Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

'Residents' or 'Taxpayers'? Neoliberalism, Rob Ford's Mayoral Campaign, and the Meaning of Urban Citizenship

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

'Residents' or 'Taxpayers'? Neoliberalism, Rob Ford's Mayoral Campaign, and the Meaning of Urban Citizenship

Article excerpt

Abstract

This research discusses the public discourse developed by City Councillor Rob Ford during the 2010 mayoral campaign in Toronto, Ontario. By examining Fords press releases and speeches throughout the campaign, my interest is in analyzing how Ford avoided addressing Torontonians as residents while focusing on taxpayers and consumers. While this emphasis on 'contributors' is part of a neoliberal trend common across the globe, I argue that its consequences are severe insofar as they systematically exclude a significant section of the city population. At a moment when socio-economic polarization is gaining strength in cities, it is problematic when the potential mayor of Canadas largest city consciously makes the decision to exclusively address a subsection of the population. Such a decision results in a city that is further divided between 'deserving' and undeserving' residents, seriously impacting on notions of urban citizenship and participation, and contributing to polarizing the population.

Keywords: Neoliberalism, Toronto, urban citizenship, taxpayers, residents, Rob Ford

Resume

Dans cet article, J'aborde le discours public developpe par le conseiller Municipal Rob Ford lors de la campagne electorate pour la mairie de Toronto, Ontario. En examinant les communiques de presse et les discours de Monsieur Ford lors de sa campagne, mon but est d' analyser la facon dont Ford evite de s'adresser aux torontoises en tant que citoyens, tout en se montrant extremement attentif a leur situation de contribuables et de consommateurs. Bien que l'accent mis sur les contribuables est lie aux tendances neoliberistes actuellement en vogue sur toute la planete, je soutiens que les consequences sont graves dans la mesure qu'elles excluent significativement une partie tres importante de la population de la ville. Alors que la polarisation socioeconomique se renforce dans les villes, il me semble problematique que le maire de la plus grande ville canadienne prend consciemment la decision de s'adresser a une partie exclusive de la population. Cette decision a comme consequence de diviser encore davantage une ville entre "les meritants et les non meritants," avec des tres serieuses repercussions sur la notion de citoyennete urbaine et sur la participation et contribution a la polarisation de la population.

Mots cles: Neoliberal, Toronto, citoyannete urbaine, contribuables, citoyens, Rob Ford

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On the night of 25 October 2010, in his first public speech as Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford declared: "I am going to start working for the taxpayers of this great city" (YouTube 20iod). The statement was in line with the entire campaign he had run since entering the mayoral race on 23 March 2010. In this article, I discuss the public discourse developed by then city councillor and mayoral candidate Rob Ford during the 2010 mayoral campaign in Toronto, Ontario. By examining Ford's press releases and speeches throughout the campaign, my main interest is in analyzing how and why Ford repeatedly avoided addressing Torontonians as residents of the city while concentrating solely on taxpayers and consumers. My argument is that this emphasis on so called 'contributors' to the city is part of an alarming neoliberal trend common all across Canada and beyond (Robinson 2011), and that its consequences are quite severe for cities in general and Toronto in particular insofar as they systematically exclude a significant portion of the city's population and reframe the discourse on urban citizenship. At a moment when socio-economic polarization is gaining strength in our urban areas, it is problematic at best when the potential Mayor of Canada's largest city decide to exclusively address a subsection of the city population, thus ignoring those who for one reason or another are neither taxpayers nor consumers, yet are 'in' the city and 'of' the city. Such a strategy results in a city that is further divided between 'deserving' and 'undeserving' residents, seriously impacting the notions of urban citizenship and participation, and further contributing to polarize the population between those who belong and those who are outsiders. …

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