I’m amazed it didn’t end with tear gas.
Doug Ford, Olivia Chow, and John Tory fought like cats in a sinking bag at the York South—Weston debate. The audience was worse.
I don’t think anyone who wasn’t a supporter will switch sides, but Ford was very effective at his first debate of the campaign. He savaged John Tory at one point, asking him who does purchasing at City Hall; Tory had no answer and looked lost and a bit panicked. Ford asked him how many committees there are; Tory floundered and said “I believe there are five?”
But Ford’s weaknesses were apparent too. He was loud. He was simplistic. You could hear the laughs on TV when Ford attacked Tory for being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Ford wouldn’t say if he would march at Gay Pride, and gave the impression that he’d spent the last Pride parades at nearby bars. He also wanted to talk about only two things: the Ford family record and transit. Every question was answered with a subway.
And then there were his supporters. They were embarrassing, to our community and to him. They booed and jeered in the middle of their opponents’ speeches, even Tory’s final statement. They were the most awful kind of anti-intellectual: afraid to even let contrary views be spoken. The worst moment—and there were lots of bad ones—was when someone heckled Olivia Chow while she was speaking, sensitively and fairly, about Rob Ford’s crack use. The heckler said “Go home Olivia! Back to China!”. She looked genuinely defeated.
And make no mistake: debates are stocked better than trout ponds. Ford wants his opponents shouted down.
Despite the attacks from the audience, John Tory stayed poised, and when he could talk about his SmartTrack program, he came across well. But he spent most of his energy, particularly later in the debate, attacking the Fords’ record. Ford, being Ford, was loud, rude, and interrupted him before much damage was done, except by himself.
Olivia Chow was quiet and careful. A few times she even pointed out, quite decently, that the other candidates were dodging the question. She tried, too, to answer questions that she was asked with facts and reason. But her even temper—and what seemed to be uneven lighting—made her seem like the third candidate. She neither gave nor received any devastating attacks, and instead talked about policy: the three different kinds of bike lanes, community benefit agreements, youth cabinets and such. She came across as knowledgeable, fair, and a little boring.
The candidates spent very little time talking about Ward 11 issues, with one exception. Olivia Chow’s best (and, really, only) attacks were when she went after Tory’s SmartTrack plan, which will require tunnelling in Mount Dennis. If Chow gets her way, tunnelling looks likely to be an election issue and proof that Tory doesn’t have enough experience to be Mayor.
But as Andrew Coyne pointed out on Twitter, “This ’90 degree turn’ line of attack by Chow seems well-crafted to win votes within 50 feet of the corner of Weston & Eglinton.” So Chow is unlikely to get her way.