Commentary: Meet B.C.’s Ford Nation

by Dermod Travis


In a recent Huffington Post commentary – More Canadians Should Act Like the Shirtless Jogger – Danielle S. McLaughlin writes that “Like it or not, our elected leaders should expect to be asked hard questions — and they should be ready to answer those questions, because in a democracy, we expect accountability.”

McLaughlin – the Director of Education at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association – managed to find sufficient space to squeeze Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s name into the 532-word column all of once.

But despite the premise of the column, which was after all about accountability, it elicited some surprisingly strong online reaction from a few British Columbians.

Some were fixated on the fact that the “shirtless jogger” was, well, shirtless. They were indifferent to the fact that the Ford campaign had allowed a Toronto Sun photographer to snap and publish a shirtless photo of the mayor only days before.

Others wondered why the shirtless jogger would be jogging at a parade, asking “Who jogs at a parade,” blissfully ignoring the fact that he wasn’t jogging at a parade.

Some felt “we need less ranting shirtless men. The fewer the better.” Clearly, they haven’t met the mayor’s brother.

One resorted to homophobia to denounce the shirtless jogger, posting: “…the queer should understand that what a man does on his private personal time is his own business and nobody eleses (sic).” Google the author of that comment and you’ll learn that he is a self-proclaimed Freeman-on-the-Land or a so-called “sovereign citizen.”

But all of these individuals were completely indifferent to the fact that Ford had just held an “invitation-only” news conference where prying questions from pesky journalists were verboten, something they likely would have frowned upon had Gregor Robertson or Christy Clark pulled the same stunt.

The actual substance of McLaughlin’s column was entirely irrelevant when compared to the shirtlessness, the ranting and the presumed homosexuality of the jogger.

One of those online posters from B.C. was asked if he had read anything past the first two words of the headline of the column? His reply: “I read the entire article when it was first published on the Globe and Mail site.” Only problem with that? The Globe and Mail didn’t publish it.

Fast rejoinder, when called on it: “I checked, it was the National Post. I read a lot of media and confused the two sources. It was a few days ago.” But the National Post didn’t publish McLaughlin’s column either.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a shock that the column’s substance was irrelevant, since the same individual later posted: “I don’t give a f*ck what you think,” in response to someone else’s post. When called on that, he added “I did not invite anyone to comment. I stated my opinion. He stated his. I don’t care what he or you as admin think.”

The irony in the fact that he had added his own unsolicited two-bits to someone else’s comment in the same thread was likely lost on him.

After reading some of the various online posts attacking the shirtless jogger, it’s easy to suspect that the same group in B.C. that has Ford’s back – regardless of circumstances or admissions – would never stand in the way of a pile on of NDP MLA Jenny Kwan or Speaker Linda Reid.

And that’s what makes Ford Nation so extraordinary – the incredible dichotomy that exists when it comes to criticism of most politicians and criticism of Rob Ford. Ford effectively gets what amounts to a jaw-dropping free pass from his base nine times out of ten.

Just this week, a Nanos Research poll found that if Toronto voters went to the ballot box today, Ford would end up in third place, but would do so with 21.7 per cent of the popular vote. Karen Stintz and David Soknacki, neither of whom would likely know how to smoke crack if the pipe were in front of them, would receive less than 5 per cent of the vote.

But for McLaughlin, the “shirtless jogger” was only a metaphor. And there-in may lie the crux of the problem. The Ford Nation doesn’t do metaphors – in Toronto or it would seem in B.C.


Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.

July 9, 2014