Rob Ford isn’t the silent type. When our mayor has an opinion about something, whether it’s bike lanes, gravy trains, football, subways, or any of his other projects or pet peeves, he usually makes himself heard.
Up until last Friday, when he finally decided to trek out to Brampton to endorse Stephen Harper, Ford had been unusually silent about the looming federal election. Well, no longer. Now that he’s made his choice, our mayor has been using his dialing finger to send Torontonians a message.
Earlier today, at around 2:30 p.m., we received a short robocall from Mayor Ford, telling us to vote for the Conservative Party candidate in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Bernard Trottier. In his message, Ford says that he knows “John personally,” that “he’s a leader, he’s honest, he has integrity, and he’s going to work extremely hard.” (We’re not quite sure why he called him John.)
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Ford’s actions. He has the right to endorse whomever he wants, and political robocalls are perfectly legal, if somewhat annoying. No, what’s at stake here is Ford’s brand, and the perception that he’s Mr. Etobicoke. By endorsing Trottier, and reportedly Ted Opitz, the Conservative candidate for Etobicoke-Centre, Ford has put some of his political capital on the line. (Particularly by backing Trottier, as he’s running against Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.)
In the 2010 mayoral election, Ford carried all of the wards in Etobicoke by more than 50 per cent. If Trottier wins tomorrow, or comes really close, Ford can argue that his personal appeal made all the difference to an unknown and untested candidate. In that case, Ford’s star continues to rise. But if Trottier loses badly, Ford’s perceived influence over Etobicoke and the rest of suburban Toronto takes a hit.
In all likelihood, Ford’s made a smart bet. With Liberal support waning and the NDP on the rise, Etobicoke’s Conservative candidates are likely to poll closer to their Liberal opponents than in any election in the past two decades.