Possibly the dumbest things Doug Ford ever did

Rob-Ford Now coverWhen I first saw this article in the Toronto Star, I thought maybe it was a spoof, or somebodies wishful thinking. Apparently Doug Ford has lost the DVD’s that contained ALL their contact databases from the 2010 Mayoralty election.  Mitch Wexler had been hired to manage the data, and to do some supporter profiling to help with their efforts to identify Ford supporters. According to the Star, after the election, he handed Doug Ford all the electoral data on two DVD’s.

“I made two DVDs with all of the data from the campaign — entire voters’ list with contact info, supporters, non-supporters, signs, volunteers, all voter contact records, etc. — and gave them both to Doug Ford,” said Conservative data expert Mitch Wexler.”

That is not how Doug Ford sees it. Again, quoting the Star: “Councillor Doug Ford claims the mayor’s former campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, is refusing to turn over valuable 2010 voter database information.”

Oh My God! Is that not the DUMBEST thing you have ever heard of in Canadian politics? Firstly, the Ford Nation database is an awesome collection of detailed data. It was an impressive database before the 2010 election, but all those thousands of volunteers were busily adding more and richer detail on the Toronto electorate for a whole year in 2010. Nick Kouvalis obviously has access to all that juicy data, and he has joined the John Tory team.

There is a little known fact that comes to bear on this situation. Most Canadians think that personal information about them is protected. You would think that someone with access to a political database like this would not be legally able to just use it, or hand it over to some third party. Well, in all of Canada, (except BC), the privacy act(s) specifically exempt users of data from the provisions of the privacy act, if the data is being used for’ POLITICAL PURPOSES’. I would argue that Nick Kouvalis handing all the Fords data over to team Tory is a political use of data. Even if it isn’t totally legal, good luck proving it happened Douggie. Even if you can prove it, the damage is done.

And what’s with LOSING the freaking disks? Hello Douggie? Is there anybody in there? I have an image of the DVD’s being used as coasters on the coffee table up at the cottage. This electoral data is the most important political asset he owns. Now what are you gonna do Doug? John Tory probably knows every supporter you ever had prior to October 2010. You may (or may not) still have all those paper records from Robs 10 years as a councillor, but what about all the data from the election? What about that supporter profiling? Team Tory is gonna tear through YOUR supporters lists, and tear the heart out of your campaign before you even get started. Maybe you could sue somebody, ROFL.

And to cap it all, Doug Ford goes PUBLIC with his accusations against Kouvalis. ‘Hey World! Look at what an idiot I am!’ Yesterday I believed that Rob Ford was in a good position to win this election. Today, I doubt he has a snowballs chance. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

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Rob Ford is in a good position to win the Mayoralty in October.

Harper-FordIf I were a betting man, I would lay pretty stiff odds in favour of Rob Ford beating his challengers in the 2014 Toronto Mayoral election. The Toronto Sun commissioned a poll by Forum, and today they released selected highlights. Like that Rob Fords approval rating has climbed from 42% on Dec.9, to 47% this week. On the important voting intentions question, Ford would win the vote of 41% or this weeks respondents, up from 33% on Dec.9.

There has been a lot of valid criticism recently of polling methodology, and the spectacular failure of recent polls to predict election outcomes. I agree that the very nature of opinion polling, and the differences between a poll or survey and the real thing, an election, make it nearly impossible to accurately forecast the effects of voter turnouts on election outcomes. His polled supporter numbers are almost enough by themselves, but  the strongest reasons I believe Ford is in a good position are precisely those things that a poll cannot readily measure.

In 2010 the Fords ran a very sophisticated ID-GOTV program right across the City of Toronto. With thousands of hard-working volunteers, they were able to canvas for support, and identify an unprecedented proportion of the electorates voting intentions. On election day, they did not drop the ball. They put their thousands of volunteers to work, and got their voters to the polls in droves. Altogether, the turnout in the 2010 election was up around 53%, as compared to 39% in the prior election. Without getting into all the gory details of the various councillor contests that were influenced by, or were an influence on the Mayoral contest, the Ford team essentially identified about 100,000 people who would not ordinarily vote in a municipal election, and got them to the polls to cast their Mayoral and Council ballots. (For those interested in those gritty details, here is a link to a turnout map by Ward.)

So there it is, my argument in a nutshell. Rob Ford won the 2010 election by motivating a large number of people who do not ordinarily vote in Municipal elections. The Ford campaign managed to identify their voters, and ran an effective GOTV to get them all to the polls on EDay. The Fords have been improving their database, and collecting ever more names and information on their supporters over the intervening 4 years. You know how Rob Ford is laughed at for handing out Fridge magnets on any and all occasions with his phone number? Well every time someone calls that number, they are identified as prospective Ford supporters, and their name goes into the ever-growing election database. I dwell on this point because public opinion polls are telling us that the bulk of these supporters have not wavered in their support for Ford despite some of the most outrageous scandals and controversies I have ever seen in Canadian politics. So that growing database is largely populated by people who are going to vote for Rob Ford if they vote for anyone. In 2010 nobody in Toronto had even remotely close to the amount of solid actionable data that the Fords had. Here we are 4 years later, and that database has been fed by robo-calling, fridge magnets, and all those telephoned and emailed expressions of support each successive scandal has unleashed. When somebody calls Rob Ford instead of the Cities service Toronto number, their personal contact data becomes Ford property. At this point in time, the Fords will have identified most of their supporters, so the re-election campaign can focus all of their resources on retaining their support, converting undecided voters, and suppressing the vote of their opponents.

Just because Rob Ford is in a very strong position, that does not mean he is certain to win. Olivia Chow has managed to establish her position as the most likely candidate to beat Rob Ford come the October vote. She will have the advantage of access to some decent data courtesy of the NDP, and many left leaning and centrist councillors. Her team will need to mine those databases heavily, and build up a new category of voter, Olivia Chow mayoralty supporters. Provided she can win over enough volunteers to avoid having to pay phone banks to ID her vote, then she will have a fighting chance to identify, and get her voters out in sufficient numbers. There is pretty obviously a good opportunity to suppress Rob Fords vote, again provided she has enough volunteers to identify all those Rob Ford supporters, and to reach them with a negative message about their chosen candidate. Lord knows there is plenty of ammunition. There ought to be one or two simple messages that will persuade much of Ford Nation to stay at home on EDay. The problem for the challenger is that (s)he will have to expend considerable resources building up his/her data. So on the one hand, any challenger has to both build their own database of supporters more or less from scratch, and run a parallel Ford vote suppression campaign with limited resources. All Ford has to do is hold onto the supporters that he has already identified, and he will have oodles of cash and volunteer hours dedicated to this one simple task.

So in conclusion, Rob Ford is likely to win the Mayoral election in October 2014. The reason is that most of his work is already done, and his supporters are a rock solid plurality of voters. If he does not win, it will be because an unprecedented number of volunteers step up to the plate for a single opponent, and enable her to run her phone banks full tilt on volunteer hours. Ideas will not matter much. It will boil down to a referendum on Rob Fords mayoralty, and the mechanical process of contacting millions of voters by phone or at their doorstep. That sucks. Politics really should be the realm of policy, and ideas, but welcome to the real world of Canadian electoral politics…

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The Ford brothers are not acceptable as elected officials at any level of government.

Buffoonery is over. Things are DEADLY serious now.

Buffoonery is over. Things are DEADLY serious now.

I have avoided the topic of the Ford brothers for the simple reason that Rob Ford was well-known as a buffoon before he was elected. Toronto voted for a buffoon, and that is what they got. ‘Let this be a lesson to us’ I told myself, chuckled and moved on. The problem is that buffoonery is the least of the troubles the Fords have inflicted on us. The Toronto Star has just published an article that reports on a Police interview with Dave Price, a Ford family friend and staffer, where he states that Anthony Smith recorded the crack video, and was murdered over it. In a separate article from CP, linked to here at National Newswatch, the gangsters who had that video were blackmailing Ford. Fords offer of $5000 and a car was not enough, they were going to meet with him and demand 150, presumably meaning $150,000.

I am bothered by the thought that mostly harmless buffoonery has brought the City of Toronto into international disrepute. I am truly sickened by the thought that Anthony Smith may have been murdered in order to provide somebody in the underworld with excellent blackmail material on Rob Ford. Personally, I am no longer willing or able to overlook the fact (as reported at length by the Globe and Mail), that Doug Ford was a drug wholesaler, with a group of sub dealers and distributors working for him in the Eighties. This is not buffoonery. It is criminality. I find myself wondering about things like giant ferris wheels on the Waterfront, and great big downtown casinos and airport expansions etc championed by the Fords. Were these things actual Ford projects, or was someone whispering in their ears; ‘I have a secret that a Casino construction contract will make go away for awhile’. Every single thing these guys have touched needs to be torn apart, and gone over with a fine toothed comb. If we are to believe allegations at the Charbonneau commission on corruption in Quebec, Ontario Construction industry is not immune to mafia influence. If the Fords have so many connections to criminals, does it not seem likely that the master criminals, the Mafia are not unaware of their past indiscretions? That calls into question every construction project that the Fords had a hand in approving. Forget about construction. Every damned thing they do as official city business becomes suspect, from Taxi and strip club licensing, to leasing vendor spaces, hot dog stands, you name it, it is now suspect.

I think that Rob Ford will probably go away now. I am pretty certain that Doug Ford will not be making his debut at Queens Park either. Murder, extortion, and drug trafficking  just do not go together with public office very well. In short, the Ford bothers are not just buffoons, they are dangerously exposed by their alleged *cough* *cough* links to criminals.

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The Rob Ford Story: It ain’t over by a long shot.

A lot of  Torontonians are delighted, and celebrating the judgement that removed Rob Ford from the office of Mayor of Toronto. I have some bad news for them, Rob Ford will be permitted to run in a by-election, and he will win. Note that I am not qualifying my statement by saying he will probably win, or there is a good chance of it. The odds are more like 5:1 in favour of a Rob Ford victory.

Yes, I know that the past two years have been a continuous parade of buffoonery. That he was removed by a judge would be the kiss of death in most cases. Especially considering the facts surrounding the case.  Yes, I know that to a reasonable person, he is not qualified to run the city, but election results, ( or by-elections in this case) are determined by counting ballots cast on election day. Don’t forget that the buffoonery pre-dates his mayoral election. Drunken cursing of an elderly couple at the Maple Leaf Gardens that he lied about. The Drunk driving and marijuana possession in Florida that he lied about. etc. etc. etc. The voters did not care and they gave him a mandate in 2010, so what is so different today?

Municipal elections normally have pretty dismal turnouts. In 2003, the turnout was 38%. In 2006 the turnout was 39%. However, in 2010, Ford won the Mayoralty from a whopping turnout of 53.2%! This turnout was no accident. Behind Rob Ford is Doug Ford, and the most impressive political and electoral database and organisation in Toronto. That database includes thousands of very committed Ford volunteers. (That is not hyperbole, the Fords had 5,000 volunteers within a week of announcing his intention to run in the spring of 2010). The turnout was comparatively massive because something had changed in Toronto, and that change came to be called ‘Ford Nation’.

So there it is, Rob Ford won in 2010 because he mobilised a huge slice of the electorate to get out and vote for FORD. We have all been reading the news since then, the seemingly endless gong-show of gaffes, fumbles, minor outrages, outright lies, which in our past experience should add up to terminate the Mayors career. But something different has happened. That highly motivated base of supporters has NOT withered away. Back in May, in the midst of one of the bozo eruptions where the Mayor threatened and charged at a Toronto Star reporter, the Mayors approval rating dropped to 41%. If you think that is old news, and that judicial removal from office should do the trick, current, and credible polls would SEEM to bear this out, but in fact they don’t.

If you look at the story on this poll, you will think I am nuts. How could I possibly argue that Rob Ford can overcome such dismal approval ratings? Because 16% of the electorate are still very strong supporters of Rob Ford, and 11% are likely supporters. That is enough for a disciplined campaign to win, because things are NOT as they seem. You see, it does not matter how many people respond to an opinion poll in a given way. What matters are the mechanical details about mobilising voters to cast a ballot. What matters is which people get out on E-day, and whose name the X goes next to.

Turnout is the biggest factor in play. In a normal Municipal election, there are actually 4 races going on at once. Mayor, Council, Public School Board, and Separate School board trustees. That gives the voters four reasons to get their butts down to the polling booth. A whole lot of people go to vote because their buddy is running for council, or trustee. Another slice goes to vote because they are motivated to vote AGAINST a council, trustee etc candidate. ( That bastard stole my lunch money in Grade 5).  While they are there, they mark an X by a Mayoral candidates name.  Then there are civic-minded citizens doing their electoral duty, a decided minority I might add. In a Mayoral by-election, only those motivated by the Mayoral vote, and a small number of civic-minded will go to the polls.  Bang, turnout drops significantly, and casual Mayoral votes will not go into the box. Assuming the by-election will happen fairly quickly, we are likely to see a vote in perhaps February, or maybe March. Guess what, it is COLD and nasty at that time of year. If E-Day is on a cold or wet Monday, Bang, turnout drops dramatically. Ford Nation does not mind cold and rainy days though. Ford nation does not much care about smelly old council and trustee candidates. Ford Nationers belong to something. They care very much, and just as importantly, Ford Nation has an electoral MACHINE that will get them on the march on E-day.

Right, the electoral machine. What’s with that anyway? I mean, everybody seems to be saying such nasty things about Ford. The polls show that masses of people do not want him to be Mayor. What does some electoral gimmickry have to do with that? Simple, any electoral campaign that depends upon turnouts of motivated supporters, needs to be able to contact, identify, and motivate people to Get Out and Vote. If there is indeed a by-election, it shall happen quickly, and that is a huge boon to Ford. A normal municipal race happens on a fixed date every 4 years. The contenders prepare their plans slowly, cautiously weigh their chances, and gradually build a supporter network, funding commitments, and volunteer base. They mull over issues and policies, all in preparation for the main event. This by-election will feature none of the above. It shall be a come-as-you-are party. Olivia Chow is touted (reasonably) as the only viable alternate to Rob Ford, but even if she has been working towards that end for months, she does not have a machine in place, ready to ID and GOTV at the drop of a pin. The Fords on the other hand, have already moved into election mode. Phone banks are in action at this moment, contacting volunteers, polling to determine which supporters from 2010 can be counted on, and which have turned traitor, and should be persuaded to stay at home somehow. The Ford campaign will be fully funded within 24 hours of a by-election call. There will be thousands of dedicated volunteers door knocking, endlessly pounding the phones, attending rallys, and generally whooping it up.

Then there is the problem of a crowded field. I believe that all it takes to actually run for Mayor is a $1000 deposit. There are always a number of ambitious people, (Karen Stintz, Olivia Chow, Adam Vaughan, etc) both on City council, and in the City at large who are planning, or hoping to run in 2014. I can think of a number off the top of my head that are seeing their dreams of occupying the BIG CHAIR after 2014 in jeopardy at this moment. How many of them will say the hell with it, I am going for broke in the by-election? All it will take is two or more viable candidates running against Ford to nullify the ‘anything but Ford’ vote of casual voters.

So there it is, my argument that Rob Ford will likely win the upcoming by-election for Mayor of Toronto. His substantial base of dedicated supporters will be moved to volunteer and vote by a well oiled political machine. The antipathy to Rob Ford expressed by the Toronto electorate will not translate to a strong turnout of his opponents on E-Day. The RELATIVELY low centrist and left-wing turnout will divide their vote between 3 or 4 candidates, allowing Rob Ford to win the election with somewhere around 40% -45% of the ballots cast. You may not like it, but unless at least some of the things discussed above change, the outcome is quite predictable.

Toronto City Elections analysis: Where should the Greens Target their Efforts?

Toronto Election

As my regular readers will know, I have long been a proponent of mixing Green Party politics with municipal electoral politics. If we are going to make progress on building livable, and sustainable communities, not surprisingly, gaining political control, and/or influence over the local elected offices is of extreme practical value. There’s also the more pragmatic, and hard nosed aspects of organising an effective local ‘ground war’ for the next Federal, or Provincial election. Having friends and allies on the local council is very nice indeed when you’re gearing up to contest your riding in a National Election.

I will state categorically that I am pretty clueless about municipal politics outside the boundaries of Toronto. I will also state that I am NOT clueless about Toronto municipal electoral politics. I will apologise if some of the assumption that I abstract from my experience in Toronto don’t actually apply to your local municipal scene. Sorry, but there still could be some nuggets to glean from this post.

1) Local elections have low turnouts: Issues actually matter locally. Why? Because the turnout is abbysmal, many, or most people won’t bother, unless they either really really care, or are really really pissed about an issue. The key to local electoral success is less about converting electors into supporters, and more about simply motivating those supporters to get out and vote. Having significant numbers of motivated supporters identified, and ready to tap into is of utmost importance.

2) Incumbents almost always win: Every incumbent has a portfolio of projects, and local initiatives that they champion. The fact is that the counterparties to these initiatives don’t want to roll the dice with a new councillor. They want their incumbent re-elected so (s)he will fulfil their promises. That motivates a lot of people on a piecemeal basis. Then there’s the other half of the voting municipal electorate, who will do their civic duty and vote, but don’t have a clue who to vote for until a familiar name appears on the ballot in front of them. ‘Better the devil I know’ syndrome kicks in for a nano-second, and another possibly worthless incumbent is returned to power.

3) It takes volunteers to win locally: To win locally, you have to canvas hard. It takes face to face opportunities to win over a doubting electorate, and that means volunteers wearing out shoe leather.

While every EDA should take the opportunity to gather resources, lists, and data, a careful analysis of your 2 municipal Wards will determine if you’re going all out for municipal victory, or if you’re simply being opportunistic. If you have a large concentration of  identified GPC supporters in either one of the two Wards, you have a significant political asset. If you have a large volunteer base in your’ EDA, and they’re up to fighting a municipal campaign, then you have a significant political asset. If the incumbent is not running again, then you have a significant asset. If two of the three are true, then you need to start your candidate search now. If you have all three, then your’ EDA is the odds on favourite to be annointing the next City councilor in that Ward.

So let’s take a look at the public record, and see which Toronto Green EDAs are sitting in a pretty position. The most useful information available right now pertains to which Incumbent is not running again. I trotted off to the Toronto Votes site, and reviewed the list of registered candidates. There are a total of 17 councillors who have not yet registered their candidacy for re-election, and XXX of them have made announcements that they have other fish to fry. Some are still ‘maybe’s’, like Rob Ford, who claims he is considering a run for Mayor. ( Yes, he’s the lout who was shouting drunken obscenities at a Leaf’s game, and then tried to pretend it never happened. All I can say is, please do humiliate yourself by running for Mayor)

Incumbents not yet registered:

Rob Ford, Ward 2. ED: Etobicoke North. Considering a run for Mayor.

Doug Holyday,  Ward 3. ED: Etobicoke Centre. Vague Rumours about running for Mayor.

Gloria Lindsay Luby, Ward 4. ED: Etobicoke Centre. This article implies she is running again.

Mark Grimes, Ward 6. ED: Etobicoke Lakeshore. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Giorgio Mammoliti, Ward 7. ED: York West. Running for Mayor.

Maria Augimeri, Ward 9. ED: York Centre. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Mike Feldman, Ward 10. ED: York Centre. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Frank Di Giorgio, Ward 12, ED: York South-Weston. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Adam Giambrioni, Ward 18, ED: Davenport. Running for Mayor.

Joe Pantalone, Ward 19. ED: Trinity Spadina. Running for Mayor.

Michael Walker, Ward 22. ED: St. Paul’s. Relatively high profile challenger, but will Walker run again?

David Shiner. Ward 24. ED: Willowdale. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Kyle Rae, Ward 27. ED: Toronto Centre. Retiring, Run Chris Run!

Case Ootes, Ward 29. ED: Toronto Danforth. Retiring, Pitfield running though.

Sandra Bussin, Ward 32. ED: Beaches East York. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Denzil Minnan-Wong, Ward 34. ED: Don Valley East. Maybe Running for Mayor?

Many of those not yet registered are right wingers, hoping to carry the knuckle draggers flag for the Mayoral race. The quasi suburban ring around Toronto proper is not very fertile ground for the GPC, or for progressive`s in general. That could, and should be changed, but I would suggest that sucking oxygen from the city centre candidates, in order to run a Quixote campaign would not be a good use of scarce resources, at this moment in time.

Criteria 2 for a good target is that there should be no incumbency effect. There are 5 Federal electoral districts so far where this criteria is met. Toronto Danforth, Toronto Centre, Trinity Spadina, Davenport, and York West. I should caution you though. There is every probability that Mammoliti for example, will discover that his Mayoral bid is a total lost cause, and will pull out of the Mayoral, and register for his current Ward’s council race. A little tarnished perhaps, but still the odds on favourite by a chunky margin. Given that York West is not particularly fertile ground for the GPC, or GPO, that’s not the best place to pin our hopes.

Criteria 1 and 3 kind of go hand in hand. Those Electoral districts that have a good corp of dedicated volunteers, also tend to have big lists of identified supporters. I wouldn’t want to divulge any actual numbers publicly, but Toronto Centre, Toronto Danforth, Davenport, and Trinity Spadina are all heavy hitting Electoral districts. I would put them all in the top twenty Green Party EDA`s in all Canada.

Chris Tindal from Toronto Centre has already declared for Ward 27, and with real support he will be elected in October. That’s not a joke, it’s for real, so spread the word.

Trinity Spadina contains University of Toronto, and some of the grooviest neighbourhoods in Toronto. It will also be hosting the Green Party’s BGM, and possibly the Leadership vote for the Green Party in August. Guess what? That’s right when the Municipal Campaign will be getting hot, and Toronto news coverage will be very hard to get for municipal candidates. It won’t be so hard to get for Green Party municipal candidates though, so hopefully the team organising the BGM will take note, and build this into the schedule. An extra hook to flood the convention with Toronto media, no?  The Toronto Greens would be well advised to craft a media plan to take advantage of the fact that they will be newsworthy, right when it counts the most. Trinity Spadina needs a high quality municipal Candidate for Ward 19.

Toronto Danforth has a very well organised, and active EDA. I will bet that somebody is out canvassing as I write. They have a number of members who would make good candidates. They have the ID’d supporters base, and more importantly, Allies, and issues based data to work with. They might not be a shoo in like Chris over in Toronto Centre, but they should grab the bull by the horns, and go for it. I don`t know if Adrianna Mugnatto-Hamu can afford to run municipally, as she is the nominated candidate federally, and there may be a federal general election intervening, but she should be weighing her options.

Davenport is interestingly enough the home riding of Frank DeJong, long-time leader of the GPO, probable leadership candidate for the GPC, and presumably well known in his home turf. I will talk about anecdotes and rumours for a second. Frank is rumoured to be very hesitant to run for GPC Leader against Elizabeth May. Since it`s entirely possible that Elizabeth May will run for the leadership of the GPC again, especially if the leadership race preceeds a federal election, maybe Frank should consider a run for an office that brings real power with it. As a sitting councilor, he would have a lot more heft in a GPC leadership race, and it might give him the edge he`ll need to beat my preferred candidate. Or maybe he`ll decide that it`s nice to earn some sort of decent money, have free admission to city facilities, and a good shot at a very generous pension.

So there’s my two cents worth. Davenport, Toronto Danforth, Trinity Spadina, and the big one, Toronto Centre are all a great focus for Toronto Greens looking for an election to wage this summer. Don’t despair if you’re in a different EDA. You should still be speaking with candidates, inviting them to speak at your events, and winning them over as electoral allies. If you find a local candidate that you can comfortably get behind, join their campaign, and start learning about really local local issues. I guarantee that you will make friends and allies that will stand you in good stead in future elections.

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