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politics

Ford Fest Comes Back to Etobicoke

On Friday, Mayor Rob Ford's annual summer barbeque returned to its home turf.

Etobicoke Ford Fest, 2013

The most serious objection critics have raised against Ford Fest, Mayor Rob Ford’s annual summer barbeque, is that it might constitute an illegal campaign expense.

Ontario politicians (and would-be politicians) are forbidden, by law, from spending money on campaigns and campaign events before registering as candidates. Nobody, including Ford, is allowed to register for the 2014 mayoral campaign yet, because it’s still too early.

Ford knows this, or he should. He came within a hair’s breadth of being sued because of something similar earlier this year. But on Friday night, at Centennial Park in Etobicoke for this summer’s second Ford Fest celebration (the first was in July, in Scarborough), the mayor proved once again that caution isn’t his style. He got up on stage in front of a crowd of hundreds and explicitly called for votes and campaign volunteers in the 2014 mayoral election. It was almost as though he were daring someone to try to take him to court again.

“We’re getting rid of the gravy train,” Ford said. “That train is ending. And there’s still a lot of work to do. As you know, there’s a big election a year from now.”

“October 27 of next year, I need everybody—I mean, everybody—to get out and vote. We gotta work hard, folks. I’ll lead by example. I’m gonna go full-out, like I always have. But I need your support. I’m gonna need everybody handing out literature, putting up signs. Most importantly, on election day, we gotta get everybody out to vote.”

The Ford family seemingly spent thousands of dollars on the event, which included not only the usual free hamburgers, beer, and live music, but also free midway rides, free potted flowers for people to take away, and free “Ford Nation” flags. Whether all the money spent actually constitutes an illegal campaign expense is something only a court could decide, but seeing Ford with a microphone in his hand, actively not caring about the possibility of legal consequences, was a reminder of exactly where we’re at relative to the election cycle.

In a certain sense, Ford has been campaigning since the day after he was elected in 2010, but Friday’s Ford Fest truly did have the feel of a campaign kickoff. As he did during July’s Ford Fest, the mayor spent the entire night, aside from the ten minutes or so when he was speechifying, taking photos with people and shaking hands in a little area that had been cordoned off for the purpose. Police and security officers were beside him wherever he went.

It’s hard to peg the number of attendees, because people were coming and going throughout the evening. It’s safe to say that there were thousands in attendance, and that many if not most of them were the mayor’s supporters. Etobicoke is his home turf, after all; he represented the area on city council for a decade before being elected mayor.

The all-important burger line moved relatively swiftly this time. Several people reported waits in the 30-minute range—a major improvement over the 90-plus minute waits at July’s Ford Fest. Someone in the mayor’s office must have decided that Ford Nation, like all fearsome armies, travels on its stomach.

The event has lost the intimate, borderline-creepy ambiance it had back when the mayor was still holding it in his mom’s Etobicoke backyard. Then, the title “Ford Fest” seemed like a mildly funny exaggeration, but now, with the 2014 municipal campaign set to begin officially on January 2, Ford’s barbeque has grown into its moniker.

The mood of the crowd can perhaps best be summed up by a song, performed on the Ford Fest stage on Friday night by a local Calypso artist called De Carra. Titled “Toronto is Strong,” it follows in the tradition of the now-classic Ford ballad “Mayor Ford—The World Will Remember,” written for July’s Ford Fest by Jenny James. (James also performed on Friday.) Click below to listen.

And since the audio quality isn’t great (the song was recorded on a phone), here’s an attempt at a transcription of the lyrics.

When I heard the rumour
About our mayor
I say man, they joking
Why they want to lose him

Torontonians lucky
To have him running the City
Man, we send him to City Hall
Certain people want to see him fall

Toronto is strong
We can’t bring this mayor down
Don’t care how they try
With their pack of lies

As the people, they attack
While the city on the right track
They want to destroy his name
???

Adam Vaughan and Miss Shelly [Carroll?]
Listen carefully
I don’t know what you’re drinking
Or what you guys smoking

He dealt with the unions
This mayor have the best plan
But you love to see him fall
Why not give this mayor your full support?

Toronto is strong
We can’t bring this mayor down
Don’t care how they try
With their pack of lies

And so Rob, steady course
Man, we love you, you are the boss
Don’t care what they do
Rob Ford, we voting for you

When we had David Miller
Taxes used to be higher [Note: this is false.]
He spent like a drunken sailor
Quite soon you remember

Rob Ford, we vote for him
???
If you believe in democracy
The people is the judge and the jury

Toronto is strong
We can’t bring this mayor down
Don’t care how they try
With their pack of lies

And so Rob, steady course
Man, we love you, you are the boss
Don’t care what they do
Rob Ford, we voting for you

Friends, let us join together
And support this mayor
To make Toronto safer
???

The number-one mayor
In North America
He was sent by the messiah
A man fighting for the taxpayer

Toronto is strong
We can’t bring this mayor down
Don’t care they try
With their pack of lies

As the people, they attack
While the city on the right track
They want to destroy his name
???

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