BY: ALEX DOWNHAM
Last night, John Tory was elected Mayor of Toronto, following up the one-term reign of the infamous Rob Ford. Given the crack-smoking antics of the former mayor, depending on your perspective, Kevin Clarke chose either the perfect, or the worst time ever to run for office.
Just a week before Election Day and Kevin Clarke, Toronto’s oddest mayoral candidate, moved his campaign office to a seedy Scarborough hotel.
“We’re still going strong,” Clarke said as cigarette ash flaked onto his suit.
Clarke, the self-acclaimed “Nelson Mandela of Toronto,” was making up for lost time, as obvious by his jumbled speech and abrasive tone. The mayoral candidate was just released from custody after facing harassment charges filed by a superintendent at his former residence.
“The Ontario government and Toronto Police have ordered me homeless,” said Clarke, who can’t go within 500 metres of his former home and campaign office. “I pay $1,200 monthly so my cats have somewhere to live.”
But this hasn’t stopped Clarke from pushing on. Since 1994, the “former convict, crack-addict, pimp, homeless man” has been on the fringes of Toronto politics. This time, he’s aspiring to clean up Toronto as mayor by showing “zero tolerance towards youth crime, homelessness, and abuse of authority.”
“I’m into serving people, my man,” Clarke said. “Give a nickel, give a dime, I’ll make your city shine.”
Due to his tight budget, the People’s Political Party’s leader uses alternative methods to reach the public. He often surfs Facebook with six different user profiles, spamming unsuspecting pages with campaign advertisements. His newest pamphlet is a pixilated photo of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ plastered in Clarke’s campaign messages.
“I have the impression that this happened because they knew about the size of my Internet base,” Clarke says. Many comments on his photos threaten to block or report him.
Clarke’s often seen on Toronto streets dressed in thawb-like robes, posting signs made from garbage bags and scrap wood. His campaign office is covered in them, most signs saying, “STOP FIXED ELECTIONS: VOTE KEVIN CLARKE.” The signs refer to mainstream media’s disregard of small electoral candidates.
Clarke takes the issue into his own hands by barging into private mayoral debates, calling leading opponents “undemocratic cheaters and losers.” These antics have familiarized him with Toronto Police.
“If you do not debate Kevin Clarke, you cannot be mayor,” Clarke said, referring to mayoral candidates Olivia Chow, John Tory, and Doug Ford. “When the public has only seen five of 67 candidates in Toronto’s mayoral election, you don’t have the legitimate right to the mayor’s chair.”
In November 2013, Clarke was hogtied by police for disrupting an all-candidates mayoral debate. He successfully joined a private debate in February 2007 after the crowd opposed his arrest.
“There’s something going on where Toronto Police are silencing mayoral candidates and it’s wrong,” Clarke said. He was quick to politicize his recent incarceration over his harassment charges, calling it a ploy by Toronto Police to halt his campaign.
“I was kept in that cold prison cell so I couldn’t confront Doug Ford at FordFest,” Clarke said. “But they can’t stop this campaign.”
Clarke insists he’s never invited to debates with Ford, Tory, or Chow because he intimidates them, but maintains that his platform is what the public needs.
“Seniors and kids don’t give a darn about subways, so we need to stomp out youth violence, homelessness, and abuse of authority,” said Clarke.
“Love and community” is Clarke’s solution to solving these societal problems.
“There’s too much focus on addiction and mental health problems with youth-crime and homelessness,” said Clarke. “There needs to be a focus on housing and helping people become self-sustainable. From behind closed doors, they can use needles, drink booze, or use hookers, but out on the streets they cause trouble.”
As a member of the addict and homeless community, Clarke affirms he understands the public’s pleas better than anyone.
“I’m still a part of the world; I just don’t participate,” says Clarke. “From the trials and tribulations I’ve gone through as a homeless person, I understand these issues.”
Despite the obstacles the odd politician has faced, he remained optimistic about the election until the results were revealed early last night. Evidently, Torontonians didn’t plan on making the same mistake twice.