Toronto Mayor Rob Ford,
This is an election year in Toronto and Rob Ford is running for re-election as Mayor. Ford Fest, says the family, is a long-standing family tradition of “giving back” to the community, not a political event. Of course, the Ford family business is politics as much as it is printing labels. And, Rob and Doug are politicians. And, politicians politic everywhere. All the time.
There is a campaign on and Ford’s mayoral rivals doth protest that Ford Fest is a campaign event. As such, they argue, it cannot take place on city property, according to the city’s rules. A city park is city-owned property and, therefore, ipso facto, yada yada, out of bounds. City bureaucrats, not exactly well known for their love of Rob Ford, disagree.
Who’s right? Does it really matter?
Everyone’s upset about Ford Fest 2014
As reported by multiple media outlets, including The Toronto Sun and Toronto Star pretty much every mayoral candidate is upset about the Ford family’s plan to host the 2014 edition of their annual summer BBQ in a Scarborough park:
“The Fords are breaking the rules,” said John Tory spokesperson Amanda Galbraith.
“We would hope the city not issue a permit for Ford Fest because we can’t see how it’s not a campaign event,” said Olivia Chow spokesperson Jamey Heath.
“It’s a campaign event, pure and simple; it’s not a family celebration. It precludes other uses of the park. And it dedicates public space for a specific campaign. It’s wrong,” said David Soknacki.
Yet, the city disagrees.
“There are no administrative reasons to refuse the permit. This is a legitimate permit request no different than the hundreds of requests that Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff receive from elected officials every year, including for events such as movie nights and community barbecues,” said city spokesperson Jackie DeSouza.
Politicians are always campaigning
Is Ford Fest a bona fide Ford family tradition? Yes. Do the Ford’s hold Ford Fest in years when there’s no election? Yes. Will Rob Ford be campaigning at Ford Fest? Yes. So will every other politician who attends, and a number will.
Will Rob Ford, John Tory, Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and Karen Stintz be campaigning at every public event held between now and election day? Yes. That’s what they do. They’re political candidates.
The truth is, politicians are always campaigning. If they’re not campaigning, they’re losing.
Here’s a picture of Rob Ford and Karen Stintz campaigning at a public event held in city-owned Woburn Park on Monday, posted to Twitter by Toronto Sun reporter Don Peat:
Here’s John Tory campaigning at a softball game at a city-owned community centre, Tweeted by the John Tory campaign:
Here’s Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow dancing with Council candidate Joe Mihevc at a public event on a public (city-owned) street, Tweeted by the Chow campaign:
Newsflash: It’s all campaigning… and, that’s OK
City bylaws say you can’t campaign on city property. City bureaucrats diligently shoo candidates holding press conferences out of City Hall and off Nathan Phillips Square onto the sidewalks. But, guess who owns the sidewalks? The city. Same with the streets where candidates are perpetually campaigning during street festivals, parades, etc. Does democracy implode? No. Because politics and campaigning are an essential part of democracy — something to be cherished and celebrated.
Is Ford Fest a campaign event? No. And, yes.
No, in that it is held every year, regardless of campaigns. So, it’s grandfathered in under the very same rule every city councillor uses to host an “Environment Day” as close as possible to the election in an election year — that rule says, that if you did it in the non-election year before an election year, then doing it during the election year “isn’t campaigning.” If, however, you’ve never done it before and want to do it for the first time in an election year, that’s not permitted because it’s clearly campaigning. Newsflash: It’s all campaigning. Always.
Yes, in that everything every politician does, every day, is campaigning. Get over it. Yes, in that it was declared as a campaign event by the Ford campaign in 2010. But, then, the rules for campaign financing do not necessarily jive with the rules for political use of public space. Still.
Of course, the more attention Ford Fest gets in the media, the more people are talking about Rob Ford. And, the more they’re talking about Rob Ford, the less they’re talking about anyone else. Once again, advantage: Ford. It’s not that the Fords are strategically brilliant. It’s just that their opponents are just plain dumb.