Wow, that 4th CP24 Toronto Mayoral Debate was an interesting one, especially for Rob Ford, and it left me (and I'm sure everyone else who watched it) with one burning question:
In a city that celebrates diversity to the extent that Toronto does, will Rob Ford's comments on Immigration hurt him in this 2010 Toronto Mayoral Race?
If you didn't catch Ford's comments in the CP24 Mayoral debate, the entire debate is available to watch for free on the CP24 - Mayoral Election 2010 - Your Vote website at the following link:
CP24 - Mayoral Election 2010 - Your Vote
But, for those who want to know what happened now, I'll just cut-to-the-chase for you.
The topic of the Tamil refugees came up, and when George Smitherman was given the opportunity, he immediately went after Rob Ford for a comment that he had made in the past on the subject. Here's what Smitherman said, and then Ford's now infamous comments:
George Smitherman: I have to say I was very shocked when I saw Councillor Ford say that Toronto should be a "Refugee-Free Zone"...
Rob Ford: The bottom line is, we can't even take care of our 2.5 Million people. People are complaining, there's 60,000 people waiting to get into housing, there's congestion on our streets, right now, we can't even deal with the 2.5 Million people in the city. I think it's more important that we take care of the people now, before we start bringing in more. There's going to be a million people, a million more people according to the official plan, which I did not support, over the next 10 years, coming into the city. We can't even deal with the 2.5 million people, so how are we going to welcome another million people in? It's going to be chaotic and we can't even deal with the chaos that we're dealing with now. I think we have to say, "enough's enough".
I'll be the first to admit, I cringed when Rob Ford said what he did in response to George Smitherman's accusation. And all of the Candidates jumped all over it, so much so to the point that Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson both actually almost tried to take the heat off of Ford, with Pantalone saying that he probably didn't mean it, and Thomson pushing the group to think about solutions, and stop focusing on Ford... Who'd a thought they'd bail on that golden opportunity...
And was it just me, or did you also notice that they completely separated Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson, putting them at opposite diagonals of the table, instead of directly across each other?... I guess I wasn't the only person who felt awkward every time Pantalone would say something in previous debates, and Thomson would grab his arm to stop him from talking... Almost in the way that Gary Bettman does to Ron MacLean whenever he interviews him... I almost felt bad for Pantalone every time I saw that. It was almost like Thomson was bullying him because of his size...
Anyway, back to the Debate and to Rob Ford's comments.
Now, I see what Rob Ford was trying to say, how we already have issues in Toronto with the available services for the taxes we pay, so he questions how adding more people to the mix will help the situation. Especially when it comes to things like Traffic and etc. More people makes things more congested. I see that.
But, as a Mayoral Candidate in Toronto, you have to know that a large number of the vote is coming from new Canadians, and the children of immigrants, and the grandchildren of immigrants, and really, the majority of Canadians are the children of immigrants in one way or another, so putting forth any kind of anti-refugee/immigrant stance is going to turn off a large segment of voters.
Personally, I really do wonder about the impact that this statement will have on Ford's current support-base, and those who are still undecided.
Ford did try later to elaborate further on his stance with the following comments:
You know what, I stick by my words. I said we have over 2.5 million people living in the city now. And people call every day, "Rob, how are you going to deal with the traffic congestion? How can we deal with the homeless people laying on the streets? How can we create jobs in the city?" And now we're saying let's open the doors and have another million people. There's people saying, "no, we don't want any more people in the city". Let's take care of our 2.5 million people first. Once we get our finances in order, once we take care of them, then we can welcome more people. Right now, we're not in the fiscal shape, we're not in the social-sector shape to take care of anybody, any new people coming to this city right now.
So, what do you think? Has Rob Ford's comments impacted your choice for the next Mayor of Toronto? If you were a Ford supporter, has his stance on Immigration changed your mind? I'm sure the readers would love to know.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/shaunpierre/4661579273/sizes/o/ by Shaun Merritt on flickr