Al Gore is running for mayor of the city of Toronto, Ontario, in Canada. Not the former vice president of the U.S., but rather someone (presumably a Canadian citizen) who shares the same name as the man who is obsessed with global warming. The Canadian Gore is only one of more than 20 candidates who will challenge the incumbent (and admitted crack cocaine user) Rob Ford, who has already filed his re-election papers, while bragging that he is the “best mayor” the city has ever had.
Other rivals seeking the mayoralty (which is scheduled for October, which means this circus will last for at least nine more months), include such familiar names as Olivia Chow, John Tory, and Denzil Minnan-Wong. And Al Gore.
“Clearly, the political landscape in Toronto has surpassed realism,” Patrick McGuire quipped in Vice.com “At the very least, if this Al Gore application is just some out-of-left-field troll aimed at Toronto’s electoral system at large, it marks the start of what will be a very, very weird election year. Basically, it’s time to get used to the weirdness.”
But who exactly is this Al Gore from north of the border? Himy Syed, the founding editor of TorontoWiki.org, and himself a Toronto mayoral candidate in 2010, blogged on Huffington Post that when he met Gore recently at a public event in the city, the man showed him a valid Ontario photo ID to prove the legitimacy of his name and identity. But Syed could not obtain much information from Gore aside from the fact that he has been contemplating such a mayoral run for two decades.
Gore is not the only odd or eccentric character running for Toronto’s top job. Toronto Life reported that other challengers include marijuana activist Matt Mernagh and jazz saxophonist Richard Underhill.
Meanwhile, the Rob Ford express train barrels on. For those who scoff at the very notion of a grossly obese, drug-addicted, alcoholic racialist and vulgarian having any chance to win re-election in Canada’s largest metropolis, his approval ratings have been climbing after the municipal government performed admirably during a recent ice storm that crippled the city and resulted in some 300,000 people without power.
A survey conducted by Forum Research Inc. revealed that nearly half (47 percent) of Torontonians surveyed approve of Ford’s performance as mayor (up from 42 percent in early December), and, even more amazing, 41 percent said they will vote for him in the 2014 election, which means he could beat any and all challengers. (It should be noted that 54 percent of respondents said they would not vote for the mayor).
Forum determined that Ford’s core base of popularity is among youthful voters, the middle class and residents of the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. "An extreme weather event like the ice storm can be damaging to a city but gold for a politician," Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff said in a statement. "Rob Ford grabbed the opportunity with both hands and made the most of it. People saw him taking charge and will remember it."
Bozinoff told the Toronto Sun that Ford scored points by taking an aggressive stance in restoring city services during the storm. "He was out and about during the ice storm, I think he did a good job," Bozinoff said. "Every day he was somewhere, and that works well. I think this shows he can grow a little bit beyond the ‘Ford Nation’ and back into those swing voters. It is not over. He is definitely a competitive person in this mayor's race - he's not out of it."
Bozinoff added that if Ford can get people focused on his agenda and not his personal life, “there is still a lot of support for the agenda of efficiency and running the government effectively.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.