“The millionaire populism of the Rob Ford variety is only successful if a mass-psychology can be masterfully kneaded into the embittered and the ill-educated. Ford’s ‘tele-town hall’ democracy was the cunning cultivation of a herd of voters known as Ford Nation—the membership to which is subject to no other requirement than a Ford ballot, embitteredness and a car.”
Although tragedy and nostalgia is inflected in every note and vibrato they produce, the Arcade Fire capture musically what the fleeing from suburbia for the sake of sanity would sound like. By some angle, the Arcade Fire’s Suburbs is just the musical expression of a general pattern of Canadian suburban flight.
For Toronto-residing exiles abandoning the uncreative and stale culture of suburbia, start praying—The Greater Toronto Area (read: suburbs) has discarded its sub-status and has, via Mayor Ford, struggled to the apex of the city hierarchy. Ford Nation is the era of a GTA controlled Toronto.
The cultivation of this unwholesome environment began over a decade and a half ago and the process of consummating the benefactors has only just begun. The ascension of Rob Ford to mayor means that the conservative cadre who put him there are now about to reap a fixed amount per share. The first bit of tedium is explaining the historical forces that spawned Ford Nation…
The Hewing and Contouring of Ford Nation
Harris’ Mega-City consolidation meant forthwith that Toronto would now consist of suburbia politically enwrapping the city core with subsequent disputes taken up in City Hall alone.
From their incorporation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), taxes paid in the GTA were contributing to unreciprocated services for Toronto residents. This arrangement meant that GTA residents had slightly emptier wallets, a higher petroleum bill, and suffered from demoralizing 400-series car jams.
The festering discontent from the victims above would be the birth pangs of Ford Nation but if only it could be channeled so (To be fair, everybody suffered under Harris regardless of the urban/suburban divide).
Misled, however, are those that think Rob Ford’s charm is that he discovered or ‘tapped into’ the GTA’s unheard and cold-shouldered desires; Ford Nation is built on the right kind of manipulation during the formative period of these attitudes.
Ford’s campaign was the blade-work of Nick Kouvalis, head of Campaign Research, a polling firm. Kouvalis’ goal is to provoke taxpayer entitlement and rage from which the Ford Nation voting block could be whittled. Seen as he was slightly to the right of Rob Ford during the ‘tele-town hall‘ conferences, Kouvalis’ political astuteness is confirmed by his firm’s ability to frame questions so to guarantee the right answers.
Opinion polling of this stripe is less about measuring public sentiment than corralling it. The millionaire populism of the Fordist variety is only successful if a mass-psychology can be masterfully kneaded into the embittered and the ill-educated. Ford’s tele-conference democracy was the cunning cultivation of a herd of voters known as Ford Nation—the membership to which is subject to no other requirement than a Ford ballot, embitteredness and a car.
From this angle, Ford’s abolition of the Vehicle Registration Tax was the $60 bait that masses of heroic taxpayers could be formed. This method of collectivization is what was warned would happen to you if the ‘left-wing’ was in power. The ironies of history apply most to those who don’t believe that they exist.
At first, I didn’t believe Rob Ford had a politically active brother, Doug, until I saw both of them in the flesh (more so in Rob’s case than Doug’s). But then I learn that they too had a father, Doug Ford, Sr., (not the surprising bit in itself) that was an Ontario Member of Parliament in support of Mike Harris’ conservative reign (1995-2002). The roiling amusement I once got from watching Ford was swiftly subjected to diminishing returns only to be supplanted entirely by a deep sense of foreboding.
Ford’s business and political networks loop and link with the barons of Ontario’s conservative movement. The next four years will be one of suburban domination of Toronto.
If I am to be accused of propagating conspiracy theories herein I should issue a preemptive defense. All of the connections to be outlined are on the record and exist objectively. I am no more than advancing a method for arranging the facts. Affiliation and collusion of this caliber exists in spite of, or in addition to, my attempts to uncover linkages. It is as if the facts themselves conspire. Even the National Post thought Mike Harris to be more conniving than originally assumed.
Rob Ford’s campaign received a prompt and sparkling endorsement from Canada’s finance minister, Jim Flaherty. Flaherty is the Federal MP from Whitby-Oshawa, the industrial stronghold of the embattled but persistence infrastructure of General Motors in Canada. The Canadian government owns 13.5% of GM in conjunction with the 61% prominently owned by the US Treasury.
Mike Harris, the Conservative technician of the Mega-City, is now on the Board of Directors at Magna International, a world-class auto parts supplier from Aurora, Ont. Mike Harris helped orchestrate the Harmony fundraising dinner to help pay down the negative balance sheet Ford’s mayoral campaign incurred.
Thomas J. Courchene, a senior scholar at the Institute for Research in Public Policy, observed in his monumental study of Ontario’s economy, Is Ontario a Region-state?, that much of the “GTA and Ontario economy is driven off the automobile sector (one in six GTA jobs are auto-related)”. Quite the ratio, no?
Politicians-cum-businessmen (Harris), dependent finance ministers (Flaherty), government owned car companies of which they are desperate to resuscitate (General Motors), the subordination of every infrastructure policy to the army of Ontario’s commuters, these are the breaks in Ford Nation.
Premier McGuinty has to submit to Ford’s political requests because Ford’s deep and familial links to the Conservative Party of Ontario means that Ford can flip the whole balance of power in Queen’s Park faster than an unattached bar table perilously proximate to a joint-fueled, Molson-sodden, shirt button-busting Argo’s fan enraged after his team muffs a crucial punt.
Last and least, I could not forget the paragon of inarticulacy and Kandahar blood lust, the most overrated man in Canada, Don Cherry. His resurrection of the term ‘pinko’ was done without stating by whom the term was once uttered. It seems that Cherry and the Mayor who sat plump and giggling beside him are nostalgic for the bad old days in American history when conservative politicians could legally invigilate and delete any opponent based on their political beliefs. McCherryismredux.
With the tight and consanguine rivets—Flaherty eulogized Doug Ford, Sr.—forming a Fordist political alliance that orbits the auto industry, can anyone but not be mistrustful of the demonization of the TTC, the erasure of Transit City, the unnervingrevocation of the right to strike of TTC workers, the taunting and degrading of cyclists,the domestic and furry sounding ‘public-private’ initiatives?
The Ford administration is rank with the sado-conservatism of Harris, Kouvalis, and Flaherty and the connections exist external to the mind. Is there another explanation as to why privatization is Ford’s most public utterance?