Monday, September 19, 2011

Toronto: Mayor Ford Retreat, Tory Vote Meltdown

Ah, I love the smell of self-inflicted Tory panic on a Monday morning. It seemed only a year ago that things were heading towards Tories at all levels of government. Harper was riding high - and would soon win a majority - Ford won a majority of votes in the mayoral election, while the left candidate (can you even name him?) won less than 15%, and shiny, new provincial Tory leader Tim Hudak was going to crush Liberal Premier McGuinty like a badly matched UFC brawl.

What a difference a year makes.

Sure, Harper got his majority but he didn't really improve his vote. And the NDPs vote went through the roof, representing a big shift to the left, particularly in Quebec. After years of enduring Liberal sycophancy in the face of Tory policies - and Ignatieff's poor efforts as posing as a fighter - the arrival of the NDP will put much greater pressure on the Tories. It's worth noting that one of the first acts by the NDP was to challenge the Tory's punitive back to work legislation against the postal workers, who were locked out by management.

Here in Ontario Hudak's Tories were riding high as late as June, with projections that they could win up to 20 Toronto area seats. But it's been all downhill since then.

In a Forum Research poll from June, when the PCs were leading by a wide margin in Ontario as a whole, Mr. Hudak’s party stood at 33 per cent in Toronto, ahead of the Liberals (31 per cent) and the New Democrats (25 per cent). In a space of three months, the Tories have lost about one-quarter of their support in the province’s largest city.
The Tory meltdown has yet to gather the same kind of momentum in the rest of the province but there is a pattern emerging that hints at the potential to deal a serious hammer blow to the Tories in Canada's industrial heartland. A big defeat here would damage Harper's chances of repeating his majority next election and open the door to a potential NDP federal government.

It's certain that the key is bumbling Rob Ford's endless stream of screw-ups and the possibility of really putting a stop to his austerity agenda. As today's Globe & Mail points out, Ford is ready to back-off on library closings and eliminating daycare subsidies - even though he was still touting them as late as last Tuesday. This partial, humiliating climbdown is a result of the unprecedented outpouring of anger over the fact that Ford lied during his campaign that there would be no service cuts and his and his brother's shocking arrogance and cavalier attitude to popular public services. The solid campaign by the library workers union to publicize opposition to the cuts - and the recent massive Toronto poll that showed Ford's popularity in freefall with anti-cuts sentiment pushing 75% - have deepened the crisis at Ford HQ. Even mainstream newspapers and right wing radio hosts are laying the boots in.

The growing campaign against the cuts - including a recent mass meeting in Dufferin Grove Park that drew 600 - and the likelihood of a big demonstration on Monday, September 26 increases the possibility that we can push Ford from climbdown to meltdown. And a meltdown of the Ford administration will undermine the Hudak Conservatives in a big way. It will help to spread the anti-Tory sentiment beyond the city's boundaries, demonstrating an alternative to austerity and phoney calls to "respect taxpayers" - really code to coddle and subsidize the rich. All of which makes it that much more important that September 26 is massive. Spread the word, invite your friends and family, your co-workers, your neighbours and plan to be there yourself. This could be the moment we begin to turn the tide - and that's something that you don't want to miss.


Toronto Mayor Ford to retreat from controversial cuts - The Globe and Mail:
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