Rob Ford’s campaign gains momentum

Published Sept. 2, 2014, in the Waterloo Region Record.

It is absurd.

Nearly four years ago, a suburban councillor by the name of Rob Ford, was elected mayor of Toronto. City politics had never seen a candidate quite like him. He presented himself as a right-wing populist, the leader of something he called “Ford Nation.” He preached less government and lower taxes. He pledged to stop the “gravy train” at City Hall and to build subways to the suburbs. That was about it. Facing a weak field, he won the chain of office.

The intervening four years have been a disaster. Far from being a charismatic defender of the downtrodden, Ford proved to be a loathsome individual. There were drugs, booze, outrageous public behaviour, self-serving lies, criminal associates, obscene comments about women, including female colleagues on City Council, plus various conflicts of interest – the list goes on. He was a disgrace. He made Toronto a joke on the comedy circuit at home and in the United States.

Yet by some strange alchemy this unspeakable person stands a very good chance of being reelected mayor in October. Who would have thought it possible?

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Last week a Forum Research poll put Ford in second place, closing in on the current leader, John Tory, and pulling away from the third candidate (and early favourite), Olivia Chow. In a sample of 1,945 Torontonians, Tory had 34 per cent, Ford 31 and Chow 23.

True, it was an automated phone survey – in other words, a “robopoll” – but it may not be a rogue poll. Its results are roughly consistent with the unpublished findings of the candidates’ internal surveys. The Chow campaign is stalled. Tory is flagging. Only Ford has momentum.

How did this happen? It has been an impossibly long campaign – eight months so far with almost two to go before Oct. 27. Chow was the early leader, the most outspoken critic of the mayor and, as a left-wing populist, she tapped into some of the same anti-establishment sentiment as Ford, while offering a very different set of progressive policies. Ford is a Conservative, Chow a New Democrat (and former MP). The choice between left and right, between downtown (Chow) and suburbs (Ford) seemed clear.

Enter John Tory. He’s a conventional Conservative, a former provincial leader who led his party to defeat in the 2007 Ontario election. For municipal voters who wanted someone conservative without getting Rob Ford, Tory was their man. Where Ford is a populist, Tory is pure establishment. Where Ford is outrageous, Tory is bland to the point of boring. He seems to be running because he wants to be elected to something, not because he has a grand design for Toronto.

At the end of the spring, Chow had the lead by five or six percentage points. She seemed to represent the face of the new Toronto – young, ethnic and open to change and challenge. As Tory slipped into second place, he became the face of the old Toronto – greying, WASP and risk-adverse. And it looked as though Ford was out of the running.

At the start of May, Ford entered rehab for his alcohol and drug issues. When he emerged two months later, the race changed. Former Ford supporters, who, weary of the City Hall soap opera, had moved to Chow and Tory, now moved back. Chow’s lead became a deficit. Tory could not get any traction.

Polling indicates that women voters, in particular, were disposed to give Rob Ford a second chance. He had admitted his sins and rehabilitated himself (or so he claimed). Who would refuse to forgive a repentant sinner?

I think this forgiveness accounts for some of his campaign revival. Sheer name recognition contributes the rest. In municipal politics where there are no parties or leaders to guide voters’ decision making, name recognition can be everything. Rob Ford may be a dreadful mayor, but he is a genuine celebrity, mobbed wherever he goes. When you are a big enough star, a little notoriety simply adds spice.

LISPOP on Global News: Ontario election seat projection

Published June 10, 2014, in the Global News.

LISPOP’s latest seat projection was mentioned in an article by Andrew Russell which suggests the Liberals could pick up 47 seats, the Progressive Conservatives 41 and the NDP 19. Full article available here.

LISPOP on Global News: Polls suggest tight race with just days left in campaign

Published June 9, 2014, in the Global News.

LISPOP’s latest seat projection was mentioned in an article by James Armstong which suggests the Liberals could pick up 48 seats, the Progressive Conservatives 41 and the NDP 18. Full article available here.

LISPOP mentioned in the Waterloo Region Record

Published May 20, 2014, in The Waterloo Region Record.

The Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) was mentioned in an article related to the 2014 Ontario Election. Full article can be accessed here.

Growing Interest in Municipal Politics

There appears to be increased interest in municipal politics. This is possibly due to a combination of Rob Ford’s antics as well as the coming Ontario-wide municipal elections. But it may also be due to some recognition that a lot of politics is now taking place at the municipal level.

Opinion-Policy Nexus has posted blog entries that cover various topics related to municipal politics. Here is a summary of the most recent:

  • Dr. Zachary Spicer, a post-doc at the University of Toronto, sheds light on homeowners as a particular segment of the electorate that is more likely to vote in local elections, and thus, more likely to weigh heavy on decisions made at the municipal level.
  • Dr. Robert Williams, Professor Emeritus at University of Waterloo, provides some commentary on electoral reform at the municipal level.
  • Dr. Christopher Alcantara, an associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and a member of LISPOP, was interviewed by CBC Radio on the role of municipal-level political parties and the specific (and contentious) topic of Light Rail Transit for Waterloo Region.

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Interest may abate after the municipal elections, but there are reasons to believe otherwise. Over several decades, municipalities have acquired more and more responsibilities. Naturally, more and more researchers, students and commentators, not to mention voters, follow with greater awareness of the impact municipalities have on people’s lives. Also, municipalities are now more closely tied concrete issues that have typically animated “higher level” politics, such as employment and taxes. All of this suggests local politics will play a larger part in our general political discourse.

LISPOP Seat Projection Appears in Maclean’s Magazine

Published April 29, 2013, in Maclean’s Magazine. 

In an article titled Trudeau’s other opponent, LISPOP’s federal seat projection was referenced in relation to Justin Trudeau and his opponent Thomas Mulcair.

You can find the article here.

 

LISPOP Associate discusses federal Liberal candidates

Published Feb. 3, 2013, on CTV News.

LISPOP Associate Barry Kay discusses the second federal Liberal leadership debate. He discusses the challenges facing current Liberal candidates and how the format of the debate did not allow for meaningful selection between candidates. One of the biggest problems the liberal party is facing is that there are too many candidates saying the same thing without any genuinely new ideas.

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LISPOP Associate discusses biggest challenge facing the federal Liberals?

Published Jan. 20, 2013, on CTV News.

LISPOP Associate Chris Cochrane discusses the first of five Liberal leadership debates. He discusses the challenges for the Liberal candidates and the party. One of the biggest questions to ask is how the less dominant Liberal party will position themselves against the Conservatives in the future.

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LISPOP Associate discusses property rights for First Nations

Published Jan. 11, 2013, on CBC Radio.

LISPOP Associate Christopher Alcantara discusses proposed law that would extend individual property rights to first nations living on reserves. Supporters say it’s a tool for economic prosperity. Critics say it’s an attack on sovereignty.

– Listen Here –

LISPOP Associate to speak at Conferation Club

The Confederation Club hosts Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, for its monthly luncheon Dec. 13, noon to 1:30 p.m., at the Kitchener Delta Hotel.

Bricker’s talk is called The Big Shift: The seismic change in Canadian politics, business and culture.

The center of gravity in Canada is shifting westward. As you move from east to west unemployment is lower and economic and population growth is higher.

–Link to Article–