Tag Archives: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

A year in the life of a Hog Town mayor

 

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For reasons known only to the furies, each time I travel to Toronto, I bring with me atrocious luck for its hapless, erstwhile chief magistrate.

To be honest, I had no inkling I had such compelling cosmic connections. But the evidence is now irrefutable.

First, last spring, I deplaned into a waiting limo at Pearson airport, there to tuck into copies of the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail dutifully reporting sorry, scandalous allegations about Rob Ford’s extracurricular activities involving known drug dealers, a crack pipe and cell phone video clip.

“Absolutely not true,” the wounded mayor bellowed when scrummed by members of the media. “It’s ridiculous. It’s another Toronto Star whatever. . .I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I addicted to crack cocaine. As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist. It is most unfortunate, very unfortunate, that my colleagues and the great people of this city have been exposed to the fact that I have been judged by the media without evidence.”

In August, I was back and so was Mr. Ford in Hog Town’s increasingly funny papers. Having raised a ruckus in the city’s east end, the visibly inebriated public official  later insisted on his radio call-in show: “I drove myself down there, I was not drinking. I went out, had a few beers and I did not drive home. My people met me.”

Some after that, however, he admitted that what had occurred “was pure stupidity I shouldn’t have got hammered down at the Danforth. If you’re going to have a couple drinks you stay home, and that’s it. You don’t make a public spectacle of yourself.”

Summer faded as Mr. Ford’s troubles escalated, and by my November trip to TO, the mayor was sullenly singing a different tune. 

“I am not perfect,” he said. “I have made mistakes. I have made mistakes, and all I can do right now is apologize for the mistakes. . .Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But, no – do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Um, probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.”

Now, courtesy of a Globe and Mail “exclusive” last Thursday (just in time for my first visit with my second Toronto grandkiddy), we are proud to witness this:  

“A second video of. . .Rob Ford smoking what has been described as crack cocaine by a self-professed drug dealer was secretly filmed in his sister’s basement early Saturday morning. The clip, which was viewed by two Globe and Mail reporters , shows Mr. Ford taking a drag from a long copper-coloured pipe, exhaling a cloud of smoke and then frantically shaking his right hand.”

On Friday, shortly before midnight, the frequently dazed and confused mayor issued the following statement:

“Tonight, I want to take some time to speak from my heart to the people of Toronto.  It’s not easy to be vulnerable, and this is one of the most difficult times in my life. I have a problem with alcohol and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time. Today, after taking some time to think about my own well-being, how to best serve the people of Toronto and what is in the best interests of my family, I have decided to take a leave from campaigning and from my duties as mayor to seek immediate help.”

Of course, had he faced his responsibilities earlier, he might have saved the city and the people he claims he loves a whole lot of embarrassment and heartache. I doubt that a “leave of absence” to clean himself up will do much to restore confidence in Toronto’s municipal culture or civic leadership, both of which Mr. Ford and his cadre of “loyalists” have thoroughly fouled in recent months.

Through it all, it’s impossible to dismiss the conviction that Mr. Ford still doesn’t get it. He still thinks, at some infantile level, that the world is out to get him – that he is not the author of his own misfortunes.

When a man proves that he can’t run his own life, it’s tragic. 

When that man also happens to be the mayor of one of North America’s largest cities, it’s actually terrifying.

 

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Where would 2013 be without its “Fordisms”?

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Without Toronto’s comfortably stout, malapropismatically challenged, temporarily reassigned mayor and chief magistrate, 2013 would have been a dull year, indeed, for professional scribblers like me.

Not a day has passed since May when Rob Ford hasn’t managed to either delight or outrage (oftentimes, both) the chattering classes with his peculiar brand of outburst. (We must now, all of us, seriously consider adding ‘Fordism’ to the lexicon of contemporary English).

As a report from CTV noted earlier this month, “Toronto Mayor Rob Ford responded to a U.S. sports radio show’s question about what he was getting his wife for Christmas by saying: ‘Just money, women love money.’ Ford made the comment Thursday during his regular phone-in chat onSports Junkies, on 106.7 The Fan, based in Washington, D.C.

“Ford is on the show to talk sports and make NFL picks, but when one of the hosts asked Ford about his holiday gift-giving plans for his wife Renata, he replied: ‘Just money. Women love money. Give them a couple of thousand bucks and they’re happy. Get some treats on the side obviously for her,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day, she wants her cash. So I give her a nice cheque and we’re all happy. When asked what he hoped to get from his wife, Ford said: ‘She always surprises me. I have a fantastic wife.’

The comments come a day after Ford apologized for the second time to Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale, who had threatened to sue the mayor for comments he made on a television interview earlier this month for former media baron Conrad Black.”

Those comments intimated that Mr. Dale may harbour an unseemly interest in young children, a postulation that prompted a libel notice. And Mr. Ford’s response?

“I wholly retract my statements and apologize to Mr. Dale without reservation for what I said,” his mea culpa declared. “There is absolutely no basis for the statement I made about Daniel Dale taking pictures of children or any insinuations I made.”

The apology was an order of magnitude stronger than his initial ‘oops’ in which he said that he didn’t believe that “Mr. Dale is a pedophile”. Nor did he “intend to suggest that in (his) comments. I wish to sincerely apologize again to Mr. Dale if my actual words have caused him any harm or personal offence.”

By now, Mr. Ford’s ‘I’m sorry’ routine is famous. Thanks to an excellent account assembled by the CBC, we know that Mr. Ford apologizes a lot:

“Dec. 17: Reluctantly apologized for suggesting members of council were ‘corrupt.’ He initially said he withdrew his comments, but speaker Frances Nunziata said he needed to apologize. ‘How about, I am so sorry,’ Ford said sarcastically. ‘Is that as good as I apologize? Or, ‘So sorry?’ Which one do you want, Madam Speaker? Like, ‘Super, super, super, super, super, super, super sorry? So sorry?’

“Nov. 18: Apologizes for running into Coun. Pam McConnelland knocking her over during a council meeting to strip the mayor of most of his powers. ‘It was a complete accident,’ Ford said. ‘I do sincerely apologize to you, Coun. McConnell.’

“Nov. 14: Apologizes for crude remarks he made earlier that day in which he denied offering a former female staffer oral sex, saying he had ‘more than enough to eat at home.’ Later that day, Ford said: ‘I want to apologize for my graphic remarks this morning.’

“Nov. 8: Appears ashamed while delivering a statement in response to a video that surfaced of a rambling, enraged Ford in a profanity-laced tirade in which he threatens to kill someone. ‘Obviously, I was extremely, extremely inebriated,’ he said. ‘I’ve made mistakes. I don’t know what to say.’

“Nov. 5: Apologizes after admitting he had indeed smoked crack cocaine, likely in one of his drunken stupors. ‘I know what I did was wrong and admitting it was the most difficult and embarrassing thing I have ever had to do,’ he said. ‘To the residents of Toronto, I know I have let you down. And I can’t do anything else but apologize, and apologize.’

“May 27: Apologizes to reporters for calling them a ‘bunch of maggots’ during his radio show. “I’m sure you understand this has been a very stressful week for myself and my family, but that doesn’t justify using the terminology I did in describing the media. I sincerely apologize to each and every one of you.’”

Don’t mention it, Mr. Ford.

God bless your outbursts, every one.

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Partygoer Rob Ford overstays his welcome

Ford Nayshun ahead. . .Lock up yer daughters Hog Town

Ford Nayshun ahead. . .Lock up yer daughters Hog Town

On any given day, I drink a glass of wine with supper. I do not show up at office parties in any state other than one of profound and sober resignation. And if, at any point in the evening, my wife asks me to leave with her, I am happy to oblige. Quietly.

For these reasons alone, I am fairly certain that I do not qualify to fill Rob Ford’s shoes.

If you’ve been off planet these past few years, you won’t know that he’s the mayor of Canada’s largest city, North America’s fourth biggest metropolis, the Centre of the Universe, Hog Town, Toronto.

You also won’t know that Mr. Ford admits that he has smoked crack cocaine and bought illegal drugs, that he knows people in low places, that, in a video, the 300-pound-plus baby throwing a tantrum over some sleight, real or imagined, is, indeed, his goodself.

He even admits that he might just need some professional help, even if that’s only a trip to beachfront bar in Fort Lauderdale this Christmas vacation.

The tragicomic antics of Canada’s very own Boss Hogg is not merely the biggest story in Toronto these days. It is the only story, numbing all who come within its orbit with vast doses of intrigue, mendacity and outright sleaze. If you’ve ever witnessed a train wreck in progress, you know that to look away is impossible.

“Did you hear the latest from that guy?” the cab driver asked me on the way in from Pearson International Airport last week. “He says he’s done all those things in a drunken stupor, and he still won’t resign. It’s like he’s proud of himself or something.”

I laughed and mentioned that his dear, old mum told an interviewer the other day that the only thing wrong with her sonny boy is that he’s packing a bit too much weight.

Without missing a beat, the cabbie quipped, “Yup, especially between the ears.”

Moments later, I found myself in the outer office of a Bay Street type, for whom I was doing some consulting. His assistant told me he had been delayed and asked if I would mind waiting. After ten minutes, my client emerged, red-faced and chuckling.

“Sorry,” he said. “I just had to see the end of the latest press conference. You know what? Television does not do justice to our colourful mayor.”

Of course, not everyone is laughing. The mayor’s public approval ratings, which actually shot up following his admission of cocaine use, are plummeting. Even his once ardent defenders and confederates are calling for his ouster.

Meanwhile, Canada’s national newspaper is beside itself with old-school Toronto opprobrium.

“How is this man still the mayor?” last Thursday’s Globe and Mail editorial beseeched. “He’s an admitted crack smoker, and an admitted liar about it. He’s been publicly drunk – ‘hammered’ and ‘extremely, extremely inebriated,’ in his own words – on several occasions. . .On Wednesday morning, he confessed to having purchased illegal drugs while mayor; by mid-afternoon, police documents ordered released by a judge were detailing a whole new series of allegations, by his own staff, of intoxication and drug use.”

In fact, there’s nothing especially instructive about any of this; no great lessons in civics and public administration may be plucked from this fiasco, save, perhaps, one:

It seems broadly absurd that Toronto, that most sophisticated of burbs, that beacon of commerce and culture, is utterly powerless over the machinery of its own governance. Why is there no code of conduct for elected officials, including the mayor, that makes things like illegal drug use, public drunkenness and bald-faced lying impeachable offences, the penalty for which is summary dismissal?

Rob Ford won’t quit for two reasons.

The first is he doesn’t have to.

The second is, despite his protestations to the contrary, he’s having way too much fun directing his own, personal psychodrama before the camera’s vacant stare. Every day that passes, he ups the ante by issuing fresh confessions, accusations or sundry pornographic observations lest the pot of public outrage and disgust stops boiling.

This is, after all, Rob Ford’s party and, apparently, we’re not allowed to leave.

Not yet.

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Toronto mayor stoops to conquer

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To fully appreciate public office at its worst, look no further than the front page of Canada’s so-called national newspaper last Friday. There, depicted in all his inglorious bluster, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is telling a mob of reporters that he’s staying put.

Forget the fact that his own police chief had, only hours earlier, confirmed that the long-rumoured video of Mr. Ford smoking what seems to be crack-cocaine is, in fact, real and that the Toronto drug force has a copy of it.

Forget the fact that the cops had just unloaded a trunk load of documents outlining more than five months of phone calls and meetings between the mayor and one Alessandro Lisi, an alleged drug dealer.

“The digital file that we have recovered depicts images which are consistent with those that have previously been reported in the press,” Police Chief Bill Blair said at a news conference on Friday. “As a citizen of Toronto, I am disappointed. I know this is a traumatic issue for the citizens of this city and for the reputation of this city – and that concerns me.”

The individual it should concern most, of course, is Mayor Ford. Apparently, it doesn’t. “I wish I could come out and defend myself,” he told reporters. “Unfortunately, I can’t because it’s before the courts. That’s all I can say.”

Others had plenty to say, most of it archly critical.

“If Mayor Ford truly has the city’s well-being at heart, he would step aside,” architect Jack Diamond told The Globe and Mail. “Whatever the courts eventually decide, the circumstantial evidence is enough to constrain the mayor on any issue to the extent that managing the city’s affairs can only be harmed.”

And, of course, the editorial pages of Hog Town clamored for Mr. Ford’s removal.

“Under (the) circumstances, having Ford at the helm badly undermines Toronto’s reputation,” The Toronto Star declared. “If Ford possesses even a scintilla of respect and concern for the city he is supposed to lead, he will step down as mayor.”

Concluded The Globe: “For months, Mr. Ford has been stonewalling. He can’t do that any more. His behaviour can’t be explained away, and he isn’t even trying. He’s simply ignoring and evading that which cannot any longer be denied. Toronto deserves better.”

I reality, Toronto is a big town. It will survive Mr. Ford, just as it has other public officials who have besmirched its reputation. The trains will continue to run on time. The wheels of the buses will continue to go round and round.

But “Fordgate” is a particular species of political scandal that seems be growing more common these days. When faced with evidence of their wrongdoing – or, the appearance of their wrongdoing – certain public officials seem to think that defiance, rather than circumspection, is in order.

True, none of the allegations against Mr. Ford have been proven in a court of law. (In fact, they are not actually before the courts). But the mayor of the country’s largest city at least owes a debt of indulgence to those elected him. He is an office
“holder”. He does not own the position of chief magistrate.

All of which is to say that the public institutions we trust to protect our democracy from perdition are only as good as the quality of the people we assign to run them.

Senator Mike Duffy blathers on about being knifed in the back by staffers at the Prime Minister’s Office, while accepting no responsibility, whatsoever, for his own considerable role in his undoing.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper changes his tune regarding his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, declaring that he “dismissed” the man. (He had formerly allowed that Mr. Wright resigned of his own accord).

As for Mr. Wright’s reputation, it seems broadly intact. His friends tell the Globe and Mail that he possesses “high integrity” and “unbelievable ability.”

All of which is to say that everybody makes mistakes. It’s what we do about them that counts in both private and public life.

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