Two Toronto mayoral debates took place yesterday, at a high school and at a college, between candidates Karen Stintz, John Tory, David Soknacki and Olivia Chow. Unfortunately for them, they were essentially taken to school by the major mayoral candidate who wasn’t even there: Rob Ford.
That sounds like a ridiculous claim, but it makes sense upon further analysis. Whether because they were the day after the Ontario leaders’ debate or because nothing of major substance was said, the Toronto mayoral debates garnered very little coverage and very little viewership. Essentially, the Toronto public signalled to the four candidates about how little they care about debates that basically only talked about transit. Torontonians care about transit, but they don’t care that every candidate cares about transit.
If you were the media team behind these debates trying to figure out how to increase the viewership, there is only one answer: bring in Rob Ford. If Rob Ford was present at these debates, you can guarantee an audience in Toronto and beyond. While it’s possible the hordes of people huddled around the television sets would only be watching for the same reason we all stare at a car crash when we pass it on the highway (it’s horrible, but we just can’t look away), they would still be watching.
What we learned from last night’s debate is that Toronto politics needs Rob Ford to be hip and relevant. Toronto has gotten used to their political scene being in the spotlight, but without Rob Ford that just isn’t the case. The media coverage of the mayoral debates has been sparse, with every article from before and after mentioning the notable absence of the star incumbent.
That makes the winner of yesterday’s debates really clear. Rob Ford has emerged victorious once again, against all the odds. While being a good human being and changing his ways through rehab, he still managed to win the hearts and minds of Torontonians (read: me) by choosing to rehabilitate himself rather than go to a debate where nothing was accomplished. It would be a safe bet to say that no candidate managed to score many votes through the debates yesterday, and polling will likely verify that in the days to come. If the debates made little to no political impact, rehab is definitely a better public relations choice of location for Ford, never mind a better life decision. They say you miss 100% of the shots you never take, but by no longer taking shots, Rob Ford is winning.
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