"I don't like Ford, but he was elected and this is a ridiculous distraction. They need to let him do his job."
That was something a very liberal ex-girlfriend said to me on the phone last night about the media histrionics over Rob and Doug Ford's alleged, unsubstantiated misdeeds. And it's something that in one form or another, I'm hearing more and more from people in Toronto.
"They're digging stuff up from 30 years ago about one of them that has nothing to do with how he's performing as a Councillor. That's just vindictive," she added.
Comments like that are good news for the Fords and bad news for the media with an ax to grind against him. The anti-Ford Toronto media have accomplished something that would have seemed highly improbable to many two years ago.They are actually evoking sympathy for the Fords from people who used to find them thoroughly unappealing.
There are people who hated the Fords before they were winners in the 2010 municipal elections. So the current round of scandal-mongering by The Star and Globe and Mail serves as bias confirmation. But I've heard from neighbors, readers, and sometimes random strangers who say in essence what my ex-girlfriend said.
One neighbor confided to me earlier in the week:
"I didn't vote for Ford but I think he's doing a pretty good job for the city and it's disgusting the way the media is going after him over these personal things that have nothing to do with how he's running the city. I'm going to vote for him next time."
There's actually a lot of that going on.
What should be of even greater frustration to the anti-Ford rabble is what was then disclosed to me by this neighbor, whom, like The Star and Globe do with their Ford stories, I will use as an anonymous source.
"Don't tell anyone I told you that."
It was not the first time someone has said to me about their new affinity for Rob Ford.
It also suggests a potential factor that is very interesting. It means that polls The Toronto Star has taken presuming Olivia Chow could beat Ford in an election, which on the surface seem like they were only culled from a three bloc radius of the Annex neighborhood in downtown Toronto, could be totally misleading.
Part of the problem for The Toronto Star and Globe is that people aren't as stupid and gullible as they would like them to be.
It's a good thing we have The Star and Globe to tell us the city is falling apart because of the Fords and that they must resign immediately. Otherwise, to the average citizen casually observing, it would seem like everything is just fine on the streets of Toronto. And should anyone actually bother to go to City Hall, where they would see civic government is functioning as efficiently as it ever has, the only thing they would see falling apart is The Toronto Star's credibility.
In essence, The Star and Globe want to pull an undemocratic coup in Toronto. They want a democratically elected mayor removed by an administrative process initiated by the Premier. A Premier, it needs to be said, who has been afraid to call an election since she was appointed by a political party to helm the province.
The Star and Globe are doing their best to whip up a fake storm of hysteria to make that happen. They raise a fury about some unproven, unattributed allegations, then say the "crisis" they are the only ones obsessed with is rendering the city in chaos.
To that, there's a simple way of proving them wrong. What exactly is not being done that should be by Toronto's municipal government in the midst of this fraudulent chaos they allege? Where exactly is this "chaos" and how is affecting any citizen of the city who isn't dealing directly with reporters?
Funny how that question never gets answered or even asked by The Toronto Star or Globe and Mail.
Our province's less-than-reputable Premier, Kathleen Wynne, has her own scandal controversy. She was part of the gas plant cancellation scam that effectively stole over half a billion dollars from Ontario taxpayers.
It`s no wonder she was happy to get in on the circus act the media pitched around Rob Ford.
She alluded to the possibility that her government might have to step in to deal with the media-manufactured crisis that is not actually a crisis for anyone outside the media.
Wynne's motives were pathetically transparent. She was thrilled to be exploiting a diversion from the corruption of her own government. There was an added benefit in that her political advisers are telling her that the fiscally conservative Ford's woes are hurting the brand of her rivals, Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives.
The motives for The Star and Globe are also transparent. They saw this as a chance to get rid of a politician they despise. And even if they fail, nothing sells newspapers better than controversy, even one that sinks to new lows in journalistic standards.
But there are plenty of people not obsessed with municipal politics, and just because the local media smells blood in the water and has gone into a feeding frenzy doesn`t mean the rest of the city is joining them.
I was standing on a subway last weekend speaking with a very attractive brunette woman with whom I am acquainted. Normally, I try to avoid political conversations in crowded, confined public spaces, but the woman I was with, who lives outside Toronto, asked some questions about the Ford controversy.
The subject of unions came up, since some of the most vociferous opposition to Ford comes from the bosses of public sector unions, whom Ford has stood up to, in stark contrast to his predecessor as mayor, David Miller. Speaking from the experience of having worked as a unionized civil servant for over a decade, I said, "if you ever want to find the worst employee on the floor, just look for the union streward, and that'll be the one."
A small chuckle came from the seat by where we stood, and there sat a middle aged workman, a salt-of-the earth type, who had been listening in on our conversation. I was expecting to get a lecture on the importance of unions. Instead, he turned to my companion, smiled and said, "he`s right."
"I've been in the union nineteen years," he continued "the union chiefs only care about themselves and use their positions so they don't have to work as hard as the rest of us."
The subject soon shifted back to Ford and the media vendetta. Our fellow subway rider volunteered what has become a familiar strain from a lot of Torontonians lately, "I never liked Ford when I first heard about him, but he's been doing an okay job as mayor. They're going after him about personal stuff that's irrelevant to how he's doing his job. It smells bad and I'm probably going to vote for him next time."
Not for the first time, The Toronto Star may have made a serious miscalculation when it comes to Rob Ford. There are plenty of people in Toronto who hate Ford and would never vote for him under any circumstance. Those people are happy to have their prejudices fed by The Star`s reports.
But there are a big pool of people in the middle on the subject of Ford. And for every voter The Star is turning away from him, their hysterical bullying of Toronto`s mayor may be driving even more to support Rob Ford.
UPDATE: New poll indicates public confidence in Toronto's media has taken a major hit because of the smear campaign against Ford