Illustration by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
This much is true: when we discussed potential Hero and Villain candidates at our secret lodge in the Muskokas over brandy and cigars, everybody assumed Rob Ford would be on the list. But when it came time to select who we would each write about, Rob Ford went unpicked practically until the end.
Probably it’s because writing about Rob Ford in this context is so predictable. Torontoist does not agree with Rob Ford on a whole lot of things, after all. We generally like bikes, and light rail transit, and street festivals, and marathons, and downtown Toronto, and Rob Ford doesn’t like any of those things. Torontoist and Rob Ford occupy opposite ends of many arguments; naming him as a Villain seems so very stereotypically us.
None of those disputes are why Rob Ford is a villain. Other people who disagree with Torontoist on municipal issues aren’t here. No, Rob Ford is a villain because over the year, no politician was more cancerous to Toronto’s public discourse. Rob Ford ran a campaign based mostly on appealing promises backed up by the worst kind of lies: the lies people really want to believe. He issued a “financial plan” that barely makes sense even if you assume the absolute best possible outcomes. He repeatedly promised that he would increase citizen service while decreasing staff, which a five-year-old knows doesn’t make sense. He pretended that provincial transit funding could be used as he liked, even though he knew better (or should have). He constantly repeated verifiably false statistics at debates, even after he was corrected again and again, solely because they sounded outrageous and he wanted to inflame the general public. He demonstrated at Steve Paikin’s debate that he couldn’t even summon up the basic decency to pay George Smitherman a meaningless compliment. He demonized immigrants.
And then he got elected mayor, briefly pretending that he was a candidate for all the people, not just the ones who voted for him. This lasted maybe a week, until Ford insisted that, yes, he was going to do his best to kill Transit City and replace it with a single Scarborough subway. Then he invited Don Cherry to open his very first city council meeting with a stream of insults directed at liberals and while later claiming to be “surprised” by Cherry’s remarks, endorsed them nonetheless. He’s completely shut downtown councillors out of every major committee—something that David Miller, for all the complaints about his lack of reaching out, never did to conservatives.
In effect, he’s giving Toronto exactly what he said he would give Toronto: bad governance in bad faith. This was unfortunately as predictable as us not supporting him, and this is why Rob Ford is a Villain.