Yesterday was the first day that City Hall was back in high gear after its winter holidays, and it was complete with a a Public Works meeting and budget town hall jointly held in council by Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam and Pam McConnell.
Aside from the general criticism of Ford's policies, the two meetings were linked by the use of the phrase 'radical conservative'. Gord Perks and Vaughan used the phrase a few times each at the Public Works meeting and then Vaughan mentioned it five times at the public consultation.
Of course, this can all be a coincidence. But if it's a co-ordinated and conscious effort to re-brand the administration it's not a bad idea for the Council opposition. As much as simplistic phrases like 'gravy train' provide a shallow discourse, they resonate. Additionally, there's a better case to be made for 'radical conservative' than 'gravy train,' the latter of which Nick Kouvalis told Toronto Life there was little to none of.
In a way, it's surprising that co-ordinated language to create a meme of the Ford administration has taken so long. Language is a powerful tool; it shapes the way we think and provides the structure of meaning to the issues at hand.
The phrase 'radical conservative' in particular brands Team Ford as conservatives rather than populists, positions them outside the mainstream and conjures up the likes of Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, hardly the stuff of Toronto the good.
Whether the phrase gains traction remains to be seen but if it is picked up like 'gravy train' was for Ford then it could go a long way to altering the perception of City Hall by passive observers.