Toronto faces a severe problem, but contrary to what many suggest, that problem is not Rob Ford. While nobody is denying the circus at City Hall, there is a popular but incorrect idea that Toronto is divided amongst the political left who reside in the downtown core, and the political right who reside in the suburbs, and that neither group can agree on anything.
It is true that Rob Ford was voted in mostly by voters outside of the downtown core, but that is not indicative of the city as a whole, but of one election. In the 2006 election, David Miller was re-elected by 42 of the 44 wards and with 57 per cent of the popular vote. Mel Lastman — a politically right mayor — lost ridings in the South of Etobicoke and Scarborough, two suburban strongholds.
The idea of a long-term divisive geopolitics in Toronto is obviously not true, so how did the idea become implanted in our minds? Partial blame can be thrown at Ford, but he is not the only one responsible by any means. Ford was elected on a platform to “stop the gravy train.” In doing so, he described downtowners as being the elitist, latte-drinking, bicycle-riding conductors of said train. At the same time, the response of the downtown was to describe the suburbanites who voted for him as being uncivilized, uninformed, and unintelligent members of Ford Nation. Both of these claims are clearly and obviously generalized, but both stereotypes continue to be perpetuated. By associating these traits with political ideologies and geographical regions, we are creating sweeping generalizations that do nothing but create division where there needn’t be any.
If we keep up these prejudices, the notion of a politically divided city will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By suggesting that we band together behind one mayoral candidate for the sole purpose of strategically deposing a candidate with an opposing geopolitical view, we are pitting downtowner versus suburbanite and are reinforcing the untrue idea that we cannot get along as a city. And it’s true, we will not be able to get along unless we all grow up and start acting like the adults we are, and solve our problems by talking and compromising, not by spewing hatred and rhetoric. If you think that only the “other side” uses divisive tactics, then you are just as bad; there is no “other side.”
Downtowners and suburbanites are all citizens of the city. All citizens of the city have the right to vote for whomever they like, whether or not you agree with their choice or their justification for doing so. Not all downtowners are elitists, and not all suburbanites are ignorant; in fact, very few of either group fit their respective descriptions. Once we’ve all accepted those facts, then maybe, just maybe, we can start to function as a city again, regardless of whom our mayor is.
Stephen Warner is a first-year student studying political science.