UPDATED: Post-Democratic Trend Lines in Etobicoke


  • Michael Ford has been re-elected to Toronto city council.


  • The PC Party government of Doug Ford


  • Doug Ford has won the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and, following the provincial general election, has become the Premier of Ontario.


  • Rob Ford was returned as Ward 2 Councillor in the 2014 municipal election.
  • Rob Ford, 46, died March 22, 2016.
  • Michael Ford was elected a TDSB Trustee in 2014. He was elected to Rob Ford’s former Ward 2 council seat in a 2016 byelection.
  • Doug Ford plans to release a book in 2016 (co-written with Rob about the family’s base of political support. He also plans to again seek elected office.


Since news broke of the decision by Toronto mayor candidate Rob Ford to sto-ballot-box-facebookep away from the mayor’s race and be replaced by his brother Doug the term “feudal” has been thrown around a lot.

The argument quite often associated with the use of this term generally appears to be that the Ford family is treating Etobicoke as if control of the borough is to be inherited and that elections are merely a formality.

I understand the need to put what has happened at odds with what should be happening in a healthy democracy ─ I’m even tempted to use the term feudal myself. But, I argue, the nature of what the Ford family is attempting in Etobicoke does not smack of what is prior to democracy but what comes after the democratic institutions we know and many of us cherish.

In other words, I argue that the Ford family is acting inherently post-democratic in Etobicoke and that current democratic structures are permitting this.

The origins of the term post-democracy are often attributed to political scientist Colin Crouch. The idea is essentially that a small clique of elites control decisions within democratic structures. Tendencies seen in post-democracy include few common goals, a common agenda, the conflation of the public and private sectors and privatization.

This is arguably what the Ford family is attempting in Etobicoke, and more broadly in Toronto governance.

The Ford agenda can be characterized by the pitting of neighbourhoods against each other (no common agenda), that Rob and Doug are seemingly interchangeable (a common agenda), alleged missteps involving lobbying on behalf of private sector firms (the conflation of the public and private sectors) and the use of private capital to fund major public projects (privatization).

By running Doug for mayor, Rob for Ward 2 councillor and Mike Ford for school trustee, the Fords, a wealthy business family from Etobicoke, are using democratic institutions to achieve what could easily be described as a post-democratic aristocracy if the election sees all three elevated to office. The Fords are up against challengers for every seat but the trend lines are there. A healthy democracy won’t permit one family to treat elections as a hoop through which to jump.


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