Drum roll, please. Doug Ford has decided to get back into politics. He promises to make an announcement at his clan's annual barbeque, Ford Fest, next Friday. The only question – the one that is supposed to keep us all in breathless suspense over the long weekend – is whether he runs for mayor of Toronto or a seat in the provincial legislature.
Please, don't let it be Toronto. As an MPP, he would at least have a caucus and, if his Conservatives win, a premier to buffer him. As mayor, there is no telling what damage he could do. One Mayor Ford is quite enough for any city.
Rob Ford's mayoralty was a hot mess well before it descended into scandal, farce and then, with his cancer diagnosis, tragedy. After a series of early wins at city hall, he blundered over transit, warred with the media and alienated many city councillors with his bullying. His contempt for the rules of conduct had him in and out of court on a variety of avoidable matters. His boasts ("I'm the best mayor ever") and exaggerations ("I saved the public a billion dollars") undermined his claim to be a straight-shooting ordinary guy.
His big brother Doug was at his side through it all, his loyal right-hand man. At first, Doug was said to be the smart Ford, the more disciplined of the two. In fact, Doug often outdid Rob in bombast and blooper. Doug got the brothers in trouble by pushing a goofy scheme to put a Ferris wheel and sail-in hotel on the waterfront. Doug got into a shouting match with spectators during a famously chaotic council meeting. Doug accused the police chief of being out to get the mayor. Doug called the media "sucky little kids" who "lie through their teeth."
Would he change if elected mayor? Don't bet on it. People hoped the responsibilities of office would moderate Rob. They held out the same hope when a blustering orange-skinned billionaire ran for president of the United States. We all know what happened. Nothing in Doug's behaviour as a city councillor for four years, a stand-in candidate for mayor in 2014 or a member of the peanut gallery since indicates that having the mayor's chain of office around his neck would transform him from Punch into Pericles.
While he was on city council, Doug frequently found himself the odd man out, casting a lonely vote (usually along with Rob) against some motion or other that he barely seemed to understand. He often seemed bored with the day-to-day work of a councillor, just as Rob often seemed uninterested in practical points of policy. Doug was the more gregarious of the brothers, with a salesman's brilliant smile and firm handshake, but he lacks the quirky charisma of his shyer younger brother.
In the interviews he has been giving in advance of his big announcement, he has been taking pages straight from the dog-eared Ford Nation playbook. Today's governments, he says, are all about "tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend." If Mayor John Tory had his choice, he told CP24 television, "he'd be taxing everything that ya touch."
His political brand is the same fact-free chest thumping that took Rob and then Donald Trump into office. No wonder that Doug has praised Mr. Trump in the past (he's "going to do a great job"), claiming that Rob pioneered the message that took him to the White House. Rob Ford promised to stop the gravy train, Donald Trump to drain the swamp. Both stood against the "elites" and for the "common folk."
If four years of Rob Ford didn't wise us up to that sort of pandering, half a year of Donald Trump should. The last thing Toronto needs is another dose of mindless populism.
The parallels between Fordism and Trumpism are hard to ignore. The results, too. Both rest on simplistic sloganeering and rampant egoism. Each man guaranteed to do every single thing he promised, only to see his program go off the rails because he could not work with others or tolerate criticism of any sort without lashing out.
There is nothing to suggest that Doug's brand would be any different from Rob's or Donald's.