I don’t often find myself agreeing with my colleague Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy—but I have to say that she asked the best question at Monday evening’s mayoral debate in East York.
Taking on Rob Ford directly, Levy pointed out that with no supporters left on Toronto City Council, he had no hope of fulfilling the agenda he proposed. Why not, she wondered, at some point quit the race and throw support behind a candidate who could fulfill that agenda?
Of course, Ford had no intention of doing any such thing and said so, making it clear that only Rob Ford could look after taxpayer dollars and if anybody should quit, it was those other candidates.
Here in the middle of summer, no one’s going to say anything different. But whether anyone admits it or not, Levy’s question will weigh on the mind of at least two other candidates between now and election Day Oct. 27. David Soknacki and Karen Stintz are two candidates who’ve put forward serious enough campaigns to put them on the A-list for mayoral debates. But at least so far as polls are going, neither has gained traction.
That’s not to say they couldn’t. Stintz has spent the term building her reputation as a city councillor and TTC chair with a conservative bent. Soknacki has been out of politics for some time, but he’s put forward a strong centrist platform and of all the reasonable and staid alternatives to Ford, Soknacki is surely the most reasonable and staid.
There is in theory yet time for both of those candidates to capture the imagination of voters. In 2003, David Miller only started to gain momentum in the summer months before the election – and by the time of the vote, he was the people’s choice for the next mayor of Toronto.
There is also time for a graceful exit – such as Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi both did four years ago, when it became clear to both of them that their earnestly-begun campaigns were going nowhere.
By the time that election rolled around, the election boiled down to a staring match between George Smitherman and Rob Ford, with only New Democrat candidate Joe Pantalone tagging along in a distant third place. Thomson threw her support behind Smitherman, and Rossi just stepped aside, to let his volunteers and funders have a graceful exit themselves.
So will it likely go this fall – and really, it’s too bad that it will. Because aside from Soknacki’s smart platform and Stintz’ bona fides, there are a number of different visions for Toronto that voters should take a look at. Toronto criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind is running a smart, lo-fi campaign himself, preaching the gospel of tax-what-you-need-to-spend as sensibly as Soknacki.
But there is an inertia to celebrity, and that is why, barring some calamity, Ford will not likely heed Levy’s suggestion and throw in the towel until the last poll is closed Oct. 27 – while other candidates who might have a chance of running an effective council after that vote will step aside.
David Nickle is Metroland Media Toronto’s City Hall reporter. His column appears every Thursday. Reach him at email@example.com