I never really got to know my distant cousin John Tory. Though we share an antecedent (my great-grandmother, Sarah Jane Tory Bruce was his great-great-aunt. . .I think), he became a wildly successful lawyer, corporate executive and fundraiser for charitable, good works, whilst I, in contrast, became a curmudgeon.
Last week, Cousin John ascended on a wave of strategic voting to the position of Mayor of Canada’s largest metropolis.
Last week, I wrote five columns for the Moncton Times & Transcript, walked 28 miles, and wondered when Damon on “The Vampire Diaries” would finally push the veil between dimensional plains and re-enter the “real world”.
All of which is to say that Toronto, the city of my birth, got the better product of the Tory-Bruce issue to lead it.
Then again, that’s actually not saying a whole helluva lot.
John prevailed, with 40 per cent of the vote, in the municipal election last week; but that was just seven points ahead of Doug Ford, who ran on his brother Rob’s behalf.
Rob, we should never forget, is the man – four years the mayor – who appeared in public as “tired and emotional” as he explained why his incessant drinking led to his recreational fondness for crack cocaine, racial and sexist slurs, and bizarrely bad, almost ritualistically suicidal behaviour.
That his older brother Doug should have come within single digits of electoral success, without any platform for change or progress – indeed, without any ideas at all – is all anyone needs to know about politics in The Big Smoke.
Call it Tammany Hall, Canadian-style.
I covered that city’s politics when Mayor Art Eggleton was in power. At the time, in the 1980s, the late, great Jack Layton was a progressive member of council. He would routinely fomate against the “power” of the “man”, not noticing that, somewhere, back in the far green belts of northern Etobicoke, Scarborough and Mississauga, the power of the “common man” was quietly forging “Ford Nation” from an unlikely consortium of disaffected white folks, and transplanted Jamaicans, Indians and eastern Europeans.
This is the city that Cousin John inherits.
And yet, he says this in his giddy acceptance speech: “Tonight, we we begin the work of building one Toronto – a prosperous, fair, respected and caring Toronto. Together, like never before, we begin building Toronto the Great.”
Meanwhile, Rob Ford still manages to nail it from his political hospice: “If you know anything about the Ford family, we never, ever, ever give up. . .I guarantee, in four more years, your going to see another example of the Ford family never, ever, ever giving up.”
I believe him. Does my Cousin John?
The ill-mannered, the crazy, the utter buffoons have always been able to purchase our attention (and our votes) cheaply. In the grips of their handlers, they become not the maniacal outliers of our society, but the mainstream managers of our democracy. They become, inexorably, the normative value to which we lend our faith, our hope, our dreams.
Toronto, the city of my beginnings, where I was raised for the first, formative years of my life – where I learned to read, calculate, think, emote, dress myself, tie my own shoes, eat my own supper, make my own friends, avoid bad guys, embrace good guys, know the difference between the dark and the light – give this cousin of mine a chance.
I can almost guarantee that this 60-year-old man will not list here and there, speaking poor West Indian patois, whilst sucking from a water-bong. I can almost guarantee that “cuz” will be as diligent and boring as the largest city in this great nation now needs in its leader.
But Canada, also know this: The Ford empire is far from done. It may be temporarily disenfranchised in The Big Smoke, but its ideological tendrils extend everywhere – to the big cities and small towns of the shield, plains, prairies and coasts of this nation.
It’s the small mind writ large by ambition and cynical determination.
Good luck, oh cousin of mine.
You’re going to need some.