Everyone’s clamouring for Ford to resign: he lied, he smoked crack, he was wasted on the job, the city needs a competent administration. Balls, I say. I’ve seen competent administrations and I can say for certain in the present climate that a “competent administration” will focus its attention on further austerity and attacking those who resist austerity. Need I remind that the entire left wing on council voted to applaud the role of the police in attacking G20 protestors? Well, a couple of them stayed away for the vote but you don’t get bravery points for that now, do you? So I can think of three good reasons why we will be better off as a city if Rob Ford stays and then runs in the next election:
1) His removal will be on a conservative basis that does nothing to strengthen the left. Sorry, folks – Police Chief Bill “martial law” Blair is the hero in this story, not the left, not the unions, not the LGBT movement. In fact the list of Ford’s enemies looks increasingly like a who’s who of the right in this city. The clamour for Ford’s head is not because he wants to close libraries, end daycare subsidies or because he refuses to attend Gay Pride. It is a moral panic about a guy who is too trashy to do the elite job of being a mayor. If he goes now he will be replaced by a new standard bearer who most of the right can rally around to implement the very same agenda pursued by Ford.
2) By Ford staying the right wing can spend the next year tearing the shit out of each other and can then proceed to split the vote three ways. A deeply fractured right creates more space to resist austerity and build a fightback. After Ford was elected there was a sense amongst the left on council and outside in the real world, that Ford Nation was unassailable. Pessimism leads to passivity and acceptance of austerity because there appears to be no alternatrive. Doug Ford’s call for Chief Blair and Polices Services Board chair Andrew Pringle to resign demonstrates that the dynamic duo have no red lines and they will escalate the fight as much as necessary to save their careers. These guys are not normal politicians. And Dougie is also correct: Pringle, the head of the body whose job it is to oversee the cops and keep them on a tight leash of accountability has no business going on a fishing trip with the damn chief. If the Ford's want to go down swinging and take down a bunch of right wing power brokers with them (saying things that the left has never had the spine to say) then I say let 'em rip. I'm not a fan of UFC but this is the kind of cage match that I could get into.
3) The left and the unions need time to rebuild confidence and activism. Let’s be honest – the left has been for shit. Besides the librarians – who fought a good strike and basically won – and one significant, union-led, anti-austerity protest of several thousand people at City Hall, Ford has faced less resistance than even David Miller. Garbage collection was privatized without a whimper from CUPE. If Olivia Chow is elected mayor – and, again, let’s be honest it will be with a Miller-esque team that includes “progressive” business leaders – and there is no anti-austerity movement in the streets or in the unions, she will implement a more socially progressive version of the same pro-business policies. I would bet money that her “cabinet” would include Karen Stintz, the anti-Ford Tory councilor who is chair of the TTC (and being touted as the person to beat Ford by the media). We’ve seen this story before with the Ontario NDP government – elected on high hopes, does progressive stuff for about a year, then collapses under pressure from the right into harsh austerity and scapegoating of the poor as the unions are split and provide little resistance. The unions, the NDP and the "social movement left" could start by mobilizing now against Ford on the basis of challenging his politics, not his lifestyle.
So, be careful what you wish for Toronto lefties because you just might get it. At worst you will end up with Stintz or, god help us, John Tory as mayor by this time next year. At best we will end up with effectively the same policies with a progressive gloss and the right wing will have ridden out a major crisis and been allowed to regroup.