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  • Report looks at captured nature of BC’s Oil and Gas Commission August 6, 2019
    From an early stage, BC’s Oil and Gas Commission bore the hallmarks of a captured regulator. The very industry that the Commission was formed to regulate had a significant hand in its creation and, too often, the interests of the industry it regulates take precedence over the public interest. This report looks at the evolution […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Correcting the Record July 26, 2019
    Earlier this week Kris Sims and Franco Terrazzano of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wrote an opinion piece that was published in the Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Ottawa Sun and Toronto Sun. The opinion piece makes several false claims and connections regarding the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP), which we would like to correct. The […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Rental Wage in Canada July 18, 2019
    Our new report maps rental affordability in neighbourhoods across Canada by calculating the “rental wage,” which is the hourly wage needed to afford an average apartment without spending more than 30% of one’s earnings.  Across all of Canada, the average wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $22.40/h, or $20.20/h for an average one […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada July 9, 2019
    CCPA senior economist David Macdonald co-authored a new report, Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada­—released by Upstream Institute in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)—tracks child poverty rates using Census 2006, the 2011 National Household Survey and Census 2016. The report is available for […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Fossil-Power Top 50 launched July 3, 2019
    What do Suncor, Encana, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Fraser Institute and 46 other companies and organizations have in common? They are among the entities that make up the most influential fossil fuel industry players in Canada. Today, the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP) is drawing attention to these powerful corporations and organizations with the […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Ford Nation, Perils of Populism and Public Choice

Watching Rob Ford in the recent weeks reminds me of what John Ralston Saul once wrote of Benito Mussolini and his contemporary reincarnation in Silvio Berlusconi: “He was the nascent modern Heroic leader. Mussolini combined the interests of corporatism with public relations and sport, while replacing public debate and citizen participation with false populism and the illusion of direct democracy.”

Unlike Berlusconi, who was able to harness his media empire to pump his message (Forza Italia!), Ford has been enabled by private media interests, being served up public soap boxes like talk radio shows to the one-show stint on Sun TV.

As Ford hunkers down in his comeback campaign, he has trotted out his 2010 campaign slogan of “stopping the gravy train”, which he alleges is revving up since him being stripped of power last week. A key plank for the mayor who’s fighting for the “little guy” is that his administration saved Toronto ratepayers a billion dollars, although Rob Ford, with brother Doug, need to equate tax cuts with expenditure cuts to get close to that amount (See Marcus Gee in the Globe:

Saul further writes that populists like Rob Ford “capitaliz(e) on the anger and confusion in the citizenry. The interests they represent are in large part responsible for the problems they denounce, but their appearance deny the relationship.” The confusion and angers largely stems from the shotgun amalgamation of old Toronto, Etobicoke, York, North York, East York and Scarborough in 1998, imposed by the Mike Harris Tory government as a cost-saving measure. Incidentally, Ford’s father was an MPP in the Harris caucus. The amalgamation took place despite the overwhelming rejection of the proposal by Toronto residents in a 1997 municipal referendum. Here enters a lesson from my public choice class in grad school. Despite what I see as the weaknesses of its methodological individualism, public choice theory gives a good explanation of what happens when you lump together very hetereogenous voters with very different policy values: the electoral process will churn out polarizing figures like Rob Ford, and in his case, pitting the suburbs against downtown.

Public choice theorists would advocate devolution or de-amalgamation in the Toronto case. However, this is a costly reversal not likely to happen in the immediate term. With the 2014 Toronto municipal election months away, progressive mayoral candidates, who tend to be downtown dwellers (potential candidates include former city councilor / current MP Olivia Chow and current councilor Mike Layton) need to REALLY engage suburban voters and get out there to Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. To forge a credible platform that appeals to a sufficient number of both suburban and downtown voters, this may mean the painful reconsideration of some downtown policy priorities like bike lane construction.

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Comment from Todd
Time: December 3, 2013, 7:29 pm

So ask left-liberal/right soc-dems to shift further to the right to try and appease the rich bastards out in the TO suburbs who wanted Ford in in the first place.

I beg your pardon: I seem to have accidentally landed on the op-ed page for the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star.

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