Weekly Campaign Update, 19 September 2014: Ford Family Fallout and Tough Transit Talk

After the past week's stunning news about Mayor Rob Ford's health, the campaign has taken on a new shape, with news focusing mainly on Olivia Chow and John Tory as substitute mayoral candidate Doug Ford takes some time to support his brother. As the campaign begins to right itself, transit once again is the dominant policy issue of the week, while surprising and high-profile endorsements continue to pop up.

Ford Fallout

The uncertainty concerning Mayor (and erstwhile mayoral candidate) Rob Ford was lessened somewhat as a definitive diagnosis of malignant liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer, was made public along with plans for treatment. Once again, his main opponents were quick to offer support. While Ford is no longer a candidate, his effect on the mayoral campaign is worth considering, as he has already urged his supporters to back his brother Doug, running in his place.

Meet the New Candidate

Last week's shakeup in terms of which Ford is running for which office has generated mixed reactions. Etobicoke residents appear split on the prospect of supporting the Ford family candidate on offer in their region, and Ward 2 candidate Andray Domise expresses his dismay that the ward is being treated as a "consolation prize" by the Ford family. John Lorinc echoes this sentiment in a sharply-critical piece in Spacing, arguing that the Fords' strategy verges on feudal; nevertheless, a poll released shortly after news of the change-up (and therefore perhaps subject to a sympathy or novelty bump effect) suggested that 53% of those polled considered the "switcheroo" to be legitimate. A lawyer for the Ford family has suggested that this was long considered a contingency plan in case Rob Ford's other issues made his candidacy impossible.

All relocated Ford candidates face tight restrictions on their campaign spending according to the rules; they are not permitted to pool funds, or, for example, use funds raised for Rob's mayoral campaign in either Rob's ward campaign or Doug's mayoral campaign. All funds raised for withdrawn candidacies are now off-limits and each candidate must start fresh, though the new candidacies also begin at zero with respect to the campaign spending limits. In other words, starting last Friday, they may spend to the cap if they can raise sufficient funds to do so.

But can Doug Ford win? For obvious reasons, he has begun his campaign in muted fashion. Commentators generally appear to think a "Game of Fords" dynasty, as the Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee terms it, is not particularly likely given the differences between the Ford brothers. Nonetheless, a poll released shortly after his candidacy was announced put him in second place behind John Tory, though once again the possibility remains that a temporary bump effect influenced the result.

Transit

This week's sparring over transit largely excluded an otherwise-occupied Doug Ford. Olivia Chow and John Tory, after a brief lull, resumed criticism of each other's transit plans; while Tory denounced Chow's plan at a campaign speech, Chow expressed her disappointment that the "inexperienced" Tory chose to withdraw from three debates, including one on transit. While Tory insisted no tax increase would be necessary to pay for his transit plan, and promised "hell to pay" should the federal and provincial governments not fund their share, Chow accused Tory of offering "Ford-lite" policy and of moving from a faith-based educational funding plan (as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives) to "a faith-based tax-funding scheme." Renewed criticism of tax-increment financing as a transit funding plan has come from outside the Chow campaign as well. Finally, Chow and Tory differed on plans for improving the city's grid of bike lanes.

Chow vs. Tory, Round 2

The two candidates, in the absence of Doug Ford, remained in contention on a number of other issues, from municipal development and property taxes to "carding" and racial profiling. The candidates appeared to agree on the need to constrain the police budget, while Tory spoke of the need for smarter taxation and spending as well as improved relations with other levels of government.

Campaign Grab Bag