Fact Checking the Fords

An aggregation of Canadian political fact checking.

Please send suggestions to @timfalconer or tf [at] timfalconer [dot] com.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, here's Ed Keenan

I’m starting to develop a complex about over-tweeting certain writers. Should I be embarrassed that I always seem to be pumping the tires of scribblers such as Roy MacGregor, John McGrath and Edward Keenan? Does the way I express my respect for their work verge on stalking? I don’t know and until I can figure it out, I am going to keep sharing their stuff with others — on Twitter and on this blog. Here, for example, is Keenan’s “Ford Fact Check: LeDrew Live December Edition,” in which he enumerates the “misstatements and misrepresentations” Rob Ford made during his latest date with CP24’s Stephen LeDrew. By this point, no one who is paying attention is going to buy any of the mayor’s guff, but the problem is most people in Toronto aren’t really paying attention, which is why we need more journalists like Keenan.

I only read it for the articles

After the Toronto Sun's Sue-Ann Levy whined about the Toronto Public Library paying for Playboy magazine, The Grid's David Topping pointed out that the Metro Reference Library (a place I love) has one microfiche subscription to the girly mag (at a cost of $278 a year) while all the branches have 78 subscriptions to the Toronto Sun (at a cost of $21,060 a year). Have to admit I haven’t read Playboy in years, but when I did, it had real journalism in it — which, needless to say, is more than I can say for the Sun. (Nit-pickers may point out that Levy is not a politician, and Fact Checking the Fords is supposed to be about calling out politicians, but her columns make her seem like she’s on the Ford regime’s communication staff, so what’s the difference?)

Spin, lies and the state of democracy

When The Grid's Edward Keenan goes after the Doug Ford, the mayor's keeper, in “Ford Fact Check: When facts cease to matter,” he doesn’t just call bullshit on the most powerful man at Toronto’s City Hall, he says smart and important things about spin, lies and the state of democracy in this country. 

(On a crabbier note, though, I think Keenan — the best City Hall writer at any Toronto paper — deserves a lot better copy editing than he’s getting. This piece is rife with grammatical errors and while I realize that most people don’t care about dangling modifiers, agreement problems and so on, if The Grid hopes to be as good as its writers, it should take copy editing seriously.)

Crime is the opium of conservatives

Inventing bogeymen to scare old folks and people who aren’t too bright is a scathingly brilliant tactic that conservatives have pretty much perfected. I am encouraged, though, that more and more journalists are willing call bullshit on this nonsense — as OpenFile’s John McGrath does in “Mammoliti claims opium dens on the rise in Toronto, police say not so much.”

And these people call themselves conservatives?

In “Why mandatory minimum sentences cost billions—and don’t reduce crime,” Graham F. Scott, editor of This Magazine, goes beyond pointing out that crime rates in Canada are low and falling to look at sentencing. While even some US states are abandoning mandatory minimums, the Canadian government has promised to pass legislation that will add $3.1 billion to the corrections budget — and won’t reduce crime. Perhaps what we need are mandatory minimum IQ scores for our politicians.

After Doug Ford went on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning to whine that the only place to shop in downtown Toronto was the Eaton Centre, Jamie Woo did some crowdsourcing and then sung his response to the mayor’s brother. Great fun.

Doug Ford's shopping bag

John Michael McGrath — who in simpler times, when he was my student, went by the more prosaic John McGrath — finally makes his debut on Fact Checking the Fords, though I predict it won’t be his last appearance (#FutureBabble). In “Of monorails and malls: Doug Ford’s waterfront plans get cool reception from Queen’s Park,” he does a brief fact check of the brother’s keeper’s appearance on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning for torontolife.com. Turns out, Americans don’t have access to twelve times as much shopping as Torontonians (as if that were a good thing); in fact, they have only twice as much as we do (still not a good thing). McGrath also takes issue with Ford’s contention that the city’s core “really has only one place to shop—that’s the Eaton Centre.” No doubt that line didn’t endear the councillor to all the downtown shopkeepers who don’t operate out of that soul-less mall.

Fact checking the storyteller

I usually think of a political fact check as a piece that uses facts, stats and other verifiable information to prove what a politician has said is wrong. So this one is a little different, but maybe a bit more brilliant because of it. In “The tale of Rob Ford and how he’s lost the plot,” Dan Yashinsky, founder of the Toronto Festival of Storytelling and co-founder of the Storytellers School of Toronto, doesn’t need numbers to show us that the mayor isn’t telling us “a true and a strong story.” As a Grade 2 boy once said to Yashinsky, “Never Finish!”

The deliberate cultivation of stupidity

This isn’t a fact check, but it’s an excellent explanation of why journalists need to do more fact checks. In “Winning back the words: reclaiming ‘elitism’ in the age of Rob Ford,” the perspicacious Sol Chrom looks at “the deliberate cultivation of stupidity” since Ronald Reagan debated Jimmy Carter in 1980. Of course, politicians lied — or were confused or misinformed — long before Reagan (Hi, Tricky Dick), but now ignoring the facts is a deliberate part of political strategy. So now the federal Conservatives develop a tough on crime policy despite falling crime rates and the Fords tell whoppers as part of their partisan pandering.

So we're not going to debtor's prison?

Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) takes a hard look at Toronto’s budget and separates fact from misperception and misdirection. People who think the city’s spending is out of control should check the chart that compares Toronto with the provincial and federal governments.