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Who Donated to Rob Ford’s Last Campaign?

A new map of contributors shows the mayor got help from all over Ontario—even downtown Toronto.

Yesterday, the Globe and Mail released an interactive map of contributions made to Rob Ford’s 2010 election campaign, organized by postal code. And, as the Globe reported in their analysis of the data, what’s most striking is just how many contributions came from outside Toronto.

Ford’s 2010 campaign received $623,971.73—about a third of its total funds raised—from the likes of Woodbridge, Peterborough, Ottawa, and other municipalities across Ontario. That dwarfs the less than $200,000 David Miller received from beyond city limits during his successful 2006 bid for mayor. But it’s actually less than the $716,576 George Smitherman got from non-Torontonians when he faced off against Ford in 2010.

So the 2010 race looks to have been particularly interesting to outsiders. As the Globe explained, it is likely part of a trend toward lengthier mayoral campaigns and deepening campaign war chests, perhaps influenced by contribution rebate programs and the number of people in places such as Vaughan who have business concerns in Toronto. But let’s put the issue of “foreign influence” aside for a moment.

Even more curious than the amount donated from out of town is the distribution of donations from within Toronto. Sure, Ford’s Etobicoke base provided him with more individual donors and more cash overall than any other area of the city. But he also scored big in affluent neighbourhoods like Mount Pleasant, Forest Hill, and Rosedale. He got a decent turnout in middle-class Don Mills. He even won over downtown donors, managing to rake in tens of thousands of dollars from a few hundred caring citizens in the core—the very people he all but promised to forsake during his election campaign. He was Mr. Suburb, scourge of the downtown, champion of the car commuter. And yet, here we are.

There are two lessons to be learned from all this: the first is that postal codes are perhaps not accurate indicators of political allegiance, since most contain a diverse array of incomes, needs, and social values. But the other takeaway here is that, for all the discussion of Ford that’s taken place over the past four years, his appeal as a political leader remains difficult to pin down.

True, the data suggests that Ford is especially liked in the wealthier swaths of Toronto. Certainly his 2010 anti-labour, anti-gravy platforms were likely to appeal to the upper middle class. But donations across the board are going to be higher in areas with more disposable income.

There’s something else: Rob Ford is like a Rorschach test. He means something to just about everyone, but what he means to you depends on your own perspectives and values. That’s why he’s been cast variously as a disgrace to politics and a saviour to government; an anti-social bigot and a caring community leader; an average Joe Six-Pack and a spoiled rich kid with Conservative party ties.

That may explain why he’s able to win over people not just in Toronto but also across the province. It may explain why out-of-towners donated unprecedented amounts both to Ford and to his main opponent in the last election. It’s why today—in spite of the crack tape and rehab stint and shirtless jogger—Ford is still a viable candidate for re-election.

Ford inspires passion, both positive and negative. It was true during his 2010 campaign, and it’s true now.


  • Justin Pierre

    I did something similar, comparing who won each ward by votes with who won it in fundraising:

    While lots of downtown money was donated to all candidates, Smitherman still won the fundraising battle there.

  • Notcleverguy

    How accurate are the numbers? Do they account for all the $20 Rob and Doug handed out to buy votes from the poor who didn’t know these clowns were full of nothing but empty promises?

  • OpportKnocks

    Those who have been paying attention to the reported testimony from Charbonneau Commission in Quebec will be aware that a fair number of those testifying under oath have said that:
    a) The payments from municipal/provincial contractors that was happening in greater Montreal, is also prevalent in Toronto.
    b) The big money was paid by the developers as part of the approval process, not just the construction contractors.

    The serious question is, what are the ordinary Toronto/Ontario citizens going to do about it?

  • Notcleverguy

    This is an article written by the gentleman who is running for councilor in ward 2, The ward the Ford brothers have under-served for more than a decade.

    It might be one of the best pieces written about the failings of Ford.

    • Francine Detwiler

      That was a really nicely-written piece. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • vampchick21

    The real question is, of those who donated to Ford in the 2010 campaign, how many donated again in the 2014 campaign? A question we won’t get an answer for until 2015. But I’d be very interested in seeing.

    • Notcleverguy

      My contribution to his campaign will be calling him several times a day and offering to take him out for drinks.

  • rich1299

    What really annoys me is the fact that 75% of all political donations at any level of gov’t are paid for the public in the form of tax refunds. Its the general public that’s paying for the vast majority of what any politician spends but our system is set up to ensure that the wealthiest individuals can direct more of our public money to a specific candidate than people living in poverty are able to.

    Our political system is based on inequality between citizens driven by such massive tax rebates for political donations. If the vast majority of money being spent by any politician is coming from the public purse anyways and all citizens are truly equal under the laws of Canada then we need to get rid of the tax rebate program altogether and return to the per-vote subsidy at least at the upper levels of gov’t. Since there isn’t a party system it at the municipal level the tax rebate is about the best we can do but it needs to be majorly reformed. The person’s income needs to be considered when determining how much of a tax refund they get. The higher the income the less the tax refund since it can be more easily afforded, the lower the income the greater the tax refund due to the greater need, and no tax refunds at all for any donations from people not eligible to vote in Toronto’s elections.

    That still leaves people living in poverty out of our political system, there’s no doubting that money wins elections, and there’s no obvious answer to increase political involvement at the municipal level for those in poverty that I’m aware of. At the upper levels of gov’t the return of the per vote subsidy is far more democratic than giving a 75% tax refund for political donations which is anti-democratic by its very nature. In no other area do we so blatantly allow our wealthiest citizens to have a greater say over what sort of government we have than citizens with less wealth.

    If not abolishing the tax rebate for political donations they should give the same, practically non-existent degree of tax rebate provided for essential medical spending and then give medical spending a 75% rebate. Or at best give political donations the same rebate as for donations to charities providing services the gov’t should be doing but isn’t and give such charitable donations a 75% rebate.

    Its unjustified that Torontonians are forced to reimburse 75% of the donations made by people who aren’t even eligible to vote in Toronto. Those donations scream corruption since what other reason is there to spend money on politicians you can’t even vote for if not for preferential treatment for businesses in or sales to Toronto. Considering the massive impact of money on elections local democracy is greatly weakened by allowing people who aren’t citizens of Toronto to have such a direct impact on local elections

  • Kevin Bracken

    The downtown donations don’t surprise me. In the words of a colleague who lives near King & Simcoe: “Rob Ford has done amazing things for the developers in this city.” Hard to deny that by leaving local government completely hamstrung, the developers have been allowed to run rampant.