Of all the politicians standing for re-election in Toronto, Rob Ford is the one who has inflicted the greatest damage on the city, the one of whom we most need to be free. He is not, as originally planned, running for mayor: facing a cancer diagnosis, he decided instead to run for councillor in his old Ward 2, Etobicoke North. Despite his ill health and inability to mount a robust campaign, most observers are writing off the outcome a foregone conclusion: Rob will win it in a walk.
We disagree. The right candidate can beat Rob Ford, even in Ward 2. The right candidate should beat Rob Ford. Andray Domise is that candidate.
Domise did not enter the race to run against Rob: he registered back in April, before any Ford was on the ballot. (Prior to Rob, nephew Mikey Ford had been slated hold up the family dynasty in Etobicoke.) He has been working hard every day since to call attention to some of the most neglected parts of the most reported-on ward in the city. He has been demonstrating, every day, that the community where Rob Ford came up as a politician—supposedly based on a commitment to doorstep politics in which every call is answered and every pothole examined in person—has not, in fact, been tended to.
Domise has some of the most remarkable instincts we’ve seen in a first-time candidate, by which we mean, especially, that he understands the importance of being himself. He can manage the conventional aspects of a campaign, but he does not speak like a conventional politician. He has made mistakes during this race, and he has apologized for them—not half-heartedly, and not with a manufactured statement crafted by a communications advisor, but in the manner of someone genuinely attempting to learn from his errors. He has the capacity to break through the empty rhetoric and routine talking points that define most campaigns, and a willingness to engage with residents—to listen them and challenge their assumptions—far more frankly than most politicians, rookie or not.
Put another way: Domise is the real deal. He knows his community, he knows the trouble spots within the ward, and he engages with its residents. But rather than swooping in with high-flying promises to fix individual problems as they come to the top of his call-sheet, he encourages his neighbours to work with him to make structural and cultural changes that will raise the community overall.
More than anything, he speaks about getting people involved. He’s an advocate for the Finch LRT who is simultaneously furious that politicians and City staff didn’t consult enough with the local community in the early years or build up grassroots support for the project, no matter how worthy it might be. He endorses it, but he also insists that we need to start crafting policy differently—from the ground-up.
There are other impressive candidates in Ward 2, especially Munira Abukar, a Toronto Community Housing director and vice-chair with strong progressive credentials whom you will be hearing more about in the coming years. If Ford were not in the race we might well endorse her—certainly it would be a close call. There are great emerging leaders in Etobicoke, and we hope that many of them will find roles, in and out of City Hall, that help them shape the future of our city.
But in this election, Domise possesses the strongest combination of community engagement, political priorities, and winnability. He will be a dedicated and conscientious public servant, one who takes the time and effort to think deeply about public policy and will do his best to make it better. We don’t agree with him on every issue—he has shown some enthusiasm for John Tory’s disastrous SmartTrack plan, for instance—but he has shown a consistent capacity to disagree intelligently and fight fairly.
Domise has shown that being a politician who is also a person—that tapping into a sense of human experience—doesn’t require that we dumb down our rhetoric, but can actually help us elevate it. He doesn’t sell his would-be constituents short: he expects things of them as much as of himself. In that, he shows them more respect than any representative they’ve had since Toronto became an amalgamated city.