Ford Nation

The name given by Toronto’s Ford brothers – former Mayor Rob Ford and former Councillor Doug Ford – to their impressively loyal bloc of voters and admirers

More broadly, it describes “mad-as-hell” working and middle class voters who feel their taxes subsidize wasteful government spending and self-serving, disconnected elites. Like the Ford brothers themselves, Ford Nation is often seen as predominantly white, middle-aged and perpetually angry. Closer examination, however, indicates that the group, largely resident in Toronto’s “inner-suburbs” of Etobicoke (the Ford’s home base) and Scarborough – both of which were separate municipalities prior to the amalgamation of Toronto in 1998 – are ethnically diverse and constitute large segments of Toronto’s more marginalized groups: recent immigrants and working poor.

“Ford Nation” helped elect Rob Ford as a City Councillor from North Etobicoke for three terms from 2000 to 2010. In 2010, it propelled him to the Mayor’s Office in that year’s historic and shocking Toronto election. The support of “Ford Nation” also ensured a strong second-place showing for Doug Ford’s last-minute substitution candidacy in the 2014 election. Despite Doug’s loss city-wide, Rob was easily elected to his old council seat while Doug’s son Mike was elected as a school board trustee in the same ward. Following Rob’s death in 2016, Mike was elected to his council seat. Though Doug currently holds no office, he remains politically active and popular with “Ford Nation.”

The loyalty of Ford Nation has withstood the epochal scandals of the Ford administration which include, famously, the spectacle of Rob Ford’s public drunkenness, crack-cocaine smoking, and consorting with convicted criminals and drug pushers. Equally interesting is that Rob Ford’s penchant for racist tirades seems to have done little to blunt the support of the racially-diverse Ford Nation. Far from being repelled, many Ford Nation adherents seemed to revel in the international notoriety and opprobrium garnered by the Mayor’s antics.

So strong was the notion of Ford Nation that when NewsTalk 1010 dropped Mayor Ford’s radio show from its schedule, the Mayor and his brother moved the show Sun Television, using Ford Nation as the show’s title. The show lasted only two weeks, and the SUN TV cable channel would shut down completely less than a year later.

While support has been largely transferable between the two brothers, it has failed to make an impact in provincial or federal elections. Repeated threats by the brothers to mobilize “Ford Nation” in the 2011 and 2014 Ontario elections largely fizzled.

In the closing days of the 2015 federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a rally with the Ford brothers in the heart of their Etobocoke bastion.  Earlier in the campaign, Harper had considered the Fords so politically radioactive that he refused to even mention their names.  But in a desperate bid to “save the furniture,” Harper even relented to a posed – and widely circulated – group photo with the brothers Ford and their families.  All to no avail: on election day the Conservatives lost every seat that they held in the Fords’ territory.

Image source: Wikimedia

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