Oh dear, Rob Ford

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Rob Ford at the 100th Grey Cup celebrations on November 20, 2012

Sometimes I miss living in Toronto. But this is not one of those times. In the past two days all my friends have been bombarding me with messages of the likes of, “Look what’s happening in your home town!” or “What on earth is going on with your city?” or “Oh dear, Rob Ford.”

I agree, but I’m more concerned for the city: Oh dear, Toronto.

I left Toronto for Montréal before Rob Ford, current mayor of Toronto, was voted in 2010. Ford’s popularity is mainly backed by the support from the city’s suburban ridings which contrasts sharply with the votes from the downtown sectors. Suburban Toronto’s unwavering support for the fumbling, erratic mayor is named Ford Nation, and this enduring love was clearly demonstrated after the Toronto Police confirmed the existence of the video “consistent with what had been previously described in various media reports.” Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was referring to Gawker.com and The Toronto Star’s assertion that their editor and journalists, respectively, viewed a video of mayor Ford smoking a crack pipe in May. And how did Toronto react to the news on Hallowe’en? Rob Ford’s approval went up by five percent.

My non-Torontonian friends have much difficulty understanding this Rob Ford situation. I don’t blame them — the love for the controversial mayor baffles me as well. I mean, let’s rundown the situation we’re dealing with here. A video depicting the mayor of Toronto smoking out of a crack pipe — and let’s be honest here, no one smokes marijuana or some benign substance out of a crack pipe — has been confirmed by three different and independent sources: The Toronto Star newspaper, the gossip website Gawker.com, and the Toronto Police. Ford initially denies the existence of the video, but on November 5th admits to smoking crack. Ford tells reporters that the video probably occurred “in one of my drunken stupors” about a year ago, and “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine.” But he refuses to step down and accuses the Toronto Police of acting in a biased manner. And finally, today, The Toronto Star and The Toronto Star publishes a video depicting Ford acting incoherently and making threats. Is Ford Nation still excusing Ford’s behaviour?

When reports of the initial video surfaced back in May, I was visiting my parents in Toronto and the news was buzzing about this footage. Gawker.com and The Toronto Star attempted to purchase the video after it was viewed separately by their editor and journalists, but their contact lost touch and it was reported that the contact was threatened by members of Ford’s inner circle. My parents, Toronto suburbanites, voted for Ford — they were mostly enamoured by Ford’s anti-union stance — and were very much in denial about the video. “Someone altered the video!” (Um, you realize how hard it is to fake a video, unlike a photograph?) “The Toronto Star has been always after him!” (Yes, but do you really think this is a collusion between two independent media companies, The Toronto Star and Gawker.com?) “He actually gets things done in city hall!” (But he has also been found guilty of repeatedly abusing his power in the conflict of interest trial.)

Of course, these points are minor notes compared to the controversies throughout Ford’s career, both as a city councillor and later as mayor. My favourite Rob Ford quotes include:

“What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later you’re going to get bitten… Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks, not for people on bikes. My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.” May 27, 2007.

“Probably. I’m busy.” August 14, 2012: In response to a photo showing the mayor reading documents while driving on the highway at 70 kilometres per hour. Ford admitted to reading and driving simultaneously, and refused a chauffeur.

On March 7, 2007:
Ford argued that most tax payers should not be concerned with AIDS because ‘If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line…those are the facts.’ After then Mayor David Miller pointed out that women are the largest growing demographic of people contracting AIDS, Ford responded that it must mean ‘they are sleeping with bi-sexual men.’

And my favourite:
“Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines.” March 5, 2008.

Rob, Oriental is the term of items with the characteristics of the Orient. Asian is the term for people who are native to the Asian continent.

But that’s besides the point. The question, for Torontonians is — do you still want this guy to be your mayor? Do you want a bigoted representative of your city who cannot control his use of controlled and illegal substances? After lying about his use of crack cocaine? And making repeated lies? In light of the various documented incidents of public drunkenness? After being found guilty in the conflicts of interest case? Someone who is clearly tied to convicted criminals?

Toronto: You aren’t making me miss home too much. Not that Montréal’s troubles with its corrupt mayors make this city a shining example either. But I don’t know, just look at Rob Ford! The guy smokes crack! And is stupid enough to have himself filmed doing so. You deserve so much better, Toronto. And for now I’ll remain here, a province away, and hope that the politicians of my adopted city of Montréal remain crack-free. Just let me know when the era of Rob Ford’s Toronto is over.

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