Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rob Ford

The only mention I have in this blog about Toronto's mayor Rob Ford goes back to where he was taken into court regarding conflict of interest. A lower court found him guilty and a higher court dismissed the charges.

My note on him in these pages was in reference to Sam Katz's conflict charges. I indicated it was possible to avoid this if there was a more definitive separation between city business and personal business. In the case of Winnipeg's mayor, he reneged on the promise to put his business in a blind trust because he indicated there was no law stating that he had to. This has resulted in a few runs ins where questions have been raised about decisions that may conflict for the mayor and city business.

In the case of Rob Ford, the issue of his personal business and city business has not generally been about business operations but on personal behaviour. A lot of it has been dismissed by his supporters as a latte sipping liberal elite sniping at a mayor who represents real people. The mayor and his brother have accused some of the media of being on a personal vendetta against him and stalking him even in his own home.

For many conservatives, it was easy to believe that the bad behaviour was more on the side of the media and liberal elites. This has been part of a carefully created narrative of the urban and suburban wars where never the twain shall meet.

There is some truth in the schism. The previous mayor of Toronto David Miller used to make some suburbanites weep over his spending plans. The receptiveness to Rob Ford was paved by the previous administration's actions.

Since his election, Rob Ford has been seen as a hero on the right by those who thought the city was being mismanaged financially. He was booed on the left by his boorish behaviour and for his disdain for things like the Pride Parade in the city.

There were incidents of reckless activities such as reading and driving and hints of possible over drinking. Once again to his supporters it seemed like personal attacks from the left who had nothing but vitriol for the mayor.

And then came the picture and rumour of a video showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine. The floodgates then opened about how the Ford family and drugs were no stranger from other media sources aside from the Toronto Star.

The Ford brothers came out swinging and despite and international effort to produce the video, none was produced. Staff in the mayor's office quit, others were fired, statements made that the mayor should get help were issued. Still, the city of Toronto and Rob Ford lumbered along.

A  massive police sweep some time ago after claims of a video were first made added fuel to the fire of speculation that there might be something to the story after all.

And then came the Toronto police chief's news briefing that they found a video and had several more as part of a drug sting operation that showed the mayor both smoking and possibly receiving drugs. The pubic still waits to see the mountain of evidence.

The furor resulting from the police news conference and caused world-wide media attention. Rob Ford finally broke down and admitted he smoked crack probably in a "drunken stupor."

You can't really go anywhere now without someone commenting or making a joke about Rob Ford the last months. I've made a few myself to people I meet and on social media.

I don't live in Toronto so am not affected directly from any of what happens there. It seems a bit of a reach that it has much negative impact beyond making it difficult to govern Toronto. However, perhaps it is unwise to say there is no fall out at all. The widespread cynicism towards public official is pretty awful.

There is no denying that every day seems to be marked with new stories about the mayor and how his city council tries to deal with him. He won't step down. The power to remove him appears very limited. All the council has done is stripped him of resources. But it doesn't seem to stop him.

The Harper Conservatives are trying to link this to Justin Trudeau admitting he smoked pot. However, they have been loath to even mention Rob Ford who is seen as an ally of the federal Conservatives. Only one cabinet minister has stepped out and said he believes Rob Ford should resign.

The by-elections this coming Monday have included attacks authorized and signed by Stephen Harper about Justin Trudeau's use of pot. The pictures and video of Harper and Ford and the Conservatives largely being silent on the issue of admitted cocaine use are now in sharp contrast. There is a very real danger that despite a hugely negative campaign by the Conservative and now the NDP, the Liberals could capture three out of four seats in the vote. This would include the long held Conservative seat in Brandon.

It is hard to know how much longer this drama will continue. It may only end in next year's city election in Toronto. But then again...maybe not. What is Ford gets elected again?

And if he does, would that mean the federal Conservatives warm up to him again...all the while claiming how bad it is that Justin Trudeau smoked pot?

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