Thursday, December 6, 2012



I am on a bed of pain, meaning a supposedly comfortable dentist chair, when I overhear an animated conversation in the next cubicle about Mayor Ford and that stupid conflict-of-interest charge. Then comes talk about Olivia Chow as his successor.
And that makes the pain increase.
To know her is not to like her. Translation?  To really know her as a politician is to think that she is best as a defeated candidate. An old line that I've stolen so far from the past that I can't remember who first said it, saving me from a charge of being a deliberate plagiarist.
Yet I see from some polls that Chow, the widow of former NDP leader Jack Layton, is rated highest among candidates to replace Ford if he is turfed from office by judges too circumspectly blind not to see that a stupid law is being used to kill rather than give the strap.
And I say that as a columnist who wrote the columns that led to the conflict-of-interest conviction of Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, where there was major money involved, and also of two trustees who were teachers but didn't bother to refrain from voting on teachers' pay.
Ford handled himself here, and in too many other issues, with all the subtlety of an overweight tank. Except this was hardly a secret issue. There was a very public debate about whether several thousand dollars should be repaid by him to donors who didn't want the money back after they responded to solicitations for a charity for poor high school footballers run by a councillor/coach who used City Hall stationery that, unlike his critics, he bought himself.
There should be more praise for Ford for helping poor kids to play high school football. I played on a championship Weston Ironman team in second-hand high tops where the cleats had worked through into my feet. I like his passion for coaching kids. To hell with leftwingers who make it sound like he's running masturbation classes.
But let's not be distracted by Ford's floundering into his own legal swamp from a discussion of Olivia Chow's gigantic unsuitability to run anything, whether it be a dog house or Canada's largest city. Unfortunately, we already have too many lefties and gLiberals running around politically pickpocketing.
Just like Chow.
She benefits, of course, from having been married to Layton. And they certainly were a power couple, double-dipping on anything they could extract from taxpayers in living allowances etc. Layton became a huge public hero by dying before his shortcomings became more obvious on the national stage.  We certainly knew all about him in Toronto where he harvested only 32% of the mayoral vote after a council career where he was noted more for obstructionism than achievement. And Chow is still floating on these cushions of approval that mystify many of the politicians who served with both but don't want to say publicly what they really think because it would sound like they're kicking icons in the teeth.
My introduction to the fact that Chow was hardly, as they say on the back concessions, the sharpest knife in the drawer, came one morning when a Metro Morning producer phoned just before 8 a.m. to plead with me to debate Chow at 8.30 a.m. on some issue dear to the heart of NDP councillors but of little interest to a conservative columnist.
I had done a weekly radio commentary for the CBC for more than a decade but had been shoved into the penalty box for being nasty about some left-wing idol. So I agreed to participate, thinking that the CBC would thaw about me as a regular paid talker.
I cleaned her clock. I even felt sorry because she was so inept in making her case when she should have had every fact memorized. Maybe I was too successful because the program never called me again but kept Chow as a reliable manure-spreader of socialist propaganda. She has always made a comfortable living as a political animal who has never seen a left-wing cause she doesn't want us to fund.
I disagreed with just about every position that Layton took on anything but I found while working with him on his Open College show (students could earn a Ryerson university credit via the radio) that there was almost a candid amiability about him in debate. His public service while being mortally ill was wonderful. And it is fortunate that academics like him don't sit on their doctorate in a cushy tenured post but actually get into the trenches even if he was on the other side.
Yet his rep shouldn't dust the widow with credibility. And Chow as mayor would be destructive to those of who care about reducing public spending. She would undo any accomplishment that city council did under Ford in cutting spending and contracting out. One of her former colleagues disagrees with me when I say she's not that bright. He argues she's quite good as a strategic thinker for all the right politically-correct causes, which makes her a deadly enemy of the policies that swept Ford to power.
It's nonsense for her to project an image of being a humble achiever when she and Layton, who was born in prosperous circumstances to a father who became a federal cabinet minister, were more silk-stocking Rosedale socialists, to use an old expression. If you don't know what that means, consider left-wingers like John Sewell, who became mayor,  or Gord Cressy, the councillor and vice-president of two universities and various charities, who came from rich homes to bug the rest of us about how little we do for the lower class.
There are councillors who think that Ford can win a byelection if judges thwart the electorate wishes and force that on the city. There is a better chance of Ford doing that if the right doesn't split the vote. Remember that Sewell got defeated by Art Eggleton because Paul Godfrey and his backroom boys persuaded Tories and Liberals not to have any other candidates like Eggs.
Fortunately for Ford, two logical candidates will not run in any byelection. And both would have been better mayors than he was even when he was winning.  Doug Holyday, the deputy mayor, would have achieved fiscal improvements without alienating as many supporters. And John Tory is a talking mouth at a sinking radio station and enjoying the time he spends with his family while remaining somewhat in the public eye. If only he had run in the real election.
Council's left wing is not as certain to unite behind Chow who, after all, is already living comfortable as an MP. There's Adam Vaughan, who still thinks he's a TV wise guy, Shelley Carroll, who is probably anonymous even to her cousins, and Karen Stintz, who still sounds as if she is taking speech lessons.
It is to be hoped that we will not have the expense of a byelection. To do so because of this alleged conflict of interest would be bizarre. If Torontonians really want to punish Ford (and his support has eroded quicker than a snowman in May because of policy belly flops) they can do so at the next real election. And there are reasons, not this supposed conflict, to do so. After all, Ford has proved to be a mayor who may have his conscience in the right place financially but his brain is out to lunch.
Shakespeare, as he normally did, got it right when he wrote "a plague on both your houses." It could be the battle cry for all those yearning for a mayor who isn't Ford or Chow.

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