She promised to “Make Canada Safe Again!” and stop Toronto turning into “a sharia safe space,” and in return Faith Goldy has been censured by rivals, blacklisted by major media outlets and dismissed in court. Is she a big deal?
Her stunt on Friday is emblematic of the 29-year-old’s role in the campaign – the plucky outsider unafraid to speak her mind, yet struggling to be heard. As the overwhelming favorite for Monday’s election, the center-right incumbent John Tory, read out a routine transport announcement to a gaggle of reporters and loyalists on the street, Goldy stood to the side shouting questions about the spike in the murder rate in Canada’s metropolis.
As the official ignored her, and “Tory! Tory!” chants rose to drown her out, she persisted, calling the candidate “a weak man who won’t fight his battles” and a “bad mayor.” Yet what must have seemed a clever guerilla pr stunt in the planning received no coverage at all in leading local media.
Polls suggest the same electoral fate awaits her. While Goldy will likely come third out of more than a dozen candidates, she is predicted to ballot in the low single digits. So any measure of success will be about battering down the walls, not raising the flag as “Toronto’s next mayor,” as Goldy proclaimed herself. The question is whether she has managed to breach even the first line of defense – to focus on a wider range of issues and to be taken seriously.
In Ford’s footsteps
On the surface, Canada appears primed for at least a facsimile of the political revolution south of its border.
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Its prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is an unashamedly globalist and neo-liberal center-leftist of the kind that has been punished by electorates throughout the Western world, while the opposition leader, the one-time boy wonder Andrew Scheer, is the sort of lip-service conservative against whom movements like the Tea Party formed.
Meanwhile, Toronto is best-placed to become the heart of any future political revolution. It is here that the late Rob Ford –truly a Trump before Trump if not a direct inspiration– whose personal vices made the US president’s look healthy, rose to become a beloved mayor before his crack-fueled downfall. His brother Doug is the recently-elected premier of the city’s province Ontario, and is at odds with both the leading mayoral candidates.
Yet no one would mistake Goldy for a Ford sibling. Young, thin, plump-lipped, she is suggestive of a model rather than a girl-next-door, not to mention a politician. But the born-and-bred Torontonian Catholic with Ukrainian-Greek roots has two prestigious degrees, including one in public policy from the University of Toronto. Her entire career – previously as a reporter – has been dedicated to politics. Goldy is not a novelty candidate. A survey of her program of low taxes, pro-business legislation, toughness on crime and terrorism, and preservation of Canadian heritage, evokes standard-issue North American conservatives, not hot-headed mavericks.
Yet not even her adversaries would claim she is being treated as just another right-wing candidate.
“Alt-right”, “far right”, “female Donald Trump”, “white nationalist”, “white supremacist”, “fascist”, “Nazi fellow traveler”, “neo-Nazi”, “Nazi”. Her name is rarely allowed in the media without one of these prefaces.
Goldie is not naïve, and some of it she has brought on herself. Slogans about the Islamist threat are one thing, but like many free speech advocates acting out against the political consensus (see Milo Yiannopoulos) she is intent on a reductio ad absurdum version of her rights: She will just say anything, however unpalatable to mainstream tastes, and will also wield her ability to speak plainly as a weapon to systematically provoke and grab attention.
This may have made her name as a polemicist and journalist, but she would have been careless to think that her past would not be used against her when she’d run for office. She vehemently denies the fascist description – her targets are cultural relativism that devalues European culture, and the embrace of multiculturalism. She gave an interview to a neo-Nazi Daily Stormer podcast (a move that cost Goldy her Rebel Media job) and went on another show to repeat the Fourteen Words, a slogan she knew is associated with the genuine far right, for a sort of free speech dare.
Guardians of the establishment rise
This has made it easy for her political opponents to engage in the generic Nazi name-calling and othering strategy that has been unrolled against every disruptive right-wing politician in recent years.
A great surprise has been the strength of the establishment apparatus that has been levelled against her. In every avenue of her activity, obstacles have been created not just to delegitimize Goldy, but to make her campaign difficult, if not impossible.
Patreon, a major source of income for non-mainstream public actors, shut her out in May, while PayPal closed her account in July. Campaigners have attempted to no-platform her to deny her access to speaking venues, and organizers barred her from mayoral debates, claiming she did not fill out a form, something Goldy, who gatecrashed the debate anyway, denies.
Bell and Rogers, the two large media conglomerates dominating the landscape, have both accepted money to run her adverts, and then refused to run them, defending this as a business decision. Goldy has taken Bell to court, saying this was a violation of broadcasting laws that stipulate that companies that broadcast ads from one candidate must accept them from another. Having spent a self-reported $50,000 on a case in court, she had it dismissed by a judge who redirected her to a regulator. By the time any decision is announced, it will be moot.
After she posed for a photograph with Ford, a favorite recent political tactic of a denunciation ultimatum was employed. The premier would have to issue a groveling disavowal of Goldy, or otherwise be presumed a white supremacist himself, even if he never expressed such views. Ford took a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book in dealing with similar debate-framers and issued an ambiguous statement condemning “Faith Goldy or anyone else” engaged in “hate speech, anti-Semitism and racism.”
As the hours ticked down to the opening of the polling booths, Goldy was left to bemoan on her Twitter account – she still hasn’t been banned from there, at least – that Google had suspended her adverts. This sounded not like the weaponized martyrdom of the strong, but a genuine admission of powerlessness of a candidate who has been ground into obscure irrelevance.
On Monday night, Canada’s centrists may sleep soundly – when they wake up, the ramparts of their country’s establishment will still be intact.
Perhaps Goldy was not the right commander to spearhead the attack. Young, pretty, female, non-conformist, inexperienced – the electorate can accept one or two of these in their candidates, but more than that and they are not taken seriously, thick-rimmed glasses or not. For all their pronouncements about gender equality, it is the conservative young woman that appears as the most threatening source of nebulous malevolence in the minds of the bien-pensant bourgeoisie. From here Goldy can demonstrate tenacity that will mark her as a lifelong politician, growing older but more respected, as she toils in likely thankless opposition for years, waiting for a potential breakthrough. Or she can take the ostensibly easier path of media appearances, YouTube channels, and public speaking engagements.
Either way, the guardians of Canada’s political propriety need not worry about her – for now. But as they serve up their victory feast, will doubts prickle their minds? Was this a decisive victory, considering their advantages in numbers and equipment? Was it won fairly and with glory, according to the code of chivalry to which they ostensibly subscribe? And will the enemy return, perhaps more purposeful, stronger, and ready to fight by the new rules?
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