Enter Jose Canseco, the best mayor Toronto never had

What the outrageous baseball star has in common with Rob Ford

(Patrick Doyle/CP)

José Canseco, the best mayor Toronto never had, is a man of many schemes. Just a few days ago, the former steroidal slugger rang in the new year with a public list of resolutions that included “Get elected to a important political office in the U.S. or canada to help all people and governments with there problems (sic)” and bringing an anti-aging drink called “Ponce de Canseco” to market.

In fact, he was square in the middle of convening a meeting of followers of his gonzo Twitter account to discuss the drink, sending out a picture of himself sipping a glass of suspiciously yellow liquid, when political inspiration struck. A political consultant from Milton, Ontario tweeted a suggestion that he run for office in Toronto. Canseco, who clearly understands the value of saying “yes,” appointed the political consultant from Milton as his agent on the spot.

“I hear you are getting rid of mayor Ford on Monday,” wrote Canseco, not entirely accurately. “I love Toronto and will be glad to replace him.” And so began the brief, glorious candidacy of José Canseco. In a brief back-and-forth with the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale, who happened to be on the scene in the middle of the night, Canseco promised a platform of more revenue without higher taxes, and better transit.

He argued his outsider status gave him an edge: “u need someone from outside the system to fix things.” Asked how he’d fund it, he noted that “I live in vegas you figure it out,” which we’ll assume is a pro-casino vote. He got through five tweets with Dale before offering the reporter his trademark “hug for u” and launching into his anti-aging drink meeting.

“First business” wrote Canseco, barely pausing to punctuate, “someone named Geoff already stole poncedecanseco.com web name so we need a new website name any suggestions ?”

Now, to be perfectly clear on this, José Canseco is a non-eligible Cuban-American who says strange things on the Internet. But here’s the disconcerting thing about his electoral bid: It is pretty much the very same platform that got Rob Ford elected in 2010. Vote for me, and I’ll bring that regular-guy common sense to office, conjure up money from nowhere at no inconvenience to you, fix transit, bring in casinos and–if you’ll overlook my troublesome record-be just the kind of mayor you deserve. We go for this kind of thing around here.

Meanwhile, back in the land of the living, Ford himself has pulled a 180-degree reversal on his own next step. Contrary to Canseco’s hopes, Ford isn’t getting dumped on Monday, but the appeal of his decision will be heard in court; a decision will hopefully follow within weeks. If he loses, council will either appoint a mayor, or call an expensive by-election.

When his removal was first announced, the mayor’s team came out swinging in favour of taking the question to voters. “What price do you put on democracy?” asked the mayor’s brother Doug, another stream-of-consciousness free-thinker. “We believe in democracy, that the people elect our leaders. Judges do not elect our leaders and we’re going to bring it to the people if this appeal doesn’t go through and that’s it, folks,” he said.

The price of democracy turned out to be somewhere upwards of $8 million, and now the Fords are asking that council simply re-appoint the mayor, should he lose his appeal. That there is a certain logic to this request does not make it any less farcical.

There is a reason that the José Canseco episode struck a chord with Torontonians. Ever since they got lumped together 15 years ago, the citizens of Toronto have adopted a habit of looking closely at the mayoral slate, considering their options carefully, then throwing their hands in the air and voting for the most colourful person on the ballot. Mel Lastman was nothing but colour, a regular four-colour comic. David Miller was colourful in his own way, at least when you put him next to John Tory. Rob Ford, you’ve met. You can’t elect Rob Ford without expecting José Canseco to come around later, hoping to get his as well. We would have changed the motto on the signs coming into town from “Toronto: Diversity Our Strength” to “Toronto: We’ll Elect Anybody,” but austerity cut into the sign budget.

Meanwhile, Canseco had already moved on. By the next day, he’d conceded that he couldn’t “work out the citizen thing,” deleted all the tweets pertaining to his mayoral aspirations and gone about his business. An Australian fan named Doug wrote in to ask if Canseco would send a shout out.

“hug for u doug,” he replied.

A lone Twitter robot called “Toronto Trends,” which scans for activity in the city, sent Canseco an automated note to let him know he was trending.

“hug for toronto,” said Canseco.

UPDATE: He’s back! As of 1:19 pm, Canseco re-entered the race he was never in. “Need exact guidelines of what I need to run for Toronto mayor and how long it takes to claim residency,” he tweeted, adding “#yeswecanseco.”

It’s the first rule of local politics: Never, ever rule out the loose cannons.

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