Tag Archives: Mayor Rob Ford

Where’s Rob Ford when you need him?


Time was when a good, old-fashioned political scandal in this country involved equal measures of illicit drugs and public inebriation.

Now, according to the Globe and Mail this week, the mayor of Brampton, Ontario, Susan Fennell, has been accused of improperly charging $172,608 to the municipal credit card, which she used to pay for “hotel upgrades, flight passes and even IQ quizzes. . .on her cell phone.”

One wonders how that last one worked out for her. The auditors, in any case, aren’t waiting around to find out; they are less interested in the details of her preoccupations than in the scope of her alleged public pinching.

Says the Globe piece: “An expense scandal has been simmering since last fall, but it wasn’t until a four-month audit was completed this week by Deloitte Canada that the extent of the mayor’s breaches of the city’s spending policy were revealed, highlighting and high level of dysfunction in Canada’s ninth-largest city.”

Specifically, Deloitte found that the burgermeister of this burb of 600,000 souls had violated the codebook 266 times and possibly more, since Ms. Fennell couldn’t provide details about 72 other spending excursions.

Naturally, her fellow councillors are livid. “We certainly didn’t sit around this table and approve first-class travel and luxury hotel rooms,” said Elaine Moore, who is no fan of the mayor on a good day. “I think what we have is an attitude of compete disregard for taxpayers’ dollars.”

What irks and astonishes others who are not privy to the traditional perks of municipal office is the lack of procedures in place to enforce spending policy. Says the Globe: “In February, 2011, councillors voted 7-2 to. . .allow members to approve their own claims. . .It’s a move that;s baffled observers.”

Indeed, exclaimed Susan Crawford of the city’s Board of Trade, “There’s no corporation in our country that doesn’t have an oversight function in terms of expenses – recording them, reviewing them and approving them,”

Still, is Ms. Fennell worried? Commenting on her colleagues‘ demand for a criminal investigation into her activities, she smirked, “Do you want to stick to the (Ontario Provincial Police or do you want to double-check the proper protocol with Peel, OPP, RCMP, CSIS, the army?”

Elsewhere in Public Service Land, where the roads are paved with gold and no one need ever check his bank account, scandal-plagued former Alberta Premier Alison Redford penned her goodbyes to the citizens of the Wild Rose province.

“I am stepping down immediately as MLA for Calgary-Elbow to start the next chapter of my life, teaching and resuming work in international development and public policy,” she wrote in the Edmonton Journal this week. “I recognize that mistakes were made along the way. In hindsight, there were many things I would have done differently. That said, I accept responsibility for all the decisions I have made.”

Oh really? According to the CBC, which obtained an advance copy of Alberta Auditor-General Merwan Saher’s report on the former premier’s spending habits, “false passengers” appeared on several government flights. Ms. Redford’s staff would routinely ‘cancel’ the manifest at the last minute, thus “making it possible for (her) to fly alone with her entourage.”

The CBC report continued: “(The A-G) also concluded Redford derived a “personal benefit” by taking her daughter on dozens of government flights. Saher raises the question of whether Redford’s desire to take her daughter on out-of-province trips may have influenced the decision to use government aircraft rather than commercial carriers.”

Again, just as in Brampton, the peasants are revolting. Jim Lightbody, a University of Alberta political scientist can scarcely believe his eyes. “It reveals a scarcely disguised contempt for taxpayers’ money,” he told the CBC.

Indeed, it does. But that also seems to be the way the circus is heading these days. 

Earlier this summer, Joe Fontana – the former mayor of London, Ontario, having been convicted of fraud and breach of trust (charges that stemmed from his time serving as  federal Liberal cabinet minister) – was sentenced to four months of house detention and several more of probation.

Former Conservative senator Mike Duffy faces 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Who knows what’s happening in the Pamela Wallin case, as the RCMP continues its investigation into her expenses?

It all makes one yearn for a little illicit-drug and public-inebriation action.

Dear Rob Ford: Won’t you come out and play?

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A tale of two urban legends



In his illuminating piece on American cities and why they work, (in the current edition of the Atlantic) national correspondent James Fallows observes a renaissance, of sorts, in the ranks of strong mayors.

This, in turn, leads him to a rather shocking conclusion, given the political distemper that plagues other levels of government in the United States: “Once you look away from the national level, the American style of self-government can seem practical-minded, nonideological, future-oriented, and capable of compromise. These are of course the very traits we seem to have lost in our national politics.”

He then names some of the country’s more successful, recent big-city mayors, such as New York’s Michael Bloomberg, Boston’s Tom Menino and Chicago’s Richard Daley who, “even with their excesses. . .have been. . .the people who could get things done, while presidents and legislators seem ever more pathetically hamstrung.”

Even the nation’s more modestly sized cities, he says, deserve praise, including Greenville, South Carolina, where noting its “walkable and gracious downtown is like mentioning that Seattle has good coffee,” and Burlington, Vermont, a community “so liberal that it elected a socialist mayor” who, nevertheless, “overrode resistance to clear the waterfront, bring back the downtown, and attract businesses.”

Reading this account of Mr. Fallows’ happy adventures along the main streets of his nation, I can’t help but feel a might bewildered. 

American cities aren’t supposed to be paragons of anything. In fact, they are supposed to be dystopian hell holes where elected officials are in the back pockets of organized criminals, the cops are on the take, and murder and mayhem lurks behind every street corner. 

Canadian cities, on the other hand, are supposed to be legendarily well-ordered, well-managed and. . .well. . .boring. Typically, its mayors are supposed to be either courtly older gentlemen or feisty older ladies whose affection for controversy begins and ends with zoning restrictions in exurban subdivision developments.

Well, aren’t they?

Rob Ford was in the news the other day. It appears that Toronto’s mayor was “visibly upset” after being barred from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s board of directors’ lounge at the Air Canada Centre during a hockey game. At least, that’s how his companion described the chief magistrate on Saturday. 

“To the extent possible, yeah, they (security staff) asked me to keep him under control,” Toronto Councillor Frank Di Giorgio told the Globe and Mail. “That was one of things I hadn’t anticipated my having to do, let’s put it that way. I think if his older brother had been there, it would have been easier to control him. . .(He was) certainly visibly upset.”

Was he drunk? Was he high? Nope, hizzoner said, not this time. 

Sure, over the past year, he has admitted to smoking crack (after having lied about it) in a drunken stupor. Yes, police documents, unsealed last month, describe the a mobile phone video in which the mayor is “holding what appears to be a glass cylinder in one hand and a lighter in the othe . . .At one point Mayor Ford holds the glass cylinder to his mouth. Lights the lighter and applies the flame to the tip of the glass cylinder in a circular motion. After several seconds Mayor Ford appears to inhale the vapour which is produced, then exhale vapour.”

But last Saturday, he was as clean and sober as a Tibetan monk, even though, as the Toronto Star reported yesterday, the incident at the hockey game “marked the fourth occasion in the past three months that the mayor has been filmed acting erratic in public. In January, a video made at a fast-food restaurant showed him slurring and making disparaging remarks about the chief of police. In early February, he was seen drinking and speaking ‘gibberish’ at a British Columbia pub. And on St. Patrick’s Day, Ford was again taped stumbling and swearing outside city hall.”

For all that, Mayor Ford is just an average guy. At least that’s what he told the profile writer from Esquire last month: “I’m very humble. Some people call it shy. I am who I am. I love my football, and I love my family, and that’s pretty well it.”

Should Mr. Fallows want to write a Canadian follow-up to his excellent essay on American mayors, Mr. Ford is almost certainly available to oblige with an interview. 

Just as soon as he nails down that reality show.

 After all, for the mayor of Canada’s largest city, priorities are everything.


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Hog Town’s Ford farce on world tour


The world, it seems, cannot get enough of Toronto’s very own booze-guzzling, crack-smoking Falstaff. And he of coarse demeanor and rotund comportment is more than happy to oblige his growing audience.

“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Rob Ford admitted on Tuesday. “There have been times when I’ve been in a drunken stupor. That’s why I want to see the tape.

I want everyone in the city to see this tape. I don’t even recall there being a tape or video. I want to see the state that I was in.”

So, then, he was lying in May when he declared: “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict.” Not exactly, hizzonner said this week: “I wasn’t lying. You didn’t ask the correct questions.”

On the broadest interpretation of this point, if on no other, Mr. Ford is right. We in the media rarely ask the correct questions. If we did, then one question we might want to ask now is: Why is Hog Town’s chief magistrate enjoying a bump in this personal approval rating among municipal voters just as his confession to truly bad behaviour is transforming him into an international media darling?

To restate the question: Have we all lost our minds?

Chris Batemen, a staff writer at blogTO, has compiled a compelling assortment of  news items about the fine fellow from the world’s press. From his research, we know that Esquire has expressed an interest in Mr. Ford’s manners while under the influence of substances, illegal or otherwise.

“As it turns out, the mayor may have been the very model crack house guest, Charles P. Pierce blogged. Referencing original reporting by The Toronto Star, Mr. Pierce links directly to a November 5 story which observed, among other things, “The City of Toronto has refused to say whether Mayor Rob Ford paid utility bills for the Etobicoke crack house where he was photographed with three alleged gang members.

But a city official has confirmed that on January 7, Chris Fickel, one of Ford’s special assistants, called the city’s water department on behalf of resident Fabio Basso regarding a sewage issue at 15 Windsor Rd., said Toronto Water manager Lou Di Gironimo. . .The bungalow. . .is home to the Basso family, including Ford’s old friend Fabio Basso and his sister, convicted cocaine trafficker Elena Basso, who also, according to the police document, has a conviction for prostitution.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Marche wrote on the opinion pages of The New York Times, “The old clichés are beginning to fall away from the city where I live. What has happened to Toronto the Good? Where is ‘New York run by the Swiss’? Mayor Rob Ford’s crack smoking. . .is only the most extreme example of his recent illicit adventures. Perhaps the most telling anecdote from a police file that surfaced late last week involves Mr. Ford’s heading into the woods with his buddy Sandro Lisi, currently out on bail after being charged with extortion, and leaving the pathway strewn with bags of empty vodka bottles. His mayoralty has been an experiment in what would happen if you had a feral 16-year-old boy for mayor.”

Then there’s Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson, who has helpfully added Mr. Ford’s name to the list of the magazine’s Top Five Political Excuses of All Time. He joins former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former New York Congressman Anthony Wiener, former mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry, and former Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

Yes, yes, it’s all so very amusing. One wonders what Mr. Ford plans for a second act. A blood-letting for Heroine addicts at Nathan Phillips Square? It’s not as if he’s going anywhere, anytime soon. He loves the limelight. Indeed, in his fevered mind, his personal disgrace actually becomes him. And, absurdly, Toronto possesses no mechanism for booting him from office.

There is, of course, another audience who is not as rapt about the boy: It’s comprised of those who, like me, were born in the downtown and raised there. We can’t wait for City Hall to get back to work before the Gardiner Expressway finally crumbles along with Mr. Ford’s credibility.

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