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politics

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.

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