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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