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  • CCPA SK Annual General Meeting October 11, 2019
    Please join us for our Annual General Meeting in Saskatoon, 5:00pm, Thursday, October 24th at Station 20 West. (1120 20th St. West) Courtney Carlberg, author of Saskatchewan's Failing Report Card on Child Care, will discuss why Saskatchewan ranks the lowest for overall quality and rates of access to regulated child care in the country and […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Corporate Mapping Project receives award for research excellence October 9, 2019
    The co-directors of the Corporate Mapping Project—CCPA-BC Director Shannon Daub and the University of Victoria’s William Carroll—are being celebrated in Victoria today as they accept a REACH Award for Excellence in Research. The REACH Awards recognize “research excellence” as demonstrated through scholarly contributions and societal impact. Since the inception of the Corporate Mapping Project, Shannon […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Unpacking the details of Manitoba Hydro September 9, 2019
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    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • CCPA submission to Treasury Board consultation on regulatory modernization September 6, 2019
    On June 29, 2019, the federal government launched a public consultation on initiatives intended to "modernize" the Canadian regulatory system. Interested Canadians were invited to provide input on four current initiatives: Targeted Regulatory Reviews (Round 2) Review of the Red Tape Reduction Act Exploring options to legislate changes to regulator mandates Suggestions for the next […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Join us in November for the 2019 CCPA-BC Gala, featuring Nancy MacLean September 3, 2019
    Tickets are available for our 2019 Annual Gala Fundraiser, which will take place in Vancouver on November 21. This year’s featured speaker will be Nancy MacLean, an award-winning historian and author whose talk, The rise of the radical right: How libertarian intellectuals, billionaires and white supremacists shaped today’s politics, is very timely both in the US and here in […]
    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: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/billion-dollar-savings-fords-claim-has-one-major-flaw/article15625225/.

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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Comments

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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