on Thursday and Friday and found that 35 per cent of city residents “strongly disapprove” of Ford’s performance on the job.

The figure represents an 11 per cent jump in the past six months, and double the number from last March, when only 17 per cent of Torontonians voiced their strong disapproval of the mayor.

via Ford’s approval drops after transit defeat | Toronto Star.

The full Stratcom results peg the mayor’s approval rating at 43%. For comparison, Ipsos declared “Miller time is over” when David Miller polled at 43% in June of 2009. (A month later, in the midst of a labour dispute that saw mountains of garbage stack up in public parks, Miller’s approval was 33%.)

These are not good numbers for a municipal leader just a year into his mandate.

For the most part, Ford can’t point to extenuating circumstances (like a strike) or external factors (like a bad economy) to explain his spiking disapproval numbers. His administration dug this hole all by themselves: with obstinate refusal to compromise, a continued inability to play well with others and a series of ridiculous controversies.

The labour victory that wasn’t

Even when Ford does achieve a victory, his ability to capitalize  is limited. Just a week ago, the Ford administration achieved a negotiated settlement with Local 416, averting a labour stoppage and reportedly wringing some significant concessions from its workers.

By all accounts, this should have been a time to celebrate for the mayor and his supporters. Ignoring the particulars of the deal — which we don’t even know yet — this was an easy play for the mayor’s communication team: Toronto elected Rob Ford to deal with out-of-control unions, and now he’s succeeded.

But they couldn’t even get a Toronto Sun cover out of the labour resolution. The mayor bounced so quickly to the next contentious issue — transit — that his strategy on labour barely had a chance to register.

Ford Nation Redux

In the wake of last week’s vote on transit, the mayor and his brother have plunged headlong into campaign mode. They’re at least two years early. Their strategy seems to involve leaning on subways as a wedge issue designed to sow resentment between the suburbs and downtown. From there, I guess, the Fords will achieve such widespread support in Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke that they’ll end up unseating a dozen incumbent councillors who oppose them and emerge into a second term with solid control over council.

And then: utopia. Magical budget reductions without service cuts. The Land Transfer Tax tossed into the lake. Subways raining from the sky. Rainbows. But not those kind of rainbows.

I got some flack for calling the mayor a ‘lame duck’ last week, but I’ll stand by it with one added qualifier: Rob Ford is only a lame duck because he insists on quacking. At every turn, council has offered the mayor a face-saving compromise. In almost every case, the mayor has rejected the compromise. Then he’s publicly attacked the compromise.

In today’s political panel, the National Post’s Jonathan Goldsbie sums up the situation:

Ford sells portions of the public on impossible solutions to real problems, and then tries to lead his disaffected followers in a full-on charge against reality, hopefully to eventually beat it into submission. The only thing keeping this from being deceitful is that the mayor himself is too dim to understand that the things he is promising are wholly made-up.

via Posted Toronto Political Panel: Rob Ford derailed by subway debate | National Post.

If Rob Ford insists on continuing down this course — rejecting compromise, alienating allies — he’ll never have the votes he needs to effectively move his agenda forward. Without council’s support, all he can be as a lame duck.

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