NEWS February 8th, 2014

By Eric McMillan

EDITORIAL: How midtown could defeat Rob Ford

Yes, that’s right. Midtown.

We know it’s a matter of public and media faith that Rob Ford became mayor by appealing to his base in the suburbs. And that he enhances his chances of re-election by currying their favour and railing against the so-called elites of downtown and central Toronto.

But consider this: In the last municipal election, the conservative Ford got almost the exact same proportion of the votes (47.1 percent) as the combined tally (47.3 percent) of his two main opponents, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone.

That’s about as close to a 50/50 ideological split as you can get.

Add to this the fact, noted in the Town Crier and nowhere else, that not all Ford’s support came from the suburban ridings.

While Smitherman and Pantalone got wiped out in the outlying wards, Ford actually made more than a respectable showing in central communities. His lowest downtown returns were still 22 percent or higher.

Scrolling north of Bloor Street, you’ll find his tally steadily increasing, reaching parity with his opponents and then, somewhere in the neighbourhoods just south of Hwy. 401, he crosses over into majority status.

Without these midtown votes Rob Ford would not have become mayor of Toronto.

It is very difficult for anyone to win the mayoralty contest here while getting entirely shut out in huge tracts of the electoral map. Since amalgamation in 1997, no one has ever become mayor with less than 43 percent of the vote.

Just maintaining his core support level of around 30 percent — people who would vote for him no matter what — may not be enough to return him to the mayor’s chair.

He likely needs at least some support, and probably a good amount of support, from midtown Toronto. Us.

Much depends on how many major candidates enter the race to fracture the vote.

But if we really want to prevent the return to office of Rob Ford, our best hope is to stop obsessing about the supposedly ignorant voters of the suburbs who are expected to line up behind him and, instead, look to our own backyard.

If that’s what we want, we should work to shut him out of central Toronto, where we can have an effect.

This could be one case where NIMBYism may benefit the whole city.