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The limits of anti-politics


 

With downtown Toronto slowly realizing coming to grips with the fact that Rob Ford is indeed the city’s new mayor, Joanne Chianello has a great story in the Ottawa Citizen on the “Fall and Fall of Larry O’Brien”, who came to office on a similar mantra of bringing business principles to the management of city hall. It’s a wonderful bit of long-form narrative  journalism, and is a reminder that — when the paper lets her do it — Joanne is one of the most under-rated political journalists in the country.

The piece does a nice job of contrasting the fiasco of O’Brien’s campaign with that of the eventual winner, Jim Watson:

Watson’s “ground game outdid us 10-fold — and that may be an understatement,” admits Jasmine MacDonnell, O’Brien’s communications officer during the past year. She took time away from the mayor’s office to join the campaign for the last four weeks.

“We couldn’t have competed,” she says, “but we could have done more.”

With a full week to go before election day, O’Brien’s team worried about running out of brochures. In a frustrated moment, a campaign leader wondered if he should bring pamphlets to an event at Algonquin College. “Well fuck,” O’Brien shouted, “we have to do something!”

Here’s a man who can’t even pretend to do retail politics:

When matched against the smooth-talking Watson, O’Brien induced cringes. During a debate aimed at youth, the candidates were lobbed a fun and final question: “What power would you most like to possess?”

Clive Doucet offered a sweet reply about wanting to be a superhero to impress his grandson. To a chorus of “Awws,” Watson asked for “the power to heal” — a request Haydon didn’t even try to match. Reporters watched O’Brien’s handlers. “I’d like the power to stop people from talking,” their candidate replied to fallen faces.

And it is interesting to see just how clued-out O’Brien is. Here he is, meeting the reporter whose work had him charged with influence-peddling:
Five days before the election, O’Brien attended the book launch of Citizen columnist Randall Denley at the Heart and Crown on Preston Street. The place was crawling with journalists and politicians. He chatted for more than 20 minutes with Citizen reporter Gary Dimmock, whose stories led to O’Brien facing influence peddling trials. Why were they chatting? Because the mayor didn’t recognize Dimmock.

“Didn’t you use to have a moustache?” he said after discovering Dimmock’s identity.


 
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The limits of anti-politics

  1. Watson's “ground game outdid us 10-fold — and that may be an understatement,” admits Jasmine MacDonnell, O'Brien's communications officer during the past year. She took time away from the mayor's office to join the campaign for the last four weeks.

    When it eventually comes out that she inadvertently deleted the supporter list, and misplaced the campaign schedule – leaving it in John Baird's limo, O'Brien will be vindicated.

    Lisa, is she now welcome back?

    • Zing!

  2. I dunno what all the fuss is about Ford, it's not like he can do anything. Probably end up like O'Brien in fact.

    • Let's hope.

    • He'll probably be just as (in)effective in terms of policy. Mayors just don't have that much power beyond setting the agenda and the bully pullpit. And strikes are tougher to win than people think.

      But Ford is, unlike O'Brien, an impressive politician. He'll stick to his talking points, and won't humiliate himself with lame swagger. (well, probably won't at least). So, in four years, Torontonians will have the difficult choice where lots of them want a guy like Ford to succeed, except that's an impossibility….so the choice will be between a Smitherman type and a mostly unsuccessful Ford. I mean, it's not like voters really think Ford has a good plan set out. They support him because at least he'll try to enact their wishes, as insane as they are.

  3. Fair game to go after O'Brien. He ran an extraordinarily lousy campaign. That said, he didn't lose because he ran a bad campaign. Had he run a campaign equal to that of Watson, I expect O'Brien would still have lost by 15+ points.

    The important question is how much better will the City and its taxpayers be after four years of Watson. I'll bet right now that there will be a lot less conflict and more groups hugs at city council but, fundamentally little will get done. Watson is just another smarmy pol looking for a sweet gig with benefits. He's found it.

  4. Agreed. If Adam Vaughn can stop being such a smug dweeb, he'll have two terms under his belt and a degree of alliance. Plus, he gets media. Stintz will also have two terms and she seems like she's bright enough. Nunziata might stalk the right and the insufferable DeBaermaker might confuse the easily confused.

  5. O'Brien didn't just run a lousy campaign, he was a lousy mayor. Lousy, lousy, lousy. He picked a fight with the transit union, thought he could just swagger, even pretended – just like an out-of-touch CEO – that he knew the workers better than their own union did. Had the labour minister put the city final offer to a vote, and couldn't believe the workers voted it down. That's just an out-of-touch guy who proved with that move he didn't know a thing. Cost us Ottawa taxpayers $30 million plus dollars by cancelling the already approved light rail transit contract. What's $30 million between friends, right?
    I am so glad to see Larry go!

  6. I'm a bit skeptical, but perhaps. Presumably a wide-open mayoral race, which loads of currently under-employed Toronto liberals, would unearth a fairly strong centrist candidate. Although it is telling, isn't it, how many strong liberals sat this out? I mean, Gerard Kennedy would have been a great fit, Nunziata too.

    I do keep hearing about Vaughn. Perhaps he'll be just as good a candidate in four years.

    I guess the fundamental question is, in four years, whether Ford will be able to once again be able to frame the ballot question. We'll see!

  7. Here in Canada, Harper is suposedly Nixon-Lite. Whatever he does must be opposed (by the left by all means possible – good or bad.) He must be painted as a far-right, aloof, christian from Alberta = evil.

    Rob Ford is too common, too white and, especially, considered unsophisticated (by those who consider themselves judge) . From what I have read (from the left), is that over the next 4 years they can simply oppose any ideas he has to ensure his failure – therefore ensuring he won't be re-elected.

    Then!!! The lefties cry and whine that Obama hasn't been given a chance, or he is the victim of bad press (FOX news).Further, the Right is purposely stalling any initiatives he proposes simply because he is from the left (or left slanting- in the US political lanscape) and they want him to fail.

    Hmmmmm? What's the problem here?

    Mr. Potter, you are the current 5 Star Jacka$$ of Canadian Journalism – that is accomplishent Mr. Potter, Congrats!

    • Sorry, what's your problem with Potter?

      • Don't feed the trolls

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