It's getting so that keeping up with the goings on of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a full-time job, In fact, I think the Toronto Star has 3 or 4 people on it. But just as today's debate in city hall, which at times seemed like a trial with 43 prosecutors, looked like it was coming in for a landing, a judge decided to throw napalm on the out-of-control fire that's burning in Ford Nation by un-redacting more of those police documents from the investigation into Ford's alliances, and the picture it paints ain't pretty. As Ford emphatically stated again and again that he was not an addict on the council floor, police documents recounted one night where the Mayor finished a 40 oz bottle of vodka, took Oxy, snorted coke, and consorted with a woman believed to be a sex worker while sexually harassing one staffer, and calling a taxi driver a "Paki." And you thought you partied hard.
I approach this article with the intention of making it the last time I write about Rob Ford until either he finally sees sense or the year ends, whatever comes first (and I think we all know what option will win). I think, like with the senate scandal, there are far more important things going on than the foibles of the Fords, who, with each passing day, face new scandals, which, by themselves individually, could sink the Titanic. But no matter what, the Fords sail on no matter how many icebergs they strike, and today's revelations don't tell a new story. Instead it's like when a movie releases an extended edition with several minutes of unseen footage.
For my part, when I've talked to people about the scandal in the last week, I try to poke holes in the Rob Ford myth, the one that touts his "Fiscal Responsiblity." The defense of Ford is that regardless of how many drinks he has, drugs he uses, and criminals he consorts with, Ford has saved the people of Toronto a billion dollars, a figure that's debunked as often as its cited. True, Ford's found some efficiencies, but his last budget was $200 million more than David Miller's last. He may have secured new funding for subways, but he's still $900 million short before even one single shovel's put into the ground (and that's to say nothing of the $65 million in penalties the city incurred when Ford pushed the cancellation of Transit City). Many think he hasn't raised property taxes, or even cut them, but taxes have gone up, and will go up again in 2014 when the Mayor's approved tax hike to pay for his beloved subways go into effect. Many also credit Ford for not running a deficit despite that fact that according to Ontario law, no municipality is allowed to run a deficit.
Most egregiously though, the myth that should irk the so-called little people (that ones Ford claims to represent) the most, is that he is not actually one of them. Ford never has, and never will be, a guy who fought out of the scrap for every shred of what he's achieved. Like George W. Bush, he's made people believe that his is not a background of privilege and entitlement, that, like Bush, the trail of opportunity he took was blazed through a dark frontier, and not paved before him with ample signage and street lights.
If the people had forgotten that last myth, then they should have been reminded handily today when Ford countered the 37 to 5 vote demanding he step down with a motion of his own suggesting that all council members take mandatory drug tests, and maybe it was missed amongst all the laughter, but Ford offered to pay for all these drug tests out of his own pocket. Sets kind of a dangerous precedent, doesn't it? Leaving the next mayor on the hook for the next council's drug tests. But for Ford, it's just par for the course and follows up other recent personally paid for business expenditures like his culture fact-finding trip to Texas and the robocall against a political adversary. One wonders, exactly how does Ford Nation think he pays for these things if Ford's just a "regular guy?" Do you spring for your own business trips? If you answered no, it's because you probably didn't inherit wealth like Ford. Or you're cheap.
What's lost in all this is not that Ford smoked crack, it's not that he drinks too much, and it's not that he's a Type-A personality that rubs people the wrong way in his pursuit to pass his agenda. But that's the substance, those are the personality issues. He knew he smoked crack cocaine and he lied point blank to the public. He called the reporters who published the story liars and maggots, even though he knew they had the truth on their side. He then last week promised that all dirty laundry had been aired, now it turns out that wasn't the case, and Ford surely knew that too. But most of all, Ford seems to have surrounded himself with, become beholden to, and has used the services of criminals. Something is rotten in the kingdom of Etobicoke, but the king is cool with it, and he's convinced a lot of his subjects its cool, but let's be honest: if this article was describing someone named "Rob Ford" who was black and under the age of 25, they'd be in jail already.
To me, it's not a matter of Ford's legal position. True, no body or government can force him to step aside as Toronto's mayor, but what about a higher standard? Is there not a moral imperative that says a mayor with this many personal and legal problems should step aside for not just the greater good, but for his own personal good? It's not like the public is unforgiving, and it's certainly not like Ford Nation is unforgiving, but when the train grinds to a halt because there's an obstruction on the track, the smart move is to stop the train completely and remove the obstruction so that the train can continue to move along unfettered and undamaged rather than let the train barrel through and risk complete derailment. The train is the business of Toronto, the obstruction is Rob Ford.
Now I'm not one of those that think that Ford's personal issues are affecting business in Toronto. I don't think there's a company out there that wouldn't do business in Toronto because the mayor is an admitted drug abuser and apparent confederate of alleged criminals. But there is one organization that doesn't want anything to do with Ford, and that's the Toronto Santa Claus parade, whose board has sent a letter to Ford asking him not to appear in this year's parade. Ford's always wanted to be viewed as the everyman mayor, a family man, a man of law and order, a solid middle class guy that's concerned about the bottom line, and there can be no better event of a square hole for that square peg than the Santa Claus parade. I can understand Ford not wanting to listen to council, but the organizers of the Toronto's annual ode to holiday fun and innocence? That's not just the elites slapping him in the face now, as if it ever was.