A Washington think-tank held a symposium today on a topic that has fascinated people in Canada, and beyond: How is Rob Ford the mayor of Toronto?
In an attempt to explore the factors that led to his election, and enduring core of support, Washington's Wilson Center held a discussion titled "The Rob Ford Phenomenon: What's going on in Toronto?"
The conversation was led by Canadian university professor Anne Golden — who didn't exactly sing Ford's praises, but did offer her take on the reasons people voted for him and why many continue to support him despite a tsunami of scandals.
About two dozen people crowded into a boardroom near the White House, to hear her presentation and ask questions.
One academic suggested the parallels between Ford and ex-D.C. mayor Marion Barry went beyond being busted for smoking crack: he suggested they both draw political support from segments of society that fear being ignored by the urban elite.
Golden explained the history of the Toronto mega-city, and said Torontonians were frustrated by a garbage strike, taxes, and the perception of waste at city hall. She said Ford's promise to, 'Stop the gravy train,' appealed to them.
She also said people hold politicians in such low regard these days that they expect almost nothing of them, and will excuse almost any behaviour — so long as it's not stealing public money.