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Toronto Votes Monday To Replace Its Mayor

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

With a story that falls into the category of where are they now, we're talking about Rob Ford. Remember he's the outgoing mayor of Toronto who made international headlines for comments like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAYOR ROB FORD: I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.

MARTIN: ...And this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FORD: Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: When, sir?

FORD: But no - do I? Am I an addict? No.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: When have you...

FORD: Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors - probably approximately about a year ago.

MARTIN: Tomorrow Toronto voters go to the polls, and Rob Ford's name will not be on the ballot, but another Ford will be. To explain, we're joined by Chris Selley. He is a columnist for Canada's National Post. He joins us from the studios of the CBC in Toronto. Welcome to the program, Chris.

CHRIS SELLEY: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So I understand Rob Ford has pulled out of the race because he does have some serious health issues, right?

SELLEY: Yeah. He was diagnosed last month with a rare and unfortunately quite dangerous form of cancer which manifested as an abdominal tumor. So at the last possible moment, he dropped out of the mayoral race, and his brother, Doug, basically sort of subsumed his candidacy and is running in place. But Rob is, unbelievably - at the same time that he dropped out of the mayoral race, he declared that he was going to run for City Council in Ward 2, which is the seat he held for 10 years before he became mayor. And everyone really assumes that he's going to win it. So we'll still have him around.

MARTIN: So who is Rob Ford's brother? You say his name is Doug. Does he have a background in politics?

SELLEY: He's a one-term city counselor. He's, you know, in terms of how they see the world, politically, they're not very different. They're very different personality-wise. Rob, for all his faults, really conspicuously likes people. He really likes helping people. As much as he rants and raves and screams, he's sort of a happy warrior, relatively speaking. Doug - Doug really only has two registers - attack and bully and, very rarely, sort of insincere sounding apology. He's not a happy warrior by any means, but he is a warrior.

MARTIN: Who is Doug Ford running against? Who are the other candidates?

SELLEY: The leading candidate at the moment is a nominally conservative fellow called John Tory, a very well-known Torontonian - former leader of the provincial conservative party. In third place, surprisingly, is a woman called Olivia Chow, who, for a long time, before she was officially in the race, was presumed to be the person who would kind of walk away with it. But for a variety of reasons, it never really caught on.

MARTIN: So what's the tone of the campaign been like?

SELLEY: In a lot of ways it's been a fairly civil kind of boring election about getting rid of Rob Ford which is not necessarily, you know, the city has bigger problems than that. But the Ford phenomenon is so huge and it takes up so much of the oxygen that really that's the main thing that it's been about.

MARTIN: Setting aside Rob Ford and the Ford legacy and a desire to change the leadership, you say the city has all kinds of other problems. What are they?

SELLEY: You know, the problems that any big city has - social housing, poverty, income, inequality - all of those things. But the number one issue, other than the Fords, is public transit. For years and years and years instead of building we've basically dithered and dickered over what we should build. We make plans. We tear up plans. We refuse to pay for plans. It's a complete mess. And that's definitely the number one issue.

MARTIN: We should also note this election is happening while Canada is making international headlines for something very different after the shooting that happened last week. A gunman shot and killed a soldier near the Parliament building in the capital city, Ottawa. I wonder how that's reverberating in Toronto. Is it bringing national security issues to the fore in any way?

SELLEY: Not in a mayoral debate, I would say. I mean, there's certainly heightened security at City Hall and at public institutions around the city. But not in a way that would be in any sense controversial, certainly not in the immediate days after the attack.

MARTIN: Chris Selley, a columnist for the National Post in Canada. Thanks so much for talking with us, Chris.

SELLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.