A Kensington Lefty in King Rob Ford’s Court

Rob Ford’s climactic parade into the hall.

As soon as I entered the Toronto Congress Centre, my friends pulled me into the lineup they were standing in.

“What’s this line for?” I asked.

“We don’t know.  We just got here and were told to stand in this line.”

I poked my head out to get a view of the front. “Oh my God,” I exclaimed, “This is the line to shake Rob Ford’s hand! He’s shaking the hand of every person who goes in!

As a politically-engaged downtowner attending a massive Rob Ford shindig out of a healthy mix of curiosity and irony, this was a bit intimidating. (Also, that morning I had written something that questioned the legality of several aspects of his campaign.)  But Ford is, of course, a nice enough guy in person, and you have to respect his sincerity.  His attitude isn’t restricted to quasi-libertarian populism, after all; he also has an evangelical belief in the power of personable customer service, and his introductory handshake was followed by several additional phalanxes of Walmart-like greeters along the way into the main room. (Plus, he didn’t recognize me.)

A rough layout of the event.  The red dot is a hand-shaking Ford. (Click for larger.)

The efficiency with which 1600 people were processed with a smile was terrifying.  Shake Ford’s hand.  Head into next chamber.  Shake campaign volunteer’s hand.  Here are two drink tickets. Head to a table.

This vestibule was lined with sign-up tables on either side, taking names, pledges to help out, donate., etc.  Volunteers were enthusiastically distributing FORD-branded signs, visors, bumper stickers. By virtue of the intelligent layout, I would guess they recruited an army of no fewer than a thousand people that night, prior to any of them even entering the grand hall, which itself was set up as though for an epic bar mitzvah.

The north half of the hall.  I could have spun around 180º and taken an identical photo of the south half.

Glazed in blue light and populated with a hundred tables decked with red-white-and-blue balloons, the bar was cleverly placed at the far, far end.  As were the cheese tables, generously offering brie in units best described as “slabs.” No expense was spared: there were olives with AND without pimentos.

Then an accordionist on stage, presumably to complement the wine and cheese.  The accordionist was followed, as all accordionists should be, by Councillor Frances Nunziata (the diminutive former mayor of York) who offered what will likely be the only endorsement Ford receives from a fellow member of Council.  A disproportionately diverse selection of supporters stood guard as a human backdrop.

The heartfelt testimonies from high school football players to whom Ford has provided personal guidance was sweetly touching, both effective at sketching him out as a caring human being and saving me from ever having to see The Blind Side.

Continuing the bar mitzvah theme, campaign manager / older brother Doug Ford, introduced a video tribute the family had assembled, which Rob had not yet seen. It was scored to an original rock song with lyrics about his fiscal policies, and my brain melted much as it does in the presence of the best of Hungarian art cinema. Please put this on YouTube.

I was further staggered by the heartbreaking genius of having a bagpiper lead the parade that was Rob Ford’s dramatic entrance. Nothing he might say in his speech could possibly have topped that, and indeed nothing did: that anyone could have such a shallow understanding of how government works after spending a whole decade within it is actually quite disappointing.  That he doesn’t grasp the paradox inherent in promising both fewer city councillors as well as improved constituent relations from councillors does not give me faith that during this campaign he will disclose some heretofore hidden intelligence. (He also quite literally proposed shouting-match democracy; a Council led by Mayor Ford, he promised, would decide on issues based on whichever members of the public are loudest in the Council Chambers.)

At the conclusion of the speech, scores of balloons were released to fall to the stage below.  Many of them popped on impact, suggesting they were inflated to an excessive degree.

The song playing — Starship’s “We Built This City.”


  1. The Frances Nunziata endorsement really slays me
    as well as the brie and wine in the far corner.

    Shouting-match democracy won’t work; we know that from the Lastman days.

    If the only high point is the bagpiper, then it’s a real shallow campaign and candidate.

    It’s good of you to post this today. Had you done it on April Fools, I’d have discounted your article.
    Today, I know it’s for real and with a light cast of sarcasm.

    Accordionists must come cheap. A real musician charges $200+/hr. for such a gig.

    I don’t expect he’ll be around much longer and what he’s done so far should taint any chances of success as an alderman up for re-election.

  2. Wow, that’s possibly the fattest parade group I’ve ever seen. Fordy wants to remove speed bumps and facilitate more highways, probably so ambulances can deliver all of these people with greater speed after they suffer their first of many heart attacks.

  3. Hmmm…Starship. I bet that song is where most of Rob Ford’s knowledge about city-building came from…

  4. the tag ‘curiosities’ made me guffaw. I’m not a guffaw-er.

  5. It saddens me that so much resources were wasted on this. At least it’s pouring money into the local economy.

  6. This is the funniest piece of political journalism I have read in a very long time. Cudos!

  7. I’d be interested to know what numbers the other Mayoral candidates were drawing at their launch events. Given the objective of the campaign is about having the largest number of ballots in the box on October 25th. On the other hand you gotta ask yourself whether Ford has peaked too early. Can he really grow his team into a force to be reckoned with? Will the “Rob Ford Nation” be a failed state or an imperial conquerer.

  8. Is Frances Nunziata endorsing Ford as a *mayoral candidate*, or as *mayor*? Sounds more like the kind of quixotic move her brother John would make…

  9. That’s a lot of supporters. How have other candidates’ shindigs compared?
    I think Rob Ford would be an epic disaster as mayor, but this does make it look like he’s a serious candidate with a lot of support… progressives discount that at our peril.

  10. Reminds me of Gerald Ford. Missing: “Live from Etobicoke, it’s …”.

  11. There is a saying in Chicago, the Blackhawks only have 16500 fans but they go to every game. Whether this group grows or is effective on the ground remains to be seen. This may be the upper limit of people who will show support for him at an event.

  12. Is holding a campaign event in city hall even legal?

  13. This event was at the Toronto Congress Centre, situated at the edge of Etobicoke — not in City Hall.

    As to your question, the official policy with regard to using City facilities for election purposes is thus (with “corporate” here including the corporation of the City of Toronto):

    “Corporate resources and funding may not be used for any election-related purposes, with the exception that community groups be extended access to City facilities for the explicit purpose of conducting all-candidate meetings, including all-candidates meetings for municipal, provincial and federal elections, at a nominal fee of $1.00, and all registered candidates within each specific category must be invited to attend such meetings.” [PDF]

  14. Rob Ford is bar far the best man for the Job, The fact that his opposition will resort to this kind of political warfare is just proof of that. 
    in a nutshel politicians dont have the common sense to make wise spending decisions, therefore they hire consultants (like lawyers taking on a new case) who charge them thousands of dollars, and say well this would be a good idea. This way they can continue to consult  and milk the system, all the way through, The projects are never effective, the consultant offers a deflection of blame, (well i hired a processional) and tax payers get squeezed with new and more taxes the following year for the lack of incompetence. 

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