Joseph F. Turcotte, PhD

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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Rob Ford’s Growing Pains

Since his commanding election win on Monday night much ink—be-it digital, print or otherwise—has been spilled chronicling the varying elements behind and emanating from the Etobicoke councilor’s win. While many of these stories have either applauded Ford’s win, his campaign strategy or (perhaps most vociferously) bemoaned his election, neither of these story lines interest me much.

Rob Ford has won. He ran a disciplined, well-organized campaign and garnered the trust of the majority of voters in Toronto. Congratulations to him and his team and it is time for his detractors to deal with it.

What has interested me, however, is something that doesn’t appear to have gained much attention from the mainstream press and/or popular pundits: how will Rob Ford adapt to his new role as the mayor of the largest city in Canada?

Throughout the campaign Ford stuck to his simple and digestible message about fiscal restraint, ‘stopping the gravy train’ and reasserting ‘respect for the taxpayer’. Now that the campaign is over, I’m fascinated how Mayor-elect (and soon to be Mayor) Ford will grow into his new position at City Hall.

There are many issues of concern at play here. Not only will Ford have to try and form some sort of working consensus at City Hall in order to advance his agenda, he’ll also have to deal with the attention and media onslaught that comes with being the mayor of Toronto. At the same time, he’ll have to work to address the seemingly huge divide between downtown Toronto—where George Smitherman carried the vote—and the surrounding suburbs—where Ford dominated. As urban theorist Richard Florida stated prior to the election, it appears that there are now ‘two Torontos’.

At a time like this, when the global economy is still recovering from an historic downturn and unemployment and citizen dissatisfaction remain high, will Mayor-elect Ford be able to make the transition from ‘outsider’ or ‘rogue’ councilor to the man in charge of our country’s biggest city?

My early impressions are that the growing pains might be a little harsh.

In the interviews that I have seen or heard Ford do since his election, the Mayor-elect has looked overmatched and unaccustomed to his new high profile position.

In an interview with  CBC News Network’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon, Solomon—no stranger to interviewing the country’s most high-profiled politicians—seemed to overmatch Ford and make the Mayor Elect uncomfortable.

Ford’s interview on the show seemed more of a campaign stop than a discussion with the incoming mayor of Toronto. Sticking to his campaign script, Ford repeated his mantra of fiscal restraint and respect for the taxpayer. I came away without knowing anything new about Ford and the man who will be running this city.

The same day, Ford took time to speak with CBC Radio One’s As it Happens and respected journalist Carol Off. In a short 3 minute clip that has now spread across the Internet, Ford seems less concerned with talking to the country’s national public broadcaster than attending to his role of football coach. Of course, Ford has been a dedicated coach and his players and team deserve his attention. However, by not taking a brief amount of time to step aside and deal with his taxpayer funded responsibilities as city politician, Ford has left himself open to criticism and embarrassment.

I find it hard to believe that the mayor elect of London would have the same response to doing an interview with BBC radio.

At the current time, when the city is divided and so many areas need attention I hope that Rob Ford will get over his growing pains quickly and assume a position that all Torontonians can be proud of. It is far too important for this city to not address the growing disparities between downtown and the suburbs and the number of infrastructure, economic and social concerns that plague us all.

From the Archives: “Man of the Hour”

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down with a senior director at the CBC. For about an hour we discussed various topics relating to Canadian broadcasting, the CBC, and how the public broadcaster fits into the entertainment spectrum. At one point we got into a discussion about George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, the newly re-branded CBC offering from Strombo. I found it more than a little funny that my first interview ever was with George some 5 years ago (below; please be gentle, some weak transitions, etc), and now there I was meeting with one of the people in charge of his ‘new’ show. It’s funny how things work out.

Man of the Hour
The Cord Weekly
28 September 2005
Joseph Turcotte
A&E Writer

George Stroumboulopoulostalks to The Cord about ditching MuchMusic, being a Habs fan and Britney Spears’ chewing gum

For five years he was the face ofMuchMusic to music fans across Canada. As the host of The New Music and The Punk Show he entertained and informed. But as a wise man once said,“You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone,” and George Stroumboulopoulos isn’t the type to sink anytime soon.

After his tenure at Much was over, Stromboulopoulos was lured down the street to the CBC where he’s been tackling issues other than what our favourite pop-tarts are up to. His show, The Hour, is a fast paced news/talk program that covers the issues of the day, done in his typically manic style.While  Stroumboulopoulos isn’t the type of host you’d expect from the CBC, he says it’s working great.“You’d be surprised.  I know a lot of people think that me working here I’d be out of place, but there are so many people that are very much like each other, you just never hear about it, but we’re definitely here.”

While he says he enjoyed his years at Much, the chance to take a broader and, at times, more serious scope was too good for Stroumboulopoulos pass up. “I really enjoyed my time at MuchMusic and got to make some really really neat entertainment music television. But as time went on, entertainment TV as a whole, not just MuchMusic… changed. While I still did music on The New Music and The Punk Show I spent a lot of time not doing music, but more doing celebrity entertainment stuff, which is fine but it wasn’t for me at a certain point.  I kind of got bored talking about Britney Spears’ gum for sale on eBay… I don’t care.”

On why he moved to the CBC, Stroumboulopoulos says the open format of The Hour appealed to him. “I’ll go wherever the right show is” he explained. At The Hour, Stroumboulopoulos and his producers can discuss pretty much whatever they want. “I just wanted to make a show with people that I like, talking about what’s going on in the world, and do it in a way that people from all over the place can watch it. Sometimes we can be serious and heavy and sometimeswe can be light and ridiculous.”

In this respect they’ve done the job, as earlier this year The Hour was named by TV Guide readers as the best Canadian TV program.“I just love going on the air and working with really good people and get to talk about really neat topics,” he explains.

As for the person George would most like to have sit across from him, he has no hesitation in making his choice.“Bob Dylan. I want Dylan on and I want Nelson Mandela.You talk about two guys that have delivered, they have delivered.”

Since George started his career as a sports-radio talk show host it was inevitable that our conversation would hit upon the return of the NHL. “It’s gonna be a good game and a lot more teams are going to be competitive.” But as a good Habsfan, he won’t take the bait on picking a winner in the battle of Ontario.

“Fuck that shit dude, are you crazy? That would kill me, both those teams make me sick,” he says with a laugh. “I’d choose the Oilers if I can’t pick the Canadiens. But as a true Habs fan I would choose death before I would choose one of them.”

Speaking of lockouts, during the ongoing CBC “labour disruption” Stroumboulopoulos has kept himself busy. He can now be found hosting his own weekly radio talk show on CFRB 1010, Sunday nights from 9to 11pm, but he has every intention of returning to The Hour as soon as the lockout ends.


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