Rob Ford: The War on Cars?!?!?!?!?!

So Toronto’s new Mayor reported to work on December 1, 2010. It was and will remain  a sad day indeed for a wannabe ‘world class’, wannabe NYC North, backward-looking city.

Disturbingly, Ford ran against public transportation; and for cars. He bellowed throughout the campaign that ‘The war on the car is over!’ He repeated that mantra when he assumed office.

Mayor Ford vows that ‘Transit City’, a plan that took close to a decade to negotiate and fund, is also “over”, He claims that under his administration Toronto will build subways, rather than the ‘Light Rail Transit’ (LRT) streetcars favoured by the plan he says he’ll put an ice-pick into. Subways would cost two to three times as much as LRT. It is highly unlikely that there will be the kind of massive subway construction that could substitute for the planned LRT lines. Subways are too expensive.

What a Rob Ford administration probably foretells is more cars and more freeways in Toronto.  To suggest that Toronto ever experienced a “War on cars”, is laughable. Toronto is the hub of southern Ontario which suffers from car addiction economically, aesthetically, environmentally and in terms of public health.

Ford was also elected by campaigning openly against immigration. In Toronto, one of the world’s most multicultural cities, you say? Yes, that’s right.

It gets worse. In victory, a member of his staff slyly all-but-admitted that team Ford had staged calls to a radio phone-in program in hopes of scaring off one potential opponent; and investigative journalists seemed to show how the campaign team had created a false Twitter account to locate and fend off a citizen who had experienced a potentially highly embarrassing encounter with Ford.

In political terms, his victory means that suburban voters and their municipal councilors, largely right-leaning Ford supporters, will significantly determine political life for the minority of voters who live in what most of the rest of the world considers Toronto – its downtown. Downtown areas voted overwhelmingly for Ford’s opponents, but thanks to urban amalgamation, the suburban majority rules. That’s democracy Ontario style. Ford’s victory might foreshadow an American-like economic and cultural hollowing out of downtown Toronto.

Ford ran a sophisticated campaign built on resentment of elites, real and imagined. Good luck to him if he’s serious about rooting out waste and ending the “gravy train” for entrenched interests at City Hall. However, his victory appears to represent nostalgia for a Toronto that ceased to exist 30-40 years ago. His mastery of his opponents in what passed for an electoral contest was astonishing and instructive.  Toronto’s pretense of sophistication has been laid bare by a political campaign that made mockery of environmental concerns, insulted the city’s immigrant tradition and displayed contempt for those who rely on public transportation. World class, eh?

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