Americans looking to Canada as a liberal paradise in the age of Trump should remember its recent struggles with the same divisions of race, class and culture
As the worlds media struggles to explain the Donald Trump contagion, it has received a ready antidote in Canadas dashing new Liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau. While Trump promises to keep Muslims out, Trudeau is satisfying Syrian refugees at the airport with his million-dollar smile.
But amid the headlines about Americans literally begging Trudeau to run for chairwoman, or plotting a move north, its easy to forget just how lately Canada was saddled with its own brash blonde who only seemed to gain supporters as he became more deranged.
Rob Ford, Torontos infamous former mayor, died on Tuesday at persons under the age of 46. Canadas political leaders, Trudeau among them, were quick to share their condolences. Its right to mourn Ford after his long bout with cancer, but amid the tributes , now is also a time to reflect on what his tenure mean for Canada.
The truth is that part of Fords legacy should be a reminder that Canada isnt the monolithic liberal paradise so often portrayed by the international media. The country continues to grapple with understanding how a human who hurled dislike with such Trumpian ease could be elected the mayor of the largest city in a country famous for its progressive politics.
Despite its sunny reputation, Canada struggles with many of the same divisions of race, class and cultural activities that split Americans politically. The electoral map of Toronto on the night of Fords election as mayor in 2010 presented a stark divide between city and suburbs, between those who have benefited from economic change and those who have lost undertakings because of it, between those who believe Canada is great and those who want to make it great again.
The man who once referred to Asian people as orientals who work like dogs, who confronted allegations that he made lewd sex remarks to a staffer with boasts about having more than enough to eat at home and who, yes, admitted to smoking crack in a drunken stupor, was elected city councillor of his home ward in 2014 with more than 58% of the vote.
While addiction undoubtedly played a role in many of his soundbites, those remarks often added to his popularity. When he dropped out of the race for mayor after being diagnosed with cancer, he was polling in second place. Had he not been hit with illness, its entirely possible he could have won the mayoralty again.
Throughout all the scandal and dishonor, a loyal cadre of suburban Torontonians, around 30% of of the voting populace, loyally stood behind Ford and his populist conservative message. They liked that he returned their calls and mingled with them over burgers and brews at his annual BBQ bash. He was one of them. And no matter what fresh outrage he unleashed, Ford Nation would not abandon their leader.
Canadas conservative streak is by no means limited to the suburbs of Toronto. The country just finished almost a decade of Conservative rule. From oil-rich Alberta to Ontarios rust belt to rural Quebec, Canada can be a very rightwing country, a place where messages like Fords continue to resonate. In the most recent federal election, Stephen Harpers Conservatives mused about banning the niqab in the public service, a ploy which actually helped them in the polls.
And, as it became clear Harper would likely lose to Trudeau a human Ford once called a fag the Conservative leader turned to the former Toronto mayor to help secure the votes of his Ford Nation.
Only days before the election, Harper spoke at a rally promoted by the Ford family and even posed for images with Rob.
The desperate gambit didnt pay off. Harpers Conservatives were swept from government. Justin Trudeau took the stage on election night and proclaimed a new epoch of sunny ways.
But as progressive Americans appears north with envy and Canadians gleefully gloat about the return of our bright side, its important to remember the dark side too. Canada is Justin Trudeau, but it is also Rob Ford.
Read more: www.theguardian.com