This week's opinion poll showed that Rob Ford is not only the most popular candidate for mayor, he is also the most trusted. But can you really trust a guy who says so much that is wrong and untrue? Consider just a few examples.
- When he talks about overspending at city hall, Mr. Ford often cites the controversial new bike lane on Jarvis Street. He says it cost $6-million. The actual cost was $59,000, $6,000 less than the city's $65,000 estimate. The money was used to install bike-lane signs, paint new lines on the pavement and remove the overhead signals for Jarvis's old reversing traffic lane.
- Mr. Ford says city council voted to spend $360-million to tear down the Gardiner Expressway. No such decision has been made. City council voted in July, 2008, only to launch a study into the future of the elevated expressway. The study was expected to cost about $8-million. Mayor David Miller has made it clear he would like to take down the Gardiner east of Jarvis and one city estimate put the cost at about $360-million, but that is only one option under study and council has never voted to approve it.
- Mr. Ford says that under Toronto's "tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend" government, "residents of this city have been hit with a property-tax increase of 5 per cent every year." After all the waste that taxpayers see, he said at a debate on Tuesday night, "it just infuriates them when they turn around and have to pay a 5-per-cent property tax." In fact, homeowners' property taxes went up 2.9 per cent this year, 4 per cent last year and 3.75 per cent in 2008. There has never been a property tax increase of 5 per cent since Mr. Ford was first elected in 2000.
- Mr. Ford said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning this week that in 2000 the city had a $6.5-billion budget and "now we have almost a $12-billion budget." In fact, the city's operating budget has risen from about $6-billion in 2000 to $9.2-billion today. It reaches almost $12-billion only if you add in the capital budget, which pays for road repairs, transit expansion and other projects. Capital spending was not included in Mr. Ford's 2000 figure, so his comparison exaggerates the growth in spending.
- In controversial remarks about immigration last month, Mr. Ford said that Toronto's official plan forecasts that a million new people will flood into the city over the next 10 years. "I think it's more important that we take care of the people now before we start bringing in more," he said. In fact, the plan says that Toronto will grow by 537,000 residents by 2031. Greater Toronto is expected to grow by 2.7 million people in that same period, but that includes the whole region, including Halton, Peel, Durham and York.
These are not just sloppy mistakes or slips of the tongue. Mr. Ford makes these untrue statements over and over at debates and campaign appearances. His rivals for mayor have corrected him repeatedly in public, but he keeps on trotting them out as fact. Much of what he says falls into the category of "truthiness," defined by television comedian Stephen Colbert as what you want the truth to be, not what it actually is.
The rise of Rob Ford to the leading spot in the opinion polls is, sadly, no joke. The Etobicoke councillor is just weeks away from becoming mayor of Canada's biggest city. When a man who says he would run the city like a business repeatedly gets his figures wrong, you have to wonder about his fitness for the job. When he brazenly repeats his errors, you have to wonder about his judgment.
If we say we trust public figures, we usually mean that we believe what they say is true. By that measure, Mr. Ford is the most untrustworthy candidate for mayor.