Today’s news: Don’t bet against Ford and Harper

The Mayor and PM simply refuse to play their enemies’ games
City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reacts to the media to get off his property as he leaves his home in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Nathan Denette/CP

“Friends, I am the first one to admit, I am not perfect.” — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Stephen Harper lasted nearly eight years in power before the inevitable. His trusted troops, so loyal for so long, are now lining up to replace him. Jason Kenney and Peter MacKay and Maxime Bernier all want their leader’s job. Their big mouths at a weekend party convention proved their faith in the Prime Minister is waning, and their faith in their own voices is emerging.

Kenney and MacKay defended the honour of their friend, Nigel Wright, who was the PM’s former chief of Staff until he gave a $90,000 cheque to Sen. Mike Duffy to cover improperly claimed expenses. Harper says Wright deceived the party and the Canadian people. The two powerful cabinet ministers think not. Bernier called for a national referendum on Senate abolition. The famously maverick-ish junior minister from the Beauce, in Quebec, seems to think the country should decide the fate of its reddest chamber. These revolutionary comments, delivered in the den of Conservative groupthink, served notice to Harper that, watch out, we’re coming.

Or, you know, not.

A common message coming out of Calgary’s convention of Conservatives is that Harper had better start thinking about his political afterlife. The end isn’t nigh, not yet, but there’s restlessness among the ranks and “hardly a feeling of jubilation.” Such qualified prognostications are natural for a party that’s halfway through a majority mandate and most of the way to a decade in power, and the party would be foolish not to think about someone to follow their leader. Paul Wells writes that Harper might start to feel itchy in the near-ish future, if history’s treatment of former prime ministers is any judge. But don’t mistake that for a forecast. “Here is what I know about Stephen Harper’s future: nothing,” writes Wells. Harper’s a guy who’s spent weeks redefining what it means to be stubborn in the face of criticism. If he’s even thinking about slowing down, he’s given no hints.

Indeed, if this weekend past proved anything, it’s that stubborn men can prolong or resurrect their careers—or, through sheer force of will, ignore any signs of impending doom. Rob Ford, a man who wants to be Toronto’s mayor more than any other human being, took to the airwaves on his Sunday radio show and apologized to the city. He’d curb his drinking, he said. He’d get a driver. But, no matter how many allegations swirl about his alleged drug use or alleged lies to taxpayers or alleged everything else, he wouldn’t step down or take a leave of absence. A city begs for contrition, and it comes only in bits and pieces.

(In the country’s next largest city, Denis Coderre became the mayor. An old-fashioned Liberal who survived the Sponsorship Scandal and even a Liberal massacre in 2011, Coderre now runs a city. With that victory, he proves that people who call themselves liberals with upper-case Ls can still win. Sure, he didn’t campaign as a Liberal, but the party brand is basically etched into his DNA.)

Harper waded through a party convention. Ford talked through a radio show. They’re both men who live and breathe their chosen craft, politics, and survive at it for a living. As each slogs through the fights of their lives, a single truth emerges: politicians who simply don’t surrender, and don’t engage their critics, and don’t admit there’s even a debate to be had, are really hard to beat.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and MailStephen Harper’s Conservatives take on public-sector unions.
National PostRob Ford admitted he should make some changes in his life.
Toronto StarFord won’t discuss the infamous crack tape until it’s released.
Ottawa CitizenFord repeatedly rejected calls for his resignation.
CBC NewsThe Toronto mayor has demanded police release the video.
CTV NewsFord apologized to the people of Toronto for his mistakes.
National NewswatchThe Senate scandal hasn’t hurt Harper’s grassroots popularity.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONALRail safety. Thirteen rail cars jumped the tracks in an Alberta town just down the line from a recent derailment. A dozen of the cars, which lay beside the tracks near Peers, Alta., carried lumber. The thirteenth, which did not keel over, carried sulphur dioxide. A CN spokesman said the derailment posed no threats to public safety or the environment.
THE GLOBALNigeria. A groom died in a weekend massacre of a wedding convoy in Borno state. Thirty people died when suspected Islamic militants struck on a road between Bama and Banki. They showed visible gunshot wounds, according to passersby. Boko Haram, a militant group, has killed Nigerians in the region as part of an effort to create an Islamic state.
THE QUIRKYVimy. A new advertising campaign launched by a veterans’ group hoping to build a $10-million educational centre beside Canada’s monument in Vimy Ridge hopes to rebrand the country’s 20-dollar note. The Vimy Foundation hopes Canadians will start referring to the bill as a “Vimy,” and the group has enlisted a high-profile group of celebrities to back the campaign.